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Progressive Education

Progressive Education

As US towns were facing rapid urbanization and industrialization in the late 19th century, progressive movements were on the rise- demanding change for the country's mistreated workers, women, and children. For too long, children had been forced to work in dangerous conditions inside factories to help put food on their family's tables; progressive education aimed to change this trend and set up children for university, as well as develop a greater understanding of how to navigate the world.

Progressive Education Definition

Progressive education means a form of education that rejects the idea of classical education styles being enough for students to have a fulfilled learning experience. Progressive education sees the need not only for sitting and listening (classical) but also for learning by doing and being involved. This type of education wants students to be up and out of their seats, interacting and experimenting with each other directly to develop a greater understanding of the topic being presented. Students put to use laboratories, kitchens, the outdoors, and more rather than staying in one seat all day long.

Classical Education is based on a 3-part process of training the mind; the first is absorbing facts and laying the foundations for advanced studying. The second is learning arguments and critical thinking; the third and final is learning to use these two processes to express themselves. This entire 3-part process is also known as the "trivium".

Progressive Education Philosophy

The philosophy of progressive education not only emphasizes the importance of education itself but also the importance of how its subjects are taught to the students; it seeks to focus on the human experience as the basis of knowledge. Education is not only meant to set up children for a successful life in the future, but also to understand how to live in their current environments. School should enable students to be active, motivated, and learn to become problem solvers- to know and to do a subject are seen as equally valuable in progressive education.

Students in a progressive classroom are given the power to take a more active role in the learning process by

  • Interacting with their environments.
  • Setting objectives for their own learning.
  • Teamwork.
  • Learning through doing.
  • Engaging in problem-solving.
  • Helping to establish classroom rules.
  • Evaluating & testing their ideas.

Progressive Education, Table of lessons of project-based learning, StudySmarterProject-Based Learning table & skills - Progressive Education

Progressive Education Society

Before the Progressive Era of the 1890s to 1920s, American society was plagued by low wages, unsafe and overcrowded factories, no standards for food safety, and no safety nets for citizens who could not find employment.

During the 1890s to 1920s, progressive movements were spreading all across the country intending to making life better. Industrialization and urbanization were widening the gap between the working poor and the rich business owners through their exploitation of labor and cruel business practices. Women were still not allowed to vote, children were working in factories rather than attending school, and families could barely make ends meet due to the pathetically low wages. The Progressive Era encouraged a change in these categories, believing that children going back to school and having access to better education would help turn society around for the better; this would be achieved by engaging students in tasks that involved real-world problem-solving.

Progressive Education, protest for end of child labor, 1900s, StudySmarter"Young Workers League" protesting for the end of child labor (circa 1900s)

Progressive Education John Dewey

In July of 1894, John Dewey entered the city of Chicago, Illinois from Ann Arbor, Michigan. The train arrived in the city late due to the American Railway Union going on strike, as the Pullman Company had cut employee wages once again. The strike cost 30 people their lives and Dewey openly condemned President Cleveland for his suppression and disregard for the strike. Over the next few years, Dewey would contemplate all that he knew of the world around him and how he grew up; how could he make a change in the struggling society around him?

Progressive Education, Photo of George Pullman circa 1870, StudySmarterGeorge Pullman circa 1870The Pullman Strike of 1894 took place across the American continent, with thousands (approximately 260,000) refusing to work and delaying countless train lines. During the Panic of 1893, in which the country was facing a serious economic depression, George Pullman cut his employee's wages by 1/3 while simultaneously refusing to make their rent cheaper. In retaliation, Eugene V. Debs, leader of the American Railway Union, encouraged workers far beyond his state borders to boycott the company.

To crush the strike, President Grover Cleveland sent troops into Chicago where they were met with rioters. By the end of the strike, a railroad yard was burned to the ground and around 30 people were dead. Debs was arrested and sent to prison for 6 months while Pullman's reputation never fully recovered; he died of a heart attack in 1897.

After a few years of writing, John Dewey released his book "The School and Society" in 1899. He expressed that the old model of schooling was outdated and that students should become more involved in the classroom. Due to the decline of farms with the growth of cities, Dewey knew that children needed to learn sewing, cooking, and working with metals and wood to better navigate the changing times. He didn't believe that hands-on learning should replace the old style of schooling, but rather it should enhance it. Progressive Education, Photo of John Dewey, StudySmarterJohn Dewey US Library of CongressIn Dewey's classrooms, he expressed the importance of learning by doing over learning by listening.

In one of Dewey's classes, he had his students separate cotton from its seeds by hand; a time-consuming and tedious process. After being taught how to build, and use, a cotton gin to do the work for them, his students had a greater understanding of why the machine was invented and also the intense work that human hands were forced to do during times of slavery. Separating the cotton and working together to make the process more efficient helped students understand the importance of teamwork, as each student's help was equally as valuable; this was accomplished while simultaneously giving students an important history lesson.

Dewey firmly believed that cooperative learning would encourage not only a democratic classroom, but also a democratic way of life; free of elites, ethnic divisions, or economic inequalities. Dewey also believed that humans were naturally inclined to be cooperative, not selfish and destined for conflict. Democracy and scientific intelligence was John Dewey's key to reform. He believed deeply in the power of labor unions, strikes, and the redistribution of income. He is known today as the "Father of modern education".

Progressive Education, John Dewey Reflection model, StudySmarterJohn Dewey - Inquiry Model

Did you know?

Before his death in 1952, Dewey had written 37 books and published 766 articles in 151 journals.

Progressive Education Movement

Progressive education focused on teaching real-world problem-solving activities and provided students with everyday experiences that would be helpful (and relevant) to their daily lives rather than only focusing on rigid subject content. The outcome of the Progressive Era and progressive education consisted of

  • New laws for better living conditions.
  • The expansion of educational opportunities.
  • The elimination of new types of criminal activity.

From the late 19th century onwards, progressive education has aimed to blur the lines that classical education had set between those of different social classes. Breaking the barriers between students and having them work on both individual and group projects helps them learn how to properly interact with each other and what is around them. This, paired with classical forms of education, not only prepares them for written tests but also for the challenges they will face in the real world. As a result, progressive education can be classified as a working model of democracy.

Progressive Education - Key takeaways

  • Before the Progressive Era of the 1890s to 1920s, American society was plagued by low wages, unsafe and overcrowded factories, no standards for food safety, and no safety nets for citizens who could not find employment.
  • Progressive education did not aim to replace classical education, it aimed to enhance it.
  • Progressive education believes that learning by doing (progressive) is just as important as learning by listening (classical).
  • Progressive education aims to break barriers between students with different cultural backgrounds, talents, and interests. It seeks to promote diversity and understanding to create a better society.
  • John Dewey was an educational reformer who is known as the "Father of modern education".

Frequently Asked Questions about Progressive Education

The purpose of progressive education is to teach children in a way that is meaningful in their everyday lives. As John Dewey stated in 1910, "the end and aim of education is the formation of careful, alert, and thorough habits of thinking".

Progressive education means a form of education that will help students navigate the current world around them. Emphasis is placed on learning by doing over learning by listening. Learning to sew, cook, and work with metals and wood on top of their classic educations is important in order to enhance their understanding of the past, present, and future world.

Examples of progressive education can be seen in many of John Dewey's group projects from his classroom. One being students learning how to separate cotton from the seed; due to its difficulty, students got a deeper understanding of how people struggled to do this by hand before the invention of a cotton gin. This helped students not only learn about the past but also why it influenced developments of the future.

Progressive education for John Dewey was the idea of manual training or "learning by doing over learning by listening". Dewey was not as concerned with what school was teaching students, but how it was teaching them.

Cooperative learning and experimentation done by all students in the classroom; group projects over competitions (tests). Progressive education wanted students to be active, motivated, and become problem solvers.

Final Progressive Education Quiz

Question

John Dewey is known as the "Father of Modern Education".

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Answer

True.

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Question

The creation of Progressive Education came along with the Progressive Movement (1860s - 1920s).

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Answer

True.

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Progressive education focusses on children sitting and listening intently to lectures. 

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Answer

False. 

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What are key elements of Progressive Education?

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Answer

All of the above. 

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Progressive education is at its best when used in a diverse classroom or environment.

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Answer

True.

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The original purpose of progressive education was to replace classical education.

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Answer

False.

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Question

What event triggered John Dewey to make a change upon arriving in Chicago?

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Answer

The Pullman Strike of 1894.

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Why is Dewey often criticized for his way of teaching?

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Answer

Some believe that Dewey did not teach children enough classical skills needed to attend college and university. 

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Progressive education not only wants to help students with written tests, but also be prepared for challenges in the real world. 

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Answer

True.

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Dewey believed that people were naturally inclined to be selfish, not cooperative and team oriented. 

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Answer

False.

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Why was the creation of better education important during the Progressive Era?

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Answer

Good education was only being seen by those of high social class while other children were working in factories and mines. Accessibility meant more economic stability for all. 

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Question

Progressive education places emphasis on multiple learning resources, not just textbooks. 

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Answer

True.

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