Cultural history of education


You can read parts 1 and 2 of this series here and here.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Enlightenment rationalism gradually weakened the influence of the Christian worldview.

The separation of church and state naturally led to the development of public schools and the decoupling of education from traditional religious influences.

In North America, two different educational movements fought for control of the newly developing public school system. The first was the “classical liberal” model, a secularized version of Western Christian Paideia. The second was a “progressive” model, guided primarily by his nineteenth-century utopian socialism and his twentieth-century Marxist ideas.

classical liberal arts education

In the face of the waning influence of Christianity, classical scholars argued that students should still have access to Western canon. Includes research.

This largely secular vision has become commonly known as “liberal education.” It was intended to avoid sectarian conflict and focus on traditional Western literary and scientific achievements.

Classic liberal teachers sought to impart knowledge and skills, cultivate imagination, and develop the ability to think independently. Their mission was to prepare young people for mature participation in the civics, culture and business of Western democratic societies.

Among believers, it was generally believed that moral and religious education continued outside the public education system, in churches, Sunday schools, and homes.

We all knew that college-bound students needed academic preparation, but classical liberal educators believed that every child should be exposed to social organizing principles and various human qualities. I believed I needed to be coached on experience.

Over the last century of Christian cultural hegemony, classical scholars sought to maintain schools that developed the ability to reason and enrich the lives of young citizens.

But the liberal model was not destined to win.

Progressive “Haste”

In “The Battle of the American Mind”, Hegseth and Goodwin argue that Western progressives launched a “secret war against Western civilization” in the early 20th century.

The author points to the literal “robbery” of the public school system. They said: ”

Marxist intellectuals write about the heroic progress of progressive education and how the movement overcame outdated educational practices. Progressives adopted the very idea of ​​democracy, arguing that teachers should help bridge the gap between school and society. became.

As early as the mid-19th century, the classical English grammar school model adopted in early colonial North America gave way to the educational ideals of European social reformers such as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Herbert and Froebel. I was. This has changed our perception of the purpose of school, gradually replacing the focus on literacy and knowledge acquisition for “positive” teaching methods and the interest of the child.

Pedagogical experts posed as advocates for working-class children. They advocate a “differentiated curriculum” that provides a less rigorous, more “practical” education to children of poorer parents, immigrants, and racial minorities who they consider to be academically underperforming. proposed.

Progressive policies were attractively summed up with democratic rhetoric. Educators claimed they were freeing young minds from boring conventional teaching and rote learning. “Teaching the child, not the subject” became the motto of the “student-centered school”.

However, it soon became clear that the progressive mission was not to “teach” but to “lead” students toward a hypercritical view of Western civilization.January 15, 1987 Former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and about 500 protesters marched down Palm Drive, the Grand Main Entrance of Stanford University, chanting “Hey hey ho ho Western Civ must go.”

Epoch Times photo
Statue of the Greek philosopher Socrates. Classical liberal education sought to impart knowledge and develop the capacity for independent thinking in order to prepare young people for participation in the civic, cultural, and business issues of Western democratic societies.・Panasevic/Shutterstock)

classicist pushed back

By the mid-twentieth century, some classical liberal scholars had objected. Progressive received backlash from many school districts. Some argued that the progressive vision was not only highly “undemocratic”, but also harmful to students and the society in which they lived.

In 1953, Canadian historian Hilda Neatby published So Little for the Mind, a poignant account of the progressive reforms undertaken in Canada’s public school system. A respected University of Saskatchewan academic argued that progressive teaching methods are anti-intellectual, anti-cultural and immoral. Neatby argued that “there is no attempt to train, train, train the mind.”

In 1961, Columbia University history professor Lawrence A. Cremin wrote a similar critique titled “School Transformation: Progressivism in American Education, 1876-1957.” Klemin also noted the anti-intellectual emphasis on non-academic subject matter and questionable teaching methods that have become a hallmark of the progressive movement.

Such books by serious thinkers have raised important concerns about the purpose and quality of progressive schooling. Some parents and citizens began to resist and look for private alternatives.

From where I am writing in Nova Scotia, those who founded the independent Halifax Grammar School in 1958 are said to have been inspired by Neatby’s insistence on progressive public education.

Nevertheless, due to the persistence of a firmly established educational bureaucracy, most schools on the North American continent eventually reverted to progressive policies and practices.

From the dawn of the Age of Aquarius in the 1960s, the odds weighed heavily on any movement dedicated to the revival of classic liberal paydea.

progressive dominates

Throughout the 20th century, in the United States and Canada, provinces, provinces, and local governments took over almost entirely responsibility for the provision of education.

Ultimately, all forms of primary and secondary education are Catholic. Protestant, Jewish, public, private – influenced by progressive models.

Hegseth and Goodwin argue that as early as the 1920s and 1930s, government accreditation requirements were introduced to validate school diplomas and control the transition to postsecondary education.

Teachers were accredited through progressive-designed teaching colleges. “Graduation requirements and diplomas were approved by the state under the Department of Progressive Education. Textbook authors descended from this vocational teacher class were trained at progressive education colleges.”

Progressive schools were well equipped to disconnect vulnerable young people from the basic principles of Judeo-Christianity, democratic capitalism, and Western culture. Compulsory education and progressive policy experts gradually replaced the cultural influence of churches, parents, communities and classical scholars.

The North American business community paid little attention to what was happening in education. They focused on free market trade and wealth production rather than cultural change.

The masses of the 20th century were complacent with technological progress, economic prosperity, and utopian visions, and neither religious educators nor classical liberals were capable of resisting what came next.

In addition to the turmoil caused by the increasingly radical school reforms of the 1960s, many of the same progressive educational practices 70’s.

To this day, progressive education faculties have produced thousands of graduates seeking to displace remaining traditional teachers and advance a new era of social justice education, activist training, and a culture of awakening for the 21st century. is. A secular progressive government agent has become a permanent school master for the children of North America.

One of the major school reformers of the last century was the iconic Columbia University philosopher John Dewey. His ideas have influenced educational theory for over 100 years. Dewey’s worldview is explored in detail in Part 4 of this educational and cultural history.

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Epoch Times.

William Brooks


William Brooks is a Canadian author writing for the Epoch Times from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of “The Civil Conversation” of his Civitas Society in Canada.