Progressive Education, ECC and Your Child
What does it mean about the Early Childhood Center that the description of what goes on here, what we hope to have happen for the children, and the means by which we try to achieve that, has stayed so remarkably unchanged in 70 years?
Does this mean that the school is perhaps old fashioned, even outdated? Some might take this view…certainly it is hardly riding the current waves of educational culture. Does it mean that the school is fossilized? Unable to adapt to a world that has moved from industrial to technological? In a world in which two-year-olds are computer adept, we give them blocks. In a world in which four-year-olds can use a microwave to prepare food, we make applesauce with them. In a world in which some preschoolers are being prepared for test taking, indeed being tested several times a year if they are in federally funded programs, we have no ditto sheets, workbooks, or computer learning programs available to them. Apart from the fact that we don't believe it is necessary to start practicing months and years in advance for activities that will come with maturation and experience as children get older, what does this mean?
The long answer to this question involves a lot of thought, observation and discussion. However, the shorter answer is this: Because the ECC is so closely related to its ancestor forms means that it remains true to the progressive education model. This is a model that is based on the centrality of direct experience in learning, the view of the child as the center of the educational experience; the making of meaning and construction of knowledge, actively, through experience and reflection on it, as both the goal and the means of education.
Educational fads and opinions come and go; educational innovations and mandates come and go; educational policy changes with political and historical and economic realities. But the goals and methods of experientally based, developmentally appropriate education have not changed. As the world outside the school provides less and less of what children need to experience and reflect on (though perhaps a great deal else that is of value along with some that is not of much value), the schools need even more imperatively to provide the opportunity for these experiences, for this learning, for this education.
I believe that this continuity means that the ECC, like the College of which it is part, holds true to its beliefs, even as each teacher finds his or her own way to put them into practice and as all of them continue to seek new ways of bringing those beliefs to bear on each individual child in the community of the classroom and the school.
Consultant to the Early Childhood Center
Psychology faculty member