The consequences of Progressive ideas in education
Between 1852 and 1918, compulsory education laws had established public schools funded by every state. By 1940, these schools were transformed into the Progressive model. By 1950, the percent of 5-19 year olds in school rose to all-time highs of between 80% and 90%. This compares with fewer than 50% in 1900. Participation in the system was the bright spot. With classical education replaced and new priorities facing our nation and world, a new form of education set in.
This mixture of progressive education and public institutional education formed the American public school experience. During this time, all religious content was scrubbed from the curriculum. By 1950, the percentage of private school students (mostly religious) was a mere 11% of all enrolled students (1). Political forces (bussing, etc.) caused this percentage to grow later, but the American public school was the most dominant force in the history of formal education.
Few argue that the quality of education throughout this period has been in decline. Since 1940, k-12 education has become less effectual. And, the very idea of what education was came into question. It was time for a change.
Through the 1960s and 70s, the loss was profound. By the late 1970s, restlessness with this new form of education reached a new height. Mortimer Adler, University of Chicago professor, realized that classical education needed to be restored. He founded the Paideia Schools and Marva Collins founded the “West Side Schools” in 1975. These secular approaches sought a return to a form of effective civil education (3).
3- Classical Education: Towards the Revival of American Schooling, Gene Veith and Andrew Kern.