Introduction: Progressivism’s Aesthetic Education

  • Jesse Raber


In trying to establish the democratic legitimacy of a self-policing educational profession within the public schools, Progressive Era educators developed theories of aesthetic education that resemble those of classical German Bildung. Where classical Bildung uses aesthetic education to reconcile the autonomous individual with a certain social order, though, “Progressivism’s Aesthetic Education” tries to prepare the individual to participate in democratic social action, a collective deliberative process. John Dewey’s is the most compelling version of this program, but other variants are found in American Herbartianism, Montessori education, and social efficiency education. Novelists, including Abraham Cahan, Willa Cather, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, wrote bildungsromans that variously express and critique these ideas. This chapter also contains an extended discussion of the aesthetic ideas of Horace Mann.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesse Raber
    • 1
  1. 1.School of the Art Institute of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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