Monday, December 1, 2014

On the Origins of Progressive Education

On the Origins of Progressive Education: Perhaps one statement, above all, captures American Progressive education in a nutshell: "If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." That statement came from pragmatist philosopher John Dewey (pictured above) in 1916. He was a staunch advocate of separating "education" from "schooling," by claiming that education is the process of living and schooling is the process of learning how to make a living. Decades prior, in the 1880s, similar sentiments had been expressed by American sociologist Lester Frank Ward. Ever the egalitarian, he asserted that one of the biggest sources of injustice in society "was the unequal distribution of knowledge." Traditional education, as Ward saw it, had become nothing more than a tool for the upper classes to reinforce social norms (the status quo). He also believed that traditional education's aristocratic roots persisted in a pre-modern form of tracking, which often groomed students for particular careers based on heritage instead of merit. In effect, Ward proposed that all students should have the opportunity to accumulate knowledge for knowledge's sake (and in any subjects they choose).

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