The Influence of Progressive Education on American Schooling Essay

The Progressive Era was from 1890-1919 when President Theodore Roosevelt became predecessor to President William McKinley whom was assassinated. For decades, it has been a controversial debate on how influential Progressive Education is on American Schooling.

The Progressive Movement started because of the development of big businesses and corporations as education became a major topic for reformers due to child labor laws and public schooling became the central focus in the United States.Efforts of this movement were to “regulate big businesses, governmental reform, women’s suffrage, and temperance. ” (Hayes 2006, p. 7) I am a follower in the teachings as well as the learning approach this movement depicted; John Dewey, known as the “father of Progressive Education”, “believed that students learn best “by doing” not by being passive listeners and the teacher’s role was to be a facilitator of learning in classrooms where students’ interest helped to provide appropriate developmental learning experience. ” (Hayes, 2006, p.

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)The development of Progressive Education was mainly due to the rise of Corporate America and many vocational schools developed where children would learn from not just teachers, but business minded people of expertise in specific fields. The whole reform message appealed to business and political leaders since it promised to eliminate waste, organize and manage schools more efficiently, to tailor instruction to the needs of employers, to Americanize the children of immigrants, and to provide students with the skills and ttitudes they would need to perform and accept their future roles in society (Labaree, 2005, p. 285) Teachers’ profession was affected somewhat by this movement because they were sort of stuck in their traditional way of teachings and found it complicated to integrate subject matter into curriculum that was child-centered; “it presented the education professor as a functionary, a cog in the new social-efficiency machine, but this left the professor with nothing to profess… thus their roles were downscaled and deskilled.

(Labaree, 2005, p. 96)According to Alfie Kohn’s article and his views on Progressive Education, he saw it as attending to the whole child, since educators were concerned with helping children become good learners and good people…he felt that children learn with and from one another in a caring community, and that’s true of moral as well as academic learning…where opportunities are offered not only to learn about, but also to put into action…in schools where students play a vital role in helping to design the curriculum, formulate the questions, seek out answers, think through possibilities, and evaluate how successful they and their teachers have been. 2008, pgs. 18-19) This stance on education, seek to promote learning and seemed credible, although it didn’t become as widespread as anticipated as viewed in the educational system today.

Much of what the Progressive Movement tried to accomplish, seldom exists, however, we do have some private schools that align themselves with the Progressive approach; such as, Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio Emilia. These schools have a selective-based approach, based on the notion that the child would be the right fit for the school and can cope in that type of environment. instruction in American schools is overwhelmingly teacher-centered; classroom management is the teacher’s top priority; traditional school subjects dominate the curriculum; textbooks and teacher talk are the primary means of delivering the curriculum; learning consists of recalling what texts and teachers say; and tests measure how much of this the student have learned…We talk progressive but we rarely teach that way. ” (Labaree, 2005, p. 278)John Dewey would show some opposition to this kind of learning since his aim was for schools to be more child-centered; he didn’t want to dismiss traditional teachings, but to expand on experiences.

During his era, in reforming education, Dewey and his wife Alice established a University Laboratory School which was an institutional center for educational experimentation. He sought to make experience and hands on learning the heart of educational growth for students, focusing on their individual capacities and interests.This method seemed complicated for teachers in bringing forth the union of teaching and research because now they had to plan lessons around the interests of the children.

Dewey wanted teachers to focus not only on the children’s interests, but on present day issues related to the subject matter. Rather than read from textbooks, Dewey would impose that current events would help in organizing lessons and skill building, thereby engaging children as active members of society. Dewey’s approach to education has been compared with others, such as Lev Vygotsky.

Both share similar goals when it comes to the role of social history, experience/culture and human inquiry. “Vygotsky sees the social as being of primary influence in the life of the individual, much the same way as Dewey does,” (Glassman, 2001, p. 6) which suggests he believed in building education and learning on experience. They both saw “inquiry as based in progressive problem solving, where the individual is forced to confront issues with their current thinking…thereby, thinking is something to be used in situations to solve problems.

” (Glassman, 2001, p. 0)When it comes to education, the child’s interest is the main objective and I, as well as the notions of Dewey and Vygotsky, places great emphasis on it. While Progressive Education remains debatable, it’s geared toward enhancing knowledge based on student’s interests; and while it may be difficult for teachers to teach without a structured lesson plan, it allows for flexible planning and openness to dual learning on both the students and teachers part. I feel that this is a positive movement if educators are receptive to change and willingness to let go of this power struggle society has created.In this present era that we live in, the elderly is being taught by the young and vice-versa, suffice it to say, that true learning comes not within the instructor or teacher, but on the student’s approach to learning which is evident when it’s a topic of interest. What I’ve learned is that “teachers must realize that educational policies and teaching practices hold implications for cultural, moral-political and ideological transmission.

Teaching practices are not limited to the cognitive strategies and methods, but are products of socio-culturally and politically constituted knowledge. ” (Eryaman, 2007, p. 3)


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