We Reject “Progressive Education” -- By: Orris Refsell
CenQ 10:3 (Fall 1967) p. 5
We Reject “Progressive Education”
Principal Fourth Baptist Christian Day School, Minneapolis
Max Rafferty, the state superintendent of public instruction in California, says there is a deadly parallel between the philosophy of progressive education and the philosophy of the great dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. He says that progressive education builds a new social order—the social order of socialism. Can it be true? You be the judge.
Socialism says there are no absolute and eternal truths, and this is precisely what progressive education says. Socialism says the individual is important only as a member of the group. This is just what progressive education holds. Socialism discourages nonconformity, and this is just what progressive education does. Socialism does away with individual competition, and so does progressive education.
How did progressive education start? Around 1900 a psychologist named William James developed what came to be called the “pragmatic method.” It maintained that the value of anything is to be found only in terms of its actual usefulness—in other words, whatever works is right. It denied the existence of absolutes of any kind. It attacked any attempt to explain life in terms of the supernatural.
Shortly after this a philosopher named Dr. John Dewey seized upon this concept and developed from it the theory of instrumentalism, which was the parent of progressive education.
Let us sum up progressive education—remembering that we do not intend to throw the baby out along with the bath water. Progressivism had some good points. The problem solving
CenQ 10:3 (Fall 1967) p. 6
approach fathered by Dewey was sound. It should be retained. So should the willingness on the part of the instructor to give reasons to the children for the many things he must ask them to do every day.
Basically, however, this is progressive education: (1) Progressive education teaches that there are no absolute and eternal values. (2) Progressive education stresses “life adjustment” and “group acceptance” as the primary goals of the instructional program, and subject matter is secondary. (3) Progressive education downgrades the role of the individual and glorifies the importance of the group. (4) Progressive education feels that the curriculum should depend upon the immediate interests and needs of the group. (5) Progressive education believes that memorization is a waste of time. (6) Progressive education advocates “experiencing” learning through as many sense avenues as practicable. (7) Progressive education holds that the pupil should be encouraged to compete only with himse...
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