ERIC Number: EJ748632
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Feb
Reference Count: 0
Progressivism, Schools and Schools of Education: An American Romance
Labaree, David F.
Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, v41 n1-2 p275-288 Feb 2005
This paper tells a story about progressivism, schools and schools of education in twentieth-century America. Depending on one's position in the politics of education, this story can assume the form of a tragedy or a romance, or perhaps even a comedy. The heart of the tale is the struggle for control of American education in the early twentieth century between two factions of the movement for progressive education. The administrative progressives won this struggle, and they reconstructed the organization and curriculum of American schools in a form that has lasted to the present day. Meanwhile the other group, the pedagogical progressives, who failed miserably in shaping what we do in schools, did at least succeed in shaping how we talk about schools. Professors in schools of education were caught in the middle of this dispute, and they ended up in an awkwardly compromised position. Their hands were busy--preparing teachers to work within the confines of the educational system established by the administrative progressives, and carrying out research to make this system work more efficiently. But their hearts were with the pedagogues. So they became the high priests of pedagogical progressivism, keeping this faith alive within the halls of the education school, and teaching the words of its credo to new generations of educators. Why is it that American education professors have such a longstanding, deeply rooted and widely shared rhetorical commitment to the progressive vision? The answer can be found in the convergence between the history of the education school and the history of the child-centered strand of progressivism during the early twentieth century. Historical circumstances drew them together so strongly that they became inseparable. As a result, progressivism became the ideology of the education professor. Education schools have their own legend about how this happened, which is a stirring tale about a marriage made in heaven, between an ideal that would save education and a stalwart champion that would fight the forces of traditionalism to make this ideal a reality. As is the case with most legends, there is some truth in this account. But here a different story is told. In this story, the union between pedagogical progressivism and the education school is not the result of mutual attraction but of something more enduring: mutual need. It was not a marriage of the strong but a wedding of the weak. Both were losers in their respective arenas: child-centered progressivism lost out in the struggle for control of American schools, and the education school lost out in the struggle for respect in American higher education. They needed each other, with one looking for a safe haven and the other looking for a righteous mission. As a result, education schools came to have a rhetorical commitment to progressivism that is so wide that, within these institutions, it is largely beyond challenge. At the same time, however, this progressive vision never came to dominate the practice of teaching and learning in schools--or even to reach deeply into the practice of teacher educators and researchers within education schools themselves.
Descriptors: Progressive Education, Schools of Education, Schools, Educational History, Educational Practices, Ideology, Teacher Educators
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A