Progressive education refers to a philosophy of education and educational practices that began in the late 1890s and has persisted to the present. Often associated with the writings of American philosopher John Dewey, it has been the subject of intense debate throughout this period. This entry reviews the fundamental principles of progressive education, looks at its development over time in the United States, and offers a brief current perspective.


The purpose of education has been seen in a variety of ways: religious, utilitarian, civic, and social mobility. In the late nineteenth century, progressive reformers insisted that government be responsive to the welfare of its citizens rather than to the welfare of corporations. Reformers such as Horace Mann in the nineteenth century had looked to schools ...

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