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The Role of Extracurricular Activities in Education

Author(s): Patricia A. Haensly, Ann E. Lupkowski and Elaine P. Edlind


Source: The High School Journal, Vol. 69, No. 2 (Dec., 1985 - Jan., 1986), pp. 110-119
Published by: University of North Carolina Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40365131
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The High School Journal

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Participation in extracurricular activities at
the expense of academic learning time has
become an issue in education. Decisions lim-
iting or curtailing these activities are made on
the assumption that they interfere with the
primary purpose of education. If sound de-
cisions are to be made regarding balance be-
tween formal instruction and extracurricular
activities, we must determine whether they
enhance or hinder student learning and/or
achievement. In other words, are they an in-
tegral part of a meaningful educational cur-
The Role of Extracurricular riculum for adolescents, or a superficial dis-
Activities in Education traction from it? Hall, Hord, Rutherford, and
Huling (1984, p. 60) suggest that the co/
extracurriculum, which "represents a rich
Patricia A. Haensly
array of opportunities and experiences," may
Ann E. Lupkowski
Elaine P. Edlind
be one of the reasons many students stay in
school, much less find personal meaning for
Texas A&M Universitythis time in their lives.

While the entire curriculum is, for the most


part, planned and implemented by edu-
cational designers and administrators, stu-
dents have had few opportunities to par-
ticipate in its planning. The perceptions of
students regarding their educational process
is an important variable that should be clari-
fied. The study reported here was designed to
examine one aspect of that perception - the
role of extracurricular activities, especially as
they relate to personal and social develop-
ment, and to academic achievement.
Theoretical Concerns
Many students seek, and seem to thrive on,
learning activities outside of the traditional
classroom setting. Such activities are vari-
ously termed the co-curriculum or the extra-
curriculum, apparently depending on
whether they are specific extensions of aca-
demic coursework, or are peripheral to it.
Thus, students may extend and enrich pre-
viously learned academic skills through
competitions (e.g., interscholastic debates)
and by applying them to real world simu-
lations (e.g., writing skills in school pub-
lications.) In the co/extracurricular setting
they may also develop and practice artistic,
musical, and psychomotor talents; lead-
ership
1986 The University of North Carolina Press skills; and future career and occu-
110

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Extracurricular Activities

pational skills. Interpersonal and social cused on competencies and learning that
strategies - proficiencies not consideredwould enable students to become "pro-
basic elements of the academic curriculum - ductive members of society and to enjoy life
may especially be constructed through par- more fully." Included among the more obvi-
ticipation in the extracurriculum. Since there ous academic goals were mental and physical
is often an overlap in the effect of these ac- health, moral and ethical values, aesthetic
tivities, the term "extracurricular" will be understandings, and responsible citizenship.
used in this study to refer to both types of While these concerns may be addressed by
emphasis: academic and intra- or academic coursework, they seem more
interpersonal. closely allied with intramural and extramural
athletics; vocational and service organ-
Efforts such as "maintaining one's indi-
izations; band, drama, and choir; and student
viduality in a group, practicing appropriate
government and 4-H.
adult behaviors in different settings, and
understanding and coping with peer pres- Boyer (1984, p. 20) says that "high schools, to
be effective, must have a sense of pur-
sures" (Hall, et al., 1984, p. 60) all contribute
to the developmental tasks that adolescents pose . . . must go beyond keeping students in
must accomplish in order to move effectively schools and out of trouble, and be more sig-
from childhood to adulthood (Havighurst, nificant than adding up the Carnegie units the
1972). Participation in the "non-academic" student has completed." But, in all of the
life of the secondary school may provide an current critiques of present conditions in U.S.
ideal setting for the adolescent to resolve anyhigh schools, and in suggestions for alter-
of the eight developmental tasks proposedations as in curriculum, a description of the
necessary by Havighurst. Participation is par- secondary school as the central community
ticularly effective, however, in providing fora the socialization of the adolescent is con-
healthy setting for the task of forming new spicuously absent. Yet, the adolescent school
and more mature relationships with age community serves as a bridge between the
mates of both sexes, achieving an appropriate family of childhood years and the society of
masculine or feminine social role, accepting adulthood. Adolescents will socialize with
one's physique and using the body effec- their peers - whether as part of a well-
tively, and acquiring a set of ethics as a guideplanned school extracurriculum or in an
to behavior. Perhaps most important, these autonomous peer society - and through this
organized school activities (freely chosen by socialization will enhance self-concept or
the student rather than imposed by well- disrupt it, learn what to choose and what not
meaning adults) may provide a critical setting to choose, attain successes and achievement
or
for the task of developing social literacy or the failures, and, most important for the ado-
ability to communicate through many forms, lescent, experience affiliation or social
and, through communication, learn essential isolation.
social and civic responsibilities. The extracurriculum, either in athletics or in
band, drama, and other nonacademic expres-
Recently, selected high schools throughout
sions of talent, serves as an important sub-
the nation participated in a study of their
general education programs directed by strate
the for and influence on the accomplish-
ment of this critical adolescent development.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development "in order to design a com-
Unfortunately, its inappropriate ascendance
to a dominant priority for allocation of stu-
prehensive, balanced curriculum appropri-
dent time and attention, and for human and
ate to the lives of students in the years ahead"
(Roberts and Cawelti, 1984, p. 3). After much economic resources, has placed it in jeop-
deliberation by the participating exemplary ' ardy . It is time to realign priorities and assess
high schools, the curriculum models pro- the perspective of students as a step toward
duced and the goal statements written fo- appropriate realignment.
Ill

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The High School Journal- Dec. 1985/Jan. 1986

Research on Extracurricular Participation. school educational expectations. He exam-


Extracurricular activities have sometimes ined male high school athletes' post-
been called the "third curriculum," the first
secondary-school educational expectations
and found that 62 percent of the athletes
being required courses and the second elect-
ives (Otto, 1975). Otto proposed that, like
expected to enroll in a four-year college,
academic curricula, extracurricular activities
while only 45 percent of non-athletes ex-
should provide the student with oppor- pected to enroll in college. The relationship
tunities to acquire skills, and he hypoth- was strongest for those from working-class
homes, in the lower half of the graduating
esized that the level of participation in extra-
curricular activities was directly related to and with low parental encouragement
class,
later educational achievements. In a studytoof
go to college.
17-year-old, male high school students, Otto
But a moderate relationship between par-
found that participation in high school ac-
ticipation in activities (specifically athletics)
tivities was significantly related to later edu-
and high educational goals is present even
cational achievements. Fifteen years after
with higher levels of parental socioeconomic
graduation, Otto found that those involved in
status, parental academic encouragement,
high school activities were more likely to go
and student grade average (Spreitzer and
on to college.
Pugh, 1973). Much of the research on extra-
In a contrasting study, Schuh and Laverty curricular activities has focused solely on
(1983) conducted a 30-year follow-up of participation in high school athletics, with a
former class presidents. They found that al- number of studies indicating that athletes
though the students' leadership experiences have higher levels of educational ambition
in high school provided them with some than non-athletes (Wells and Picou, 1980;
specific skills, their life activities were in- Hartzell and Picou, 1979).
fluenced only moderately by holding student In another achievement-related area, it has
leadership positions. The authors emphasize been shown that involvement and success in
that their study focused only on the lead-
competitive sports may promote the de-
ership experience itself and not on the actual
velopment of the competitive attitudes and
behavior of former student leaders.
values that are also beneficial to educational

Nevertheless, cutting back or discontinuing achievement (Hartzell and Picou, 1979).


extracurricular activities in high school In addition, researchers have found that in-
could have far-reaching ramifications. Bell volvement in school activities is positively
(1967) found a significant difference between related to self-concept (Yarworth and Gau-
high school dropouts and non-dropouts in thier, 1978), status (Spady, 1970), and satis-
the number of activities and leadership roles faction with school in general (Nover, 1981).
taken on. The lack of participation in school Again, focusing on athletics, a significant re-
activities was a significant characteristic of lationship has been found between in-
the dropout. Bell concluded that school per- volvement in school activities and con-
sonnel should make an effort to involve stu- current academic achievement as measured
dents in the activity program because a mean- by class rank (Yarworth and Gauthier, 1978)
ingful experience in a chosen activity may and grades (Nover, 1981).
make the difference between a dropout and a
high school graduate. Despite these contributions to effective
school functioning, controversy surrounds
Educational values and ambitions may also the issue of student involvement in extra-
be affected by involvement and achievement curricular activities. These activities may
in extracurricular activities. Rehberg (1968) take students out of class, thus interfering
found that involvement in high school ac- with academic learning time, causing diffi-
tivities is positively related to post-high culties for teachers' planning and for the
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Extracurricular Activities

other students in class. Although few edu-sponses. Only seniors were asked to complete
cators recommend elimination of extra- the questionnaires. In order to prevent a bi-
curricular activities, some have supported
ased sampling of students, the questionnaires
were administered at a time when students
the view that they have been overemphasized
and must not interfere with class time. Iffrom
the all academic specialties would be in-
extracurriculum does serve an importantcluded
role (in either senior English classes or
in the total development of the adolescent,
homeroom sections). The 515 questionnaires
provision for academic needs may have to
returned represented approximately 75 per-
cent of the senior class in each school. Of
share time with other life needs. This study
provides preliminary information on those,
that seven questionnaires with incomplete
responses
role as perceived by the basic participants - were discarded, leaving a sample
the students. The specific objectives ofsizethe
of 508.
study were, first, to estimate the direction and
The demographic characteristics of the
degree of relationship between academic per-
sample of senior students that responded to
formance and extracurricular participation,
the questionnaire, shown in Table 1, reflect
and second, to ascertain the perceived con-
closely, with two exceptions, the school
tribution of participation to general social
populations from which the data were ob-
and personal development.
tained with regard to ethnic group, course
Method emphasis (track), and grade distribution (see
Subjects. Three high schools representing also Table 2). Noticeably absent from this
small, medium, and large school districts in sample were failing students; however, since
central Texas were selected as the target the data were obtained near the end of the
population from which to obtain student re- senior year, such students were not likely to

Grade Point
A B C Totals

Race*
Track SexWBHO WBHO WBHO

Academic M 33 2 1 ^~ 45 17 3 - 25 13 7 - 146
F 57 2 4 3 43 8 7 - 20 11 3 - 158
Total n = 102 n=123 n = 79 304

Business M
F 412- 722- 8 11 31 41
Total n = 8 n = 17 n = 31 56

Vocational M 4 - - - 10 2 - - 14 9 6 3 48
F 41- - 17 63 1 17 962 66
Total n = 9 n = 39 n = 66 114

Other M - - - - "- 1 1 ~ 3 1 - 5 6
F 1 - - - 22 - - 8215 16
Total n = 1 n = 6 n = 15 22

Track, Sex, Race information not provided 12


Total = 508
*W = Caucasian; B = Black; H = Hispanic; 0 = Other or race not indicated

Table 1: Data Sample Description

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The High School Journal- Dec. 1985/Jan. 1986

SEX RACE
Grade M F W B H
A 18% 28% 31% 5% 16%
B 38 35 39 38 31
C 39 36 29 56 52
D 5 111 1

* W = Cauc

Table 2: D
Students W

be formance, and general social and psycho-


attend
logical development. The questionnaire was th
females
sample,
pretested with a sample of 55 college students a
in a junior-level course.
males choo It was then admin-
specialtie istered by teachers to all seniors present on a
pletely typical day when no large groups were isoabsent
cate the nature of their courses. The track for an activity.
labeled "other" included students who did
In the questionnaire, students were asked to
not identify with any particular course
provide demographic information (age, sex,
emphasis.
race), achievements (grades, class rank,
A smaller group of 55 undergraduate college honors, and awards), and numbers of years of
students, registered in a single section of an participation in specific activities, along with
educational psychology course, were given leadership positions held. They were also
the survey and asked to recall their high asked to respond to two open-ended ques-
school experiences. These data were ana- tions concerning benefits received and ob-
lyzed separately and form the basis for sev- stacles encountered.
eral comparisons.
Through statistical analysis of correlation be-
Procedure. The Student Activities Survey, a tween variables, significance or lack of it in
self-report questionnaire developed by the relationships was identified, and profiles de-
researchers, was designed to obtain data on veloped, for high- and low-achieving stu-
extracurricular participation, academic per- dents, student leaders, and award-winning

High School College


n = 508 n = 55

Activities r p r p

All Inschool Activities .38 .0001


Fine Arts .22 .0001
Student Government .27 .0001
Honor Society .59 .0001 .45 .0006
Out of School Activities .22 .0001
Total Activities .39 .0001 .31 .02
Athletics* .10 .02 .26 .06

'Includes intramural and extramura

Table 3: Correlations Between


Various Types of Activities

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Extracurricular Activities

students. Profiles included information positive relationship of grades to extra-


about number and kind of activities in which
curricular participation was only slight to
the students participated, awards received,
moderate, a consistent trend appeared to
ethnic background, and gender. exist.

Results The second research question examined


Four research questions, addressed in the differences in the type of activities par-
present analysis of the data, concerned the ticipated in by high achieving versus low
achieving students; that is, the "A" students
relationship of grades to extracurricular par-
ticipation, grade point to specific selection of versus the "C/D" group (Table 4). While only
four percent of high achieving students re-
activities by high- versus low-achieving stu-
ported no participation in extracurricular ac-
dents, type and quantity of participation by
leadership students, and selection of ac- tivities, 19 percent of low achieving students
tivities by award-winning students. reported no participation. High achieving
students also participated in a greater quan-
The first question focused on the relationship tity of activities, with 36 percent reporting
of overall grade point reported by the stu- more than 10 activities, while only 6 percent
dents to the type of their activity par- of the low achieving students reported that
ticipation and the extent of that participation. many. In each type of activity, with the excep-
Thus, the particular activities and the num- tion of Career Activities, a greater percentage
ber of years of participation resulted in a of low achieving students reported no par-
composite statistic, used with grade point, to ticipation than did high achieving students.
compute a Pearson product-moment cor- This difference, although expected in a cat-
relational matrix. Although the activity vari- egory such as Honor Society, also extended to
ables included individual activities, some athletics and to out-of-school organizations.
grouping was done (e.g., band, orchestra, and Even more surprising was the wide difference
drama were combined into a Fine Arts vari- with regard to the Outside Work variable,
able); in addition, all activities were com- with only 39 percent of the high achievers
bined into an All Inschool Activities and into reporting no outside work, compared to 71
a Total Activities variable. The correlations
percent of the low achievers.
reported in Table 3 include only those which
Career Activities, which included such or-
were statistically significant at the p^.06
ganizations as FFA, FTA, or other vocation-
level. In the high school sample of 508~stu-
dents, a statistically significant, small ally
to oriented groups, as well as engineering
moderate relationship was found between groups, was more equally represented among
grades and participation in Fine Arts ac- high and low achievers. It appears, therefore,
tivities, Student Government, Honor Society that involvement in extracurricular activities
and Out of School Activities, as well as in All
is not primarily associated with average or
Inschool Activities and Total Activities. The poor academic performance. In fact, the co-
Out of School variable included such things efficient of determination based on the above
as Scouts, 4-H, and church youth groups. The reported correlation between grades and total
relationship of grades to athletics par- activities (r= .39) would indicate that only 15
ticipation is included, even though it percent is of the variation in grades can be ex-
slight, as it supports the idea that athletics plained
do by activity participation. Never-
not relate negatively to grades in this sample.theless, extensive participation appears to be
The smaller college sample that was surveyed more characteristic of the high achieving stu-
(n = 55) supported a moderate relationship dents than of the lower achieving ones. At the
between grades and total activities and a time both groups reported participation
same
stronger relationship (as would be expected) in a variety of activities, with neither higher
with the Honor Society variable. While the nor lower achievers singularly selecting any
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The High School Journal- Dec. 1985/Jan. 1986

of the activities - athletics, band, career of-School activities, as well as All Inschool
clubs, or others. Activities (Table 5). Students who held more
leadership positions had also participated in
The third research question attempted to more activities overall, and, reasonably so, in
identify the number and kind of activities more student government and service organ-
selected by students who had reported hold- izations. The correlations between lead-
ing leadership positions in school govern- ership positions held and race, as well as sex,
ment or in any of the organizations to which were negligible (r=-.OO2, -.08, respect-
they belonged. For the 235 students reporting ively) and statistically nonsignificant (p = .9,
leadership positions, highly statistically sig- .2, respectively). Slightly more males than
nificant (p<.0001), moderate correlations females held leadership positions. Again, it is
were found between number of leadership interesting to note that strong participation in
positions held and participation in Student Out-of-School activities was also exhibited
Government, Service Organizations and Out- by the leadership students.

Number of Activities
Activities 01234567 8 9 10 >10

All Inschool Activities


A 4257777 11 725 36
C 19 13 11 9 9 9 7 5 4 6 2 6
Athletics
A 45 12 10 8 8 2 5 5 3 1 .9
C 57 11 7 9 5 3 3 2 2 1
Fine Arts
A 43 12 12 9 16 2 3 2 .8
C 73 7 8 3 5 2 .5 1.5
Communications
A 69 12 8 4 4 .8 .8 .8
C 88 9 1.5 1 .5
Student Government
A 61 19 7 6 3 2.5 .8
C 85 23 3
Service Organizations
A 73 12 8 4 .8 .8 .6 .8
C 90 3 4 1 1 .5 .5
Honor Society
A 36 26 31 4 2 1
C 100
Career Activities
A 66 15 12 2 3 1 1
C 61 15 12 4 . 8
Out of School Youth Organizations
A 32 24 9 12 12 3 3 2 2 .8
C 64 13 5 4 9 3 .5 1 .5 .5
Outside Work
A 39 57 4
C 71 27 1 .5
*High achieving students, 'A' grade point;

Table 4: Comparison Between High A


Percent of Students Reporting Parti
Involved)

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Extracurricular Activities

Data from a fourth research question, the ac- For the high achieving students, the list of
tivities selected by high award-winning stu- benefits received from participation in extra-
dents, indicated an expected small to mod- curricular activities included (in order of fre-
erate relationship between number of awards quency): (1) meeting other people; (2) in-
received by 297 of the total sample and par- creasing responsibility; (3) making school
ticipation in the Fine Arts, Communications, more enjoyable; (4) developing leadership
Service Organization, and Athletics ac- abilities; (5) broadening interests ("became
tivities, as well as all inschool activities more well-rounded"); (6) developing self-
(Table 5). The relationship between awards confidence ("became more outgoing"); (7)
won, race and sex were negligible (r= -.09, preparing for a career; (8) enhancing time
.05, respectively). But a correlation of .32 management; and (9) maintaining physical
between leadership and number of awards condition or health ("keeping in shape").
(not reported in the tables) was obtained.
Thus, students winning more awards often The ranked list of most frequently mentioned
benefits for the low achieving students was
held leadership positions and participated in
more of the kind of inschool activities in similar: (1) meeting other people; (2) having a
which awards are notably given, a reasonablelearning experience; (3) preparing for a ca-
expectation. reer; (4) making school more enjoyable; (5)
increasing responsibility; (6) developing a
The Student Activities Survey also included greater involvement in school; (7) becoming
two open-ended questions: "What benefitsmore outgoing; (8) developing leadership ab-
did you receive from participation in extra-ilities; and (9) increasing self-discipline. It
curricular activities?" and "How did par-
appears that the priorities of the low achiev-
ticipation in extracurricular activities help oring students differed from those of high
hinder you?" Although the two questions achieving students. Career preparation was
produced an overlap in students' responses, more important to the lower achieving stu-
both benefits and hindrances were clearlydents, while leadership and responsibility
indicated. These will be examined in turn.
were not as vital. Learning experience, in-
Using a process of naturally occurring cat- volvement, and self-discipline were also con-
egories, the students' responses were sidered benefits by these students, while the
grouped and then quantified. The response higher achieving students rarely mentioned
ranking of high achieving students, that is,them. Time management, keeping in shape,
students reporting "A" grades, was thenand becoming more well-rounded were con-
sidered more important to the high achieving
compared with that of the low achieving stu-
dents (those reporting "C" grades). students. The fact that there were many more

Leadership Positions Awards Received


n = 235 n = 297
Activities r p r p

All Inschool Activities .39 .0001 .31 .0001


Fine Arts -23 0001
Student Government .30 .0001
Service Organizations .25 .0001 .16 .006
Communications -17 .0003
Athletics 16 .006
Out of School Activities .28 .0001

Table 5: Correlations Between Extracurricular Participation a


Positions Held and Number of Awards Received

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The High School Journal- Dec. 1985/Jan. 1986

high achieving than low achieving students students provides an important description
who responded to this question, however, of the way at least some American high
may limit interpretations of this data. school students spend their time. Despite the
consistent, moderately positive correlations
Upon similar examination of the comments
between achievement and participation,
on how participation in extracurricular ac-
greater activity cannot be presumed to cause
tivities was a hindrance, the responses indi-
higher grades; yet it does become evident that
cated that very few students regarded par-
the higher achieving students are also often
ticipation in that way. In fact, the majority of
more active and vice versa. In addition, stu-
students stated that it had not hindered them
dents' comments about benefits of the extra-
in any way. In the high achieving group, the
curriculum repeatedly support the idea that
few complaints were centered on how time the latter adds zest to academic studies, cre-
consuming it was to participate. One said that
sometimes there was no time to do home- ating a necessary balance between work and
play.
work, and two stated that their grades
dropped due to participation. Another stu-
The question must then be asked, "Is aca-
dent complained about how exhausting demic learning, in and of itself, sufficient for
competitions were, while another mentioneddevelopment of the total adolescent being?"
a football injury he had received. In Clarifying the Mission of the American
High
Of the low achieving students, five stated that School: A Report, Ernest Boyer (1984, p.
the activities hindered their academic stud-22) affirms, "To be prepared to live in our
interdependent,
ies, and one complained that it was difficult interconnected, complex
world, students must be well informed. They
to make up work that was missed because of
also must have the ability to bring together
participation. Again, it should be stressed
the information from ideas across dis-
that the responses to this question were very
infrequent; most students who participated ciplines, organize their thoughts, reach con-
found many benefits from extracurricular clusions and, in the end, use knowledge wise-
activities. ly." Yet, as Goodlad (1984) emphasizes, stu-
dents have little say about the management of
As in any qualitative data, certain responses
their learning.
seemed to "sum it all up" for some students.
A few quotations are given below: Thornburg (1982) defines the adolescent's
"Without these extracurricular activities, I primary schooling problems as being mean-
don't believe I would have had the mo- inglessness and powerlessness. Picou (pre-
tivation to do as well as I have sentation to a college undergraduate class,
done."- "A" student. October 16, 1983), who has examined inten-
sively the questions of achievement mo-
"Put spark in my life."- "B" student. tivation in relationship to athletics and race,
"If it wasn't for extracurricular activities Ialso postulates that nowhere in traditional
think we would all go crazy with boredom.classes do students have the opportunity to
Everyone needs change and var- learn in a context of risk taking. He refers to a
iety."- "C" student. context where students can learn to plan and
arrange, make and correct errors, have real
"If I wouldn't have participated in the ac-
responses to real problems, and develop a
tivities that I did, school would be without
reason."- "A" student.
sense of control. The developmental task of
moving toward emotional, social, and econ-
Discussion omic independence from the family doesn't
The data obtained in this study relating
take place in the academic curriculum - it
achievement (grades, honors and awards)takes
to place in the socialization within the
the extent of extracurricular participation peer
by group.

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Extracurricular Activities

From the preliminary data of this study, weSpreitzer, E. and Pugh, M. (1973). "Interscholastic Ath-
see that these students apparently realize that letics and Educational Expectations." Sociology of
Education, 46, 171-182.
this type of socialization can and does occur Thornburg, H.D. (1982). Development in Adolescence
in the extracurricular activities of the sec- (2nd ed.). Monterrey, Calif.: Brooks/Cole.
ondary school. Additionally, the activities Wells, R.H. and Picou, J.S. (1980). "Interscholastic Ath-
letes and Socialization for Educational Achievement."
appear to be a nurturing, facilitative force for Journal of Sport Behavior, 3, 119-128.
developing life-long career talents. And, most Yarworth, J.S. and Gauthier, W.J., Jr. (1978). "Relation-
important, they are an important context for ship of Student Self-Concept and Selected Personal
Variables to Participation in School Activities." Jour-
the social and emotional development that nal of Educational Psychology, 70(3), 335-344.
adolescents must accomplish to become pro-
ductive and satisfied members of the adult
society. Although obtaining student per-
ception of the role and value of extra-
curricular activities from a sample of high
school students is a small contribution to the
decision-making process of setting cur-
riculum priorities, it is an important step. A
statewide and national sample of students
would add to this facet of the question. But
again, we stress, the view of students must be
included in the decision-making process.

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