10/08/12 Progressive Reformers The Progressive movement has had a tremendous impact on society and preserving the doctrine of a democratic nation. The Progressive Era, which initiated between the years 1890 through 1920, was instituted because progressives who wanted to rid politics of corruption and inefficiency. Progressives wanted to curtail the power of the business trusts, and protect the general welfare of the public. The Progressive name derived from forward-thinking or “progressive” goals that its supporters sought to advance.
John Dewey, who is known as the father of Progressive education, has been most influential in Educational Progressivism. His vision for schools tied to a larger vision, leading towards a good society. His focus on education was on teaching the “whole child”. This learning extended beyond the subject matter and the attention was on the needs and interest of the child. I like to look at this as a form of nature vs. nurturing. Progressivism and Pragmatism are similar in its aims.
They both contained the same educational aims, needs and interest, in educating the whole child. Pragmatic philosophers, such as Rousseau, looked at the correlation of education and politics. Progressivism, as I interpret it, was more of a movement. This movement formulated interest groups, like unions, which seek interest around the progressive philosophy. These interest groups protected the needs of the people. Organizations such as American Federation of Teachers began in 1916, during the time of the Progressive Era.
Interest groups like American Federation of Labor, founded in 1881, focused on skilled workers (such as painters and electricians) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (early 1930s) advocating the organization of workers in the basic mass-production industries (such as steel, auto, and rubber). A lot of the people, on the frontline, in this progressive movement were women, farmers, and African American. This movement made a profound impact on education. In a publication of Progressive Education, George Counts wrote an article which focuses attention upon the child.
He states that “progressive education has recognized the fundamental importance of the interest of the learner; it has defended the thesis that activity lies at the root of all true education; it has conceived learning in terms of life situations and growth of character; it has championed the rights of the child as a free personality”. Child-centered educational practices are shared by progressive educators. The pedagogical method is object teaching. The teacher begins with an object related to the child’s world in order to initiate the child into the world of the educator. The focus is on thinking and doing.
Problem-solving skills are required to overcome obstacles between a given and desired set of circumstances. Education is not simply a means to a future life, but instead it represents a life to the fullest. Progressive educators view existing schools as being formal, not focusing on real life situations, and strict. They prefer variety in classroom preparations and informal interaction between the teacher and their student. Progressives prefer schools teach useful subjects (including occupations) and emphasize “learning by doing” rather than instruction purely from textbooks. This brought about schools such as trade and vocational schools.
The student was placed at the center of thinking, “teach the child not the subject. ” John Dewey’s model of learning is to: become aware of the problem, define the problem, propose hypotheses to solve, evaluate the consequences of the hypotheses from one’s past experience, and test the most likely solution. Progressive like Dewey felt that children, if taught to understand the relationship between thinking and doing, they would be fully equipped for active participation in a democratic society. The educational program depended on close student – teacher interactions that required altering of traditional subject matter.
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