The Standards Emerged from the Progressive America Playbook: I Don’t Think So

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In my previous post, Are the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards Progressive Ideology, I argued that the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards are not the kind of movements that would attract the freethinkers that I discussed.  The K-12 Standards movement is a top-down, authoritarian system that is polar opposite of the kind of action that progressive teachers would see as improving the education for children and youth.  Indeed, as I pointed out, freethinkers then, and today, were attracted to John Dewey’s educational philosophy because of his view that learning was rooted in observation and experience, not revelation.  Education should not only be based on experience, but should be secular.  Progressive educational programs were learner-centered, and encouraged intellectual participation in all spheres of life. Dewey suggested that the Progressive Education Movement appealed to many educators because it was more closely aligned with America’s democratic ideals.

I concluded that any thought the standards movement is an idea hatched by progressives is without merit. Indeed, the idea of standards is a conservative idea that proposes  what students learn is out there, and that what is out there can be expressed as discrete sentences or standards. Further, the idea is that not only can we tell students what they should learn, the standards spell out when.

A comment related to the progressive ideology blog post, indicated that the standards “is a page right out of the current Progressive American playbook.  The writer also suggested that 100 yrs ago Democrats fought to save slavery and Republicans supported Darwin.

Click on Darwin Two Pound Coin to go to Evolution as Design

Well, that might be so about the Democratic party then, but the Republicans did not support Darwin’s original ideas; instead they supported “social Darwinism,” which was an ideology that applied Darwin’s evolutionary theory to sociology and politics.  Darwin didn’t accept this, nor did other biologists. However,some sociologists and biologists invoked the term “survival of the fittest” as the fundamental concept of evolution and used it to further the idea of “social Darwinism.”  The problem is that cooperation is a more significant behavior in Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

The freethinkers that I documented in the last post were not Democrats. The foremost progressive of the 19th century was Robert Ingersoll, a Republican.  He was active in the Republican party, especially in years after the Civil War.  Professionally he was a lawyer, and held the post of Illinois Attorney General.

But Ingersoll also had radical ideas on religion, slavery, and woman’s suffrage.  He was one of several prominent freethinkers who wrote and talked openly about the economic, legal, and social injustices that were inflicted on women, but also the poor.  Susan Jacoby connects the 19th century progressives with their 18th century American “founding brothers,” by the declarations that they wrote.  The 19th century Progressives wrote their own declarations (using similar language that we read in the Declaration of Independence), including the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments.  This declaration stated in part: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal.”  (Jacoby, Susan (2005-01-07). Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (p. 90). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition).

The progressive movement was about inclusiveness.  It was grass-roots movement that fought to change the economic, social, legal and educational problems that many Americans endured.

Progressive education, as envisioned by John Dewey and other progressive educators, was experiential.  They believed that learning is embedded in experiences when the student interacts with the environment.  Dewey believed that learning was natural, not a process limited.  He would say that we are always in motion trying to resolve or seek a goal, or working on something intently.  Establishing a set of goals or standards that each child in America should reach is the antithesis of a progressive education.  Education should be in the hands of local boards of education and the faculty and administrators of their schools.

Dewey documented the work of progressive educators in his book, Schools of To-Morrow, published in 1915.  According to Lawrence Cremin, Dewey’s book showed what actually happened when schools put into practice, in their own way, progressive theories of education.  A number of schools around the country are featured in Dewey’s book including The Organic School at Fairhope, Alabama, the Experimental school at the University of Missouri, the Francis Parker School in Chicago, the Kindergarten at Teachers College, and public schools in Gary, Indiana.  Dewey documented not only the inclusiveness of progressive educators, but he developed a body of pedagogical theory that could explain the diversity of the progressive education movement.  (John Dewey and the Progressive-Education Movement, 1915-1952 Lawrence A. Cremin, The School Review , Vol. 67, No. 2, Dewey Centennial Issue (Summer, 1959), pp. 160-173 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1083643).

It is important to note that the progressive movement of the early 20th century was according to Malcolm Cowley, as quoted in Cremin’s article, an individual revolt against puritan restraint, as well a social revolt against the evils of capitalism (Cremin, 1959).

The goal of education in a progressive context would be moral reasoning integrated with values, human concerns, and scientific literacy. Limiting education to the achievement of canonical knowledge of science, mathematics, social studies and English/language arts is contradictory to progressive education.

To suggest that the standards are part of a progressive ideology simply without merit.

 

 

Any thought the standards movement is an idea hatched by progressives is without merit. Indeed, the idea of standards is conservative idea that proposes that what students learn is out there, and that what is out there can be expressed as discrete sentences or standards. Further, the idea is that not only can we tell students what they should learn, the standards spell out when.

Any thought the standards movement is an idea hatched by progressives is without merit. Indeed, the idea of standards is conservative idea that proposes that what students learn is out there, and that what is out there can be expressed as discrete sentences or standards. Further, the idea is that not only can we tell students what they should learn, the standards spell out when.

Any thought the standards movement is an idea hatched by progressives is without merit. Indeed, the idea of standards is conservative idea that proposes that what students learn is out there, and that what is out there can be expressed as discrete sentences or standards. Further, the idea is that not only can we tell students what they should learn, the standards spell out when.

attracted to John Dewey’s educational philosophy because of his view that learning was rooted in observation and experience, not revelation (Jacoby, p. 160). Education should not only be based on experience, but should be secular.

Progressive educational programs were learner-centered, and encouraged intellectual participation in all spheres of life. Dewey suggested that the Progressive Education Movement appealed to many educators because it was more closely aligned with America’s democratic ideals. Dewey put it this way:dfs

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University

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