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If we want a different kind of culture, we need a different kind of education.

John Dewey Progressive Education

The Liberal Arts vs. Progressive Education: Part I

All over America, kids are heading back to school. Facebook is jammed with First Day of School pictures, classroom bulletin boards are fully decorated, and School Zone traffic has returned to headache levels. Today, as kids across the country line up for the yellow bus, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on the goals of American education and whether we might do better.

Search the web and you will find any number of lofty “purposes of education:” Education enables us to develop to the fullest. Education cultivates the human mind with values and principles. Education teaches us to think and analyze the world. And many more…

But even those vapid platitudes greatly exceed the reality of modern American education. Today’s public schools do no such things. Public schools are in fact the natural offspring of the Progressive Education movement. John Dewey, the movement’s author and founder, did not envision high purposes. Quite the contrary. He constructed a theory of education that saw children—the product of public schools—as cogs in the machine. Not people made in the image of God, but future workers in the social-democratic order. He emphasized equality rather than liberty. Students need to fit the educational pattern, not the other way around. Materialism was at the heart of his philosophy. People, including school students, are simply matter, and matter can be shaped, fashioned, and manipulated into any form necessary. It was a scientific process for Dewey. Properly quantify the educational process, and you can produce an infinite supply of uniform workers.

We lament the absence of honor and courage in our society, the shocking selfishness that we witness daily. But if we are honest, we must admit that this condition is not an accident. Progressive Education produces what C.S. Lewis called “men without chests” by design. If we want a different kind of culture, we need a different kind of education. That is where bold classical Christian schools like The Saint Constantine School can change America.

To learn more about how classical Christian education differs from Progressivism, please check out my discussion of the Liberal Arts in my next post…

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