Standard 12 Professional citizenship: Willingly engages in dialogue that transcends the individual classroom, taking informed, coherent positions on important matters of educational policy and practice.
Throughout history, reformers have influenced educational policy and educational practice has changed over time. School has changed since the colonial era in which the school was the last form of education to be considered of value. Family, church, and the community were all more valuable aspects in education. Within three different cultures (African American, Native American, and European) there were different traditions and rituals that were a part of education. Although there were multiple cultures, the English institutions dominated and were imposed on others (Fraser, 2010, p. 2). Literacy for slaves changed from acceptance to discouragement with the fear that slaves would rebel or be disobedient. This began to change after the Civil War and education changed significantly after the Civil Rights Movement. Laws were created to encourage parents to teach their children or to ensure that schools were available to children. Non-Europeans were addressed with the attitude that they would believe in Christianity and understand the trades of American civilization. There was also the fear that education and baptism would free the slaves.
Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and Noah Webster were all influential philosophers in changing the direction of education after the American Revolution. They all believed that the United States needed a new education system. Jefferson believed that educating people would protect Americans from tyranny. Jefferson states, “The best safeguard against tyranny is to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large” (Fraser, 2010, p. 17). Although, women, Native Americans, and African Americans, were not included. Unlike Jefferson, Benjamin Rush’s vision for education included women. Noah Webster was influential in education with the creation of the dictionary, speller, grammar, and reader. In addition to helping Americans learn to read and write, he also believed America needed a new education system. He believed that “dead languages” were not necessary and that “if children are to acquire ideas it is certainly easier to obtain them in a language which they understand than in a foreign language” (Fraser, 2010, p. 30). He also believed that teachers should be a “master” of the subjects they teach so students are receiving a good education. Educators should be of strong character and virtues believing that “education, in a great measure, forms the moral characters of men, and morals are the basis of government” (p. 33).
The Common School Movement between 1820 and 1860 brought a change in the school system. Previously in the colonial era, education was at the center of family, community, and the church. Horace Mann was a leader in the Common School Movement, which aimed to create a “common” school that was non-secular and paid by taxes. It was no longer the church that was the unifying force. Instead the school would “reach all citizens and could replace the church as a carrier of culture and creator of national unity” (Fraser, 2010, p. 45). The Common School Movement brought female educators to the schools, which was encouraged by Catharine Beecher. Not all citizens supported the Common School arguing that their tax dollars should not support all students’ education and some did not agree with state involvement. Throughout this movement, segregation of schools was prominent. The Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 allowing segregation was overturned in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 (Fraserp. 2010, p. 48).
The Progressive Era (1890-1950) brought progressive education, which included multiple ideas for improving education. Fraser (2010) refers to progressivism in education as “ a many-sided effort to use the schools to improve the lives of individuals” (p. 215). Different viewpoints brought different ideas. Administrators believed authority was necessary and teachers believed their ideas connected to the reality of the classroom. Others believed a child-centered curriculum with opportunities for active learning was important. There were also reformers who thought testing was of high value and would allow teachers to adapt the curriculum to meet students’ needs.
Progressive education declined during the Cold War Era. The launching of the Soviet satellite Sputnik was seen as crisis in the United States. John Dewey’s efforts towards a progressive education no longer fit the mold of what American education needed to be. Fraser (2010) states, “John Dewey and the progressive educators-diverse as they had been- were seen as the enemy, soft and mushy-headed sentimentalists who had let the nation’s schools fall dangerously behind the rigorous and tough-minded schools of the Russian enemy” (p. 255-256). This led to reformers support of a more traditional curriculum. The National Defense Education Act was signed to provide funding for schools to create a better education for students in order to support scientists and engineers in the future. There was a drive to steer away from progressive education, which held the belief that children “learn by doing” (Fraser, 2010, p. 263). Instead, reformers wanted education to return to the basics and to have children learn from books.
Brown v. Board of Education created significant change for education with the decision that segregation of schools based on race was illegal. The effect of segregation did not provide students with equal protection of the law. Equalizing tangible factors did not make the schools separate but equal. Students of color did not receive equal opportunities, which deprived them of equal education and created feelings of inferiority. A finding in the Kansas court stated, “ A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn” (Fraser, 2010, p. 295). Although schools are no longer segregated today, there is still a need to focus on how race and culture influences our classrooms and students.
Today, my own views of education are influenced through multiple lenses that affect my influence as an educator, leader, mentor and professional. The political, social, and moral principles that guide our education system challenge teachers to improve student learning. However, evidence of student learning is required to be displayed in the form of high-test scores. My personal educational philosophy is that improved student learning does not result in the increased rigor of academic content from new Common Core State Standards or the pressure of high stakes testing. I believe that teachers’ voices should be at the core of improving student learning. Teachers are the professionals working with students on a daily basis. They are constantly learning about students’ lifestyles, learning needs, and cultural backgrounds. They understand that students’ growth should not be measured solely on their test performance on a single day of the year. They understand that students should have multiple pathways and need the support of teachers to prepare them to be successful in the pathway they choose. In order to empower teachers to drive change, school communities should be built on developing trusting professional relationships that will encourage teachers to wear multiple hats. In our school system, we need teachers that are leaders and mentors while still having one foot in the classroom door. This will ensure that decisions are made with an understanding of how policy would be applicable in an actual classroom.
I think there has been a shift away from Horace Mann’s philosophy to provide children with a “free, nonselective, academically challenging, fair, and morally just system of school” (Baines, 2006, p. 269). The pressure of standardized tests forces teachers to test standards, rather than adapt instruction to meet students’ specific needs. There is less character education and more of an emphasis on academic needs (Baines, 2006). Rather than a “progressive” approach in which children “learn by doing” (Fraser, 2010, p. 269), education has steered in the direction of essentialism. The “essentialist” approach “calls for a learning community based on a common core of ideas, understandings, arithmetic, history, the sciences, and creative work in art” (Urban & Wagoner, 2000, p. 269). In today’s schools, students are held to high expectations and are assessed based on rigorous standards. Teachers are expected to cover multiple content areas and assessment of student progress is constant to ensure that students are meeting learning targets. I think a combination of both progressivism and essentialism is important. However, the pendulum has swung too far towards essentialism and students need more opportunities to participate in the learning and engage in tasks that are interesting to them. I think educational experiences would be more meaningful if students were active participants. This helps students connect their background knowledge to new learning and develop high-level thinking skills. I think students are more likely to remember and apply their learning to new situations when they can experience it. However, it’s also important that assessment is used to guide students’ learning to ensure that students are meeting standards.
This artifact is my educational platform that describes the political, social, and moral principles that guide me in the educational setting.
Baines, L. (2006). A School for the Common Good: Does Horace Mann Still Matter?. Educational Horizons.
Fraser, J. (2010). The School in the United States. New York, New York, Routledge.
Urban, J. & Wagoner, J. (2014). American Education: A History (2nd ed). New York, New York, Routledge.