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What major educational reform ideas have permeated American Education system?

As a part of my semester assignment on education in the US, I am researching on the major educational reform ideas that have shaped the landscape of the American education system. Are there good education reform articles that I can use for my research? Where can I get guidance on secondary education reform in the United States? I have also been advised to focus on education reforms 1977 and see how they have shaped the current American education landscape. Is that the way to go? Any other great reforms?

Dana Keller

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Kaitlin Dean on March 5, 2018

I suspect that you have been asked to focus on the 1977 Education Reforms document of Zambia which introduced a new curriculum for education with certain aims and ends, and which proposed education as a means of personal, community and national development. However, please check with whoever advised you on this just to make sure that’s what they implied.

If you want to study ideas of educational reform, the most critical authority I suggest you should start with is John Dewey. He had an idea that school was more than just an instrument to spread knowledge; that through it children could also learn social and interactive skills through which a harmonious community could be built. Dewey was a strong proponent of the fact that immaterial and theoretical learning wouldn’t allow children to grow, but relating their knowledge to their experience would allow them not only to learn but also to innovate. He summed it up by advocating a system that is dualistic with the child and curriculum, allowing a balanced focus on both. Dewey also had his views on what teachers should be like; a strong love for working with children, a natural character and passion for inquiry and a desire to see knowledge moulded into a learner, with actual application, not just mechanical intuition for dispensing knowledge without applying it.

There are tons of articles on education reform and I have read a few. One includes Education refor, by BK101, which complains that students in colleges and high schools spend too much time what they should have learned years ago and in effect, wasting precious dollars on this. The article also gives a great history of American education and how it evolved over 200 years. Another article you can look at just to get started is the Harvard Gazette's piece on Five Ideas for bettering schools, which has collected ideas from different scholars and thinkers on how to make the system better.

Reforms of secondary education has been contentious, with many bemoaning the system for failing to be at par with some countries such as Sweden and Switzerland, while thousands of dollars are spent on each student in the US.  I personally have a problem with the fact that there are very few opportunities for apprenticeships in the United States for high school students.

Tad Fraziera year ago

If you’re looking for educational reform ideas and the major figures that have been involved in the movement, Dewey and Horace Mann should be good names to start with. Mann is famous as the father of public education in the United States, and he advocated for continual public education in the United States as a means of making individual and country better through;

  • Embracing all backgrounds in education
  • Education through free spirit and non-sectarian society
  • Wider curriculum and longer school years
  • Better-paid teachers and conducive learning environments.

Dewey shared his own sentiments although I think they were philosophical, and some people may be more familiar with his ideas than what he actually did. I think the biggest education reform ideas put forth are practicality, learner-centered education and better teaching methods, with conducive learning environments to go along, the majority of which have come into play from 1950 onwards.


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