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Pedagogical Progressivism

The pedagogical Progressives who embraced this child-centered pedagogy favored education built upon an experience-based curriculum developed by both students and teachers. Teachers played a special role in the Progressive formulation for education as they merged their deep knowledge of, and affection for, children with the intellectual demands of the subject matter. Contrary to his detractors, then and now, Dewey, while admittedly antiauthoritarian, did not take child-centered curriculum and pedagogy to mean the complete abandonment of traditional subject matter or instructional guidance and control. In fact, Dewey criticized derivations of those theories that treated education as a mere source of amusement or as a justification for rote vocationalism. Rather, stirred by his desire to reaffirm American democracy, Dewey’s time - and resource-exhaustive educational program depended on close student-teacher interactions that, Dewey argued, required

Nothing less than the utter reorganization of traditional subject matter.

Although the practice of pure Deweyism was rare, his educational ideas were implemented in private and public school systems alike. During his time as head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago (which also included the fields of psychology and pedagogy), Dewey and his wife Alice established a University Laboratory School. An institutional center for educational experimentation, the Lab School sought to make experience and hands-on learning the heart of the educational enterprise, and Dewey carved out a special place for teachers. Dewey was interested in obtaining psychological insight into the child’s individual capacities and interests. Education was ultimately about growth, Dewey argued, and the school played a crucial role in creating an environment that was responsive to the child’s interests and needs, and would allow the child to flourish.

Similarly, Colonel Francis W. Parker, a contemporary of Dewey and devout Emersonian, embraced an abiding respect for the beauty and wonder of nature, privileged the happiness of the individual over all else, and linked education and experience in pedagogical practice. During his time as superintendent of schools in Quincy, Massachusetts, and later as the head of the Cook Country Normal School in Chicago, Parker rejected discipline, authority, regimentation, and traditional pedagogical techniques and emphasized warmth, spontaneity, and the joy of learning. Both Dewey and Parker believed in learning by doing, arguing that genuine delight, rather than drudgery, should be the by-product of manual work. By linking the home and school, and viewing both as integral parts of a larger community. Progressive educators sought to create an educational environment wherein children could see that the hands-on work they did had some bearing on society.

While Progressive education has most often been associated with private independent schools such as Dewey’s Laboratory School, Margaret Naumberg’s Walden School, and Lincoln School of Teacher’s College, Progressive ideas were also implemented in large school systems, the most well known being those in Winnetka, Illinois, and Gary, Indiana. Located some twenty miles north of Chicago on its affluent North Shore, the Winnetka schools, under the leadership of superintendent Carleton Wash-burne, rejected traditional classroom practice in

Favor of individualized instruction that let children learn at their own pace. Washburne and his staff in the Winnetka schools believed that all children had a right to be happy and live natural and full lives, and they yoked the needs of the individual to those of the community. They used the child’s natural curiosity as the point of departure in the classroom and developed a teacher education program at the Graduate Teachers College of Winnetka to train teachers in this philosophy; in short, the Winnetka schools balanced Progressive ideals with basic skills and academic rigor.

Like the Winnetka schools, the Gary school system was another Progressive school system, led by superintendent William A. Wirt, who studied with Dewey at the University of Ghicago. The Gary school system attracted national attention for its platoon and work-study-play systems, which increased the capacity of the schools at the same time that they allowed children to spend considerable time doing hands-on work in laboratories, shops, and on the playground. The schools also stayed open well into the evening hours and offered community-based adult education courses. In short, by focusing on learning-by-doing and adopting an educational program that focused on larger social and community needs, the Winnetka and Gary schools closely mirrored Dewey’s own Progressive educational theories.

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Literatura: Encyclopedia of Education