Traditional vs. Progressive

by Robert Pondiscio
May 26th, 2010

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”
Progressive:  “Betty”

Traditional: Rigor
Progressive: Engagement

Traditional:  Pop quiz
Progressive: Portfolio

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?

Not Either/Or…It’s AND

by Robert Pondiscio
October 28th, 2009

At Eduwonk, Andy Rotherham catches up to Russ Whitehurst’s paper, Don’t Forget Curriculum.  But he misses the boat when he writes, “I’m not sure when curriculum and reforms like choice, teacher quality, etc…became either/or.”   I’m not sure where Andy’s getting that message, but it’s not from Russ Whitehurst, who went out of his way NOT to say that.  Here’s the relevant quote from his paper:

This is not to say that curriculum reforms should be pursued instead of efforts to create more choice and competition through charters, or to reconstitute the teacher workforce towards higher levels of effectiveness, or to establish high quality, intensive, and targeted preschool programs, all of which have evidence of effectiveness. It is to say that leaving curriculum reform off the table or giving it a very small place makes no sense.

Over at the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, Charles Murray adds his voice to the curriculum choir.

The BA is B-A-D

by Robert Pondiscio
October 12th, 2008

Imagine that you have been made a member of a task force to design America’s post-secondary education system from scratch, writes Charles Murray at Cato Unbound.  One of your colleagues submits this proposal:

First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that often has nothing to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn’t meet the goal. We will call the goal a “BA.”

You would conclude that your colleague was cruel, not to say insane, says Murray.  ”I have taken as my mission to do everything I can to undermine the BA,” Murray announces.  “The good news is that the conditions are right for change. There is a diverse world of work out there, filled with jobs that are interesting, well-paying, and intrinsically rewarding, that do not call for the kind of training that colleges are designed to provide.”