Progressive Education: You can learn a lot from watching a town’s youth hockey team
Most people are resistant to change because they are content with what they have. They never realize what the possibilities could be if they were to implement a change. In the 1940’s there was a push to change education in America from the standard form to a progressive form. John Dewey said, “The world is moving at a tremendous rate. No one knows where. We must prepare our children not for the world of the past, not for our, but for their world. The world of the future.” A lot of educators in America agreed with what Dewey was talking about. However, the ones in charge didn’t. Still to this day there is a push for progressive education over the current trend in education. What has to happen if we are going to change the education in America?
Currently America ranks #24 out of 63 in World Population Review’s, Educational Ranking By County 2019. USA ranks behind countries: China, Japan, Canada, Switzerland and Germany to name a few. It sits in between France at #23 and Hungary #25. Why are we so low? We are supposed to be powerhouse. What aren’t we up at the top in education?
In the 1940’s there was the push for a progressive education in the USA. Prof. William Kilpatrick, Columbia University said, “We are trying to help the child learn how to face actuality. And on this basis build his ideas’, his character, his sense of self-reliance of how to live and work with others. In a word, we are equipping the child to face his future by learning to face intelligently his immediate present.” This sounds so familiar as it seems to be what teachers have been saying for years what we needed to do. Honestly sounds like this was said just this past year by several teachers I work with.
Progressive education back then focused on learning by doing, learning about practical everyday problems, learning to dictate and examine items before reading about it in a book, lots of hands on stuff (shop class and home economics), reading aloud recipes for how to make meals to eat while working as a group. Everything was to be project based. Examples had elementary students running the school store. From inventory to sales to making change. Middle school and high school students would go off campus and study issues going on in the real world to make sure they were ready for when they left school. Sounds fairly similar to the push educators are still trying to make almost a hundred years later.
In America over the years standardized testing has made way and pushed basic skills and problem-solving strategies to the back. Very rarely can you find schools that offer wood shop, home economics or financial management classes. Just this past week at the school I work in, the home economics teacher retired. The school and students lost a great teacher, which is selfish on our part to say, but the news that hit me the hardest was that the students wouldn’t be able to sew anymore. It was a badge of honor to go to her class and learn how to make and sew your own pillow and show it off to your friends and family. This is just one example of yet another skill lost that future students won’t have a chance to learn, but I’m sure they’ll make fantastic scores on their state testing.
When looking at Japan and why they are so successful in their education I found out some interesting stuff. According to Bright Side, students in Japan don’t take tests until 4th grade and that, “It is believed that the goal for the first 3 years of school is not to judge the child’s knowledge or learning, but to establish good manners and to develop their character.” They start school during the Cherry Blossom season (April 1) and then go throughout the year with breaks here and there. The students are required to clean up the school. There are no custodians on staff. The students are responsible for the school. Students eat healthy meals in the classrooms to keep the day going. They are taught and embrace their history through poetry and calligraphy. Students have to wear uniforms and college is held to a very high standard. Seems like Japan knows what they are doing when it comes to education. It’s crazy though, because when you compare USA to Japan it really is apples and oranges in education. When you compare in population size and social structures, they are very similar. Japan seems to have embraced a progressive model when it comes to education. A country that only the matter of decades ago was still considered by most a second world country run by an Emperor. How far they have moved in just a short period of time is remarkable.
Maybe we are doing it all wrong here. Or maybe we are doing it right for us. As our number falls on the charts we must think of these questions: Are our students dumber now days? or, Is the rest of the world smarter? My thoughts are of this. When I was a student, I was held to a high standard. I would have to meet that standard or I would face certain consequences. I do believe we have lost that standard and that pride. When talking to a coach about kids playing hockey in Pennsylvania compared to kids playing in my local city in Florida I told him this, “The difference between kids playing hockey in Pennsylvania and here; The kids in PA are held to a higher standard. They have the same amount of ice time and problems you face here. The coaches just hold them accountable for everything.” If there were an organized game between the Johnstown Warriors mite (ages 7-8) program vs my local mite program, Johnstown would win. If the Johnstown mites were to play the local Squirts (ages 9-10) Johnstown would probably win too. The reason I say this is, it’s not because of ice time or touches, its about accountability. This is not a knock or ding on the coaches in here, but more of a, don’t be afraid to hold them accountable, nudge. Every coach and teacher should embrace this for athletes and/or students. They can take it. They need it. They want it. There is also a big difference in social and economical upbringing too that plays in favor of the steel mill city. Johnstown, PA is nothing like the beach area I live in. Where there should be beaches, there are mountains. Where there should be a bright sun, there are grey overcast clouds. What they do have in common is amazing people with great friendly attitudes. When talking about hockey, they also share the same problems we face here, one county owned rink from the late 1950’s managed by SMG that was updated in 2002 and 2015 with help from Kraft and the Tampa Bay Lightening. What’s really cool about the rink is that is is a War Memorial for all soldiers from the area covering all wars. It is a great way to keep a rink in the area.
Johnstown was the backdrop for the 1970’s movie “Slapshot.” The movie focused around a hockey team in a dying steel mill town and them wanting out before the team folds and the mill shots down. And Johnstown is just that. It is a beautiful but dying steel mill town with a lot of pride. Americana at its core. The town has Pride like you wouldn’t believe. It is a hockey town with a steel mill in it. The adults work in the town. The kids play in the town. They are warriors to their bones that carry the pride of the town in their hearts. You can learn so much about a town from watching their children play a simple game like hockey. Kind of like how you can learn a lot about a country, when you look into their educational system.
Progressive Education in America:
10 distinctive features of the Japanese education system that made this nation the envy of the world. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2019, from http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/education-rankings-by-country/