13 SES 12 A, The Language of Pedagogy: History, Theory, Policy and Practice
Early in the progressive era (1890-1930), educational reformers in the United States found inspiration in continental pedagogical theory. Beginning in the mid-1800s many wealthy Americans studied in Europe where they encountered the ideas of Herbart, Pestalozzi, and Froebel (Tanner & Tanner, 2007; Walker, 2003). Continental pedagogy appealed to the Americans for at least two reasons. First, in Europe they discovered more humane practices that would be a welcome replacement to the rigid recitation and strict discipline of early American schools. Second, the conception of education as a process of liberation that permeated the German enlightenment from Kant onward coincided with their interests in educating future generations for citizenship in a burgeoning democratic society. However, inspired by continental pedagogy progressive reformers like John Dewey may have been, the influence of continental ideas were reconstituted when they traveled across the Atlantic. This paper examines the various ways educational research and practice in the United States has diverged from the continental tradition by becoming reliant on prescriptive psychological and managerial theory, using American curriculum studies as an illustrative example. From its origins as a specialized field of academic study and practice, curriculum has reduced the art of education to a mere technocratic endeavor. As discrete technologies, curricular and instructional theory become prescriptions for practice, rather than reflecting and clarifying practice in its intrinsic primacy and dignity (Bollnow, 1989). When curriculum is reduced from an educational course being run to materials-in-use, and teaching is reduced from a special intergenerational relationship to series of techniques or strategies, the full range of responsibilities implicit to being an educator is evaded and the dignity of educational practice is lost. The paper concludes by imagining possibilities for realizing key tenets of continental pedagogy (i.e. pedagogy as a hopeful enterprise motivated by love) and to reinvigorate the dignity of reflective practice in a system designed to reduce it to mere technocratic production. Reasserting the primacy of practice through continental pedagogy affirms a humanizing and liberating alternative to standardized instructional management that beleaguers many educators in the United States.
Bollnow, O.F. (1989/2020). Theory and practice in education. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333295910_Bollnow_1988_Theory_and_Practice_in_Education Tanner, C. A. (2007). The curriculum revolution revisited. Journal of Nursing Education, 46(2), 51-52. Walker, D. F. (2003). Fundamentals of curriculum: Passion and professionalism. Routledge.
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