Progressive Education in the 21st Century – Second Edition
Edited By Susan F. Semel, Alan R. Sadovnik and Ryan W. Coughlan
Chapter 12. Progressive Education: Lessons from the Past and Present
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Lessons from the Past and Present
Susan F. Semel, Alan R. Sadovnik, and Ryan W. Coughlan
Progressive education is one of the most enduring educational reform movements in this country, with a lifespan of over one hundred years. Although as noted earlier, it waxes and wanes in popularity, many of its practices now appear so regularly in both private and public schools as to have become almost mainstream. But from the schools that were the pioneers, what useful lessons can we learn? The histories of the early progressive schools profiled in Part I illustrate what happened to some of the progressive schools founded in the first part of the twentieth century. But even now, they serve as important reminders for educators concerned with the competing issues of stability and change in schools with particular progressive philosophies—reminders, specifically, of the complex nature of school reform.1
As we have seen in these histories, balancing the original intentions of progressive founders with the known demands upon practitioners has been the challenge some of the schools have met successfully and others have not. As contemporary American educators consider the school choice movement, the burgeoning expansion of charter schools, and the growing focus on standards-based testing and accountability measures, they would do well to look back for guidance at some of the original schools representative of the “new education.” Particularly instructive, The Dalton School and The City and...
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