On the Lives and Education of Children
Edited By Paul L. Thomas, Paul R. Carr, Julie A. Gorlewski and Brad J. Porfilio
Chapter Thirteen: Tough Kindness: Reconciling Student Needs and Interests in 1940s Black Progressive High Schools
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Reconciling Student Needs and Interests in 1940s Black Progressive High Schools
Descriptions of 20th-century black education are filled with generalities, myths, and oversimplifications. While Booker T. Washington’s Hampton model can easily be placed in juxtaposition with W. E. B. Du Bois’ Talented Tenth, such dichotomies prove much more complex than originally imagined, as underscored by Anderson (1988), Smock (2009), and others. And while the school segregation doctrine is universally damned, historical accounts of the 1940s and the sweeping innuendoes of the past—the assumption that black schools and teachers were all inferior in relation to the better-funded white schools and better-trained white educators—have been complicated by the work of Siddle Walker (1996), Leloudis (1996), and others. Current impressions of progressive education from the early- to mid-20th century have fared no better. Rigid categories—administrative/pedagogical progressives and child-centered/subject-centered curricula, for example—abound, highlighting simplified traits of “learning by doing” so that period educators can be classified, sorted, and shelved away. These categories are further convoluted by the fact that many so-called progressive educators were self-proclaimed when in fact they may have displayed few characteristics of what is generally represented as progressivism. Specific educational issues and practices of progressive education are often reduced to clichés, such as “educating the whole child”; and leaders of the movement—Dewey, Counts, and Kilpatrick—have been reduced to mere caricatures, obscuring the complex face-to-face classroom...
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