Progressive Education

We know that students learn best when they’re posed problems and provided opportunities to play.  However, we have reforms that position students to passively receive information and spew it out on a piece of paper.  Why is it that research and theory says one thing, and yet our school reforms do another?  This is one of the great conundrums in public education.

The reason is mostly rooted in a division that has been in the public school for a long time.  This division reveals the complexity of what we call the progressive education movement – arguably the most significant reform effort placed upon the school.  The progressive education movement, which had its hey-day between 1880 and 1920, sprouted out of a social welfare movement that engulfed our country.

Two primary groups emerged out of the progressive education movement: administrative progressives and pedagogical progressives.  The administrative progressives were/are concerned about the efficiency of the school system.  It is from the administrative progressives that we get such things as curricular tracking and standardized testing.  The pedagogical progressives were/are concerned about the human component of education and a curriculum necessary for the survival of a democratic society.  It is from the pedagogical progressives that we get such ideas as project-based learning.  While the pedagogical progressives still have some hold on the school experience, the school is the land of the administrative progressives.  And, this is one reason why research and theory says one thing, and our reforms do another.

I am a pedagogical progressive.  Heck, I’m even a member of the John Dewey Society!  I will bring this background to the WAPS district as a board member!  I am an advocate for problem-based learning.  I am an opponent of much of the reform efforts that sprout from administrative progressivism.  This is one of the reasons why I think that empowering teachers in school decision-making will improve our district and make it a model for others to follow.  No one knows students better than teachers!  I want to see decisions made that have students’ best interests in mind – not ones that are merely efficient and convenient.

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