Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Definition of Progressive Education We Have Embraced

Two weeks ago, High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning Director Kate McElvaney and I attended the Progressive Education Network Conference in New York City. In attendance were hundreds of public and independent educators who are proud to embrace the tenets of progressive education, just as we do at High Meadows. As you might expect, schools that call themselves "progressive" often apply different practices and, therefore, have varying definitions of what the word means.

For this reason, the big buzz at the conference was around a new book, Tom Little's Loving Learning. The book highlights several examples of progressive school programs around the nation (High Meadows is given a shout-out in the index). Our teachers and administrators have all read it and continue to discuss it (and be on the lookout for a parent group study of the book this winter).

Tom (who, sadly, has since passed away) provides a compelling definition of progressive education based largely on the writings of John Dewey and Francis Parker as well as his own observation of dozens of schools. Many of the schools at the conference have embraced the definition, as have we:

Progressive Education prepares students for active participation in a democratic society, in the context of a child-centered environment, and with an enduring commitment to social justice.

Tom further highlights six core strategies shared by progressive schools:

1. Attention to children's emotions as well as their intellects;
2. Reliance on students' interests to guide their learning;
3. Curtailment or outright bans on testing, grading, and ranking;
4. Involvement of students in real-world endeavors, from going on field trips to managing a farm;
5. The study of topics in an integrated way, from a variety of different disciplines; and, not least,
6. Support for children to develop a sense of social justice and become active participants in     
    America's democracy.

For those of you who know High Meadows well, can you see where our mission fits into the above? Our faculty and staff will be continuing to discuss and identify our progressive practices with regard to these core strategies. I hope you will join us and feel free to comment!