A Brief History of Progressive Education

with Dr. Jason Edwards
This course presents a concise history of progressive education that explains how modern education emerged around 1900 to challenge and eventually replace traditional, classical education as the reigning paradigm for American education. To truly understand the current American educational dilemma and challenge, we must know the story of the last 125 years of American educational history. In this course, Dr. Jason Edwards (historian of education at Grove City College) not only presents this story, with its various villains and detractors, but also contrasts the progressive model with the classical model it rose to challenge. Each lecture is followed by a discussion between Dr. Edwards and Dr. Christopher Perrin that explores the practical implications of various progressive educational ideas and practices, often contrasting them with the classical tradition of education. This course is particularly valuable for educational leaders who must distinguish classical education from the progressive model and often defend it from critics who favor the latter or elements of it. Anyone curious to know how the classical model was challenged and almost defeated will enjoy and benefit from this course.

Below is the outline of the course. Please note that a discussion with Dr. Christopher Perrin follows each lecture except one.

  • Introduction: Why Study Progressive Education?
  • Lecture 1: Progressive Education and the Progressive Movement
  • Lecture 2: Education in America before Progressive Education
  • Lecture 3: Just What Is Progressive Education?
  • Lecture 4: Who Was John Dewey?
  • Lecture 5: The Progressive Revolution in America
  • Lecture 6: The Administrative Progressives
  • Lecture 7: The Pedagogical Progressives
  • Lecture 8: The Social Progressives
  • Lecture 9: The “End” of Progressive Education
  • Lecture 10: The Continuation of Progressive Education
  • Lecture 11: Deepening our Understanding of Education (E.D. Hirsh Jr. and Film Study)
  • Lecture 12: Taking the Long View of Progressive and Classical Education
Jason Edwards is an associate professor of education and history at Grove City College. He received his BA in history (1992) from Asbury College and his MA (1994) and PhD (2003) from the University of Kentucky. Jason has served on the board of the Society for Classical Learning and was also instrumental in developing the Classical Studies minor offered at Grove City College. Jason and his wife have two boys whom they are giving a classical Christian education.

Please Note: ClassicalU is currently developing a certification to accompany our course offerings. The certification credit component of this course is now active but also undergoing refinement and testing.

To obtain a certification credit for this course, simply complete the quiz that follows each presentation by Dr. Jason Edwards, and then also take the certification test at the end of the course. The quizzes are designed to ensure that you have understood the essential content of each presentation, and they can be taken more than once if necessary. The cumulative certification test at the end of the course is given as a pass/fail test and requires that you upload two short essays (of 400-600 words) demonstrating your understanding of grammar school teaching and leadership. When you have completed the course, a certificate that you can print or email will magically appear under the “My Courses” section of this website.

For this course the two essay assignments are:

  1. Essay #1 (400-600 words): How did the ideas of progressive education develop historically?
  2. Essay #2 (400-600 words): In what ways are classical education and progressive education similar? In what ways are they different?

Please allow approximately 2 weeks for essay submissions to be reviewed.

By taking the course for certification credit, you also will be on your way to obtaining a Level 2 certification.

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