ERIC Number: EJ1144429
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Bookends of the Twentieth Century: Irving Babbitt, E. D. Hirsch, and the Humanistic Curriculum
Smilie, Kipton D.
American Educational History Journal, v40 n1 p153-170 2013
Irving Babbitt and E.D. Hirsch defended the humanistic curriculum at both the beginning and end of the twentieth century, respectively. Both claimed that a set of specific knowledge needed to be passed from one generation to the next. Both found this knowledge primarily, though certainly not exclusively, through the classical Western tradition. The ideas put forth by Babbitt and Hirsch nearly a century apart also speaks to the power of progressive education and the defensive position of the humanistic curriculum throughout the twentieth century. In other words, if Babbitt (or any other advocate of the humanistic curriculum) had been more successful within the curricular battles of the early-twentieth century, then a call for a more conservative, traditional education in the 1980s would not have been needed. In examining Babbitt's era, Hirsch was quick to point to the incredible influence of Teachers College in the spread of progressive principles in American education. He placed blame on the century-long antipathy toward a subject-based curriculum on Kilpatrick, Dewey, and other advocates of progressive ideals from Teachers College. Hirsch pinpointed the same influence at work at the beginning of the twenty-first century: schools of education routinely follow in Teachers College's footsteps in passing anti-curriculum, progressive, child-centered beliefs onto future teachers. Has much changed, then? In looking through the lenses of both Babbitt and Hirsch we can clearly see the humanist curriculum continually on the defensive, as an outsider in American schools. Does this speak to the power of progressive, child-centered education entrenched in the curriculum? Does it speak to the inability for humanistic advocates to present and implement their ideas effectively? Is it, perhaps, a combination of both? At the very least, current advocates of the humanist curriculum can look at the century dividing Babbitt and Hirsch and conclude that a new approach may be in order.
Descriptors: Educational History, Humanism, Curriculum Development, Progressive Education, Educational Philosophy, Educational Principles, Teacher Education Programs, Student Centered Learning, Criticism, Cultural Literacy, Teaching Methods
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
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Identifiers - Location: New York