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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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Evolution Not Revolution in the Public Schools of Seattle, Washington

Evolution Not Revolution in the Public Schools of Seattle, Washington

(p.219) 6 Evolution Not Revolution in the Public Schools of Seattle, Washington
The Importance of Being Urban

David A. Gamson

University of Chicago Press

At first glance, Seattle appeared to avoid much of the tumult experienced by other city school districts in years before, during, and after World War I, a stability that has been symbolized by the remarkably long tenure of Superintendent Frank Cooper (1901-1922). Due to his initiatives like creative play and project-based learning, Cooper has been described by scholars as a unique specimen of a pedagogically progressive district superintendent. Yet the characterization of Seattle as a haven for practices inspired by John Dewey masks a more complex story, because, like Denver, the district implemented a number of reforms that represented rather hard-edged administrative progressivism, including intelligence testing and curricular tracking. Moreover, because the school board included socialists, such as Anna Louise Strong, and more conservative, even reactionary, members, the policies they supported and the actions they took serve to both confirm and complicate traditional narratives about political and ideological alliances during the Progressive Era. District teachers, frustrated by their stagnant, and sometimes retrenched, wages during a period of inflation, sought to form a union, only to be stymied by the school board’s use of yellow dog contracts.​

Keywords:   Frank Cooper, socialism, Anna Louise Strong, Progressive Era, school boards, John Dewey, tracking, intelligence testing, yellow dog contracts, teacher unions

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