Posts Tagged ‘Progressive Education’

John Dewey Slew the Little Red School House

September 14, 2012

Image from The Center for Dewey Studies

Says Teachers ‘Pale Pink.’

American school teachers, often denominated as politically “red,” average up “pale pink,” according to preliminary conclusion reached in connection with a national poll made by the John Dewey Society for the Study of Education.

The poll, extending to 3,000 teachers in the 48 states, is in charge of Dr. George W. Hartman of Pennsylvania State college. He reports that the average teacher tends to support a number of “incompatible policies” and that the “radical” group of teachers is better informed on social issues and public problems of the day than the conservatives. This latter observation probably is true of citizens generally, since the conservatives is often disposed to take the status quo for granted while the “advanced thinker” has reasons, real or imaginary, on which he justifies his position.

An outstanding contradiction was reported to be the prominence of Socialist convictions and sentiments and the relatively small number intending to vote for Norman Thomas for president. Dr. Hartman found that the “typical teacher approves of many far-reaching reforms but his dissent from the status quo is that of a gradualist rather than that of a revolutionist.” Of those polled, 59 per cent expressed the view that an annual family income of approximately $4,000 could be obtained if the productive equipment of the nation were operated at full capacity.

Under the capitalistic system, with the progressives and radicals acting as a spur in the flanks of the large conservative element, income over the years has shown a pretty consistent increase. While some might consider $4,000 a year a high average goal, it is gratifying to find that the teachers favor working toward it under the doctrine of abundance rather than that of scarcity.

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) Jul 23, 1936

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“What school teachers think about public questions is important, because their thinking affects their work and tends to mold the minds of the rising generation,” says an exchange, citing 3,000 replies to a questionnaire sent out by the John Dewey Society for the Study of Education….

More than half believe that several millions of our unemployed will “never again find steady work at good wages in a capitalist society.

Only 15 per cent think teachers have a moral obligation to remain entirely neutral on debatable issues, in class and elsewhere.

Ninety-eight per cent reject the idea that the school “has no business trying to improve society.”

Three-fourths favor a federal department of education.

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Aug 12, 1936

Commission Finds Trotsky Innocent

New York, Dec. 13. — Leon Trotsky was informed Monday that an international commission of inquiry had found him innocent of counter-revolutionary activities and had declared the trial of 17 of his sympathizers a “frame-up.”

Dr. John Dewey, philosopher and author, was introduced to a mass meeting Sunday night as “the Zola of our age,” read the commission’s review of the evidence and concluded:

“We therefore find the Moscow trials to be a frame-up. We therefore find Trotsky and Leon Sedoff (his son) not guilty.”

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) Dec 14, 1937

Image from English Russia – Only in Russia!

DR. DEWEY FLAYS STALIN REGIME.

Dr. John Dewey, professor of philosophy at Columbia university and chairman of the committee that “retried” Leon Trotsky on the charge of treason to Soviet Russia, is utterly disgusted with the Soviet as it is now being operated. This noted American philosopher spent a long, long time peering under the surface of the Trotsky case and what he finds is that the effort to make the proletariat supreme has resulted in the most ruthless and dictatorial political regime that is in operation anywhere today.

Not that he cares anything as between the two personalities Stalin and Trotsky, Dr. Dewey says, but he had hoped for much from the Russian experiment. He finds that experiment now deteriorated into a mass of misrepresentation, lies, propaganda and violence. The people of Russia are kept in ignorance of what is going on in the world and even in their own country. His views are published in the Washington Post.

To those who say that the end justifies the means, Dr. Dewey replies with a bit of philosophy, so startlingly true that its significance comes as a shock to the minds of many. That philosophy, the end justifies the means, is so deeply ingrained in the minds of many Communists that the radicals in this country resort to it in their defense of the Stalin regime by justifying the present assassinations in Russia.

But Dr. Dewey says that the means that are employed decide the ends or the consequences which are ultimately attained. Thus, when violence is used to bring about so-called political and economic reforms violence must be employed to keep the new government in power and violence becomes its principal weapon, not only upon those who are opposed but even within the party itself. Thus all idea of democracy is lost. The means have dominated the ends that were sought to be attained.

The venerable American philosopher, who because he expressed the belief that the world could learn much from the Russian experiment, was himself sometimes called a Communist, has given up all his cherished hopes for Russia. He believes that Communist Russia and Nazi Germany are growing very much alike. There is simply the employment of force to maintain a regime, the holding of the people in ignorance through vicious propaganda, misinformation and fear.

Declaring that he cares little more for Trotksy’s ideas than he does for the scheme of things that is carried on by Stalin, Dr. Dewey insists that the Trotsky trials were a “frame-up” of crooked testimony and evidence; that the Russian prosecutor did not follow the legal rules of evidence under Russian law. All of this Dr. Dewey proposes to prove not only to the satisfaction of Americans but to the confusion of the Russians themselves.

Finally he bids American radicals to see the truth. There is a growing tendency among these radicals to conceal the truth regarding Russian affairs in this country. “They can accomplish nothing by hiding the truth,” he said. “Truth, instead of being a bourgeois virtue, is the mainspring of all human progress.”

Montana Standard (Butte, Montana) Jan 2, 1938

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Groups Are Criticized For School Meddling
(Associated Press)

New York, Feb. 24. — Curtailment of Academic freedom by pressure groups which seek to impose their doctrines on the nation’s school children was held by John Dewey society today to be “definitely on the increase.”

Describing it as one of the “most vital issues of the day” the society said in announcing the 1938 year book, teachers have been reprimanded and even dismissed from jobs for teaching accepted facts about history, science and civics which, for one reason or another, were disagreeable to certain groups in their communities.

Progressive as well as conservative organizations which seek to hamstring school teachers with rules and regulations were denounced in the year book as enemies of democracy.

Among them were listed the “ancestor worshipers” with D.A.R., Sons of American Revolution and United Daughters of Confederacy included in the category — military organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars and patriotic organizations like the National Civic Federation, the Paul Reveres and Key Men.

Greeley Daily Tribune (Greeley, Colorado) Feb 25, 1938

Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Mar 5, 1938

LET’S NOT DODGE ISSUE

Dear Editor:

Public schools may not teach “religion,” at least A religion, that is settled; but the general rule in courts of law in this country is that for a witness to qualify as such and testify under oath “he must possess a conscience alive to the accountability to a higher power than human law in case of falsehood.” (American Jurisprudence, 1948 ed. page 96, vol. 58.) This rule is entirely in harmony with the federal constitution, as it was the established common law at the time of the adoption of that constitution and still obtains in states that have not changed it by their own local law.

In Soviet Russia school children are taught that there is no “accountability to a higher power” than the law of Stalin. The prevailing doctrine is found in the teaching of Karl Marx that: “Religion is the sighing of a creature oppressed by misfortune; it is the ‘soul’ of the world that has no heart, as it is the intelligence of an unintelligent epoch. It is the opium for the people.”

Such doctrine is closely akin to that of John Dewey, “who identifies religion with superstition when he says that religion originated in man’s fear and his effort to safeguard himself in every way possible against unknown and uncontrollable forces and changes.” So writes an anti-Communist Russian authority. (Demiashkevich, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, p. 113.) The same writer quotes Dewey as saying that “As a drowning man is said to grasp at a straw” so men who lacked the modern implements and skills snatched at religion as “a source of help in time of trouble.” So, the disciples of John Dewey (whether teachers or others) are naturally against teaching “accountability to a “higher power than human law,” whether you call it “religion,” “ethics,” or merely “good citizenship.”

Accordingly, they now propose to teach ABOUT religions — probably in the same manner that that topic would be treated in the World Almanac or the Book of Facts. Since there is no more mature subject than that of Comparative Religion, which embraces all the sects and philosophies, we may see at once what a synthetic plate of “bolonie” would be served out to the youngsters whose parents are still trying to teach some good old-fashioned ideas of “right” and “wrong.” Such negativistic mush would be a fraud and a fake — certainly a poor antidote against the atheism of the USSR.

If our boys are dying in Korea to save the world from communism and atheism then the public schools ought to find a way to teach these facts; but if, on the other hand, they are bleeding to preserve an adoration of John Dewey’s world of “instruments and skills,” materialistic comfort, and scientific gadgets, let’s not be hypocritical enough to dodge the issue and teach ABOUT religions. Call it “morals,” “citizenship,” or “social science,” but teach that communism, atheism and slavery go hand in hand; that the American tradition requires an “accountability to a higher power than human law.”

ROBERT B. RALLS
186 North Meyer street

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona) Apr 16, 1951

Image from Fans in a Flashbulb

These Days . . .

By GEORGE E. SOKOLSKY

Do you know the teachers of your children? They speak of tenure, of academic freedom, of their rights to their jobs. But what have you to say about your children? After all, they are your children and you are responsible for them, for their minds, their bodies, their spirits.

What do the teachers of your children know? What have they been taught? Have they had a broad, humanistic training or are they specialists in methods of pedagogy?
…..

Does your child come home an say, “All fathers are alike,” when your child has repeated to the teacher some criticism you have made of the teacher or textbooks?

For instance, the other day, I heard a child talk about starvation in India. Nothing had been said about sacred cows and sacred monkeys and wild dogs who eat the food of the people and who may not be killed. Could we rescue the people of India if we sent them all our surplus wheat? The fact is that the teacher wants to make the child like the united nations and point four and all that, but the teacher did not say that the peoples of India starve because they do not grow enough food per acre and that a religion which sacrifices living human beings to living animals is partially responsible. The teacher told a half-truth for political purposes.

You need to know what a teacher believes. The teacher says that it is none of your business. The teacher says that the Constitution, under the fifth amendment, protects a citizen in his beliefs. That is absolutely true. A citizen can believe anything he likes: That the moon is made of green cheese, that Karl Marx is as great an historic figure as Moses, Jesus, Aristotle and Plato; that John Dewey was the greatest philosopher of all time. That is a teacher’s private business.

But your child is your business. It is correct that a teacher may be a Republican, a Democrat, a communist, a Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Christian Scientist. He may believe that vitamins will save the world or that vaccination will ruin the world.

But none of that solves the problem of your own responsibility for your own children. No child need be sent to a school whose teachers offend a parent’s beliefs. The child must have a certain amount of “education,” according to the law. That may require the parents to pay for the upkeep of two schools. Many do.

The various organizations of teachers object to this attitude. They wish to make a fetish of the public school system and put it above and beyond criticism. In a country like ours, nothing, but absolutely nothing, should be above and beyond criticism.

(Copyright, 1951, King Features Syndicate, Inc.)

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) Dec 18, 1951

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Haney Conducts Question And Answer Column Today

BY LEWIS HANEY

Professor of Economics, New York University

Highland Park, Ill., asks: “I was surprised to learn that Mr. Goslin is on the advisory staff of the National Citizens Commission for the Public Schools. What do you know of this organization? What do you think of a man in the U.S. Office of Education rebuking an Indianapolis school teacher for criticizing  British socialism?

Answer: The two facts you mention tie together. The U.S. Office of Education is in harmony with the ideas of the Nat’l Citizens Commission. Goslin is an advisor. All three agree. A,D. Morse in a magazine article on the schools links them. The fact that a representative of the U.S. Office doesn’t want socialism criticized is typical of the whole set-up. The list of members of the commission shows that it is closely interlocked with the so-called Public Education Ass’n, the CIO, and the Committee of Econ. Develoop. The Pubic Ed. Ass’n is an outfit which joins the Nat’l Education Ass’n trust in propaganda for molding “the whole child” and viciously attacking those who criticize progressive education.

I would say that they are all tarred with the same stick — progressive education slanted toward collectivism. I can find among their leaders no critics of socialism or progressive education. The Nat’l Citizens Committee (with its typical “workshop” conferences) may well have been set up in 1949 as a cover for N.E.A. propaganda, particularly designed to bring in public relations talent and newspaper and magazine publicity.

Peekskill, N.Y., writes: “Please tell me in language that a non-legal mind can understand the exact difference between a Republic and a Democracy.”

Answer: The only difficulty is with the word, democracy, which has been so abused by politicians and Communists that you can’t tell what it means, any more than you can tell what it means to be a Democrat. A republic is a state that has representative government. It is governed by representatives elected by, and responsible to, the people who have voting power. This country has always been a republic.

Originally the meaning of “a democracy” was plain: It meant direct government by all the people. In a pure and complete democracy, all the people would vote directly on all government issues. This country has never been a democracy.

But now the term, democracy, is widely used in two other ways:

(1) Some use it to mean socialism. For example, in a yearbook of the John Dewey Society (which is closely tied in with the Nat’l Education Ass’n) the following statement appears: democracy is “above all a society of and by the common working people.” According to this notion a democracy would be a socialistic society run by the labor class.

(2) Some, however, use the word, democracy, loosely to mean any society in which people are free to discuss affairs and have a vote. This definition, of course, would include republics such as ours; as it would consider a republic as a kind of indirect democracy in which control of government might be through representatives.

In view of the confusion and propaganda surrounding “democracy” you should avoid using the term, and require those who do use it to tell exactly what they mean….

News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) Feb 19, 1952

Bob Ruark’s Roundup

NEW YORK — The old man, I guess you would call him the grandest old man, quit trying and died the other day, 92. This was John Dewey, one of the few great thinkers of the long time we call past and present, and you might say he sowed more whirlwinds than anybody else.

Dr. Dewey made one mistake. He presumed in innocent arrogance that the majority of his fellow citizens were partially as intelligent as he, and there he made his mistake. They weren’t. And aren’t. And doubtless won’t be.

John Dewey was the father of what is loosely termed “progressive education.” This is to say that he slew the little red school-house, assassinated Santa Claus, and placed an added burden of maladjustment on a civilization that had been reasonably happy with the three R’s, the little red hen, and McGuffey’s Reader. He introduced unfettered thought into the public domain, and he gods, how it got mishandled!

The old man was a fine old man, and a brilliant thinker he was, too, and a find philosopher, and a good practical psychologist, and a great educator, and, withal, he made more trouble for us than Karl Marx. Because, principally, John Dewey made a vogue of early self-determinism, and the lip readers seized on his doctrines with glad, incoherent cries.

His idea was basically, if an idea is ever basic, that the young mind should be freed to develop the richness of the moment, rather than to equip the fledgling with the standard spare parts of education for a problematical future. He was of middle age  when he first propounded the idea that modern education should be fitted to individual needs and capacities instead of being assembly-lined along the simple precepts of his fathers.

In very short, he pierced the first large loophole for mass irresponsibility and laziness of educational discipline by the adult of the immature. It is not to lessen the majesty of the man, Dewey, to say that his breadth of thought has contributed as highly to divorce rates, to suicide rates, to psychopathic incidence — and always innocently — as if he had plotted viciously against the welfare of his fellows.

Because his teachings, being fairly intricate and dependent on responsibilities, naturally got abused and soiled from handling by the inept. The story is ancient about his abrupt meeting with a nursery school brawl involving his young son and another moppet. Professort Dewey was shocked at the infantile mayhem, and was informed that this was “progressive education.” Unbridled freeing of the coarser impulses was not what he had in mind.

It is my purely private idea that the dean regarded mankind as essentially noble and simultaneously susceptible to nobility of handling at a very early age. I do not think that in his academic purity he considered a high incidence of lazy parents, spoiled brats, and incompetent candidates for self-determination.

Be all as it may, we have shown small progress in the half-century of popularity for John Dewey’s credo of education. His advanced (then) theories of literally making the child his own master do not seem to have tamed the dreary statistics of delinquency, of adult aberration, of social maladjustment, or rape, murder, dope addition, irresponsibility and general unhappiness.

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tuscon, Arizona) Jun 9, 1952

Image from Genconnection – John Dewey

From John Dewey’s book, My Pedagogic Creed, linked below:

I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends.

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ARTICLE V. THE SCHOOL AND SOCIAL PROGRESS.

I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.

I believe that all reforms which rest simply upon the enactment of law, or the threatening of certain penalties, or upon changes in mechanical or outward arrangements, are transitory and futile.

I believe that education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction.

I believe that this conception has due regard for both the individualistic and socialistic ideals. It is duly individual because it recognizes the formation of a certain character as the only genuine basis of right living. It is socialistic because it recognizes that this right character is not to be formed by merely individual precept, example, or exhortation, but rather by the influence of a certain form of institutional or community life upon the individual, and that the social organism through the school, as its organ, may determine ethical results.

Title: My Pedagogic Creed
Author: John Dewey
Published: 1897
page 7 and pages 16-17

John Dewey Self-Rule School

September 6, 2012

NO DON’TS, NO BOSS IN NEW PLAN SCHOOL

Thirty-five Youngsters Being Instructed Under Self-Rule Plan; Students Make Own Laws, Inflict All Penalties

A school where there are no “don’ts,” where the teacher is not “boss” and where the child solves his own problems with the aid of his small companions, is the innovation in education which has just been launched in Berkeley.

Mrs. Paul Eliel, well-known graduate of the University of California, is responsible for the deviation from the set paths of education. Through her interest and with the aid of a group of Berkeleyans has been started in the college city, at 2731 Bancroft way, the John Dewey school, “a co-operative effort in progressive education.”

Mothers as well as children are pupils at the school and weekly classes are held for parents to “educate” them in modern child-raising.

Although the first “project” school established in the bay region and the second one in the state, the John Dewey school gains its inspiration from the famous Lincoln school, operated in conjunction with Columbia university in New York; from a similarly well known “progressive” school of its kind in Dayton and from less than a dozen such institutions which have pioneered the way in new educational practice in the nation.

OUTDOOR CLASSES.

As much as possible classes are held outdoors at the John Dewey school. The rooms, however, are bright with cheerful paint, the walls hung with illustrations of fairy stories and with little low green tables and chairs scattered about.

There is not a nail anywhere to hold the furniture to the floor. Neither are there any “no whispering” laws at the schools by a dictatorial teacher.

Neatness and consideration of the feelings of others are part of the school curriculum.

Never are children punished by the teacher. There is an unwritten code of ethics among the 35 pupils in which punishment is meted out by the children themselves.

“One of the children used bad language on the school grounds the other day,” explains Mrs. Eliel. “A conference of the children was called in which the teacher played the role of onlooker and the youngsters discussed the seriousness of the offense and voted what should be done in the matter. They finally decided that the guilty party should sit in a chair for 15 minutes. The wonderful thing about the system is that the offender never seeks to escape punishment as so often is the case when the teacher in the chastiser.”

CITIZEN-MAKING.

Citizen-making is the real object of the “project” or “progressive” school, declares Mrs. Eliel, who placed her children in such an institution while she was studying for a master’s degree at Columbia and became so enthused with the plan that following her return to Berkeley she interested friends in establishing the John Dewey school.

“Two important factors in developing useful citizens are the ability to reach independent judgments and to reason clearly” explains Mrs. Eliel, who has the role of executive secretary of the school, the duties of which position she fills without compensation.

“These cannot be gained through the enforcing of discipline by one in authority nor from the solving by the teacher but must come to the child through the learning of self-control and through effective experience. By fostering situations that will comfort the children in everyday life in later years and that will demand thoughtful reactions, the school believes that these powers can be developed.

ADULT METHODS.

“When a grown person is given a problem to solve is he placed in a seat nailed to the floor and told to get busy on it without moving from his place or talking out loud to anyone near him? No, of course not. That is why we have no nailed-down seats in our classrooms, why our pupils are free to move about and to seek information and counsel where they will. It is by discussing problems with other children that they reach their conclusions.

“Furthermore in a class of 35 children, interests are not all alike. Consequently we do not say that all must do one thing. The child is allowed to develop the problem that especially interests him and from that problem we guide him to other things. We are teaching children to be independent thinkers and reasoners, to solve each problem as it comes up. Naturally it is the thing in which the person is most vitally interested on which he works the hardest.

STIMULATE INTEREST.

“It is equally true with children. If we can stimulate that interest and reach out from it to other things, have we not accomplished much for the child and at the same time given him a joy in his work? There are no truants at our school; the children are all anxious to come to classes and loath to leave. That they are learning the necessary fundamentals of life is evident, also.”

Dolls, paint boxes, work-benches, blocks and other playthings are among the “text books” used at the school. That there are other real text books, too, is evidenced by the fact that the “Three R’s” are not neglected in any way. So far kindergarten, first and second grades comprise the school but a further development is anticipated. Interest in the movement has been taken by leading educators of the bay region and the work is being closely watched by school experts.

Sponsors of the school include Mrs. Warren Gregory, Dr. Jessica B. Perxotto, Mrs. Louis Bartlett, Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Lamson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stetson, Jr., Miss Ralph Merritt, Mrs. W.W. Douglas, Mrs. F.C. Turner, Mrs. Maurice Lombardi, Mrs. Frederick Athern, Mrs. Harold L. Leupp, Mrs. H.F. Jackson, Dr. V.E. Dickson.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Sep 18, 1921

[Excerpt] Google Book Link

 Perhaps his greatest joy is his “doll” who calls herself grown-up now. She has dolls of her own and out in Berkeley, Calif., has come into existence this year, a school for the dolls of Harriet J. Eliel and a “group”. It is called the John Dewey School. That is surely some name to live up to. Berkeley is a hot bed for progressive education, judging by the numbers who join from that city.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Apr 8, 1925

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OAC on Harriet Eliel:

Harriet Judd Eliel was born in 1890 in Evanston, Illinois. She attended the University of California, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Health and Social Welfare in 1913. After the birth of her second son in 1916, she completed her Master of Arts degree in Education, also at the University of California. Between 1921 and 1924, she established and directed the experimental John Dewey School in Berkeley, California, which her sons attended.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Aug 25, 1925

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Wikipedia on William John Cooper:

William John Cooper (November 24, 1882 – September 19, 1935) was an American educator who served as US Commissioner of Education from February 1929 to July 1933. According to the New York Times: “His fundamental theory of education, which he often repeated, was that the ultimate goal of teaching should be, not how to make a living, but how to live. Nevertheless, he believed that the system of education in this country should break away from the older traditions of Europe and seek to express the cultural developments of the New World. In one of his last public addresses Dr. Cooper urged a complete reorganization of the education system in this country to bring the schools into closer harmony with modern conditions.”

Halting the Damage of Progressive Education

August 2, 2012

A Progressive Calls a Halt to Progressive Education

By Irwin Edman

ECONOMIC and social crises in the past have been reflected by crises in the educational world. It is not surprising that it should be so at the present time. For education in any period is necessarily concerned with two things: the transmission of the culture, that is to say, the traditions of the past, and the development of techniques for dealing with the future. In periods of settled and ordered civilization, or periods when conservatism is in the saddle, the transmitting functions of education are accentuated. “The wisdom of the ancients” becomes the chief them of educational institutions. And it is generally accepted that the wisdom of the ancients should be taught in the established ways. Authority is the atmosphere of teaching and acceptance the way of learning.

There are again periods of adventure and discovery in civilization when it seems more important to discover ways of dealing with the new and the changing than simply to learn the old conventional patterns. Not the best that has been known and thought in the world, but the best and most flexible ways of dealing with the novel, the unprecedented, the future come to the center.

Education for the last twenty-five years has been accenting the tradition of experimentalism, of techniques for handling the new rather than ways of inheriting the old, however cherished and beautiful the old may be. In the last twenty-five years the pace of change has been so accelerated that even the most stupid and sleepy can recognize it. It is no use emphasizing authority in a world where all the old certitudes have come into question, no use accenting exclusively the inheritance of “culture” in a world uneasy with the most urgent problems of survival.

For it is not only the acceleration of invention and machinery that have changed the face of the world to which the young must be educated. It is the profound change in the whole matrix of social and economic life, of which the first five months of the present administration have been so notable an instance. We are passing from a society of competing individuals to a society of cooperative members of a co-operative commonwealth. The old values, the old traditions, even the old virtues may be more transformed than we now realize before the lifetime of most of us is over.

About twenty-five years ago, largely under the influence of my old teacher, John Dewey, there began that general movement known as Progressive Education. It tried to substitute intelligence for authority, freedom for discipline, concern with the future for reverence for the past, fact for formula. It emphasized the fact that it was more important for the pupil to form the habit of thinking things out for himself than for him to acquire simply texts and formulas. It insisted that it was more fruitful to teach the student to think freely for himself than to accept the straight jacket of discipline, follow in the goose step set by authority.

Much of the dullness and sterility of traditional education the Progressive Educators found, and justly, in the emphasis on the past, the fixed, the conventional. Students were no longer to be asked to center their attention, just during the period when they were most eager and alert to the life about them, on the debris and ashes of things long dead. Only the present is genuinely alive, and the future is the field in which the young are going to run their race. Progressive Education, therefore, tried to emphasize those aspects of the past, those ways of doing and thinking that a student might look forward to using in controlling the changes in a changing society.

There is not the slightest doubt that the Progressive movement in education got rid of a lot of dead wood. There is no doubt that the whole educational world has been freshened by the emphasis on freedom, spontaneity, by the interest in the future rather than obeisance to the past. Education had been too long in a rut, and had been passing on conventional wisdom rather than inculcating the habit of intelligent understanding. The revolt was revolt against the dead hand of the past, the paralyzing hand of fixed authority, the repressive hand of discipline for its own sake.

But there have been any number of educators, themselves fairly entitled to be called progressive, who have looked with serious question on some of the orthodoxies that have grown up in Progressive Education. They have looked with such doubt because they have seen some of the products of extreme devotion to progressive theories. They have seen some of the results of the New Spontaneity. They have seen young men and women full of enthusiasm, but with neither direction nor responsibility nor disciplined capacity. They have seen youngsters with an enthusiasm for the future who could not punctuate nor add two and two. They have seen young men and women who were free from everything, including information. They have seen students, brought up in the most modern schools, so devoted to the future that they acted naively as if the world, as well as themselves, had been born yesterday. So successful has the New Education been in developing the habit of “thinking a thing out yourself” that some of those who have attended modern schools have not stopped to inquire whether they were not wasting their mediocre talents thinking out what had been competently worked out and thoroughly thought out before them.

We are beginning to think, in other words, that the baby has been thrown out with the bath water. There has been a failure to distinguish the difference between discipline for its own arbitrary sake and that discipline of the mind and habits which constitutes the only effective freedom. The progressive education turns out often to be a dangerous form of sentimentalism. The world did not begin yesterday, and the past in not a rubbish heap. In two senses there is a necessity and already the symptoms of the beginning of the return to a more adequate realization of the relation of the past to the present and of discipline to freedom.

The past is full of techniques and habits, already developed, that we at our peril dispense with. IF we were really to overthrow the past, we should have a brand new world with a complete set of ignorant fools in it who would have to learn everything from the beginning again. Secondly, the past is a patrimony, an inheritance of solace and delight. Whatever our progress may be in physical things and mechanical control, it is to the past we turn to discover that golden thread of art and thought and imagination which is the birthright of every student.

Even in a society undergoing the most fundamental social and economic changes, the great tradition is still alive, more alive by far than the passing fashions in current literature and art. It is almost fantastic that the professional educators should have come to talk of the past as an old attic full of useless lumber. It is rather the fountainhead of all that we have and are. The realm in which Plato and Milton, Bach and Mozart and Beethoven abide is not dead. It is the source of life. It is not simply a realm to retreat to for refreshment and delight; it is filled with rejuvenation for us, the youngest generation of all mankind. It is almost criminally narrowing the horizon of a student to rob him of the meaning and beauty of his past.

In the same way there has been a dangerous emphasis on spontaneity and freedom. The greatest things, Spinoza once remarked, are as difficult as they are rare. He is really free who has the greatest autonomous control over his materials and himself. A great vogue of wishful thinking has been substituted for disciplined power. The progressives in education have overthrown the authoritativeness of the expert with the authority of the autocrat. They have overthrown the discipline that comes with knowing what one is doing with the discipline imposed by martinets.

Progressive education has done many services. It has rescued education from the doldrums and from stereotype and routine. But a service could now be done to progressive education by reminding it of two things: the beauty and use of a cultural tradition for our leisure and the importance of expert training for our work.

In our confuses and perilous work it is only the discipline of the expert that will save us, not romantic talk about spontaneity and freedom. We must be careful that we do not rebel too completely against the hard won discipline and cumulative tradition that has given our civilization such order and stability and beauty as, even in its present crisis, it still possesses.

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) Oct 29, 1933

This Modern “Dope”

July 28, 2010

Education.

Our Johnny is a pupil
In a public school, you know;
His class he leads
In stringing beads
All in a fancy row;
At writing he’s deficient,
He can’t spell even “cat,”
But ah! he knows
Each flower that grows,
So what care we for that?

In mathematics Johnny
Is hardly any good,
But he can knit
A woolen mitt
As well as gramma could!
He doesn’t know one hero
Or date in history,
But hip hooray!
His blocks of clay
Are beautiful to see.

Before he’s graduated
An’ awful lot he’ll know,
And he can turn
The things he’ll learn
To profit — maybe so;
But yet, somehow we hope,
He’ll learn enough
“Old-fashioned stuff”
To drown this modern “dope.”

— Paul West in New York World.

Olean Evening Times (Olean, New York) Oct 17, 1911