Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Education and the Cult of Efficiency

September 10th, 2011 at 10:41

This is the title of a book by Raymond Callahan first published in 1962, but brought to my attention in the suggested reading list in radical educator John Taylor Gatto‘s book, The Underground History of American Education. Callahan’s book focuses on the history of the public education system in the U.S. in the first three decades of the 20th century, and his premise that, the system was transformed into a business-industrial model which one could argue continues to this day. Perhaps we have seen a resurgence of that business-industrial model in recent decades with curriculum standardization, scripted teaching methodologies, high-stakes testing, the growth of and “education-industrial complex” and efforts to exert more external top-down control over teachers.

Callahan’s book was published five years after the Russians successfully put the first satellite, nicknamed “Sputnik”, in orbit around the Earth, beating the U.S. to this technological milestone. The event was a cataclysm for U.S. egoistic exceptionalism, and among other things began a concerted national effort to reform our education system to focus more on teaching math and science, so we could eventually “beat” the Russians in the “space race” and a broader technological competition. One can argue that comparable reform efforts continue today, focused perhaps on a broader “technology race” with the world, spurred on by President Reagen’s “A Nation at Risk” report in the 1980s, Clinton’s “Goals 2000” in the the 1990s, and Teddy Kennedy’s partnership with President Bush in the past decade that produced “No Child Left Behind” and its legacy today.

Callahan’s book documents a previous educational “crisis” five decades earlier that may have had arguably an even more extensive and lasting impact on American education. The scope of that impact can be seen still today in the structure of the school day, class sizes and teacher class loads, the adversarial labor and management relationship between teachers and administrators, the extensive school bureaucracy, and the general management of schools along a regimented “factory model”, among other things. If it had not been for this dubious “crisis”, schools today might be a far different place than they are.

The Historical Context

Callahan gives a quick sketch of the the early 20th century U.S education system, prior to this period of crisis and change…

At the turn of the century America had reason to be proud of the educational progress it had made. The dream of equality of educational opportunity had been partly realized. Any white American with ability and a willingness to work could get a good education and even professional training. The schools were very far from perfect, of course; teachers were inadequately prepared, classrooms were overcrowded, school buildings and equipment were inadequate, and the education of Negroes had been neglected. But the basic institutional framework for a noble conception of education had been created. Free public schools, from the kindergarten through the university, had been established. (pg 1)

Callahan’s point here is that the situation, though not ideal (particularly for African-Americans), was nothing that called out for the kind of wrenching changes to the education system that would be wrought in the name of “reform” in the first three decades of the new century. A crisis was instead manufactured, perhaps for a range of reasons, starting with maybe selling newspapers and magazines…

The material achievements of industrial capitalism in the late nineteenth century were responsible for two developments which were to have a great affect on American society and education after 1900. One of these was the rise of business and industry to a position of prestige and influence, and America’s subsequent saturation with business-industrial values and practices. The other was the reform movement identified historically with Theodore Roosevelt and spearheaded by the muckraking journalists. (pg 1)

As a result, says Callahan…

The tragedy itself was fourfold: that educational questions were subordinated to business considerations; that administrators were produced who were not, in any true sense, educators; that a scientific label was put on some very unscientific and dubious methods and practices; and that an anti-intellectual climate, already prevalent, was strengthened. As the business-industrial values and procedures spread into the thinking and acting of educators, countless educational decisions were made on economic or on non-educational grounds. (pg 246)

Callahan calls out four trends during this period which he believes wove together to create this situation. First that the social reform-minded, scandal-uncovering journalists had made the public suspicious and hyper-critical of the management of all public institutions. Second that the growing prestige of business and businessmen in the public eye, and the resulting calls for public institutions to adopt business practices. Third that in answer to those calls, the growth of a “business efficiency” movement, championed by popular business gurus like Frederick Taylor and his methodology of “scientific management”. And fourth that the “profession” of school administration was in its infancy and only beginning to be developed and was unduly influenced by this business obsession.

The Muckrakers & Reform

Muckraking journalists started out appropriately challenging some dangerous and inhumane corporate industrial practices, including in the meat-packing business and the railroads. But with a public eager to pay money to read about ever more exposed scandal and crusading reformers, these journalists soon turned their attention more broadly on major public institutions as well, including the public school system. Writes Callahan…

That genuine problems existed in American society at the turn of the century there can be no doubt. But the generation of widespread public enthusiasm and indignation necessary to give force to a reform movement in a democratic society required that the public be aroused and informed. This function was performed so effectively by the muckraking journalists through the medium of low-priced periodicals that one historian has stated that “to an extraordinary degree the work of the Progressive movement rested upon its journalism” and that “it was muckraking that brought the diffuse malaise of the public into focus”… The vehicle for muckraking was the popular magazine – McClure’s, Munsey’s, the Ladies’ Home Journal, the Saturday Evening Post, and later the American, which were attractively printed directed toward popular appeal… These journals were published not by literary men but by business promoters, and their editors were newspaper editors. (pg. 3)

Just as today with our ubiquitous cable news and radio talk shows trying to reveal, expose and rail against our society’s perceived ills to get ratings and sell advertising to make a profit, the popular magazines of a century ago sold copies detailing scandals and championing reformers. (Tabloid journalism, actually, has been with us since colonial times!) Unfavorable comparisons were made between schools and business, with the strong suggestion that business and industrial practices be adopted by educators. Writes Callahan…

The business ideology was spread continuously into the bloodstream of American life. It was strengthened, not weakened, by the muckrakers as they extolled “modern business methods” and “efficiency” and connected these in the pubic mind with progress and reform. It was strengthened, too, by the vigorous conservation movement because the emphasis upon conservation blended into and reinforced a corollary drive to eliminate waste, and the elimination of waste was connected with modern business methods. It was, therefore, quite natural for Americans, when the thought of reforming the schools, to apply business methods to achieve their ends. (pg. 5)

A Nation at Risk?

Some seven decades before the publication of “A Nation at Risk”, another incendiary use or misuse of statistics and social science research galvanized the public. Writes Callahan…

Into this difficult and potentially explosive situation an American educator – not a business man or muckraking journalist – threw an incendiary bomb in the form of an allegedly scientific study of retardation and elimination, published in 1909, Laggards in Our Schools. The author, Leonard Ayres, had collected his data from school records and reports and from statistics collected and published by government agencies. They showed, Ayres said, that the schools were filled with retarded children and that most students dropped out of school before finishing the eighth grade. By retarded children, he meant children who were over-age for their grade regardless of how well they were doing in their work. He claimed that the extent of the retardation varied from 7 per cent in Medford, Massachusetts, to 75 per cent for Negro children in Memphis, Tennessee, with the average being about 33 per cent for all pupils in public schools… Although his data showed only that large numbers of children were over-age for their grade without regard for the social or educational reasons, he held the schools responsible, charging that their programs were “fitted not to the slow child or to the average child but to the unusually bright one.” (pg. 15)

This was an era of rampant use and misuse of scientific or pseudo-scientific studies manipulated to justify inappropriate solutions. The most infamous perhaps were the IQ tests administered to American soldiers who fought in World War I which supposedly proved that blacks, Jews, and most southern and eastern Europeans were intellectually inferior to northern European (Aryan) whites. These studies were taken very seriously, and led to the first American laws being passed in the 1920s severely limiting immigration, and also provided supposed scientific justification for the extreme racism and antisemitism that would be unleashed on the world in the decades to come.

Leonard Ayers’ statistical study did not take into account the fact that so many of the immigrant kids new to the country were entering school for the first time so though older, were placed into the earlier grades. Counting these immigrants statistically made it look like the “retardation” (grade repeating) rate was much higher than it really was.

It is sobering to me how much scientific research has been done, particularly in the early years of some new area of science before the methodologies have matured, that have produced flawed results that justified bad policy.

A Call for “Business Efficiency” in Education

Writes Callahan…

Ayres did more than simply report the percentages of “retarded” children in the schools. He was one of the first educators to picture the school as a factory and to apply the business and industrial values and practices in a systematic way. He used the normal year-by-year progress through the schools as a criterion for measuring the relative “efficiency” of a school and he developed a system for presenting this “efficiency” in percentage form… But instead of pointing out that the schools were caught in a vicious circle, with overcrowding causing retardation and retardation contributing to overcrowding, he centered his attention on “the money cost of the repeater” and charged, “It cannot be denied that we are spending money in teaching large numbers of children the same things over again.” (pg. 15-17)

According to Callahan, Ayers research and its impact on a reform-minded public…

Helped set the stage for the spectacular debut of the efficiency expert on the American scene in the fall of 1910. The dominance of businessmen and the acceptance of business values (especially the concern for efficiency and economy), the creation of a critical, cost-conscious, reform-minded public, led by profit-seeking journals; the alleged mismanagement of all American institutions; the increased cost of living; all these factors created a situation of readiness – readiness for the great preacher of the gospel of efficiency, Frederick W. Taylor, and his disciples. And school administrators, already under constant pressure to make education more practical in order to serve a business society better, were brought under even stronger criticism and forced to demonstrate first, last, and always that they were operating the schools efficiently. (pg 17)

Frederick Taylor was one of the great popularizers and gurus of the “business efficiency” movement. He put forth a detailed system of industrial management branded as “scientific management”, that got great public attention in hearing in the fall of 1910 before a federal government commission. Taylor’s ideas were championed by progressive reformers and conservationists like President Theodore Roosevelt, who said…

Scientific Management is the application of the conservation principle to production. It does not concern itself with the ownership of our natural resources. But in the factories where it is in force it guards these stores of raw materials from loss and misuse. First, by finding the right material – the special wood or steel or fiber – which is cheapest and best for the purpose. Second, by getting the utmost of finished product out of every pound or bale worked up. We couldn’t ask more from a patriotic motive, than Scientific Management gives from a selfish one. (pg 20)

Taylor and others felt it was appropriate to apply these principles not just to industrial production but to the “production” of educated people. Said Taylor during the hearings…

No school teacher would think of telling children in a general way to study a certain book or subject. It is practically universal to assign each day a definite lesson beginning on one specific page and line and ending on another; and the best progress is made when the conditions are such that a definite study hour or period can be assigned in which the lesson must be learned. Most of us remain, through a great part of our lives, in this respect, grown-up children, and do our best only under pressure of a task of comparatively short duration. (pg 30)

I am struck by the demeaning tone of his assertions that children and most adults need to be spoon-fed knowledge in a context of external pressure. But certainly this is still a very widely held paradigm today.

Presumably within that same paradigm, a critique of the U.S. public school system, appearing in the Ladies Home Journal in the summer of 1912 did its part to inflame the situation with a call for more business efficiency in education, asking…

Can you imagine a more grossly stupid, a more genuinely asinine system tenaciously persisted in to the fearful detriment of over seventeen million children and a cost to you of over four-hundred-and-three million dollars each year – a system that not only is absolutely ineffective in its results, but also actually harmful in that it throws every year ninety-three out of every one hundred children into the world of action absolutely unfitted for even the simplest tasks of life? Can you wonder that we have so many inefficient men and women; that in so many families there are so many failures; that our boys and girls can make so little money that in the one case they are driven into the saloons from discouragement, and in the other into the brothels to save themselves from starvation? Yet that is exactly what the public-school system is doing today, and has been doing. (pg 51)

The Journal is calling the U.S. public education system of the time “completely ineffective”, even though in author Callahan’s opinion, the system was functioning pretty well at the turn of the century (at least for most white kids and their families). My take is, like the ranting “talking heads” today, the Journal was manufacturing moral outrage that would get a rise out of their readers (whether factually true or not) in order to sell more copies of their very popular mass-circulation magazine.

There was also an anti-intellectualism and business-bias in much of the criticism. Callahan sites a speech in 1909, when the Superintendent of the Illinois Farmer’s Institute, speaking before the National Education Association convention, said…

Ordinarily a love of learning is praiseworthy; but when this delight in the pleasures of learning becomes so intense and so absorbing that it diminishes the desire, and the power of earning, it is positively harmful. Education that does not promote the desire and power to do useful things – that’s earning – is not worth the getting. Education that stimulates a love for useful activity is not simply desirable; it is in the highest degree ethical… (pg. 10)

Wow… okay then! I would say that this statement also continues to be part of our majority educational paradigm and conventional educational wisdom, though I don’t think most people would admit it. This is why, when you are totally engrossed in figuring out a complicated math equation and the bell rings signaling the end of your math class, it is critical to the institutional view of your own educational development that you cease and desist, drop what you are doing and move on to your next class… *grin*

Science & Pseudo-Science to the Rescue

By 1912, continuing in the paradigm referenced in the previous paragraphs, criticisms of educational inefficiency were coming from key members within the education establishment. There was a growing consensus that the solution was the application of business efficiency principles and scientific management to the schools. One of the leaders of the effort to solve this problem was Franklin Bobbitt, a University of Chicago professor of educational administration, who spoke to the need to set up educational “standards” such as one for speed and accuracy of arithmetic calculations…

The ability to add at a speed of 65 combinations per minute, with an accuracy of 94 per cent is as definite a specification as can be set up for any aspect of the work of the steel plant. (pg 81)

Using these standards, said Bobbitt, school superintendents…

By glancing over the number of units of results obtained by each teacher in each building in his city, especially when thrown into distribution tables and graphs, can locate instantly the strong, the mediocre, and the weak teachers. By noting the distribution by buildings, he can also see at a glance what building principals are doing a superior grade of work. (pg 82)

Bobbitt believed that the larger community, particularly businesses in that community, needed to set those standards (in quantitative terms) for what constituted an appropriate education. Further, teachers could not be left to their own devices to set educational practice. Only scientifically proven “best practices” should be followed. Said Bobbitt…

Teachers cannot be permitted to follow caprice in method. When a method which is clearly superior to all other methods has been discovered, it alone can be employed. To neglect this function and to excuse one’s negligence by proclaiming the value of the freedom of the teacher was perhaps justifiable under our earlier empiricism, when the supervisors were merely promoted teachers and on the scientific side at least knew little more about standards and methods than the rank and file. (pg 90)

Beware of “caprice in method” you teachers! Heaven forbid you should do it your way and not follow the best practice determined by the state! This too is part of that conventional educational paradigm that still exists today.

Defensive Pedagogy

Callahan argues throughout the book that the many applications of “scientific management” and “business efficiency” in schools were not done to actually improve the educational climate for teachers and students, but to defend the growing budgets for public education and the school administrators and superintendents who managed those budgets from the withering criticism of “reformers”. For example…

Bobbitt’s system, which had the merit of being very definite, presented an interpretation of education which men in business and industry could understand. It too, if applied, would enable schoolmen to defend themselves, in the first place by making their work seem scientific, and in the second place by relinquishing the responsibility for deciding on educational objectives and – to a great extent – for formulating the contents of the curriculum, and turning these functions over to business and industry. Following Bobbitt’s plan, schoolmen would become mechanics whose task would be to figure out ways and means of doing what they were told. (pg 91)

So I think it is still true today, with things like ordering extra medical tests for “defensive medicine” and all our current educational focus on testing, that much of what we do is to a large degree a CYA (cover your ass) exercise. The public was being manipulated and inflamed by the popular press (e.g. The Ladies Home Journal’s “completely ineffective” charge) and the schools needed to plow money into their defensive PR, as they plow money into testing programs and special outside consultants and interventions today.

The Birth of the Profession of School Administration

Writes Callahan…

The combination of the development of specialized graduate work in school administration, and the growing influence of business on education with the subsequent conception of education as a business, led to the idea of school administration (and especially the superintendency) as a “profession” distinct from teaching… In the years after 1911 the idea of the separate profession developed as a natural corollary of the adoption of the business-industrial practices and, especially, of the adoption of the business organizational pattern to the schools. Since administrators were acquiring graduate credits and degrees, the claim was more defensible. (pg 215)

Franklin Bobbitt and other professors of school administration at the most prestigious education schools led this effort to move the management and governance of schools from scholarly to business-focused managers…

The most unfortunate aspects of Bobbitt’s system were his invitation to laymen, and especially businessmen, to interfere with the work of the schools; his oversimplified and mechanical conception of the nature of education and his almost complete lack of understanding of teaching as an art, which made it possible for him constantly to draw parallels between management and the worker in industry and the administrator and teacher in education; his building up of the authority of the administrator on the one hand while limiting the freedom of the teacher on the other; and his completely unrealistic conception of what would constitute a scientific basis for education… On this last point, Bobbitt, like many of his contemporaries in education, was impatient with educational theory, which he regarded as mere opinion. (pg 92)

Traditionally schools had been run by teachers, with the most senior teachers becoming the schoolmasters. But during this period, in an attempt to try and muffle the criticism, more and more schools and school districts reached out to business professionals to be more involved in school governance, and created a “profession” of school administration mostly divorced from teaching and scholastic wisdom. Writes Callahan…

All these changes were to have important and far-reaching consequences for the schools and especially for the administrators. The self-image of these men began to change. All through the nineteenth century leading administrators such as Horace Mann, Henry Barnard and William T. Harris had conceived of themselves as scholars and statesmen and, in professional terms, the equal of the lawyers or the clergyman. After 1900, especially after 1910, they tended to identify themselves with the successful business executive. (pg. 7)

The education leaders and advocates during the first decades of the 20th century were administrators like Franklin Bobbitt, Leonard Ayres, and Elwood Cubberley

Taken together, these men represented a new type of school administrator… They not only manifested a great interest in and admiration for businessmen and industrialists, but they resembled these men in their behavior. They were active in introducing and using business and industrial procedures and terminology in education, and they centered their attention almost exclusively upon the financial, organizational, and mechanical problems… And they in turn as leaders played a leading role in shaping the new “profession” of educational administration and, through it, the American schools. They did this through their speaking and writing and teaching, and they did it also by setting personal examples of the way to succeed in education. (pg 180)

Perhaps the leading educational administrator of this period was Ellwood P. Cubberley, dean of the School of Education at Stanford, who published his widely read and influential textbook, Public School Administration in 1916. According to author Callahan…

Cubberley described the emergence of the educational efficiency experts as “one of the most significant movements in all of our education history” and he added (prophetically, as it turned out) that their work would “change the whole character of school administration.” (pg 96)

Changing that character involved growing the status of the administrator by ongoing increases in the training requirements including new university degrees in school administration and even graduate work. So for example…

In the academic year of 1899/1900 Teachers College offered only two courses in administration… By the academic year 1924/25, twenty-nine courses were offered to administrators under three main divisions; Courses in Educational Administration for School Superintendents; and Courses for Teachers, Supervisors, and Administrators in Normal Schools and Teachers Colleges. School superintendents were required to take, among others, two large composite courses each carrying 6 points a session – two to three times the usual credit. (pg 195 & 198)

And in the Harvard Graduate School…

By 1927, however, the catalogue was describing the superintendent of schools as the professional “general manager of the entire school system,” and claiming that the job compared with the best in the older professions and in business and industry. It also stated that the money rewards compared favorably with those of “salaried executives” in other lines… The trends taken in administrative training in Teachers College, Chicago, and Harvard were not isolated ones, but typical of the whole country, which, indeed, followed the leadership of these schools. (pg 199)

Professionalizing the key high-level managers of the educational enterprise certainly made them more resilient to criticism from the public and the muckraking press that played the role of public watchdog. But it also increased the top-down control exercised by the educational hierarchy over the teachers and students engaged in the actual learning process. These highly trained “schoolmen” in positions of high administration and authority would certainly be expected to develop the “best practices” that principals would be expected to enforce, teachers to follow, and students to comply with.

The Gender Perspective

In the “in loco parentis” paradigm of the schools, teachers would be the “mothers”, and these highly trained schoolmen were definitely the “fathers” who “knew best”.

Gender is an important perspective that author Callahan does not bring up anywhere in the book, and I think it is a critical missing perspective. At this time in history (and still today but to a lesser extent) the teaching of public school students was and still is a female-dominated profession. In a still very patriarchal society where women could not even vote yet in federal elections, these exclusively male business efficiency “experts” were not about to give any degree of authority to a category of workers made up mostly of women. The “profession” was managing these teachers and not the teachers themselves.

Framing Schools as Educational “Factories” in a Hierarchy of Control

Callahan argues that Cubberley probably had the greatest ongoing influence on the new profession of school administration because of his extensive writing, speaking and teaching. Wrote Cubberley…

Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specification for manufacturing come from the demands of the twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils to the specification laid down. This demands good tools, specialized machinery, continuous measurement of production to see if it is according to specifications, the elimination of waste in manufacture, and a large variety in the output. (pg 152)

This is another key element of the conventional educational paradigm still surviving today. Parents are expected to birth, raise and train their kids to a certain degree and then send them off to school where those “raw products” are “shaped and fashioned” with predefined educational materials to produce the value-added educated worker and citizen that then helps power an industrial society. It is a very simple and mechanistic way of looking at things.

Efficiency’s Progeny

This new educational paradigm, as championed by Cubberley and others involved the administrative hierarchy that still to a large degree exists today. Says Callahan about the education leaders of that time…

For a decade they had accepted the business values in education and now this acceptance – sometime reluctant, but often enthusiastic – came home to haunt them… Now they were committed to a platform of economy and forced to be preoccupied with per-pupil costs. Furthermore, they had worked to establish themselves as executives and they had applied the management-and-worker parallel in education. When action had to be taken it was clear… the best possibility for economizing was on teachers’ salaries. Such savings could be achieved by lowering or freezing pay scales, or, more palatable professionally, by increasing the teacher’s load. Both of these steps were of course unpopular with teachers and as a result administrators had to deal with dissatisfied faculties. (pg 222)

Unlike doctors and lawyers, teachers were getting further and further away from the true governance of their work and the venues (schools) where they applied their craft. But again (harping on the issues of gender), a mostly female workforce of teachers did not have the internal or external authority to fight to make it otherwise.

Writes Callahan…

In the thirties administrators developed impressive-appearing formulas for standardizing and equalizing the teacher’s load. The size of classes in the high school was stabilized in most instances at between 30 and 35 students, and administrators attempted – partly for reasons of economy which were more pressing after 1929 and partly to equalize teaching loads – to see that as many classes as possible were standardized at this level. The result was the teaching load which is accepted as the norm in most public high schools today. This load of five classes (or six) meant that each teacher attempted to teach 150 to 200 students a day,and the unit system which was widely adopted by 1910 required that teachers and students be in class five periods of 45 to 60 minutes a day five days a week for an entire semester. This system, especially in the large high schools, makes the educational process resemble the assembly line in the factory. (pg 239)Undoubtedly the sheer number of students to be educated, plus the great moral commitment to educate all the children to the limit of their ability, would have created stubborn educational problems even if Americans and their educational administrators had not been economy-minded and had not developed a mechanical conception of the nature of education. But fifteen years of admiration for the mass production techniques of industry on the one hand and saturation with the values of efficiency and economy on the other had so conditioned the American people and their school administrators that they allowed their high school teachers to be saddled with an impossibly heavy teaching load. The American people not only allowed this to happen but their insistence on economy forced it upon the schools. And just as some of the leading school administrators did not repel but actually invited lay interference, they not only did not resist this increase in class size but actually initiated the steps, advocated and defended them, and put them into effect. (pg 232)

Callahan writes how this paradigm plays out in today’s structure of the typical school schedule and logistics…

In the thirties administrators developed impressive-appearing formulas for standardizing and equalizing the teacher’s load. The size of classes in the high school was stabilized in most instances at between 30 and 35 students, and administrators attempted – partly for reasons of economy which were more pressing after 1929 and partly to equalize teaching loads – to see that as many classes as possible were standardized at this level. The result was the teaching load which is accepted as the norm in most public high schools today. This load of five classes (or six) meant that each teacher attempted to teach 150 to 200 students a day,and the unit system which was widely adopted by 1910 required that teachers and students be in class five periods of 45 to 60 minutes a day five days a week for an entire semester. This system, especially in the large high schools, makes the educational process resemble the assembly line in the factory. (pg 239)

And how a university infrastructure producing educated “experts” helped in that perpetuation…

Between 1915 and 1925 thousands of men had received professional training at the master’s degree level and had gone into important educational positions all over the country. More important, hundreds had received their doctor’s degrees in educational administration and had gone into even more important positions as superintendents of large cities, as officials in state departments of education, and most important of all as professors of education in teachers colleges and universities where they taught teachers and other student administrators and directed research studies even for the doctor’s degree. (pg 249)

People today who try to understand how societal institutions and the accompanying values and protocols perpetuate themselves, talk about the “path of least resistance” as a critical mechanism of transmission. The industrial paradigm for education with its simple mechanistic process model that acknowledged the primacy of business and the ethical underpinnings of capitalism were apparently such a path.

Other Paths

It was during this same era that John Dewey was formulating and advocating for his ideas on education. From the Wikipedia article on Dewey

The ideas of democracy and social reform are continually discussed in Dewey’s writings on education. Dewey makes a strong case for the importance of education not only as a place to gain content knowledge, but also as a place to learn how to live. In his eyes, the purpose of education should not revolve around the acquisition of a predetermined set of skills, but rather the realization of one’s full potential and the ability to use those skills for the greater good. He notes that “to prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities”… Dewey goes on to acknowledge that education and schooling are instrumental in creating social change and reform. He notes that “education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction”

Dewey’s vision of giving the student “command of himself” obviously did not carry the day relative to the industrial paradigm of Cubberley and others where the student acquired “a predetermined set of skills”. The failure of truly progressive and holistic education in Dewey’s time, and later when it had a renaissance in the 1960s and 1970s speaks to the power of this prevailing industrial paradigm of education.

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