- Progressive Education
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Progressive educational thought stems from the work of John Dewey, and has as the central tenet the education of engaged citizens for a democratic society. Progressive schools value a diversity of thought and culture, as well as a commitment to equity and justice. At Putney we have a program which fosters personal initiative and adaptability, engaging all parts of a student’s development, not just the academic part. The culture embodies respect for the individual and the rewards of participation in a community. We aim, as our founder Mrs. Hinton said, ‘to make school life a more real, less sheltered, less self-centered venture,’ to make the arts part of everyday life, and to teach stewardship of the land both by the way we live and in a curriculum designed for that purpose.
We regard the curriculum as everything we do here, and therefore eschew the word ‘extra-curricular’. The four pillars of the school, vigorous academics, the work program, the arts, and physical activity, all combine and intertwine to create students who understand what it takes to get things done. One of the hallmarks of Putney is our transparency to our students and our willingness to engage them in the running of the school. We allow and often require our students to struggle with the real dilemmas of crafting a community in which rights and responsibilities balance. Much of a student’s life at Putney is experiential education, and they enjoy both independence and responsibility.
Progressive does not mean permissive
Putney is informal, but not lax. Because our academic program is balanced with physical work, play, and arts for everyone, our days are very busy. Students are encouraged to think for themselves, but respect is one of the key values of the community. Our students are known as individuals and are constantly interacting with adults, with whom they become very comfortable. The realities of working the land, caring for animals and contributing to the well-being of a larger community all lead to natural self-discipline, and an ability to be constructively self-reflective.
Why don’t we teach to Advanced Placement or other standardized tests?
Our goal is to teach students how to define good questions, how to research and analyze, and how to present their thinking in coherent and compelling ways. None of this can be measured by standardized tests such as the APs, which are necessarily designed to teach students how to answer finite questions which others have posed. Putney has never had an AP curriculum, and we are now being joined by many of the top schools in the country. It is clear to us that colleges understand our program, because our students do well in today’s competitive college process. You can learn more about this educational movement at the website of the Independent Curriculum Group.
AP Classes Are a Scam by John Tierney, The Atlantic, October 13, 2012
School: Where Creativity Goes To Hide by Patrick F. Basset, NAIS President, October 11, 2011
Susan Lloyd, The Putney School, A Progressive Experiment, Yale University Press, 1987
Howard Gardner, The Disciplined Mind, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999
Independent Curriculum Group, Putney School: Learning How to Make Things Work, Read Article
Alfie Kohn, The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools, Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2000
"A warning to college profs from a high school teacher" by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, February 9th, 2013
Connie E. North, "Social Justice in Education", 2008
Lynn Olson, "Dewey: The Progressive Era’s Misunderstood Giant," Education Week, April 21, 1999, Vol. 18. No. 32, p. 29
Robert Orrill, Education and Democracy: Re-imagining Liberal Learning in America, New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1997
Talk by Sir Kenneth Robinson Listen
Progressive Education in the 1940’s. Watch Video
(A surprisingly relevant look at some of the early progressive movement)
Are Advanced Placement Courses Diminishing Liberal Arts Education?” by Pal Von Blum in Education Week, Sept. 3, 2008
"Some Private High Schools Drop AP Courses" by Anne Marie Chaker in The Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2004