Subscribe to SLJ
Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Progressive Education

I went through 12 years of pure Progressive ed, straight from Dewey himself via TC to the New Lincoln School. As a result I have mixed feelings about Progressive Ed — recalling both the freedom to think and the lack of basic structures. But an experience today made me think I have not been as appreciative of it as I should be.

Our younger son does not like to be out of his routines or comfort zones — home is better than outside, our town better than going to the city, staying in America better than going to India. And, this morning, staying at the home we are in here in Delhi much better than going to visit a tomb. But when he reached Humayan’s Tomb his eyes popped wide, and all he wanted to do — insisting on doing — was taking out his sketch pad and drawing the wondrous buildings he saw. No classroom, no text, no drill, no preparation in how to draw could have had the effect of seeing the building in front of his eyes, and then trying his hand at getting it on the paper — followed by, in his best 6 year old handwriting — naming what he was drawing.

Learning by doing — learning because was compelled to do something, not because it fit a rubric or could produce an uptick on a graph of test scores. Just because it so fascinated him. I started to think maybe — even if they did not give us enough structure — New Lincoln did give us a great deal by letting us explore. Not everyone will get a Mughal tomb to sketch, but there is something out there they will catch their eye their interest their passion. And you can’t do better than that.


  1. What a wonderful moment to witness!