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Essay: Traditional and Progressive Curriculum

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This paper shall address the comparison of traditional to the progressive curriculum of education in relation to the shaping of the future of the children Education. The basic principle behind the concept of progressive curriculum of education entails ideas as well as practices designed in a manner that was potentially capable to enliven the process of teaching as well as learning. Its application has been taken for the implication of new type or a good way of education

Comparison of Progressive to Traditional Curriculum

The traditional curriculum was set in a manner that the students had to memories facts as well as formulas that were never ending. This academic curriculum was dreary as well as remote based on the view point of the youthful interests. The students were exposed to a situation of listening to recitations only. Lead discussions were a nightmare in the traditional curriculum. There was an austere type of life in the entire classroom. The rules as well as the regulations governing the conducts of the students were established in unilateral manner by the teachers. The misconduct of the students was met by severely harsh punishments.
Contrary to the traditional curriculum unflattering sketch, progressive curriculum was accompanied a practical type of education that was even more pleasant as well as interesting to the students. This type of curriculum was in a position to offer an education that was centered to the interests of the child. This is in contrast to the traditional type of curriculum that was practically grounded on authority based on ponderous text books as well as a very stern teacher. The condition of the traditional curriculum made the students less willful. The students also resembled some obstreperous creatures in need of a kind of taming. The students were also naturally curios as well as creative. They exhibited worthwhile interest of a very wide range. The interests qualified for honor by humane pedagogy as well as a broader curriculum.
The concept of educating the whole child has important implication in the steady expansion of the scope of the curriculum in the schools. This was especially evident at the early part of the 20th century ( ). There was the multiplication of the opportunities in the field of music, recreation, art as well as drama. Junior high schools were meant for the purpose of the education of the students in their early adolescent stages. The justification for this is the unique requirements associated with this age. On the other hand there were high schools reserved for the older teens. This was based on the requirements for the “tracks” as well as study programs such as the vocational training, commercial education, academic as well as the general knowledge. Progressive curriculum also offered for the growth in the students’ extracurricular activities during each of the levels in school life including teams as well as clubs. There were also notable improvements in the field of health care as well as social services for the purpose of satisfaction of the physical as well as emotional needs of the students.
The introduction of progressive curriculum came with a shift in the procedures of instructions as well as delivery of materials to the students. This curriculum was responsible for the envisioning of the teacher in form of a facilitator. This quality contributes to the encouragement of the students to rake active role in the class discussions as well as the group projects. This made the whole process of learning to become fun therefore improving the morale of the students. The introduction of the field trips as well as the films in the progressive curriculum blurs the boundary of class work and student play. The curriculum also demands the patience of the teacher and not being strict as well as staying aloof. This makes the class atmosphere to be community that is democratic with fair rules and a chance for all to speak and therefore comfort and success ensues. This is consequential to the reduction of the students drop out from the schools and this has important implications in the future life of the students. The large as well as diverse body of the students results to great improvements in the capacity of the students to learn.
Progressive curriculum was responsible for addressing the three developments of significance in the life of the Americans. Th most important of these is the ability to meet the needs of the employers. This also coincided with the time of the surging of the demand of the semi skilled as well as clerical vacancies. This curriculum has a provision for the vocations as well as commercial training, which forms a track with the majority of the students. There was an observed improvement in the preparation of the graduates for the purpose of meeting the requirements of the expanding labor market.
The second development relate to the issue of immigration from the urban schools filled with the Europeans in massive as well as unprecedented numbers. These students had a requirement for the non academic type of training for them to be the loyal, the virtuous as well as productive citizens. The third of these developments is the strength drawn by the progressive curriculum to the relatively expansive notions with respect to the intervention of the government. This ahs the implication of the fostering the child’s wellbeing the advocacy of this particular type of kinder as well as broader schooling in a progressive manner is in line with the spirit of the interventions responsible for the saving of the children in diverse regions all over America.
The progressive curriculum has some elements of scientific approach to education. The decision making process of the 1880 to 1890 urban schools deploration of the haphazard management was based on partisan considerations ( ) This usually led to wasteful as well as corrupt policies in most of the situations. With the introduction of the progressive curriculum, properly trained managers were appointed for the purpose of overseeing the rapid expansion of the schools. For an administrator in the progressive curriculum of education to be considered as competent, virtues such as expertise, the individual’s rationality, the method of standardization as well as predictability were the traits of important value worth consideration. This clearly reflects to the expected outcomes of the students undergoing this curriculum as compared with the traditional curriculum and the competence of the student in handling matters in the future.
The progressive curriculum also aimed at certainty thus marking the support for the intelligence testing. There was a requirement to measure the student’s inherent mental abilities. This was actually a rigorous as well as a fair way for the assignment of the students to specific courses as well as tracks. The idea to group the childrens based on their abilities appeared to be more democratic in the progressive curriculum relative the traditional curriculum that allowed for the holding of all of the students as having similar standards. The progressive curriculum also facilitated for the application of the IQ tests for the students although not all of them were in favor of the tests. However, all skeptics were in favor of the “child study” dealing with continuous as well as detailed scrutiny the intellectual growth, the social growth as well as the emotional development of young students.
The table below is a comparison of the elements of traditional curriculum in relation to the progressive curriculum. The elements indicate the expected outcomes of each curriculum and its effectiveness in the shaping of the future status of the student


Classrooms Arrangement of seats is in rows Arrangement of seats is in clusters
Seats and desk are bolted down Seats and desk are in beanbags
Students seats face the front Students seats face the tables
teacher face the front Teacher carpeted
Discussion is teacher-center Discussion is a motion
teacher is elevated teacher is active and loud
Quiet classroom Artwork classroom
blackboard front blackboard planted anywhere
Teachers Teacher is stern and strict Teacher is facilitative
Teacher is in-charge Teacher allow the student discussion
Teacher talking Teacher adaptive and flexible
Teacher is authoritative Teacher is project oriented
Hierarchy authority Authority collaborative and in teams
alone cooperative
Teacher is responsible for the curriculum Teacher is usually unprepared
Students Students are obedient Students has freedom of choice
Students taken as empty vessels and receiver Students are independent of teacher
Students are attentive Students are self-motivated
Students are respectful to their teachers Students are collaborative
Students are grade-motivated Students are experienced
Students face standard evaluation Students are evaluated through the multiple rubrics
Students use single modality Students use multiple modalities
Text and materials Textbooks are in use Text and materials are student-created
Students use workbooks Students use multimedial
rote learning in application multi-source type of learning used
Teach and test approach applied raw materials applied
Objective matters Inter and multi disciplinary in use
Text and materials are provided or pre-generated by the experts Text and materials are interactive
Activities Students used to sitting and listening Students used to performance evaluation
Students take notes Students are authentic
mastery multi-level
read individualized
Discussions are teacher-led open-ended discussions applied
prescriptive multiple intelligences


Although the progressive curriculum has been proved to offer a lasting solution to the future needs of the students, it has been subjected to some controversies along with some influences. The curriculum has not been admired by all and therefore its practices have not been adopted across the entire community. Its implementation was at peak in the elementary schools, the private schools and the schools in the segment of the community with wealthier citizens ( ). These are the encraves who associated the notions of the progressive curriculum with the needed care as well as the training for the future advantage of their children. Other fields in the society had a modest impact of the curriculum. The educators in the schools which shunned the total implementation of the progressive curriculum took some bits as well as pieces of the progressive curriculum to add to their traditional routines. This is therefore an indication that despite their rejection of the progressive curriculum, it remains the basis of the solution to the future needs of the population. Their reluctance for the adoption of the curriculum was imputed to the exhaustion of the teachers are ready to adopt the tenets of the curriculum in a serious manner
The broader progressive curriculum has an ultimate purpose, gentler pedagogy as well as a scientific outlook although some disputes occurred among the proponents. Competency in the future reconstruction of the entire society for the purpose of empowering of the disenfranchised, regulation of the corporations as well as the strengthening of the society. The goals as well as the objectives of education was equipping of the young generation to fit into the society but not to challenge it. An education that is useful to the recipient should have the potential of preparing the candidate with regard to the earning of a living, intelligent voting, wise shopping as well as the conformation to demands associated with the adult life. Schooling was a matter enormous importance and the future of the current generation rests on the hands of the educators.
Progressive curriculum is more beneficial in the elementary schools and the progressive pedagogy should be a means to achieve intellectual exertion but not a means of avoiding it. The student’s curiosity as well as their teachers’ flexibility should tend towards enhancement of the mind but not to diminish it. The significance of progressive curriculum was further strengthened the “Life Adjustment” education reform of the 1940s ( ). This required that most of graduates in the high schools were required to acquire the relevant know-how as well as the appropriate social skills that would be beneficial to them in the future to an extent exceeding the benefits derived from algebra as well as French. All the teenagers have a requirement for lessons in the field of practical matters related to the hobbies, the family life as well a sfriendship.


According to the opinions of the majority, effective teaching should go beyond the listing of the facts as well as the dates. In social studies for example, which is usually a great subject, there exists no right answers as well as wrong answers. The subject deals with making arguments and at the same time providing a back up for the proposed arguments. It is therefore the responsibilities of the teachers to become objective guides for the students through the provision of the desired materials as well as the information as the basis of the arguments. This is the type of teaching that is miles ahead of the application of the text books. Despite the acknowledgements of the merits of progressive curriculum, majority of the school system have been slow in its implementation. Majority of the parents have been documented to be unwilling in allowing the teachers as well as the students to disengage themselves from the previous academic work in an attempt of avoiding the discussion of the social as well as personal concerns. All in all, the conclusion that progressive curriculum is better than traditional curriculum for preparing students for life.


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  • Cuban, L. (2003). How Teachers Taught. N Y: Teachers College Press.
  • Dewey, J. (2006). Democracy and Education. N Y: Free Press.
  • Jervis, K. & Carol, M. (2001). Progressive Education. N Y: Teachers College Press.
  • Kliebard, H. M. (1995). The Struggle the American Curriculum. N Y: Routledge.
  • Ravitch, D. ( 2000). Left Back. N Y: Simon & Schuster.
  • Reese, W. J. (2001). Origins of the Progressive Education.” History of Education Quarterly 41: 1-24.
  • Zilversmit, A. (2003). Changing Schools Chicago: CU P.

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