Child-centred teaching: when did it all begin?

Robert Peal

Almost three years ago, I wrote a book entitled Progressively Worse. The first half of the book is a history of teaching methods from the 1960s to today. My thesis was that the spread of progressive education was one reason why the increases in expenditure on education over the past half-century has been met with (as far as we can tell) no improvement in pupil outcomes.

I defined progressive education as the application of individual freedom and an aversion towards adult authority to the realm of children’s education.

Many people took issue with the book’s argument, normally for one of two reasons. Either they argued progressive education is not as damaging as I claimed, or that progressive education has not come to dominate British schools since the 1960s in the way I described.

That second accusation was always far harder to counteract. Progressive education is a culture, and culture…

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