Author: Prof.A.Sudharma (Former Dean, Education, MG University, Kottayam, Kerala)
Published in: Education: Philosophy, Sociology and Economics (Edited by Naseerali M.K., 2014).
Progressivism is a cluster of doctrines concerning pedagogy, aims and the curriculum. It is characterized by a distrust of authority in education by an emphasis on the individual child as the centre of pedagogic concern. Progressivism is the orientation that believes that improvement and reform in the human condition are both possible and desirable.
In its origins, Progressivism in American education began as a reaction against the formalism, verbalism and repressiveness of traditional schooling. Progressive education is more a mood, a temperament, a posture and ideology than a fully developed philosophy. Progressives see themselves as agents of an education that liberate human beings. According to Lawrence, progressive education is a movement from 1876 to 1955, he defined it in the following manner. Progressive education meant:
Thus progressive education concentrated on the liberation of the child through to liberalizing of the school. It borrows heavily from William Jame’s pragmatism and emphasizes learn to test the truth of a propose solution or hypothesis by noting the consequences of acting in accordance with the hypothesis.
Proponents: William.H. Kilpatrick, John Dewey, Roussaeau, Pestallozi, Froebel and Montessori.
Characteristics of Progressive Education
Progressive Education in Historical Perspectives: Antitraditionalism
Throughout the history, the school has been a formal institution, governed by routine and regulations, in which learning is defined as the study and mastery of literacy materials, especially books. The major outlook of progressive education is in two dimensions.
Progressive education meant:
The progressive education is very much concerned about literacy, knowledge and methodology are repacked to involve the learner to a greater degree. (Travers and Rebore; 1990) This includes: The open classroom; Individualized instruction,; Self-paced instructional materials; Grouping by needs and interests; Affective education; Problem–based curricula such as themes focusing on the environment, social issues and political questions; Vocational or career education, Counseling and special education; Creative and social programs such as drama, school newspaper and athletics.
History and sources of Progressivism
The progressive movement has its beginning after the civil war and has gained a wide following among intellectuals by 1900. It grew and gained favour between 1900 and World War I. Then the movement became divided and fragmented in the 1920’s and 1930’s, finally the movement disappeared in the late 1950s. Modern progressives emphasized the concept of ‘progress’, which asserts that human beings are capable of improving and perfecting their environment by applying human intelligence and the scientific method for solving social, political and economic problems.
The different sources of progressivism are
Progressivism was rooted in the spirit of social reform that gripped the early twentieth century. Theodore Roosevelt and his ‘New nationalism’, Woodrow Wilson’s ‘New Freedom’ and Robert Laffollette’s ‘Wiscosin Idea’ reforms to control trust and monopolies and to open political processes to more direct, popular participation.
b) Contributions of the pioneers
William Heard Kilpatrick: The project method was designed by Kilpatrick, He opposed traditional schooling as being authoritarian, too formal and abstract from the learners, interests. In contrast, he claimed that his project method motivated children to take the initiative for their education by encouraging them to plan, direct and execute their own learning.
Jean Jacqueous Rousseau: In Emile, Rousseau said only in a society freed from the harmful influence of self–respect, would it that is possible for humans to associate as free and equal beings capable of binding together for the common good. Teacher should not engage in overt interaction of biological maturation of social intercourse. Emphasis on individualistic education where environment is suitable for learning. He said child was naturally good and that learning was most effective when it is followed by child’s interests and needs.
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: Pestalozzi asserted that education should be more than book learning. It should embrace the whole child-emotions, intellect and body. Natural education take place in an environment of emotional love and security. It should also begin in child’s immediate environment and involve the operations of the senses on the objects found in the environment.
Sigmund Freud: Freud stressed authoritarian parents and home environments had caused children to repress their derives. This repression, especially in the case of sexual drives, could lead to neurotic behavior that had a deleterious effect upon the child and upon his/her adult life.
John Dewey: Dewey was the most influential spokesman for this philosophy. Dewey insisted that the purposes and contextual features of schooling should be determined by the students themselves and their own perception of their interests, rather than be determined by adult perception. Education had intrinsic aims, which were essentially defined in educational terms. He emphasized the practical activity in the classroom. Dewey opposed any division between humanistic and vocational education, between theoretical and applied sciences and between thought and action. He placed a great emphasis on actions and experiences. For him, learning was always an active process, the brain was not a passive receiver of knowledge but an active participant in or originator of meaning through problem solving. He believed experiences are crucial for learning but not all. He has five basic beliefs about education.
In short, learning is the continual reconstruction of experiences.
Progressivism as an Educational Philosophy
The progressives place great faith in cooperation and social learning, rather than in competition. Part of this social learning would be an emphasis on the project method or the problem –solving approach in education. Learning, they believe, can and should be related to the interests of the child. The teacher’s role should be that of an adviser of the child, not a dictator or director of learning.
Progressives place more emphasis on the process (the means or the methods) of learning than on the end product (knowledge).They insist that education is life, not a preparation for life and learning. Knowledge comes as a part of the problem–solving process. Learning is an active process in which learners investigate and explore their own environment, thoughts and emotions. The atmosphere of the school and the personality of the teacher should be open and permissive.
Progressive Education Orientation
In 1919, educators of a progressive orientation met in Washington.D.C to organize the Progressive Education Association. The association stressed following principles.
Distinctive features of the pedagogy of American Progressivism:
The progressive Teacher
The skilled teacher, is the progressive context, did not dominate the classroom as its focal point. Rather, the progressive teacher made the interests of the learner central. The teacher was properly a guide for discussion, planning and the executing learning. Because the progressive classroom was oriented to purposeful activity, the progressive teacher needed to know how to stimulate the students so that they initiate, plan and carry out their project. Teacher should be project directors, stimulators of learning, psychological therapists and learning consultants rather than transmitters of information.
Progressivism’s Philosophical and Ideological Relationships
Progressivism draws heavily from the philosophies of naturalism and pragmatism. It is form naturalistic principle, the child growth and development is child centered behind the inspirational thought. Dewey emphasized the power of the scientific method as the means to active complete and reflective thought along with social issues and problems related to child. Progressivism rejects the more traditional philosophies of idealism, realism and thomism and their emphasis on antecedent reality, hierarchical categories and subject matter.
Progressivism is not compatible with liberalism. Liberalist’s concern for individual rights and freedom finds an educational corollary in progressiveness emphasis on the individual child. Progressiveness, like experimentalism and liberalism is incompatible with both political and social totalitarianism and with education authoritarianism that flows from it.
Decline of Progressive Education
The causes for the decline are
Even though progressivism is now formally a deal movement, its contributions live on because educators attempt to fit the curriculum to the perceived needs of children as well as their immediate interests. This kind of philosophy is difficult to implement because the child is seen as a total organism (intellectually, socially, physically and spiritually). Progressives often have broad social, political and economic goals as well the spectrum is diverse.
However, the progressives made a significant impact on education in America today, especially because of the opposition movements in essentialism and back to basics, which progressives spawned. Progressives did promote a belief in using education for social betterment. Educational change is not wholly a rational process, this may not materially affect to medium–term prospects of progressivism as an influence on public education and it became a formidable force despite its vagueness.