Dewey Lost! No Not That Dewey…

Like you, I imagine some elite boarding school out there where they teach Virgil and the Greek philosophers and maybe even Latin. Having said that, I’ve got to believe it’s pretty darned rare. Maybe there are more perennialist schools in the UK, but not so many in the US.

I went to a progressive private school. I laughed when I read in one of our Electronic Reserve Readings that “Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost” (Labaree, 2005, pages 279-280). This was certainly true in my school. There were progressivist quotes all over the place but, in the end, it was certainly essentialist in its focus on ‘core’ subjects, grades, testing and results. In reality, my school was a college prep school with enough art, music, PE and cooperative learning to make all the political constituencies feel good about their ‘progressive’ school.

That was a very long time ago and I wonder if it has gotten closer to its roots in the intervening 30 years, but I doubt it. As a rule, our society is very essentialist and the school’s constituency is urban yuppie, which is to say ‘success’ focused. I don’t recall seeing any mention of this in our various readings but I wonder if the modern heirs of Dewey are the alternatives schools like Waldorf and Montessori? It seems that this may not be the conventional view but I see many similarities. I look forward to learning more about these kinds of schools as this program unfolds.

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