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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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The Plans and Principles of District Progressivism

The Plans and Principles of District Progressivism

(p.51) 2 The Plans and Principles of District Progressivism
The Importance of Being Urban

David A. Gamson

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 2 focuses on the reforms and designs national leaders devised to improve both public schools and municipal governance, and it offers depth and detail on the specific innovations that elites urged cities to adopt. The chapter describes three of the main educational initiatives undertaken by urban school leaders: administrative reorganization of school districts, classification of children into different ability groups, and reform and revision of the school curriculum. Despite the seeming inconsistencies scholars have described across these reforms, Gamson argues that several common tenets provided the conceptual backbone for these reforms. District progressives saw their mission as instilling an understanding of “true democracy;” they believed that not all Americans were intellectually equal, asserting that they could democratically differentiate elements of society; and they argued that reforms could be unified when implemented together on a district-wide scale. The chapter also posits that the narrow slice of time between, roughly, 1913 and 1918 constituted quite possibly the most productive period in twentieth-century educational thought and identifies concepts offered by reformers such as John Dewey, Ellwood Cubberley, and Lewis Terman. During these same years, civic-minded leaders poured forth a host of vibrant ideas and plans for reforming and strengthening American municipal governments.

Keywords:   democratic education, school reform, municipal governance, progressive education, intelligence testing, differentiation, curriculum revision, Ellwood Cubberley, Lewis Terman, John Dewey

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