Above: Democratic Model
My Advanced Placement United States History sections recently discussed the transformation of American identity as it related to the concepts of capitalism and democracy; I used my interest in progressive education to showcase how education was used to bring about a transformation in independent school teaching and the political progressive reforms circa 1900. During the Gilded Age period, the industrial model of education was seen as efficient and pragmatic; however, the traditional machine model as illustrated by a row of desk showcased industry and religion: In the typical classroom model, students’ expectation were to sit and listen to a sage pontificate knowledge; I addressed the religious aspect because the notion of Puritanical beliefs circa 1620 modeled what one found in a church: A minister in front of his followers whose duty was to absorb information rather than engage in a dialogue about the premise of the information.
Why do schools continue to be industrial? If you recall, it is not unusual for a school day to operate much like a factory: Eager students await the day by gathering in lines to enter the hall of their particular factory/school. They make their way from period to period at the beat of a bell; students take on the identity of robots as they appear to have conformed to a systematic process of clock watching. As the bell rings, they escape one shift for the next. They work as endless droids until the whistle blows (or bell rings) denoting lunch; they attend session after session to watch a “manager” play authority over their ability to think freely and/or independently. Some schools operate like prisons and less like learning communities: Windows exist to be boxed up and doors shut to showcase work zones; the manager instructs his/her workers to conform much like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World’s operatives do. A warden polices the hall modeling a lack of distrust for his/her factory workers. Such workers are told to think independently, but they are chained by conformity.
In a classical sense, a great manager by the name of Mr. Keeting (Dead Poets Society) taught his workers to break from the Taylor model of industrial efficiency; however, when they did so, they were met by a factory full of managers who feared true independence of thought; in the end, Oh Captain my Captain was dismissed due to his Socratic formula of teaching . A decade later, his workers took on the revolution espoused by Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and brought about an educational system that empowered the young workers. Those young progressives used Marx’s literature to remove the industrial constructs interfering with their education which ultimately gave birth to the civil rights era of the 1960s.
Above: Industrial model