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Was Progressive Education Progressive?

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Abstract

The story of Helen Heffernan and Corinne Seeds provides a well-documented example of how progressive education was enacted at the local and state levels. Their work was specific to California, but at the same time was typical of the way progressive ideas were implemented across the country. In this chapter I turn from a narrative of their activities to an analysis of their thought. While they did not yet work closely together, their writings provide evidence not only of their own thinking but of the educational vision of liberal progressive educators more generally in the years before the Second World War. The ideas of Seeds and Heffernan reveal the competing and overlapping discourses of freedom and control, equity and unacknowledged privilege, that marked progressive education in these years.

Keywords

  • Student Teacher
  • Polar Bear
  • Progressive Education
  • Activity Curriculum
  • Rhythmic Expression

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Notes

  1. Corinne Seeds. “An Interpretation of the Integrated Program in the Elementary School,” CJEE 3, no. 2 (November 1934): 89.

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  2. Corinne Seeds, “Democratic Thinking and Living in the Classroom,” Educational Method, 14, no. 2 (November, 1934): 59.

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  3. Corinne Seeds, “Democratic Thinking and Living in the Classroom,” Educational Method, 14, no. 2 (November 1934): 57–63.

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  4. See Valerie Walkerdine, Schoolgirl Fictions (Verso, 1990); Kevin Brehony, “From the Particular to the General, the Continuous to the Discontinuous: Progressive Education Revisited,” History of Education, 30, no. 5 (2001): 429.

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  5. Thomas Popkewitz, “A Changing Terrain of Knowledge and Power: A Social Epistemology of Educational Research,” Educational Researcher 26, no. 9 (December 1997): 27.

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  6. Corinne Seeds, “The School and Its Task,” CJEE, 5, no. 4 (May 1937): 202–3.

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  7. Gary Gerstle, “The Protean Character of American Liberalism,” American Historical Review, 99, no. 4 (October 1994): 1046.

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  8. Helen Heffernan, “The Guiding Philosophy of the Unitary Type of Curriculum Organization,” WJE 43, no. 1 (January 1937): 6.

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  9. Helen Heffernan, “What California Parents Think of the Report Card,” CJEE 1, no. 1 (November 1932): 82.

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  10. Helen Heffernan, “Supervision Appropriate for Progressive Schools,” CJEE 6, no. 1 (August 1937): 233.

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  11. Helen Heffernan, “Classification and Promotion Policies in Some City School Systems,” CJEE 5, no. 4 (May 1936): 228.

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  12. Lawrence Chenoweth, Helen Heffernan, and William Paden, “Interpreting the School to the People,” CJEE 2, no. 3 (February 1934): 113–14.

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  13. Kathleen Weiler, “The Genealogy of Gender in the History of Progressive Education in the United States,” Paedagogica Historica 42, nos. 1&2 (February 2006): 161–76.

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  14. Corinne Seeds, “What Learning Experiences Are Likely to Prove Developmental During Later Childhood,” CJEE 10, no. 5 (August 1941): 43.

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  15. Corinne Seeds, “Rhythmic Expression: An Outgrowth of Learning,” Progressive Education 11, no. 11 (November 1934): 405.

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  16. Helen Heffernan, “Supervision Appropriate for Progressive Schools,” CJEE 6, no. 1 (August 1937): 21.

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  17. Helen Heffernan, “Review of Corinne A. Seeds, Childhood Expressions,” California Schools 8, no. 2 (February 1937): 68.

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© 2011 Kathleen Weiler

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Weiler, K. (2011). Was Progressive Education Progressive?. In: Democracy and Schooling in California. Historical Studies in Education. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137015914_4

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