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Different meanings of "progressive education".

Ayn Rand drew a sharp distinction between the Montessori method (good, because it developed children's cognition) and progressive education (bad, because it did the opposite).

I just looked up progressive education on Wikipedia.  Wikipedia presents the concept as a broad umbrella that includes the Montessori method and the Boy Scouts.  

It is always important to clearly understand what we are referring to, for both clear thinking and successful communication. This is all the more true when different meanings are assigned to the same term.

I am vaguely aware that there has been a lot of controversy over progressive education, but have not studied the issue.

Would anyone like to offer any thoughts?

 

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John Dewey is the father of Progressive Education, as well as the father of the philosophy of Pragmatism. Probably the best essay about it is Ayn Rand's The Comprachicos.

I am also aware of a book by Leonard Peikoff called Teaching Johnny To Think.

Edited by necrovore
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One person's twist on the progressive v. Montessori issue.

The following is based on my recollection, which I believe to be essentially correct, of a conversation I had with an acquaintance I'll call Mrs. B. in the second half of the 70's.

Mrs. B. said that when a couple we knew, whom I'll call the S's, had been out, their teenagers had trusted some strangers and let them in to the house.  The strangers proceeded to steal a lot of valuable equipment.  Mrs. B. said the S children had been to exclusively Montessori nursery schools, and gave the opinion that this had left them naive about how other people can be bad.  She said she was having her children spend some time at Montessori nursery schools and some time at progressive nursery schools, to get away from such naivete.

Any thoughts?

 

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That anecdote highlights the idea that in a ‘modern’ society one of the functions of ‘society’ that division of labor provides is the responsibility for educating , including the contents of the education . 

The nursery schools either receive the blame or deserve the credit , therefore it is their responsibility to educate absolving the parents’ role.

And it implicitly accepts the idea that critical thinking isn’t an essential outcome of education, in that which ever ‘school’ of school is the choice the child will be ‘programmed’ as to its agenda.

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4 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Mrs. B. said that when a couple we knew, whom I'll call the S's, had been out, their teenagers had trusted some strangers and let them in to the house.  The strangers proceeded to steal a lot of valuable equipment.  Mrs. B. said the S children had been to exclusively Montessori nursery schools, and gave the opinion that this had left them naive about how other people can be bad.

"I had a neighbor who drank a lot of coffee, but one day a tornado knocked his house down and he died, so I don't drink coffee."

Some people really think like that...

Why on Earth would a Montessori school "leave you naïve about how other people can be bad?" And even if it failed to cover that particular subject, why couldn't the kids have learned about the danger of strangers from their parents, or from any other source? What's with this implied notion that a kid could only learn such a thing at a Progressive school?

Edited by necrovore
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Doug, this is an excellent topic. An informed critical assessment of the views put forth by Rand and Peikoff in this area is long overdue.

Education – Dewey

In his 1915 Schools of Tomorrow, John Dewey describes various new types of schools in various parts of America  and beyond reflecting the influences of Rousseau, Froebel, Pestalozzi, and Montessori. “On the basis of their results and his own philosophical and psychological analysis, Dewey indicates what reforms are required if the promise of equal educational opportunity in a democracy is to be achieved. These are merely sketched in outline. The philosophical foundations of Dewey’s theory of education developed in a more systematic way were published subsequently in his Democracy and Education.” (From Sidney Hook’s Introduction to volume 8 of John Dewey – Middle Works, 1899–1924. Hook was Peikoff’s Ph.D. dissertation director.)

Against common misconceptions of Dewey’s views on schooling, Hook remarks that Dewey did not advocate voiding of authority of method or “the discipline of things.” He did not advocate leaving the student free to learn or not learn anything at any time. He did not advocate having an unstructured curriculum, he opposed only curriculum imposed on the child without any relationship to her psychological nature and the stages of her development. He opposed the common past methods of imparting learning designed to make it easy for adults and having the consequence that virtues stressed for the child are obedience, docility, and uncritical acceptance of the adult’s views. Dewey did not oppose the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic. “Reading, writing, arithmetic and geography will always be needed”, Dewey writes. Although, he would have them taught in their relations and application to each other. He was a champion of vocational education, and he kept in view that most students would become under obligation to earn a living. An individual’s choice of vocation is profound and far-reaching. “Each individual should be capable of self-respecting, self-supporting and intelligent work,” Dewey writes, and education should equip individuals for making an intelligent choice of vocation. Education in Dewey’s time and ours is no longer confined to the cultivation of gentlemen of leisure. Dewey urged reconstruction of education to provide individuals with more opportunities  for personal growth and enrichment of personal life, but also for intelligent participation in the democratic process.

Dewey spells out and praises highly Montessori schooling as described in her book The Montessori Method (his treatment is on pages 302–13 of the cited volume of Dewey’s works). Evidently, there were few if any such schools in America at that time. He notes a difference with aims between Montessori and his American progressive approach. Like Montessori he recognizes the value of liberty of the child in educating her. But he looks also to the larger freedom of using intelligence in situations typical of life, which are social. Children need to have the experience of some working together in common pursuits. It is not enough, in social training, to learn not to interfere with others as they execute their own ends. But overall, Dewey applauded the rise of Montessori education method, which had gone into effect in Italy.

At the time Dewey was writing this, I suspect that almost universally, children were engaged in working together with family on work projects before and after school, starting before breakfast, really. He would have experienced that as a child also. My childhood was like that, which was in the 1950’s. So it is a puzzle to me why he thought that was a skill and interest to be invested in school. Perhaps he had come to know of children (of professors?) who did not have childhood home life like his or mine. Perhaps he was interested in children learning and becoming friendly toward joint work with people not family for common ends. That is important for employment in the real world, I’ve noticed. Then too, America at the time was swelling up for the decision to make war on the Kaiser.

Edited by Boydstun
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48 minutes ago, Boydstun said:

Perhaps he had come to know of children (of professors?) who did not have childhood home life like his or mine.

Could you say a little more about your and Dewey's childhoods?

For what it's worth, in that anecdote I posted, the S's and Mrs. B.'s husband were all professors.  Mrs. B. worked in education at a different level.

 

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Modern public education is trash.

Like "public" health, "public" education serves the State and purportedly the public, while neglecting the individual whose personal health and education for successfully living their own lives is neglected and sacrificed in favor of whatever "statistical" advantage the group can acquire from that sacrifice.

Whatever you call the mess education is in, someone is to blame... even if perhaps we do not know who exactly that is.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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8 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Could you say a little more about your and Dewey's childhoods?

For what it's worth, in that anecdote I posted, the S's and Mrs. B.'s husband were all professors.  Mrs. B. worked in education at a different level.

 

John Dewey was born in 1859 in Burlington, Vermont. The youth worked in the lumber yards there. His father was in the Union army during the Civil War, quartermaster for a regiment of Vermont cavalry in Virginia. The father afterwards, in Burlington, was a grocer and tobacconist. He was from an old farming family, and John regularly visited and did chores on his grandfather’s farm.

I did not live on a farm, but my folks had grown up on farms in Oklahoma in the 1920’s and 1930’s. We lived on a two-acre lot outside OKC, where our family built our house during the 1950’s. Our folks raised us about like they had been raised on the farms. We did not have livestock, no fowls or milk cow. We had fruit trees, a row of grapes, dewberries, fruit trees, and a vegetable garden large enough to supply our family of six for the entire year by canning and freezing. I raised bees and sold the honey in the neighborhood. We children fed the dogs before our breakfast, and in the winter, I would start a fire in the fireplace. We cut firewood with our father out on the farms and brought it in the trailor our father had built to our acreage (via the old Route 66, later via I40). We butchered cow and hog on the farms. We children were right in on it. Children had little freedom, no allowance, and no pay for work for the family work projects. Whenever we could make money, we were encouraged to do so, and we each put half of whatever we earned into an individual savings account for college someday. My brother and I made money doing yard work in the neighborhood of mostly well-to-do folks such as lawyers, doctors, and architects. We caddied at the nearby country club, where our family could not afford to be members. (We had privileges, however, at the Officers’ Club at the AFB where our father worked as a civilian.) We children worked most all the time in home hours in those years. I recall the period in which we were laying the stone forming the outside wall of our house. Lydia, my stepmother would have selected and stacked up stones to be laid in the next segment. She cut and faced them too with hammer and chisel, as did we children on days not for school. After our father got home from work he would lay the stones, and my brother and I would mix the mortar, which we colored with a black powder. The next morning, that mortar needs to be scraped out in front so the stones have maybe an 3/4 inch overhang. This we did with 1 x 2 wood with a flathead nail, about 8 penny, protruding from one end just the right amount beyond the wood. We children would scrape the mortar before going to school. Our grammar school was only about 3/4 mile away, and we could walk. When our father went to school as a child, it was far, and they got there by horse, four children on a horse. (I don’t know if the horse had to wait all day till school was out or what.) We children knew that we were being raised much differently than our classmates and that our situation was more like our cousins growing up in the country and those living next door to us.

Hardness.jpg

Edited by Boydstun
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15 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Modern public education is trash.

Like "public" health, "public" education serves the State and purportedly the public, while neglecting the individual whose personal health and education for successfully living their own lives is neglected and sacrificed in favor of whatever "statistical" advantage the group can acquire from that sacrifice.

Whatever you call the mess education is in, someone is to blame... even if perhaps we do not know who exactly that is.

SL, did you attend public schools? Did your daughter attend public schools?

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I did, my son does…. my education was not trash… it was not rife with partisan political ideology.

Indoctrination is abuse.

Systematic collectivisation and neglect of the proper purpose of individual education ie knowledge and for that persons benefit, in favour of the state and statistical public welfare, is abhorrent.

Kids need to learn how to think for themselves, not to be told what to think because it serves the so called public good, the good of some misfortune collective, or the fragile planet.

 The imposition of Obedience and RightThink are like psychological blows of a billy club that permanently cripples the soul.

Ecoterrorism racism misandry dehumanizations creep into systems through indoctrination of administrative and teaching professionals at the college and career licensing levels… I know teachers too.

 

Kids need knowledge, diversity of thought, and critical logical reasoning to lead a life of learning and to be capable of independent thought … to lead their own lives in the manner and with the values of their own choosing.

 

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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I would call this effect Trickle down Marxism but it’s been identified at the higher levels of education before under various guises and by different names.  Rand and Peikoff touch on this thing… which is once again raised by someone who refused to be silent… food for thought, a unique and in depth perspective here:

 

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SL, I listened to the first 15 minutes (a big listen for me—reading is a lot faster). I doubt the influence among new professors heading a certain way on account of the American War in Vietnam and the upheaval on college campuses over that War. The long-term effect of the students and others protesting that war and changing minds about it was more plausibly and importantly that GW Bush had to go with call up of the Guard to make his aggression in Iraq, because the public has remained suspicious of foreign wars in which we were not attacked to this day, ever since the American War in Vietnam, and they were not going to allow return of the draft, notwithstanding the registration system the old military interventionists succeeded in getting back in place in around 1980. This I'm sure of: No scholar landing a job as professor in the hard sciences or mathematics at my alma mater got their position on account of political/cultural agendas. They had to succeed so far as they did by the same old hard competition in their subject matters of research, same as it ever was. One thing is very different in the culture generally and in what is subject in college classes since back in my time, and that is talk of sexuality. That was not something that would be mentioned when I was in school, just like in the wider culture back then. I do think it is ridiculous to have toleration classes and fields of study in that area. It is not that difficult for students, even before college, to be respectful of other people not like themselves, and to not beat them up physically or verbally. Where were there parents on this before college? I am suspicious of any talk favoring anti-wokeness, however. Racial prejudice, especially white against black has continued without any gap since I was a child in this country. Things are enormously better legally on that score today, thanks to the activism in the 1960's mainly. But the racism continues significantly, even if not so acute as in my parents when I was growing up. I don't mean that special courses should be imposed to try to nip racists in the bud; that is futile and is not how we made the revolution on racial equality and integration that we did make. And of course, white students should not be made to feel guilty because their ancestors were not slaves in America. That campaign toward making people feel guilty over things like Original Sin has a source in white tradition we readily recognize; it is not coming from black leaders, I've noticed; Ta-Nehisi Coates, for example,  wrote against that guilt-push a decade ago in connection with any rational notion of 'white privilege'. I don't think there is anything wrong with a teacher or, later, a professor, calling out a disrespectful student concerning race. When I was in sixth grade, we got a new teacher at our school (1960) mainly to be the school's music teacher, but she also taught our class some main subjects. One day a boy used the word "niggers". I don't think I'd have been using that, as from church I knew that racial prejudice was wrong and as we knew, notwithstanding the continual hateful usage by our folks at home, that you should say "coloreds" or "negroes" (in those days), in the reference (negative for sure) the boy was making. The new teacher said: "What did you say?! Don't you ever use that word in this class again!" (This was a school all white at that time, I should have said.) It stuck. At college, in an English lit class, there was this one young man who was some sort of conservative, apparently, and he would denigrate this young woman student who was known to be socialist. He would refer to her as "spook," which was apparently a derogatory coinage at the time, and the professor put a stop to that. She later tried (but failed, as I recall) to commit suicide because it seemed everyone was against her. I don't think it is really all that difficult to be respectful towards other sorts of people, and anyone not yet getting that by college surely should be woken up. I suppose the Lewis and Clark college in the video is private, so they can have their dumb-ass sociological efforts if they want. I did not like the focus of the speaker in the video on importance or value of open discussion of public affairs on college campuses. I rated such activities as appropriate for our late-night student bull sessions; as far as outsiders coming on campuses for such presentations or discussions, I'd class it with having football at the university (I never attended a game). By the way, Milton Friedman could not speak on campuses in the 1960's because of being shouted away by leftists. So things are not so different as the man in the video would like to represent them, although, the trash going on by some administrators at some campuses he flags are indeed appalling and not like what was going on in my era.

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53 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:

In another conversation I once had, someone expressed the view that all students should have to work their way through college.  She didn't say who should impose this requirement.

 

When my father started to college, his roommate had brought with him a dairy cow. They had a deal in which if you brought your cow, tended it, and supplied milk for the cafeteria, you got waiver of some charges. That would be about 1936. By the time I went to college in the late 1960's, a student could not make enough to pay for college (and the cow deals were off). The in-state tuition would have been feasible, but not the required staying in dorms and meals in them. I was not eligible for those government-backed loans because my father made too much money. Apparently some of the society had decided that parents should pay for their children's college if they could afford to, although my father was of the older view: not. My mother, who I barely knew at that time, offered to pay for my college. (I paid for the first semester, depleting my life savings, and I took advantage of the work-study program to make a little money while in school. Also I worked a private night job.) She would take out a loan at their regular small-town bank and repay it each term. She was a second-grade school teacher.

I don't think those government-backed loan programs were such a good idea, as they encouraged too many people to go to college. I don't think it is right for repayment of some of those loans to now be the burden of citizens who did not make those loans. (That does NOT mean one should vote against candidates this fall who favor such "forgiveness" of those loans if the opponent is an anti-abortionist [such as Gov. Abbott]. Maybe just don't vote, if that is the opponent.)

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3 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

In another conversation I once had, someone expressed the view that all students should have to work their way through college.  She didn't say who should impose this requirement.

 

She was working at a fast food place.  I don't know what sort of college she was attending.

I think she was thinking more of the effect on the student than of any question of who was responsible to pay.

 

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20 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Kids need knowledge, diversity of thought, and critical logical reasoning to lead a life of learning and to be capable of independent thought … to lead their own lives in the manner and with the values of their own choosing.

 

This is an important observation. One aspect of education is the home environment. In my family both my sister and I were encouraged to read extensively on our own. Our parents were readers, we had books in the house and each of us had our personal books in addition to use of the public library. Our public school education was typical of the 1950s-60s which means that, for a small town in Wisconsin, it was much better than that offered today. I believe my experience is indicative of the sort of environment that led to "a life of learning" and one "capable of independent thought." 

 

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On 10/14/2022 at 7:18 PM, necrovore said:

why couldn't the kids have learned about the danger of strangers from their parents, or from any other source? What's with this implied notion that a kid could only learn such a thing at a Progressive school?

It could be argued that it's one thing to be told abstractly about the danger of strangers, and another to get direct experience of how people can be bad.

To me, the most important counter-argument would have to do with the damage that could be done by even some exposure to the progressive nursery school environment.

 

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