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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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Designing the Democratic School District

(p.254) 7 Conclusion
The Importance of Being Urban

David A. Gamson

University of Chicago Press

The conclusion addresses a fundamental hazard of the analytic urge to divide educational practitioners into distinct categories: it masks the core nature of district progressive practice. Not only did administrative reorganization accompany more pedagogically oriented reforms, but progressive leaders often saw such reorganization as essential to carrying out their instructional and curricular innovations. Where scholars see contradictions among practices, they saw pragmatic programs that helped them reach their goals. Gamson also argues that a policy window opened for American schools in the years between 1909 and 1919, a period before the widespread use of intelligence tests when local practitioners not only sought out the reasons for student failure but also experimented with viable approaches to getting pupils back to grade level. Finally, the author suggests that American society is undergoing a major transformation that is not dissimilar to one that occurred roughly a century ago. Progressive educators ultimately delivered an inequitable education system within the context of an unequal world. Can twenty-first-century Americans learn from the mistakes of the past and offer a richer response that fulfills the potential of education in a democracy?

Keywords:   school reform, district progressives, school districts, student failure, democratic education, instructional innovations, intelligence tests, curriculum, educational equity, American democracy

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