" (Montessori, 9) There is a counter-intuitive disconnect between the priorities of the educational system and the real-life demands of individuals attempting to function ably therein.
Here, Montessori speaks to the incredible irony present even in higher education, where students are essentially intended to be prepared for the real world but are instead isolated in a false environment where priorities such as a streamlined means of graded evaluation, a disregard for the physical or emotional needs of students and an overall proclivity toward isolation from true conditions of worldly socialization tend to misappropriate crucial transitional learning years.
In some regards, Montessori's work is relatively outdated, betraying its origins in the first half of the 20th century by criticizing an absence of services that are now present in many universities. Some of the better funded academic institutions do possess programs availing medical treatment and psychological counseling to students where needed at present. If nothing else though, this may be a demonstration as to the effectiveness of Montessori's progressive message over the course of its presence in the educational shared consciousness.
Moreover, more than any other figure in this discussion, Montessori has offered ideas which have gained favor amongst educators and parents in many settings even to date. For parents specifically, her views on early education would provide a sensible approach for those raising either extremely gifted or special needs individuals. By arguing that it is the responsibility of society to provide education for individuals from birth, Montessori has helped to incline the popularity of a strategy used by many in order to help cultivate the individual talents or needs of children from the start of life. In decisive resistance to the notion that babies are in some manner uneducable, Montessori asserts that in infancy and early childhood, children will demonstrate a particularly absorbent mind. At an extremely early stage, human beings are capable of developing learned patterns of behavior and repetitive gestures that will gradually evolve into productive and meaningful actions. By failing to employ educational resources and institutions to the extent that individuals may begin their education at this early juncture, Montessori argues that we are largely squandering an important period in development. This idea of beginning an individualized course of education early in the child's life is itself a distinctly progressive idea stimulated by the pragmatic connotation of progressivism in general.
The impasse which comes to light here, where such figures and Dewey and Kilpatrick appear particularly driven by community interests and where Montessori and her many advocates cite individual learning processes as having significant value reveals one of the core challenges to progressive education implementation. Indeed, these seeming counterpoints to one another help to provide an important reason for the failure of progressive education to achieve any level of mainstream presence in American education. It seems to be an inherent trait of this school of thought that it should be perceived not just as progressive, but also alternative in nature. So suggests Kohn (2008), who remarks that "progressive education doesn't lend itself to a single fixed definition, that seems fitting in light of its reputation for resisting conformity and standardization. Any two educators who describe themselves as sympathetic to this tradition may well see it differently, or at least disagree about which features are the most important." (Kohn, 1)
That said, the Canadian context for education may well be particularly suited to the absence of consensus. As a review on the history of progressive education in Canada demonstrates, different waves of progressivism over time have been implemented differently, Accordingly, research presents the case that this flexibility is one of the most important features of progressivism. Davies (2002) contends that "on the basis of an analysis of three Canadian educational commissions from 1950, 1968, and 1995, . . . progressive education is better understood as highlighting the dual nature of policy frames. Progressive language offers appealing abstract sentiments that are well suited to schools' organizational realities and are adaptable to shifting political and cultural climates." (Davies, 269) This denotes that progressive education in Canada has been implemented according to the understanding that schools require this flexibility of framing in order to achieve the inherently malleable principles of progressive education. The idea that an educational path is unique to each student is also a view which can be said to apply to each school. The research denotes that each school, district and province will possess its own distinct budgetary pressures, cultural proclivities and geographically-driven needs. Thus, what is desirable and what is possible are able to converge under the liberal umbrella of a progressive philosophical orientation. According to Davies, "this flexibility illustrates a key property of framing: how actors create contingent meanings by adapting an inherent logic to changing social situations." (Davies, 269)
For Canada, the distinctions created by differing provincial cultures mean that progressivism is unlikely ever to be implemented in any broad or universal way. From a federal level, it is both unlikely and undesirable that any single framework or lens for education would be seen as fit to apply to all provinces. Therefore, one of the more glaring criticisms of progressive education has actually presented an opportunity to Canadian lawmakers and educational administrators. On a provincial level, it may be reasonable to project curricular expectations according to the principles of progressive education even as these principles are modified according to the identity of individual schools.
Naturally though, this is condition which illustrates the difficulty faced by progressive educators in achieving any level of mainstream relevance where lawmakers and school leaders are concerned. The absence of any true consensus on what is meant by progressive education today, and certainty, the resultant absence of any streamlined or uniform way of evaluating its outcomes make it appear to be unaccountable by the standards of mainstream educators, public agencies and private companies. Though progressive education is supportable in private, magnet or niche schooling contexts, these characteristics do tend to prevent it from becoming something more applicable to public schools. The level of ideological disharmony reflected in a spectrum of progressive approaches, which transcends disagreement and manifests as outright scientific criticism, stands in the way of progressive education's influence. As Kohn denotes, "talk to enough progressive educators, in fact, and you'll begin to notice certain paradoxes: Some people focus on the unique needs of individual students, while others invoke the importance of a community of learners; some describe learning as a process, more journey than destination, while others believe that tasks should result in authentic products that can be shared." (Kohn, 1)
This debate underscores the aforementioned disagreement over the philosophical derivatives of so-called progressivism. Quite to the point, immigration realities in Canada are changing what is meant by progressive education. This discussion has repeatedly cited the connection between early theories of progressive education and the incorporation of certain political conditions such as the espousal of democracy in practical learning. However, as the research conducted by Mitchell (2009) points out, this may carry certain ethnocentric or politically hegemonic assumptions that defy the philosophical premise of progressivism. Accordingly Mitchell "explores these questions by analyzing a debate regarding the purpose of education in a Vancouver suburb. She shows how immigrants from Hong Kong successfully contest the normative assumptions of Western liberalism, in which the production of democracy, the practice of education, and the constitution of the nation-state are naturally bound together. By tracking the recent ideological debates and the actual decisions made, it is possible to analyze some of the growing rifts between a Dewey-inspired understanding of education and democracy and newer, more global, transnational educational narratives." (Mitchell, 51)
Here, Mitchell provides us with the suggestion that the current mode of progressive education may no longer qualify for this title. Though the emphasis on democracy defies more rigid curricular approaches in the past, it also makes political assumptions that are counterintuitive to a growing ethnic diversity, a more seamless interaction across geographical boundaries and a blurring of the lines previously defining national cultures. The patterns of transnationalism which are changing our political, economic and social schema must also force provincial lawmakers to reconsider that which is meant by progressivism.
Of course, to this issue, it is perhaps best if we turn back to the words of John Dewey for a closing perspective. Dewey seems to argue that, in fact, these seeming polarities are illustrative of a problem in perspective regarding education as a whole. He warns that "mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities. When forced to recognize that the extremes cannot be acted upon, it is still inclined to hold that they are all right in theory that when it comes to practical matters circumstances compel us to compromise." (Dewey, 1)
This is to say that the notion of these opposing progressive viewpoints as being problematic is to understand…