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Tyack and Cuban with Dewey on Social Change
David Tyack and Larry Cuban do share similar views to John Dewey about the nature of the traditional education system in the United States as well as its origins. Public education as it exists today is a product of the 19th Century industrialization and urbanization process, which created schools that resembled factories, timetables and schedules, and teachers who acted like bosses on a factory floor. Dewey of course abhorred this system and criticized it unmercifully for decades, both in the way it was structured and the type of information it imparted to students. In the history of American education, there has never been a more vocal, prominent and outspoken critic of the traditional system than Dewey, and none has been the subject of greater wrath from conservatives and traditionalists, even decades after his death. Tyack and Cuban are well aware of the problems with traditional education, especially as the country was preparing to enter the 21st Century, but their idea of successful reform was always incremental and gradualist compared to Dewey. He was prepared to scrap the whole system and start over with a radically different blueprint, and one that has almost never been implemented in public schools as he would have wished.
Our public education system as it exists today was created by elite interests from the late-19th Century to the 1950s. All of the aspects of public education that students and parents have come to assume as normal, such as age-grading, separation of subjects, schedules and one teacher per classroom, are all part of this system created by the policy elites and which has changed little in the past 100 years. This grammar of schools also demands "strict discipline," traditional subjects and rigid control of the classroom by teachers. Would-be reformers are simply not allowed to depart greatly from this model without incurring the wrath of the bureaucracy, business interests, teachers and parents (Tyack and Cuban, p. 9). Dewey would have agreed with them that the 'grammar of schooling' is a 'dead ritual' that has changed very little in the last 100 years, although some new and trendy reforms have been added and assimilated to the same basic structure.
Tyack and Cuban were under no illusions about the origins of this particular kind of educational grammar. They knew that business leaders had the greatest impact on public education as the United States industrialized in the 19th Century, and that they dominated most school boards up to the New Deal era of the 1930s, and again after World War II. Capitalists and those they funded and employed insisted that schools be run in a "business-like" manner, with schedules, timetables, age-graded levels, primarily to prepare students for work in factories and offices. Indeed, public schools came to resemble the factories and offices of industrial capitalism, run like the assembly lines of Henry Ford according to the 'scientific management' principles of Frederick Taylor (Tyack and Cuban, p, 85). This was the exact era in which John Dewey formulated his ideas on progressive education and of course his strenuous opposition to the 'factory schools' created by the industrial barons and their allies.
Dewey would have agreed with Tyack and Cuban that some progressive reformers had gone too far in the direction of faddishness and trendiness in their schools, and that this should be corrected. Dewey thought that some progressive schools had gone too far in the other direction, though, in the name of rejecting the evils and absurdities of the traditional school. He did not maintain that all guidance from teachers and adults must be rejected as "an invasion of individual freedom" (Dewey, p. 9). Not all experiences are "genuinely or equally educative," while some are positively "mis-educative," since some experiences may land the individual "in a groove or rut; the effect again is to narrow the field of further experience" (Dewey, p. 13). Experiences may be too "disconnected from one another" to have any overall pattern or meaning, or they may be enjoyable but do nothing to teach self-control (Dewey, p. 14). He denied that free activity was "an end in itself," and regarded this as a great mistake in the application of his pedagogical principles (Dewey, p. 73). Dewey did not advocate simply allowing children to do whatever they felt like without any guidance from the teacher and asserted that "there is no intellectual growth without some reconstruction, some remaking, of impulses and desires in the form in which they first show themselves" (Dewey, p. 74).
Differences- Share the differences and ways in which they have contradictory ideas.
Tyack and Cuban considered John Dewey as one of many Utopian educational reformers in American history, even though he was probably the best known and most influential of them all. From the time of the American Revolution onward, reformers like Thomas Jefferson vested great hopes in the public education system that were almost certainly beyond its capacity to fulfill. In the 19th Century, the Protestant-republican ideology of Horace Mann dominated the early public school systems, with particular emphasis on assimilating and "Americanizing" immigrants, although this was also why many Catholic immigrants seceded from the public school system in favor of schools that taught their own religion and values (Tyack and Cuban, p. 16). Progressives like Dewey, with their faith in science, evolution and pragmatism, were also in continuity with this republic faith in the powers of public schools, now reformed and updated to meet the needs of the urban, industrial economy of the 20th Century. Dewey was fired with crusading, evangelical zeal as well, even though he had rejected traditional religion and its place in public education, much to the chagrin of Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists over the last century. Dewey's vision for the public school system -- and for the larger society -- was purely secular and scientific, and he wanted schools to prepare students to take their place as citizens in a modern, democratic society. He thought that the schools were turning out passive drones and robots on an assembly line rather than independent, critically thinking individuals, and that such as system was more suited for an authoritarian society.
Tyack and Cuban maintained that most of the various reform efforts of the past 100 years, many of which had failed, but Dewey would have found their attitude too conservative, cynical and pessimistic. His purpose was not simply to describe the system but to change it, and he thought that his model was far more in keeping with a democratic society. For progressives, traditional education was stultifying, with knowledge becoming an "imposition from above and outside" using subject matter and pedagogical methods that were "foreign to the existing capacities of the young" (Dewey, p. 4). Traditional education had many downright "brutal features" and students did not participate at all in what was being taught -- most of which was simply "static" knowledge from the past that did not prepare them for life in the modern world (Dewey, p. 4). It treated students like robots with no respect for their humanity or individual personalities, and often failed to emphasize causality even though cause-and-effect was one of the fundamental principles of modern science, and "neither the relation nor grasp of its meaning is foreign to the experience of even the young child" (Dewey, p. 104). Dewey continually denounced traditional education as authoritarian, in which "passive and receptive students" received information from teachers and textbooks with no escape except "irregular and perhaps disobedient" acts (Dewey, p. 72). Subject matter in progressive education should be drawn from life experience than developed "into a fuller and richer and also more organized form," just as an infant learns to crawl before walking (Dewey, p. 86). Dewey repeatedly reiterates that the "cardinal precept" of progressive education must always be "that the beginning of instruction shall be made with the experience learners already have" (Dewey, p.88).
Progressive education emphasized free activity as opposed to external control and coercion by the teacher, and learning from experience rather than texts, lectures, drills and memorization. It placed more value on "acquaintance with a changing world" rather than the dead world of the past (Dewey, p. 6). All of the most important learning in life came through personal experience rather than information imparted by teachers into the minds of students (Dewey, p. 8). Traditional education was dull and boring, and caused many students to lose interest in learning forever and to be "rendered callous to ideas." After excessive drilling and memorization, they lost "the power of judgment and capacity to act intelligently in new situations." They came to associate all learning with "dull drudgery" and lost interest in reading anything except "flashy" and simplistic materials. In short, traditional education provided many "defective and wrong experiences" that were actually damaging to real learning (Dewey, p. 15). Traditional education was so "bound up with the past as to give little help in dealing with the issues of the present and future." Knowledge about the past…[continue]
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