27 mars 2012

Factory-model schools (Critical Guide, E.D. Hirsch Jr)

"Factory-model schools." A disparaging term used by progressivists to describe the sort of school system created to accommodate ever greater numbers of students in the early twentieth century. The massive new school system is pictured as a bureaucratic hierarchy topped by a superintendent or factory foreman whose job is to make sure that all the schools in the production line are performing in lockstep. 
  Within classrooms, too, the factory-model school is pictured as imposing uniformity on students. They are described as sitting in rows, passively listening while an authoritative teacher indoctrinates them in what the system wants them to know and how the system wants them to think. 

   For many progressivists, the most important objection to factory-model schools is their association with "traditional" education, that is, with the lectures, the authoritative teacher-boss, the desks in straight rows, and the student passivity, as well as with rote memorization, "regurgitation" of facts, and lack of joy and independent thought. 

  With such a picture as the only available alternative, it would be hard not to prefer the individualistic, joyful picture of the naturalistic classroom painted by progressivists. Both pictures are myths. The historical reality is more confusing. 

   In the early twentieth century, school systems had to enlarge to accommodate a huge growth in the school- attending population. The progressive movement itself presided over the creation of enlarged school systems in the 1920s and '30s, even as it promoted progressive pedagogical reforms; for instance, the authors of the Cardinal Principles (1918), the blueprint for the new factory-model schools, were by and large adherents to progressive themes such as "individual differences." No modern industrial nation has been able to avoid some elements of the "factory model" in its efforts simply to educate ever larger percentages of the population. 

  What is really at stake in the polemical use of the term is the association of the factory model with "traditional" pedagogy, as though the two were indissolubly wedded. On the contrary, within a factory-like, hierarchical school system, it is possible to have nontraditional, progressive-style classrooms. That is precisely the arrangement we have today in the United States. 

   Progressive ideas dominate the system's hierarchy. What makes our current system ineffective is the educational ineffectiveness of those ideas. The best hope for improving our "factory" system, which in some form all modern nations are stuck with, is to provide more coherent and focused teaching, with a view to achieving more specific and coherent goals. 

Antipathy to subject-matter content  

"banking theory of schooling" 
"culturally-biased curriculum" 
"outcomes-based education" 
"research has shown"

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This was an excerpt from Hirsch's great book on education :
The Schools We Need 
 and Why We Don't Have Them.
Recension by Richard Askey :  

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