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Implications of the Laboratory School Experiment

  • Anne Durst
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Abstract

In 1949, John Dewey’s many friends and admirers organized a celebration of his ninetieth birthday, which followed similar events when he turned seventy and eighty. (He missed his eightieth birthday commemoration, sending a note instead; Newsweek reported that Dewey told a friend: “I was canonized once, but I won’t be canonized again.”1) Nevertheless, he attended the 1949 dinner and festivities, as did Anna Camp Edwards and Mary Hill Swope. Neither Althea Harmer Bardeen nor Katherine Camp Mayhew were still alive—Bardeen died in 1920, when her four children were still quite young, and Mayhew died in 1946, after some years of illness. Dewey missed seeing Edwards at his ninetieth birthday celebration—her response to the invitation was apparently lost, and so Dewey was not aware that she was in attendance until afterwards, when she informed him by letter. He wrote fondly in response: “Among all from whom I heard this past week, there was no one from whom it gave greater pleasure to hear than from you.” He lamented that he had “made a mistake at the outset in telling the Committee in charge of the celebration” that “I was to have nothing to do with it. My working hours are limited and I thought to save myself. I suppose it was natural that the Committee did not know my older friends.

Keywords

Prospective Teacher Experimental School Teacher Candidate Vacation School Laboratory School 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 4.
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    This in-service experience happened a few years before my discovery of Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), which pointed me in the direction of my study of the Laboratory School teachers. For a discussion of the efforts of Teach for America to define, recruit, and prepare “great teachers,”Google Scholar
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    According to a preliminary study of the program, the students seemed more enthusiastic about attending school and showed an increase in their grades in math and science. Such programs address another urgent problem plaguing twenty-first-century American children—what the Center for Ecoliteracy’s director Zenobia Barlow calls “diet-related disease in children,” including obesity and asthma. The remedy, according to both Waters and Barlow, is to “transform eating habits” and “bring [children] into a vital relationship with food.” To do this, they argue, we must also transform the school lunch program, which as parents of public school children know all too well, is dominated by processed food. See Jane Ciabattari, “The Incredible Edible Schoolyard,” NRTA Live and Learn, Spring 2005.Google Scholar
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    To promote excellent teaching in these ways and to apply the findings of these laboratory schools, all schools would require adequate resources for rich curriculum creation. Conditions such as those described in Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities diminish the self-worth and learning capacities of the children unlucky enough to attend underfunded schools. These conditions also signal disrespect for the teachers who call such schools their places of work. The profession must be more visible in its unwillingness to tolerate inferior conditions in the workplaces that are also centers of learning for our children. See Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (New York: Crown Publishers, 1991).Google Scholar
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    Herbert Kliebard, “Success and Failure in Educational Reform: Are There Historical ‘Lessons’?” in his Forging the American Curriculum: Essays in Curriculum History and Theory (New York: Routledge, 1992), 101.Google Scholar
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© Anne Durst 2010

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