Handbook of the Psychology of Aging


Historical Change in Educational



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Historical Change in Educational

Curriculum and Pedagogy
There have also been historical shifts in educational pedagogy and curriculum throughout the past century. A marked shift in educational philosophy was the Progressive movement in education that peaked in the sand whose most noted proponent was John Dewey (
Emirbayer, 1992
). The goal of the movement was development of a
“ demographic character ” equipped for responsible citizenship. This new citizen was to be developed from the “ melting pot ” represented in the United States during the early s as a result of a large number of immigrants and the movement of the population from rural to urban areas and the growth of industrial centers such as Boston. These educational processes have undergone several trends from the basics to “ progressive ” to “ tracking ” and back to basics time and again. In the late s, education was a structured curriculum that included rigid recitations of the 3 Rs reading, writing, and arithmetic. High schools were not typical and most children ended their education after eight years. Kindergarten did not become the norm until the s.

Tracking continued through the sand the curriculum became even more split between college preparatory classes and industrial training. By the end of World War II, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was beginning to replace IQ tests for college admissions and are still used. The SATs were similarly biased against minorities and immigrant children who did not have the same level of language skills or experience the same culture as the white, middle- and upper-middle class students. The Cold War caused another major shift in American public schools. Progressive curricu- lums had evolved into “ life adjustment ” courses by the early s.

The Progressive movement advocated what might seem as contradictory initiatives ( Emirbayer, 1992 ). On the one hand, due to the increased number of pupils because of child labor laws and compulsory school attendance, the educational practices of standardized testing and tracking of students was introduced. Standardized testing was viewed as a more
“ scientific ” way of determining children ’ s likely occupational attainment and allocating them into different educational channels ( Ackerman, 1995 ). On the other hand, the Progressive movement also advocated movement away from teacher-directed lecture and rote recitation to increased student – teacher interaction, group exercises, and critical reflection. The Progressive movement also involved the introduction of the kindergarten, manual and vocational education, and evening classes.

Further support for extensive historical changes in curricula taught at different ages is shown in the recent work of Blair and colleagues ( Blair et al., 2005 ). Findings of this research are particularly relevant to discussions of Flynn IQ effects, where the claim is made that IQ gain for the post-World War II cohorts has been primarily in the fluid abilities. Blair and colleagues have documented cohort differences in the age at which students were introduced to visuospatial skills such as traditionally taught in geometry. An 1894 college textbooks included a problem that required the student to draw and cutout a two-dimensional triangle and to fold the triangle to develop a three-dimensional polyhedron. By 1955 this type of problem was included in



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