JANUARY 30, 1947
NEW YORK, Wednesday—I was called up last evening by some friends who are deeply interested in progressive education and who feel that my recent column on that subject was very unfair. They say that only about 1 percent of the children of this country are actually getting the benefit of an education as given in a really progressive school. That is more than likely, and I am afraid they took my word "progressive" too literally. Much of the education today in public schools is called progressive education.
What I was really complaining about is what perhaps could better be described as modern education. So much emphasis is placed on the development of the individual child and so little upon any kind of unpopular or unwanted discipline! That is probably not progressive education at all, but just plainly the easiest way to get along.
There is one kind of progressive education which I have seen at close range and which worked miracles in drawing a whole community together. Ordinarily a community grows together gradually, little by little over a period of years, but this community was started like a mushroom field and sprouted all at once. The woman who started the first school there, Miss Elsie Clapp, made it the center of the community, and she related the school and its children to their environment. They were busy with many useful projects which touched on their daily lives, their past history and their future possibilities. I imagine that that might have been called an extremely good progressive school.
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I realize that many of those who are horrified at my using the word "progressive" lightly would probably say that any shortcomings are due to the lack of really well-trained teachers. That may be, but if it is true, then that is a lack which we have to face, for it may be that, without well-trained teachers, the process is not as successful as it was intended to be.
In any case, I am glad if I have created sufficient interest to make people look into their schools, both public and private, and decide whether these are giving children, rich and poor, the kind of education which will prevent juvenile delinquency. It is a mistake to think that juvenile delinquents are produced only where children have few advantages. The more advantages you have, the more should be expected of you; and if you fall far short, even though you may not actually go to jail, you may be quite as much a failure as the child who is sent to a reformatory.
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I see in the paper that our Dutchess County representative in the New York State Senate—Sen. Frederic H. Bontecou—has introduced a bill which was denounced by the American Federation of Labor, who supported him for reelection last November. They are wholeheartedly against his bill, which would outlaw the closed shop. Employees would still have the right to bargain collectively, but they would not be barred from employment in certain companies if they did not belong to a union.
I can hardly see why the members of the American Federation of Labor should be so much surprised. This Senator's record on labor legislation would seem to lead logically to the presentation of this bill.