It’s been three months since I lasted posted on the subject of the history of education and its effects on us today. I’d like to take a few days and develop that topic a little more.
In a previous post, I spoke about a woman named Marietta Pierce Johnson who followed the teachings of John Dewey, Father of Progressive Education. Johnson set up a school that had no exams, no homework, and no grading system. No child was allowed to fail. Of course, if there is no such thing as failure, there’s also no such thing as success. The Dewey approach, which Johnson adopted, was to delay formal learning as long as possible.
Another Dewey disciple, Caroline Pratt, started the City and Country Day School in Greenwich Village. With her idea that every child was a creator, she simply wanted to draw that creativity out of each child. Now, I agree that God made us creative beings. Education, though, is more than creativity; it requires someone in authority leading children into what they need to learn. Handled properly, this does not inhibit creativity but places it in a framework within which it can succeed. Unlimited creativity with no design or guidance is often just misguided selfishness.
If anyone has any question about Miss Pratt’s moral and theological perspective, all you need to know is that she was a close friend of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, the foremost promoter of abortion in the world.
Overall, the progressive education movement tended to downplay academic achievement and reward unstructured, experience-oriented methods. How does this prepare students for taking their place in society?
Education does require work. Some of my students seem surprised by that. My job isn’t to make it easy for them, but to challenge them to do their best. I guess I don’t make a very good progressive educator.