Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Editors’ Preface
- Introduction: The Progressive Impulse in Education
- Section One—Past: Section Introduction: Aims of Progressive Education
- Chapter One: Anti-Progressivism in Education: Past and Present
- Chapter Two: John Dewey and Village Institute Model in Teacher Training System in Turkey
- Chapter Three: John Dewey and the Challenge of Progressive Education
- Chapter Four: Austrian School Reform, 1919–1934
- Chapter Five: Revamping the French Educational Philosopher Célestin Freinet’s Pedagogy and Its Relevance for Current Discussions on Progressive Education
- Chapter Six: Beyond Jane Addams: The Progressive Pedagogies of Ella Flagg Young, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Lucy Maynard Salmon, and Anna Julia Cooper
- Chapter Seven: From Kilpatrick’s Project Method to Project-Based Learning
- Chapter Eight: Discovering Dewey as a Guiding Foundation: Examining Moral Problems Using Issues-Centered Education
- Chapter Nine: Saving a Progressive Vision: Assessing the Move of the Barnes Foundation
- Chapter Ten: Where’s Wonder?
- Section Two—Present: Within Institutions: Section Introduction: Interrogating and Reconstructing Practice
- Chapter Eleven: Education in New Zealand: A Revered Past, a Contested Present, and an Uncertain Future
- Chapter Twelve: Progressive Museum Education: Examples From the 1960s
- Chapter Thirteen: The Teacher-Artist’s Creed: Teaching as a Human, Artistic, and Moral Act
- Chapter Fourteen: Progressive Teachers of Young Children: Creating Contemporary Agents of Change
- Chapter Fifteen: Literacy, Literature, and Moral Panic in Australia
- Chapter Sixteen: Developing Active Citizenship in Schools: A Case Study of Democracy in Practice
- Chapter Seventeen: Teacher Interpretations of “Active” Citizenship Curricula: Shared Identities and Spatial Orientations
- Chapter Eighteen: The Unfinished and Ongoing Business of Art Education in the U.S.: Collaboration, Participation, and Democratic Practices
- Chapter Nineteen: Progressive Education as Continuing Education for the Developmentally Disabled
- Section Three—Present: Section Introduction: Participation and Citizenship
- Chapter Twenty: Participation as Telos for Learning
- Chapter Twenty-One: Technology as Connected and Critical Learning Practice
- Chapter Twenty-Two: What Jane Addams Tells Us about Early Childhood Education
- Chapter Twenty-Three: Citizenship Education in European Schools: The Critical Vision of NGOs
- Chapter Twenty-Four: Progressive Education in Georgia: Advances in Professional Development of Learning Communities
- Chapter Twenty-Five: Activating Citizenship: The Use of Education to Create Notions of Identity and Citizenship in South Asia
- Chapter Twenty-Six: Towards a Framework for Understanding Adolescents’ Civic Competency
- Section Four—Future: Section Introduction: Future of Progressive Education
- Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Great Commonwealth of Successive Generations: Progressive Education in an Era of Global Change
- Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Banzhuren: Classrooming as Democracy in China
- Chapter Twenty-Nine: Indonesian Education: Its Efforts for Progressive Learning Environment
- Chapter Thirty: The Rural-Urban Paradox in Primary Schools: 140 Years of Progressive Education in Spain
- Chapter Thirty-One: The New DEEL (Democratic Ethical Educational Leadership): Transformative, Progressive Educational Administration
- Chapter Thirty-Two: Stories of Progressive Education in the 21st Century
- Section Five—Overarching Issues: Section Introduction: Overarching Issues of Progressive Education
- Chapter Thirty-Three: Reclaiming the Radical Imagination: Challenging Casino Capitalism’s Punishing Factories
- Chapter Thirty-Four: The Future is Marx: Bringing Back Class and Changing the World—Revolutionary Critical Pedagogy as Moral Imperative
- Chapter Thirty-Five: Beyond “Discourse Radicalism”: Revolutionary Critical Pedagogy and the Struggle for Social Justice
- Chapter Thirty-Six: Progressive Critical Pedagogies and the Idea of Communism
- Chapter Thirty-Seven: Hull-House as a Queer Counterpublic
- Chapter Thirty-Eight: Whole Language Philosophy and Practice: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Headed?
- Chapter Thirty-Nine: Core Values of Progressive Education: Seikatsu Tsuzurikata and Whole Language
- Chapter Forty: Lawrence Stenhouse and the Refutation of Progressivism in Curriculum
- Chapter Forty-One: Coffee Cups, Frogs, and Lived Experience
- Chapter Forty-Two: Ecopedagogy and Progressive Education
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We would like to thank friends and colleagues who have supported our editing endeavor. So many people have contributed that we will undoubtedly leave out some important ones. Nevertheless, we would like to give special thanks to the section editors: John Pecore, Brian Drayton, Jeanne Connell, Alistair Ross, Maureen Hogan, and Martina Riedler for their excellent work writing their own introductions, soliciting chapters for the sections, then reviewing manuscripts and assisting chapter authors with their revisions.
The section editors provided many useful comments on the main Introduction. Among others who contributed helpful comments, we would especially like to acknowledge Susan Bruce, Libbie Morley, Paul Prior, Dan Schiller, and Robert Stake.
We would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the editorial board members and reviewers of International Journal of Progressive Education for providing their insight, thoughts, and suggestions, which have helped make the Handbook as it is today.
We would also like to thank the Fulbright Specialist Program and Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University for supporting Bertram Bruce in his visit to Turkey in May–June of 2014, which facilitated work on the Handbook.
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The continual tinkering that inquiry implies explains in part the wide diversity of scholarship seen in this International Handbook of Progressive Education. The dominant discourse for education views it as a manufacturing process, with the raw material of young minds to be transformed into efficient workers for a post-industrial economy. Outputs are quantified for comparisons among individual students and teachers all the way to nation states. Any objections to this process are labeled as resisting accountability or transparency, admittedly important tools if we expect education to achieve its goals. But acknowledging that education has achievable goals only highlights the question: What are the purposes of education? Some emphasize preparation for college and career. Progressive educators argue instead for goals such as developing critical, socially engaged citizens who lead good and purpose-filled lives.
The International Handbook of Progressive Education enters into these debates, presenting diverse ideas developed within a broadly conceived progressive education movement. That movement has addressed fundamental questions of education through a wide array of experiments in a variety of settings and historical eras (Popkewitz, 2005). The Handbook considers examples from many countries and time periods in order to articulate what we can learn from those experiments. It calls for adopting a more critical and dynamic conception of education goals as a necessary element of a healthy society. At the least, it calls for examination of the aims of education, rather than making uncritical assumptions about ends, ← XIII | XIV → means, and evaluation criteria. About a third of the chapters in the Handbook discuss progressive education in nations other than the U.S.; others examine various historical periods; while still others consider broader issues about progressive education.
Even for those who lament its failures, progressive education still seems to be asking the right questions. There is a vision, what we call here the progressive impulse, which goes beyond educational practice per se to include inquiry into a conception of the good life for both individuals and society. Because progressivists tend to dispute the status quo and the extent to which it nurtures that good life, there is an underlying critical edge to progressive thinking, one that has sharpened in recent progressive education discourse. Progressivists may differ in how they envision change occurring, but none embrace the model that accepts current arrangements and simply seeks to make them more efficient. This viewpoint was never expressed more clearly than by eight working-class youths (ages 11–13) in Barbiana, Italy, who eventually started their own school, one which could treat them fairly (Barbiana, 1970).
Seeking to realize the progressive impulse requires a continued, situated critique of school and society. We might even say pulse rather than impulse, to indicate that this inquiry is both sustained and life sustaining (thanks to Jennifer Amos for this point). This sustained effort implies continual experimentation, leading to the inquiry-driven nature of progressive education. The inquiry is throughout—for the individual student seeking to understand some phenomenon, for the teacher interested in improving curriculum and instruction, and for the society that depends upon and supports pedagogy (Berghoff, Egawa, Harste, & Hoonan, 2000; Beyer, 1971; Short, Crawford, Ferguson, Laird, & Schroeder, 1996; Wells & Chang-Wells, 1992).
Our inquiry into progressive education starts with a number of intriguing and difficult questions: What is it and how does it differ from other approaches? Where and when does it occur, in what learning spaces? How has progressive education fared in different contexts? Are progressive methods such as constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching the same as minimal guidance? And do they “work” (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006; Sweller, Kirschner, & Clark, 2007)? If progressive education offers an important alternative, why has it often been ignored, abandoned, or suppressed? What is the relevance of its tenets, methods, and questions in the new information age and in a world facing global changes in environment, politics, religion, language, and every other aspect of society? Lawrence Cremin (1959) asked the larger question this way, “what happened to progressive education?”; for Alfie Kohn (2008), it was, “why it’s hard to beat, but also hard to find.” It is useful to understand what brought us to this point, and to establish some common ground that relates in some degree to every chapter in the Handbook. ← XIV | XV →
Today’s societies face an impasse in citizenship similar to the one identified by Rugg and colleagues (Evans, 2007). Many young people feel alienated from society, see school as a waste of time, and engage in antisocial and self-destructive behavior (Giroux, 2011; Marx, 1964). Grace Llewellyn’s (1997) handbook urging students to “quit school and get a real life” resonates for many. At the same time, communities encounter intractable problems in areas of health, economic justice, discrimination, environment, and violence. These are made worse by divides of religion, race, and language within as well as between countries. As Danielle Allen (2009) pointed out, young children everywhere are taught not to talk to strangers, thus reifying those divides. Yet we cannot solve any of the major problems facing us if we do not learn to talk to others with different backgrounds and perspectives (Allen, 2009). Perhaps these conditions are endemic and not limited to our own time, but we feel them acutely today despite having greater resources to address them.
The current dominant discourse about education offers little help. It derives from a fast capitalism, efficiency model. There is an emphasis on measuring easily quantified skills or bits of knowledge and devising ever more efficient methods for ensuring their acquisition. Students are viewed only as potential workers, with the best selected for exploitation and the rest to be discarded. In May 2014, leading academics from around the world wrote to Andreas Schleicher, director of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, expressing deep concern about the impact of PISA tests and calling for a halt to the next round of testing. They said that current “developments are in overt conflict with widely accepted principles of good educational and democratic practice” (“OECD and PISA tests are damaging education worldwide,” 2014).
An even gloomier assessment was offered by David Blacker (2013) based on a Marxian analysis of inevitable profit squeeze in a capitalist economy:
Schools simply become a target. No longer needed for the production of long-term exploitable “human capital,” they are “restructured,”“reformed” and “privatized,” that is, oriented toward short-term profit extraction by capitalist enterprises that no longer make but simply take. (p. 204)
For related arguments, see the chapters by Giroux (Ch. 33) and Monzó and McLaren (Ch. 34).
In this context, there is little attention to fostering wonder or appreciation of the complexity and interconnectedness of ideas, save as that has a measurable impact on test scores (Burton, Ch. 10; Duckworth, 1987). Goals such as critical thinking, the development of engaged citizenship, understanding the perspectives of others, or ethical life in general are deemed irrelevant to the pursuit of a narrow definition of educational excellence, if not directly threatening to the structures of power (see especially Section Three). However, these characteristics are the ones most needed in the present conditions if there is any hope to maintain against ← XV | XVI → Blacker’s account. The progressive impulse of today may simply be the present effort to respond to our own dysfunctional conditions.
The Handbook is timely, given current debates about the purpose and form of education in an era of rapid technological change, globalization, demographic and political shifts, and growing economic inequities. Across a wide range of topics, age or grade level, area of the curriculum, and setting, the chapters ask, “What have we learned about pedagogy that can support democratic, humanistic, and morally responsible development for individuals and societies?” To a large extent, these inquiries continue Martin Luther King’s (1947) call to remember that education is more than just the accumulation of discrete knowledge and skills:
We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living. (King, 1947)
Many of the chapters were selected from articles in the International Journal of Progressive Education, including special issues on the topic, per se, and one special issue on education for active citizenship. Updating these articles, adding crucial new topics, cross-references, indexes, and a new, unifying framing makes them more useable by scholars, students, and educators. We hope that the volume will become a standard reference for education in general and progressive education in particular.
The chapters here show how progressive education has evolved. They address questions such as: What has progressive education been? What is it today? What could it become? Some articles focus on particular approaches as exemplars of challenges or opportunities for progressive education. Others focus on the historical or philosophical basis for progressive education. Some articles focus on progressive education as it was enacted in the early-20th-century U.S., but others extend that view in interesting and important directions. There are also critiques of progressive education in general or of particular efforts to realize it. The chapters consider both the past successes and failures of progressive education, as well as current work and future possibilities. Authors present their own conception of progressive education as well as a justification for why the particular examples or issues chosen fit within that conception.
In the Introduction, we look first at some of the historical context for progressive education, then some of its philosophical underpinnings, and finally at some examples of progressive education in action that suggest the range of activities that the Handbook examines. The challenges that progressive education has faced are indicative of familiar problems of social life—poor coordination, lack of planning, ← XVI | XVII → resource limitations, or lack of vision—but also to the fact that progressivism often calls for substantial change, and change that entrenched powers resist. Its failures, as well as its successes, need to be understood better.
The Introduction to follow has a difficult, if not impossible, task: to set the stage for a large and wide-ranging collection of works on progressive education, comprising 47 chapters in five sections. The texts represent authors from at least 20 countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Finland, France, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States. Most of the countries in Europe are represented in more than one comparative study, as are countries from South Asia, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. Terminology, assumptions about the history and purposes of schooling, and cultural and political contexts vary greatly across these regions.
An incomplete list of the disciplines represented in the Handbook includes history, philosophy, sociology, political science, library and information science, political economy, environmental studies, ecology, linguistics, psychology, anthropology, human and community development, art and design, development studies, international relations, technology, and many fields within education. Some of the chapters are theoretical, some more practical; some present quantitative results, others qualitative; some look to the past; others to the future. There is no way to give a concise summary or even a proper introduction, since the works vary in what they consider to be progressive education and how it should be studied. Consider what follows to be a contribution to the dialogue that we hope every reader will feel empowered to join.
In Section One, “Past: Aims of Progressive Education,” edited by John Pecore, the chapters adopt a historical approach. They look at theories and early instantiations of progressive teaching. Although the circumstances change, each of the chapters shows how we can learn from previous experiences. The realization of the need to learn from experience in the context of change is of course a key tenet of progressivism itself. The chapters in this section offer not formulas to follow, but experiences to guide future inquiry. Two chapters address the role of critical discourse in higher education and teacher preparation. Others examine progressive education reform initiatives and visions to provide historical context for the aims of progressive education, including efforts both within and beyond the U.S. Other chapters focus on specific trends, such as aesthetic education, issues-centered education, project-based learning, or wonder.
Section Two, “Present: Within Institutions,” edited by Brian Drayton, takes the definition of education institutions broadly. It includes schools but also museums, community art centers, education for autistic adults, teacher pre-service, and even social institutions such as the press. Reconstruction is an important theme across all of the chapters in that section. As Brian discusses, the term is prominent ← XVII | XVIII → in John Dewey’s philosophical method. Dewey also saw reconstruction as the essential activity of education and social renewal. Rather than simply building up a set of concepts or skills, a reconstructive approach entails inquiry into the problematic aspects of a situation. Responding to these problematics, the authors interrogate their institutions. Their inquiry leads them towards reconstruction for deeper participation. As with the chapters in Section One, these chapters provide us with experiences that suggest questions to ask, issues to consider, and ideas to try.
Section Three, “Present,” edited by Jeanne Connell and Alistair Ross, continues the examination of current progressive education efforts, including education for adults, young children, and community members. It emphasizes civic engagement, especially becoming a critical, socially engaged citizen, not simply one who votes or volunteers. The chapters explore that relationship between participation and learning in different regions of the world. They also include the role of new technologies in the changing practices of education.
The chapters in Section Three are guided by the broad progressive ideals of respect for diversity and the development of individuals who are able to participate effectively in the life of the community. They ask: How do learners come to view themselves as active participants, whether as a member of a small group, a local community, or as citizens in the larger society? In the process, they consider issues of identity, civic engagement, the use of new digital technology, and citizenship education. While they share optimism about possibilities for changes that move society towards more democratic social and political arrangements, they also recognize that most educational endeavors operate within highly politicized, complex, and bureaucratic environments, which makes any kind of change a challenging and slow endeavor.
Section Four, “Future,” edited by Maureen Hogan, might also be termed “progressive education in progress.” Hogan wrote,
Progressive education is simultaneously about the unknowable and the possible, and how these things connect to build a more equitable, democratic society. It is not about knowledge transmission, but rather knowledge generation and problem solving in the moment. Bringing up more problems and questions is the point. That is growth.
The chapters here look beyond current, well-studied examples to consider how progressive education can or should be developed. Issues such as global relations and new technologies for learning will not alter fundamental principles, but they do provide new challenges and new ways of adapting pedagogy for changing circumstances. The first four chapters describe how progressivism looks across countries and situated communities. Two others examine progressive education in the U.S.
Section Five, “Overarching Issues,” edited by Martina Riedler, includes chapters addressing crucial issues for progressive education that do not fit well within a single learning setting or approach. Extending the approach of the previous sections, ← XVIII | XIX → Section Five includes critiques of progressive education in general, or of particular efforts to realize it. The section also returns us to basic questions about progressive education, such as “What is it and how does it differ from other approaches?” Several chapters focus on contemporary trends and developments of critical pedagogy as a progressive education movement. One examines the relations among feminism, queer theory, and progressive pedagogies. Others bring in a wide variety of approaches and concepts, such as ecoliteracy, whole language, and Seikatsu Tsuzurikata. A key goal of Section Five, as for the entire Handbook, is to articulate what many experience as the common theme, the progressive impulse in education, however difficult it may be to define precisely.
The chapters collected in this Handbook are intended for researchers, students, educators, policy makers, practitioners, activists, academicians, and citizens to examine with greater complexity and humanity the contemporary landscape of educational theory and practice in relation to the core principles of progressive education. This examination suggests hopeful alternatives to the neoliberal regime of standardization and mechanization that more than ever dominates our schools today.
Allen, D. S. (2009). Talking to strangers. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Barbiana, S. O. (1970). Letter to a teacher (N. Rossi & T. Cole, Trans.). New York, NY: Random House.
Berghoff, B., Egawa, K. A., Harste, J. C., & Hoonan, B. T. (2000). Beyond reading and writing: Inquiry, curriculum, and multiple ways of knowing. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers.
Beyer, B. K. (1971). Inquiry in the social studies classroom: A strategy for teaching. Merrill, WI: Merrill.
Blacker, D. J. (2013). The falling rate of learning and the neoliberal endgame. Lanham, MD: John Hunt.
Cremin, L. A. (1959). What happened to progressive education? All-College Lecture Series at Teachers College, 1–6.
Duckworth, E. R. (1987). “The having of wonderful Ideas” and other essays on teaching and learning. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Evans, R. W. (2007). This happened in America: Harold Rugg and the censure of social studies. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
Giroux, H. A. (2011). Zombie politics and culture in the age of casino capitalism. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
King, Jr., M. L. (1947). The purpose of education. Retrieved from http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_470200_000/
Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75–86.
Kohn, A. (2008). Progressive education: Why it’s hard to beat, but also hard to find. Independent School, 1–9. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/progressive.htm
Llewellyn, G. (1997). The teenage liberation handbook: How to quit school and get a real life and education. Rockport, MA: Element. ← XIX | XX →
Marx, K. (1964). Economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844. New York, NY: International.
OECD and PISA tests are damaging education worldwide—academics. (2014, May 5). The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/06/oecd-pisa-tests-damaging-education-academics
Popkewitz, T. S. (Ed.). (2005). Inventing the modern self and John Dewey: Modernities and the traveling of pragmatism in education. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Short, K. G., Crawford, K. M., Ferguson, M., Laird, J., & Schroeder, J. (1996). Learning together through inquiry: From Columbus to integrated curriculum. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Sweller, J., Kirschner, P. A., & Clark, R. E. (2007). Why minimally guided teaching techniques do not work: A reply to commentaries. Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 115–121.
Wells, C. G., & Chang-Wells, G. L. (1992). Constructing knowledge together: Classrooms as centers of inquiry and literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books.
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There is a tendency in writing about education to describe the present period as the worst of times (or the best), as Dickens’s “noisiest authorities” would have it. The same is true of place-based comparisons, including the nationalist rhetoric seen in a famous report:
Our Nation is at risk … the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people … If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose … the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983)
However, our own time and place may be one like many others, with the presence of different approaches and visions. In the West, at least from the era of Socrates onward, education has been subject to conflicting demands leading to different goals.
These diverse goals lead to competing accounts of what educational success really means. One such vision is offered by progressive education, or at least what we call the progressive impulse in education. It is defined in different ways, but generally it aims to develop self-actualizing individuals who can take charge of their own lives and participate fully in the creation of a greater public good. In this introduction, we trace some of the story of the development of progressive education, and how it meshes with the utilitarian interests that often trump it. ← 1 | 2 → We then consider a few of the philosophical discussions that have informed progressive education. Finally, we review some key examples to indicate the range of experiences that may be included under its rubric. As we argue in the preface, progressive education has experienced many failures, but at least it seems to be asking the right questions. We consider here some of the answers and new questions that have emerged.
Nasaw (1979) followed conflicts in education for the U.S. through a close look at three historical periods: First, before the Civil War, when common-school supporters allied with business interests to create schools for workers in the emerging industrial sector, expanding access while supplanting other goals for education.
Second, around 1900, after massive immigration and upheavals, affluent urban leaders sought to conform students to a changing social order. Former slaves attempted to create an educational system to support their emancipation but instead were pushed into a system of industrial education that perpetuated their political and economic subordination (Anderson, 1988). Women, American Indians, immigrants, and other groups typically received differential educational services.
Third, the contested purposes continued after World War II, with no clear resolution. In fact, they were not so much resolved as partitioned, with a small number of privileged students receiving more open-ended, creative, and democratic education and a large majority experiencing regimented preparation for work (Bowles & Gintis, 2014). Similar conflicts have existed in many other national contexts, especially as societies develop complex social arrangements and class structures.
However, Raymond Williams (1961) warned against treating education as a fixed abstraction, with the issue being simply one of distribution—who receives how much, when, and where. He pointed out that a given distribution actively shapes particular social ends: “the cultural choices involved in the selection of content have an organic relation to the social choices involved in the practical organization” (p. 125). Accordingly, “we cannot separate general social training from specialized training [or from general education]” (p. 126). Thus, both the form and content of education must be understood as part of a larger social fabric, not simply as technical processes.
Progressive education is deeply enmeshed in these conflicts, often blossoming in response to a perceived overemphasis on work preparation or narrowly defined socialization (Cremin, 1964; Graham, 1967b; Reese, 2002). It does not necessarily deny those needs but emphasizes democratic education as a necessary goal with attendant focus on individual and social growth. In order to understand the ← 2 | 3 → evolution of progressive efforts in education, it is not enough to analyze specific pedagogical enterprises and compare them with alternatives. We need instead to consider the longue durée (Armitage & Guldi, n.d.; Braudel, 1995), extending both by time span and by taking into account an array of political, social, cultural, and economic forces. In this chapter, we look back to early Greek and Chinese philosophy, as well as to pedagogy in a variety of national contexts in diverse time periods. However, given the strong association of the phrase progressive education with the movement by that name in the U.S., it seems appropriate to start with the immediate antecedents of that movement about a century and a half ago.
During the second half of the 19th century, there was a remarkable burst of material development in the U.S., comparable to or exceeding that of rapidly developing nations today. Chicago, for instance, doubled its population during the decade from 1880 to 1890. Entire systems of industry were created. For example, between 1870 and 1900, the production of steel increased 140 times and the urban population more than tripled (Hofstadter, 1963).
The astounding growth of the nation led to an overall prosperity but not one that was shared widely. To the contrary, the urban centers of population and industry became wastelands of vice and poverty, with crowded slums accompanying vast concentrations of corporate power and private wealth, corruption of the systems of governance, and destruction of the environment. Richard Hofstadter (1963) wrote about the response of Progressives to these events:
What had happened … was that in the extraordinary outburst of productive energy … the nation had not developed in any corresponding degree the means of meeting human needs or controlling or reforming the manifold evils that come with any such rapid political change. The Progressive movement, then, may be looked upon as an attempt to develop the moral will, the intellectual insight, and the political and administrative agencies to remedy the accumulated evils and negligences of a period of industrial growth. Since the Progressives were not revolutionists, it was also an attempt to work out a strategy for orderly social change. (p. 2)
There were similar forces operating in other countries at that time, which led to analogus, though country-specific, responses in education. For example, Hein (Ch. 4) describes post-World-War-I school reform in Austria, which paralleled developments in the U.S. at that time. Some countries adopted and adapted ideas from the U.S. for their own situations, with varying degrees of success (Uygun, Ch. 2; Zulfikar, Ch. 29), while others appear to have progressed on independent paths responding to similar social forces (Thomsen, Ch. 5).
The Progressive Impulse in Education
Progressive educators in the U.S. at that time, like progressives throughout the world in other time periods, sought an educational praxis that would promote ← 3 | 4 → “the moral will, the intellectual insight, and the … agencies” to build a better society (Hofstadter, 1963, p. 2). It is not surprising that their work was seen as closely allied with that of social reformers such as Jane Addams (Bruce, Ch. 41; Hogan & Connell, Ch. 37; Shields, 2006). They conceived students as active learners with an experimental disposition, in large part because they saw those qualities as necessary for a rapidly expanding economy with dramatic social changes. Thus, engaging with issues as opposed to accumulating facts (Jorgensen, Ch. 8) or learning through carrying out complex projects (Pecore, Ch. 7) seemed a natural response.
Lawrence Cremin (1959, 1964, 1988) showed in his history of the U.S. progressive education movement that these educators did not speak with one voice. They framed their projects in different ways and used different terminology. This can be seen even more so in reviews of educators worldwide whose works might be broadly classified as progressive, such as those in Hansen’s (2007) collection of essays on ethical visions in education or Kirylo’s (2013) collection of biographies of critical pedagogues. Various manifestations of the core ideas can be seen across disciplines and learning settings today, for example, language learning (Brown, 2004), agriculture (Bruce, Dowd, Eastburn, & D’Arcy, 2005), the sciences (Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999), university learning (Prince & Felder, 2007), and geography (Spronken-Smith, Bullard, Ray, Roberts, & Keiffer, 2008). See also the section on examples in this chapter.
Nevertheless, an examination of various alternatives to conventional education reveals what we might call a progressive impulse. That impulse guides lifelong struggles against the grain of both the education system and the larger society that shapes and depends upon it. In the area of education, progressives saw that it was not enough for schools to manage the children while the parents went to work in the factories. Nor was it enough to instill the basic skills and obedience appropriate to the emerging industrial society. Instead, schools must become agencies for a democratic society. They needed to foster active participation by all citizens in the social, economic, and political decisions affecting their lives. Boedicker (Ch. 19) shows what it means to apply that term “all” in its literal sense, as she examines continuing education for the developmentally disabled. To accomplish the idealistic vision, education needed more progressive methods for developing the individual, which would lead to a more progressive society, thus to enhancing the public or social good.
General agreement on this program did not mean that everyone defined progressive or good in the same way. George Counts, in his 1932 address to the Progressive Education Association, lamented the lack of a shared theory of the social good. In that address, he also highlighted the strong connection between individual and societal development: ← 4 | 5 →
You may argue that the [Progressive Education] movement does have orientation, that it is devoted to the development of the good individual. But there is no good individual apart from some conception of the nature of good society … The great weakness of Progressive Education lies in the fact that it has elaborated no theory of social welfare. (p. 257)
In response, some progressive educators at the time, and continuing to today, remained wary of having an explicit social agenda, especially one that sought to reconstruct the political order. Instead, they maintained a focus on children in the classroom, helping their individual development independent of what they saw as larger institutional or policy concerns. Others, such as Dewey, asserted that Counts’s critique implied a doctrinaire approach that was counter to the democratic process essential for the very changes that Counts would have wanted in the long term. From that perspective, social welfare was most definitely a goal, but its precise theory needed to be elaborated by participants in the process of development, not specified in advance by the association.
Despite lack of agreement on what constitutes social welfare or how specifically that needs to be defined, certain principles stand out in educational approaches commonly described as progressive. These principles recur at other times in U.S. educational history and in other regions as well. The education of engaged citizens was usually characterized as incorporating two essential elements:
(1) Respect for diversity, meaning that each individual should be recognized for his or her own abilities, interests, ideas, needs, and cultural identity, and (2) the development of critical, socially engaged intelligence, which enables individuals to understand and participate effectively in the affairs of their community in a collaborative effort to achieve a common good. (John Dewey Project on Progressive Education, n.d.)
Regardless of the specific formulation, progressive education typically embodies at least these two elements. The first is often characterized as child centered, incorporating aspects such as constructivist learning (Easley & Zwoyer, 2006); experiential learning (Kolb, 1984); inquiry-based teaching (Harste & Leland, 1998); open classrooms (Barth, 1971; Silberman, 1973); caring (Noddings, 1984); holistic education (Miller, 1992); multicultural education (Ladson-Billings, 2006; Nieto & Bode, 1992); place-based education (Leslie, Tallmadge, & Wessels, 1999; Sobel, 2013); hands-on learning (Pestalozzi, 1977; Mark K. Smith, n.d.); learning through discovery (Bruner, 1961); the project method (Kilpatrick, 1918); theme studies that integrate across disciplines (Gamberg, Kwak, Hutchings, & Altheim, 1988); problem-based approaches (Neville, 2009); with overall an emphasis on the situated, embodied, emotional, and creative aspects of human development.
There is a never-ending debate about the educational effectiveness of these specific approaches—for example, Dean and Kuhn, 2007; Kirschner, Sweller, ← 5 | 6 → and Clark, 2006; Mayer, 2004; Sweller, Kirschner, and Clark, 2007—in part due to different conceptions of pedagogical purpose. The very notion of what it means “to work” needs to be questioned. For example, it seems clear that recall of specific facts or development of focused skills can be attained more effectively through direct instruction than through more open-ended or minimally guided approaches. However, long-term impact and transfer of direct instruction have been more difficult to document, especially on dimensions such as creativity, social responsibility, and critical thinking. Ethical development is often judged as highly important, yet it is difficult to assess. Very little research has been able to assess long-term or comprehensive effects (but see Farrell, 2004). However, the 8-year study (discussed below) is a notable exception, which demonstrated long-term benefits of progressive schools on multiple dimensions (Aikin, 1942; Ritchie, 1971).
The second element of progressive education is equally important and often ignored in contemporary discussions of educational efficacy that focus on individual achievement on standardized test scores. This element is often called social reconstructionist. It emphasizes the social or public functions of schooling, especially those extending beyond economic competitiveness. Counts had argued that it requires a theory of social welfare, that is, to what ends should we reconstruct the social? With a variety of answers to Counts’s challenge, various chapters in this Handbook directly address the goal of developing critical, socially engaged intelligence. They employ terms such as active citizenship, participation, and strong democracy (Barber, 2003).
A concern with social reconstruction was evident in much of the 20th century U.S. work on progressive education. The introduction to the Social Science Pamphlets, a widely used progressive education curriculum support published around 1923, says,
there are signs of … a near impasse in citizenship … brought about by the mushroom growth of a fragile and highly specialized mechanism of industry, transportation, communication, and credit. With these stupendous material advances, resulting in the artificial inflation of our economic and social standards of living, there has not been a parallel aesthetic, spiritual, and cultural growth. (Rugg, Rugg, & Schweppe, 2010)
The social reconstruction aspect of these texts advocated critical thinking, racial understanding, democracy, social justice, and national economic planning. Critics such as Ralph Robey, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Legion attacked Rugg’s pamphlets, and, more broadly, the entire progressive education enterprise, as being imbued with creeping collectivism and undermining youths’ beliefs in private enterprise (Evans, 2007). As with other progressive education efforts around the world, the progressives’ desire for social reconstruction ← 6 | 7 → was not shared by all, especially those with a vested interest in the existing social and economic order.
The two elements of progressive education are sometimes separated, yet they are deeply interdependent. Building a better society was seen by progressives as requiring the development of aware, engaged, and responsible actors, who become so through individualized, self-directed learning. At the same time, enabling individuals to “participate effectively in the affairs of their community” establishes the environment for their own learning and the “aesthetic, spiritual, and cultural growth” that Rugg envisioned. Progressive schools thus aspired to become sites in which the education process itself was more democratic, with the assumption that democratic schooling was a necessary precondition for a democratic society (Bode, 1938; Greene, 1978).
A contemporary approach that recognizes the link between individual development and social reconstruction is service learning (Roy, Jensen, & Meyers, 2009). In some cases, it is oriented to providing direct service to the community, essentially making the schools more useful to society. In others, it emphasizes building a capacity and motivation for future service among participants. Most progressive educators would see these aims as mutually constitutive, with each being both means and end.
The Progressive Impulse in Education
The integration of the individual and social elements implies that respect for the unique, even ineffable characteristics of each individual is best realized by fostering that individual’s engagement with others and their growth through that engagement. Conversely, the health and growth of the social organism is possible only when each individual can develop to the fullest. In order to enact this interdependence, progressive educators relied upon a third element, inquiry. This inquiry is not only situated in the lived experience of students and teachers but also in the life beyond the school walls. It implies continual experimentation, seeking not simple or fixed answers but deeper understanding of phenomena; a recognition that addressing problems, whether they are initially characterized as intellectual, physical, moral, aesthetic, political, linguistic, or practical may require multiple attempts and reconstruction of situations. It often entails moving beyond categories such as those just enumerated, to see how, for example, practical issues require drawing upon cultural and historical resources or how aesthetics is inseparable from a relevant, socially progressive agenda (Shusterman, 2000). Moreover, inquiry is deeply linked to embodied, situated action in the world, both in that meaningful thought has consequences for doing and in that action generates thought (Crawford, 2009; Joas, 1996).
This suggests the definition (see Figure 1): ← 7 | 8 →
The progressive impulse is inquiry into the interdependence of the growth of self and others.
Fig. 1. Schematic of the progressive impulse.
Growth is an indication of health and human flourishing of the entire social organism, as we discuss below. Inquiry is, in Dewey’s (2008a) sense, transformation of an indeterminate situation into one whose parts constitute a unified whole. Thus, the progressive impulse not only seeks both individual and social growth but also sees the two as inseparable. The recognition of that mutual constitution has enabled and engendered progressive efforts across continents and centuries (see especially Nam, Ch. 21; Harnisch & Guetterman, Ch. 24; Ghosh, Ch. 25; and Chow, Ch. 26).
To be clear, this definition does not imply that a progressive educator need be a social psychologist who studies the self-other relation. Consider instead what the progressive impulse implies for an educator interested in science learning: It would lead to a recognition that science involves asking questions about phenomena evident in some way to the individual. At the same time, it would recognize the social embedding of science, seeing it as historically and culturally constituted. Learning how to observe in an open yet critical way would require utilizing yet reaching outward from one’s prior experience, not seeing in a preconceived fashion. Articulating one’s developing understanding to others and engaging in dialogue would be as important as mathematical or physical actions (see Lansdown, Blackwood, & Brandwein, 1971, on investigation and colloquium). Cooperative learning would follow, not as an instructional technique but as a necessary component of the discipline, recognizing the fundamental unity between learning and doing science. The social and political consequences of science would be important objects of study. Community-based science (Bouillion & Gomez, 2001) would be an integral part of the curriculum. Thus, science and society questions would be connected to hands-on learning in an integral way, not as separate subjects to “cover.”
In this scenario, the student too would experience the progressive impulse. Science learning would include understanding what constitutes evidence, and ← 8 | 9 → what the different types of evidence might be, both for oneself and for others. It would entail working together and engaging in sustained critical cooperative dialogue about states of affairs in the world. Thus, the student would develop meta-knowledge about science and her own learning, which in turn would enable informed critique. She would become a co-developer of the curriculum as she learned the relationship between reflections on her own experiences, those of immediate others, and the larger historical tradition. She would thus develop as an independent yet socially aware and responsible learner along the path of lifelong learning. Intellectual, moral, and aesthetic development would become facets of a whole, not alternative subjects of study.
Progressive efforts vary greatly, meaning that it is difficult to establish a single definition, model, or even list of common characteristics that works well across all cases. There are many published and unpublished attempts that provide help, but none can be deemed the final word. Indeed, the experimental and inquiry-based ethos of progressivism mitigates against any such effort. Nor can our definition claim to be the solution; it is neither complete nor universal. Nevertheless, we suggest that the progressive impulse provides a useful perspective on the common core of the progressive education tradition and underlies many specific presentations that flesh out the idea in fuller and more practical ways. When it beats, this impulse avoids the one extreme of leaving the learner to discover entirely on their own, as well as the other of attempting to prescribe every aspect of learning.
For example, Alfie Kohn (2008) discussed eight values that characterize progressive education: (1) attending to the whole child, (2) community, (3) collaboration, (4) social justice, (5) intrinsic motivation, (6) deep understanding, (7) active learning, and (8) taking kids seriously. His discussion of each of these shows a concern for interdependent growth of students, teachers, parents, and community. Several of the values (#2, #4) point explicitly to the connection between the learning of the individual child and the growth of the community. The emphasis on participation of learners (#5, #7, #8) reminds us that individual/social is mutually constituted and not a one-way interaction. Social dimensions of individual learning are the flip side of developing a healthy society (#2, #3). Taking kids seriously (#8) means that kids own aspects of the curriculum themselves, doing so in a way that meets their self needs while engaging in the social or other dimensions of life. And so on. The key points are that we need an education process that is generative, not formulaic; and that humans are living, social beings.
A complete analysis of Kohn’s (2008) list along this line or of others, such as the seven principles identified by the Progressive Education Network (n.d.), is beyond the scope of this chapter. In the spirit of progressive education, we invite critical examination and dialogue on the claim that our definition underlies key aspects of the more fleshed-out characterizations. It would be interesting to analyze what is potentially omitted, unnecessary, or misrepresented. ← 9 | 10 →
The Eight-Year Study
One of the best program evaluation studies ever conducted was the Eight-Year Study of progressive education conducted between 1932 and 1940 (Aikin, 1942). Thirty high schools participated. The students from the experimental schools did only slightly better on standardized test scores, but they showed major improvement in other areas, including thinking skills; work habits and study skills; appreciation of music, art, literature, and other aesthetic experiences; improved social attitudes and social sensitivity; personal-social adjustment; philosophy of life; and physical fitness. Students from the most progressive schools showed the most improvement, more than those in the somewhat progressive schools, and much more than those in traditional schools. There was evidence of long-term impact as well.
The progressive schools realized that few parents or citizens would be satisfied if children could successfully answer multiple-choice questions requiring narrowly focused skills but failed to develop intellectual curiosity, cultural awareness, practical skills, a healthy philosophy of life, a strong moral character, emotional balance, social fitness, sensitivity to social problems, or physical fitness. Instead of narrowly defined subjects, the curriculum used broad themes of significance to the students, which would start with “life as the student saw it” (Benedict, 1947, p. 14). Students would be engaged in inquiry as a way to make sense of themselves and the world around them.
Moreover, the schools were community based: “The schools believed they belonged to the citizens of the community” (Benedict, 1947, p. 17). Progressive educators spoke of two visions for schools. In one, the old school, there is a fence surrounding the building; activities of the school are separate from those of the world around it, and as a result, schooling is separated from the actual life of the children. In the new school, the building is substantially the same, but it is connected to sites for recreation, housing, jobs, health, government, and, by implication, to all aspects of life. Rather than simply supplementing schools or being a venue for future activity, the community would become the center of learning. The societal view was true not only for community schools per se (Clapp, 1939), but also for all schools, urban or rural, large or small, primary or secondary. The view can easily be extended to universities (Benson, Puckett, & Harkavy, 2007) and other sites for learning. Today, many of these ideas have survived under rubrics such as civic engagement, public engagement, community-based learning, or service learning. But often those ideas are seen as one way or limited in scope, as they might be applied in a single course (Bishop, Bruce, & Jeong, 2009).
Outcomes of the Eight-Year Study included better forms of student assessment, innovative research techniques, new ideas for curriculum, instruction, and teacher education. But above all, it showed that it is possible to help the whole ← 10 | 11 → child develop without losing basic skills. In fact, schooling can be conceived in such a way that teachers and community members are learners as well. Doing that appears to be the best way to help the individual learner, not working from a deficit model. Moreover, the obsession with testing easily measured skills actually stands in the way of teaching the things almost every parent, teacher, or citizen truly values. No one advocates replicating the schooling of the 1930s in the U.S., much less in diverse contexts around the world, but the lessons of those schools may still be relevant today.
Resistance to Progressivism
The progressive principles have never been predominant. State systems of schooling have emphasized cultural uniformity over diversity and obedience over critical participation. Those systems have rarely tolerated, much less promoted, progressive approaches for long, regardless of whether proponents spoke in the gentle, almost bureaucratic language of the Rugg pamphlets or more aggressively, such as the call for teaching to be a radical or subversive activity (Postman & Weingartner, 1969). The vilification of Rugg and his pamphlets is a notable example of this intolerance of progressivism (Evans, 2007). During the McCarthy era of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Cold War anxiety and cultural conservatism in the U.S. led to further repudiation of progressive education as a named movement.
There are many examples in the chapters of the Handbook of other progressive approaches that encountered societal resistance. See Urban (Ch. 1), Uygun (Ch. 2), Waks (Ch. 3), Thomsen (Ch. 5), Burton (Ch. 10), Mutch (Ch. 11), and Gannon and Sawyer (Ch. 24) in this volume for examples and elaboration. Often there is resistance to change or the desire to protect powerful interests threatened by critical thinkers. Meanwhile, there has been increasing pressure to enlist students in global education competition and to prepare them for their roles as both workers and consumers in a competitive, global economy. This pressure is amplified with the privatization of school systems occurring in many countries, which reduces the commitment to goals such as aesthetic and moral development, active citizenship, or understanding the perspectives of others (Ravitch, 2013). In that context, the progressive aspirations appear to many as a luxury, or at best a diversion from the core business of schooling.
In some cases, progressive approaches falter simply because the people involved judge them difficult to implement or counter to their own formal educational experiences. The notion that education should be more than occupational training is more radical than it may appear. Moreover, the structures of schooling are unfriendly to non-graded, mixed-age, integrated-curriculum, open-classroom, and student-centered ideas (Kliebard, 2012). Teachers don’t know what they should do or don’t feel empowered to act in more open-ended ways. Administrators are ← 11 | 12 → cautious about novel ideas or afraid to lose control. Parents resist because progressive methods appear too different from the way they learned or thought they had learned. Publishers are too invested in easily packaged curriculum materials. Politicians seek simple fixes with easily measured outcomes. For all, the progressive calls for active engagement with the physical and social world, for critical thinking, for connecting across experiences, seem daunting, especially when others in the system are not supportive.
The Practice of Freedom
The foregoing highlights that we are not simply discussing methods for education but larger questions of purpose and values. How do we assess social conditions and whether they should be maintained or changed in some way? Can we make our communities and the larger society work (Dionne, 1998)? Cecelia Tichi (2011) showed how the social conditions of the Progressive era led reformers to social activism in areas of working conditions, health care, economic opportunity, and shared governance; educators responded in a similar way. She argued further that in the U.S. today, there is a pressing need for a renewed progressive response. Throughout the world, similar challenges prevail. There are many important differences among educational and societal practices, but social justice is imperative everywhere. Thus, it is important to foster individual learning but also to help those individuals participate in building a just society, not simply conforming to the given. Richard Shaull (1970) posed the decision starkly:
There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions … to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. (p. 15)
Progressive educators ask how to foster the practice of freedom for all. Following Shaull, they understand that such a practice does not issue an unrestricted license or a paean to individualism but rather a recognition that individual actualization is achieved through active participation in the world. Thus, the respect for the distinct value of each individual is mutually constituted with a critical, socially engaged intelligence.
Progressive education has emerged in a wide variety of times and places. In China, educators might trace their ideas to Confucius; in Europe, to Socrates; in India, ← 12 | 13 → to Gandhi. It has been rediscovered anew many times, with many different names and characterizations. Nevertheless, most versions of progressive education have responded to some fundamental philosophical questions, such as “what does it mean to be human?” “How should people relate to one another?” “How can democratic living be supported?” and “What is the meaning of complexity and change?”
Many progressive educators view pedagogy as more akin to gardening than to transmitting information or, in other comparisons they have used, more akin to training, molding clay, stacking up bricks, making a product, stuffing a sausage. For example, Friedrich Fröbel (1887) likened education to the trimming of a grapevine, for which the gardener needs to “passively and attentively … follow the nature of the plant.” He added,
In the treatment of the things of nature we very often take the right road, whereas in the treatment of man we go astray; and yet the forces that act in both proceed from the same source and obey the same law. (p. 9)
In his dying days, he urged care for his garden: ““Take care of my flowers and spare my weeds; I have learned much from them”” (Marenholtz-Bülow, 1892, p. 290). Weeds taught Fröbel that active hindrance or constraints for a learner could hamper their growth but that in a natural state they reveal their “pure inner life … harmonious in all parts and features” (Fröbel, 1887, pp. 8–9). The gardening notion led him to coin the name kindergarten (literally children’s garden), an approach that greatly influenced early childhood education around the world (Shapiro, 1983).
- XX, 833
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- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XX, 833 pp., num. ill.