If you encourage students to express themselves, you’re teaching progressive English composition. You’re teaching a traditional curriculum, says Charles Murray, if you “make them diagram sentences and mark up their papers for grammatical and spelling errors. In red ink.” At AEI’s Enterprise Blog, Murray describes receiving an email from a teacher who wondered if he is teaching a traditional or progressive curriculum, since the terms are thrown around with little attempt to define them. Murray, offers no defintion, but with tongue clearly in cheek offers a few examples:
Progressive science: Teach about how pollution affects the lives of all of us.
Traditional: Teach chemistry, physics, and biology.
Progressive American studies: Mention James Madison in a sentence and devote a chapter to Harriet Tubman.
Traditional: Devote a chapter to James Madison and mention Harriet Tubman in a sentence (maybe a paragraph).
Methinks he’s merely scratching the surface. Here are some Murray neglected to list:
Traditional: “Miss Jones”
Traditional: Pop quiz
Traditional: State capitols
Progressive: My community
Traditional: “You’re suspended!”
Progressive: “You need to reflect.”
Traditional: Writing assignment
Progressive: Writer’s notebook
Traditional: a² + b² = c²
Progressive: How tall is that tree? Here’s a kite, some string and a yardstick.
Traditional: Eat your spinach.
Progressive: Who picked your spinach?