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The Importance of Being UrbanDesigning the Progressive School District, 1890-1940$
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David A. Gamson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226634548

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226634685.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 04 August 2021

Introduction

Introduction

District Progressives and the Progressive School District

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
The Importance of Being Urban
Author(s):

David A. Gamson

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226634685.003.0001

The book’s opening chapter introduces key concepts that rest at the core of The Importance of Being Urban and identifies the years between 1913 and 1928 as crucial to the forging of district progressivism. Several dilemmas faced Progressive Era school leaders in the early twentieth century; among them was the challenge of harnessing the exciting pedagogical experiments emerging in small, often independent, schools and spreading those innovations throughout large urban districts. Gamson argues that by examining school reform at the level of the urban school system, one sees that “district progressives” often blended approaches that historians have viewed as incompatible, such as hands-on, child-centered instructional practices with more rigid testing and tracking initiatives. Through a comparative analysis of school systems in four western cities—Oakland, Denver, Portland, and Seattle—he demonstrates how the willful eclecticism of district practitioners often mirrored that of municipal leaders. The introduction raises central questions that will be explored throughout the book, including: what did it mean to be a progressive school district? And how did progressives blend science and efficiency with democratic practices in ways that they believed ultimately offered students equal educational opportunities?

Keywords:   district progressives, district-wide reform, historiography, Progressive Era, municipal reform, school districts, urban school districts, urban schools, democracy, progressive education

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