Friday, January 09, 2009

Progressive education theorists 1903

This is written by J. R. Heape, J.P. in the Mosely Education Commission Report, 1903.
The two pioneer institutions in educational matters are the " Teachers' College," in New York, and " The School of Education," under the general direction of Dr. John Dewey at Chicago, and it is in these institutions that are seen embodied the results of the most advanced thought on educational methods.

It is now accepted that the instincts of primitive man are reproduced, and that in a certain definite order, in a child. These instincts have an intense interest for him, and by judiciously utilizing this interest, and letting him deal with elementary concrete facts such as faced his progenitors, a very valuable education is given to him.

Professor Richards, of Teachers' College, New York, in conversation, outlined the method something as follows: " We start with ideas of food, clothing, and shelter, facts which faced the race in primitive conditions. In the first grade we deal largely with facts of the hunting and fishing stage; in the second grade with pastoral and agricultural stages; in the third with the period of trade and transportation. In each of these divisions we consider the facts that are material in the lives of these people; this means their tools, weapons, all forms of constructive activity, and the whole field of the arts grows out from these...

This method is worked out in great detail in Dr. Dewey's school at the Chicago University. The school is an experimental one, in which Dr. Dewey has attempted to find out by trying—not alone by discussion and theorizing—whether certain problems, such as the following, may be worked out, and how they may be worked out:

" What can be done in the way of introducing subject-matter in history and science and art, that shall have a positive value and real significance in a child's own life; that shall represent, even to the youngest children, something worthy of attainment in skill or knowledge; as much so to the little pupil as are the studies of the high school or college student to him? You know what the traditional curriculum of the first few years is, even though many modifications have been made. Some statistics have been collected showing that 75 or 80 per cent, of the first three years of a child in school are spent upon the form—not the substance—of learning, the mastering of the symbols of reading, writing, and arithmetic. There is not much positive nutriment in this. Its purpose is important—is necessary—but it does not represent the same kind of increase in a child's intellectual and moral experience that is represented by positive truth of history and nature, or by added insight into reality and beauty. One thing, then, we wanted to find out is how much can be given a child that is really worth his while to get, in knowledge of the world about him, of the forces in the world, of historical and social growth, and in capacity to express himself in a variety of artistic forms.”

Dr. Dewey aims at developing and educating the child through what he calls his fourfold interests, " the interest in conversation or communication; in inquiry, or finding out things; in making things, or construction; and in artistic expression: these are, we may say, the natural resources, the un-invested capital, upon the exercise of which depends the active growth of the child." The actual manipulation of material is made most interesting to the child. For instance, preparatory to weaving, raw wool is taken, carded in the primitive manner, span in various ways, dyed by natural dyes which the children gather, and then woven either in small frames, or on a loom which they have constructed. Accompanying all this, very much is done on the art side, where modeling and drawing are looked upon as just as natural modes of expression to a child as is speech.
I know this may be boring to most readers, but the rationale for manual training was clearly explored and abandoned in order to make schools more efficient but less meaningful for our kids. The idea was that we only needed a few creative individuals in society, but that we needed a vast number of mindless drones to carry on the labor to sustain the creative elite. But we are working on change.

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