Adler on the Education Options

A badly stated issue calls for false or extreme solutions. It is important, therefore, to correct the impression that th issue in American education today is between classicism and progressivism. Both of these names signify undesirable extremes which have exagerrated and distorted some sound elements of educational policy. Classicism names the arid and empty formalism which dominated education at the end of the last century. It emphasized the studyof the classics for historical or philological reasons. It was interested in the past for the past’s sake. It mistook drill for discipline. Against such classicism, the reaction which took place was genuinely motivated and sound in principle. Unhappily, as always the reaction went too far.

We have reached an extreme in the swing of the pendulum, an equally unfortunate extreme that, in its many forms, is called progressive education. Progressivism has become as preposterous as classicism was arid. It is so absorbed with the study of the contemporary world that it forgets human culture has traditional roots. It has substituted information for understanding, and science for wisdom. It has mistaken license for liberty, for taht is what freedom is when it is unaccompanied by discipline.

Mortimer Adler, Tradition and Progress in Education

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