End this educational war!

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In a previous post, I sketched out what may be the biggest brawl in education: the century-old Traditionalist/Progressivist war. I then promised that our schools will fix this.

How ridiculous of me!

But I'll stick to my guns, and show part of how our new kind of school can end this divide.


First, I'd like to distill everything I wrote before into two sentences:

Traditionalist education values getting old ideas into heads. Progressivist education values getting new ideas out of heads.

(Please forgive my oversimplification.)

Now, I've heard both Traditionalists and Progressivists deny that the other side has any legitimacy. I've heard partisans of each side argue that, don't worry, our way of doing school will accomplish both of these.

I've heard Traditionalists boast that students who stock up on knowledge will be capable of doing new things later in life. And I've heard Progressivists boast that students who get hands-on experience will become interested in old ideas later in life.

May I suggest that we be skeptical of all such boasts, and look at the real-world results?


If I were unafraid of being rude, I'd perhaps point out that some people educated in the Traditionalist manner end up being, well, bores! Bores well-stocked with trivia, perhaps, but not the sort of people who is able to take on exciting new projects, think critically, and help mend a world riven by complex, changing problems.

And if I were, well, drunk, I'd perhaps point out that some people educated in the Progressivist manner end up being fools! Fools who have a strong sense of self, perhaps, but not the sort of person able to take on exciting new projects, think critically, and help mend a world riven by complex, changing problems.

This isn't to say that Traditionalist and Progressivist education doesn't work — just that it doesn't always work, and that its proponents (quite understandably) don't seem willing to point this out.

But if we're going to forge a path beyond the Traditionalist/Progressivist wars, and give kids the sort of education that can help mend the world, then I think we need to look squarely at what's really going on.


So, having cast a plague on both these houses, how do I think our schools can move forward, and heal this divide?

How can we bring together the best of Traditionalist and Progressivist education?

One way: closely align receiving and doing. Join "taking in old ideas" and "pushing out new ideas" snugly together.

I'll write more about how we're already doing this in an upcoming post — and ask how we can do it better!

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA