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PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY: THE ENDURING INFLUENCE OF JOHN DEWEY

  • Alan R. Sadovnik (a1), Susan F. Semel (a2), Ryan W. Coughlan (a3), Bruce Kanze (a2) and Alia R. Tyner-Mullings (a3)...
Abstract

This essay examines three schools in New York City—the City and Country School founded in 1914—and two founded in 1974 and 1984—Central Park East Elementary School 1 and Central Park East Secondary School—with respect to how they reflected Deweyan pedagogic practices and Dewey's belief in democratic education. 1 It analyzes whether such pedagogic practices can be maintained over time. City and Country, founded by Caroline Pratt, reflected many of Dewey's ideas and remains true to its founder's vision today. CPE 1 founded by Deborah Meier with five teachers reflected the progressive ideas of its founder, many of which were consistent with Deweyan philosophy. It remains progressive although there have been recent attempts to make it more traditional. CPESS, founded by Deborah Meier, reflected both Deweyan philosophy and the ideas of Theodore Sizer. After Meier left in the 1990s, the school became less progressive and eventually was closed and then reopened as a traditional high school. These histories indicate that Dewey's work on education was at the core of all of these schools’ philosophies and practices. Although there have been uneven successes in keeping Dewey's progressive practices alive, they demonstrate that Dewey's work is relevant and is being practiced today.

Copyright
Corresponding author
email: sadovnik@newark.rutgers.edu
email: ssemel@ccny.cuny.edu
email: ryan.coughlan@guttman.cuny.edu
email: bkanze@ccny.cuny.edu
email: alia.tyner-mullings@guttman.cuny.edu
References
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NOTES

1 This article is adapted from Semel, Susan F., Sadovnik, Alan R., and Coughlan, Ryan W., Schools of Tomorrow, Schools of Today: Progressive Education in the 21st Century (2nd ed.). (New York: Peter Lang, 2016), chs. 1, 2, 8, 9, 10.

2 See Semel, Sadovnik, and Coughlan, Schools of Tomorrow, for a detailed description of these schools, as well as six other schools and a detailed analysis of the history of progressive education based on them.

3 Dewey, JohnMy Pedagogic Creed” in Dworkin, Martin S., ed., Dewey on Education (New York: Teachers College Press, 1959), 1932 (originally published 1897); “The School and Society” in Dworkin, Dewey on Education, 33–90 (originally published 1899). “The Child and the Curriculum” in Dworkin, Dewey on Education, 91–111 (originally published 1902); and Dewey, “Democracy and Education” in Dworkin, Dewey on Education, 45.

4 Dworkin, Dewey on Education, 22.

5 Ibid., 93.

6 Ibid., 41.

7 Ibid., 40.

8 Ibid., 81–99.

9 Ibid., 20.

10 Ibid., 21–22.

11 Robertson, Emily, “Is Dewey's Educational Vision Still Viable,” Review of Research in Education 18 (1992): 341 . See Semel and Sadovnik, Schools of Tomorrow, for a detailed discussion of this “progressive paradox.”

12 John, and Dewey, Evelyn, Schools of To-Morrow (New York: E .P. Dutton, 1915).

13 For a complete discussion of Caroline Pratt's early years, see Pat Carlton, Caroline Pratt: A Biography (Unpublished PhD diss., Columbia University Teachers College, 1986).

14 See Antler, Joyce, Lucy Sprague Mitchell: The Making of a Modern Woman (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 237 ; Carlton, Caroline Pratt, 144, for more detailed descriptions.

15 Pratt, Caroline, I Learn From Children (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948), 8 .

16 Ibid., 9.

17 Jean W. Murray, “Philosophy and Practice at City and Country”, City and Country (Unpublished materials prepared for student teachers, c. 1950), n.p.

18 See Semel, Susan, “Female Founders and the Progressive Paradox” in James, Michael. Ed., Social Reconstruction Through Education: The Philosophy, History, and Curricula of a Radical Ideal (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1995), 89108 .

19 Pratt, Caroline, I Learn from Children, City and Country Centennial Edition (New York: City and Country School, 2014).

20 Kate Turley, I Learn from Children, City and Country Centennial Edition, 267.

21 Personal communications with Vivian Wallace and Lucy Matos.

22 Weber returned from her studies in England in the mid-1960s. She started the first Open Corridor at P.S. 123 in Harlem in 1967. An account can be found in the fall 1977 edition of the “Workshop Center for Open Education's Notes.” This is a ten-year retrospective of the Open Corridor program. In another source, Weber wrote, “I was full of wonder at what I had seen of children's learning, for example in English infant schools, where there was a rich surround of environment and easy relationships that joined them in what was focusing their attention and responded to their attention with recognition of the importance of this focus for them.” William Ayers, To Become a Teacher: Making a Difference in Children's Lives. (New York: Teachers College Press, 1995), 127.

23 Dewey, John, School and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1915); and Dewey, John, The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1902).

24 Kate Taylor, “East Harlem School's Utopian Spirit Devolves Into War,” New York Times, May 19, 2016, A20.

25 See Andrew R. Ratner and Ali Nagle, “A Look into KIPP: Culture Through the Prism of Progressive Schools” in Semel, Sadovnik, and Coughlan, Schools of Tomorrow, ch. 11; Delpit, Lisa, Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (New York: New Press, 1995).

26 Kate Taylor, “East Harlem Principal Out After Yearlong Fight,” New York Times, May 15, 2017, A25.

27 Sizer, Ted, Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984).

28 Semel, Susan F. and Sadovnik., Alan R.The Contemporary Small School Movement: Lessons from the History of Progressive Education,” Teachers College Record 110:9 (2008): 1774-–71. See Semel, Sadovnik, and Coughlan, Schools of Tomorrow, ch. 3, for a detailed discussion of the Dalton Plan and the history of the school.

29 Hall, Richard, Organizations: Structure and Process (2nd ed.) (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1977).

30 New York City public school Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott promised that he will look for a site to house the middle school so that it could open in time for the 2014–2015 academic year.

31 Attewell, Paul and Gerstein, Dean R., “Government Policy and Local Practice,” American Sociological Review 44 (1979): 311–27.

32 Attewell and Gerstein, “Government Policy and Local Practice.”

33 See Mary Anne Raywid, “A School That Really Works: Urban Academy” in Semel, Sandovnik, and Coughlan, Schools of Tomorrow, 289–312.

34 See Semel, Sadovnik, and Coughlan, Schools of Tomorrow, for a detailed discussion of democratic education for all and pp. 53–98 for a detailed discussion of the Dalton School.

35 See “American Promise,” PBS Documentary, 2013, for an examination of the lives of two African American male students at Dalton.

36 See Anyon, Jean, Ghetto Schooling: The Political Economy of Urban Educational Reform (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997); Bowles, Samuel and Gintis, Herbert, Schooling in Capitalist America: Liberal Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life (New York: Basic Books, 1977); Cookson, Peter W. Jr., Class Rules: Exposing Inequality in American High Schools (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013) for an examination of how education in the United States reproduces social class inequality.

37 See, for example, Paul L. Tractenberg, Gary Orfield, and Greg Flaxman, “New Jersey's Apartheid and Intensely Segregated Urban Schools: Powerful Evidence of an Inefficient and Unconstitutional State Education System,” Rutgers University, Institute on Education Law and Policy, for an analysis of racial segregation in Essex County, New Jersey.

38 Frankenberg, Erica and Orfield, Gary, Lessons in Integration: Realizing the Promise of Racial Diversity in American Schools (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007).

39 Meier, Deborah, The Power of Their Ideas (Boston: Beacon, 1995).

40 Sadovnik, Alan R., “Schools, Social Class and Youth: A Bernsteinian Analysis” in Weis, Lois, The Way Class Works (New York: Routledge, 2008), 315–29.

41 Dewey, John, Experience and Education (Chicago: Simon and Schuster, 1938).

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The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
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  • EISSN: 1943-3557
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