One thing that is lost in Scott's citation of plenty of evidence that "traditional" schooling has always been dominant in the US is the fact that at this moment we are well into a period of conservative, back-to-basics backlash. It is not just that things haven't been changing, in many ways they've been changing in the wrong direction. Significant large scale reform efforts in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and innumerable other schools and districts were smothered in their cradles as this period began. Certainly my personal experience was that the seventies were more progressive than subsequent decades.
See also Sylvia's comment.
Tom, I concur. One of my favorite passages is from The Schools Our Children Deserve (Alfie Kohn). After describing how traditional (rather than progressive) education has been the norm for decades, Kohn says:
[To] look at all this evidence together is to understand the absurdity of claims that progressivism runs rampant in our educational system. … [M]any traditionalists insist that our schools are failing. Let’s assume, despite some data to the contrary … that here they have a point. … If, as the evidence indicates, anything that might reasonably be called progressive is actually a rarity in American education, it becomes rather difficult to blame our problems (real or alleged) on these progressive practices. … [I]f students aren’t learning effectively, it may be BECAUSE of the persistence of traditional beliefs and practices - a hypothesis supported by a considerable body of evidence, as we’ll see. (p. 11)
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