Monday, April 7, 2014

What Does it Mean to be "Progressive" (at High Meadows)?

Progressive (adj.): favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are.

High Meadows is proud to call itself a "progressive" school. But what does that mean exactly? Progressive educators hold many beliefs in common, while there are others on which they disagree. One of my favorite pieces that seeks to define progressive education is Alfie Kohn's "Progressive Education: Why It's Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find," published in Independent School Magazine in 2008.

Kohn highlights the most common characteristics most progressive schools share, all of which can be observed at High Meadows on a daily basis:
  • Attending to the whole child
  • Community
  • Collaboration
  • Social Justice
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Deep Understanding
  • Active Learning
  • Taking Kids Seriously
Progressive schools choose to live these values in different ways. At High Meadows, one of the ways we build community is to have multi-age classooms; many progressive schools do not. We employ the IB Primary Years Program to engage students in deep understanding; other schools use similar "project-based" models. We demonstrate our belief in intrinsic motivation by not holding grades as a carrot at the end of a stick, while other progressive schools hand out grades freely (or use grade "proxies" like numbers and smiley faces).

Beyond the fact that High Meadows is progressive educationally, I also like to describe us as being progressive environmentally and socially. We guide children to understand that the natural world is connected to who we are, and that the active understanding of and care for that world is really caring for ourselves. We are socially progressive in that we value diversity and seek to live our diversity statement in meaningful and authentic ways. Most of our sister schools value these tenets deeply, but I think High Meadows demonstrates our commitment to them extraordinarily well.

I have written in the past (see the post below) that these angles of progressivism transcend politics; High Meadows is not a school that expects its families to be left wingers. We have a great diversity of political views at our school--from far left to far right and everything in between, which makes for wonderful discourse and opportunities for learning. As long as we all affirm our mission and guiding principles on behalf our children's education, that's what makes for a strong, vibrant, progressive community.