Andrea Bianco

Zhong He's map, 1418

Zhong He’s map, 1418

I’ve always been interested in maps, and that interest has grown rather than diminished as I began to learn about them as rhetorical devices. Mark Monmonier discusses this in his How to Lie with Maps.

As faithful representations of reality, maps are endlessly fascinating and useful as tools for many purposes, not just finding one’s way. But as constructed artifacts, they embody a mix of physical reality and human passion––becoming devices for power, greed, delusion, hope, art, and more.

Recently, I read The Mapmaker: A Novel of a Great Navigator who sailed Fifty Years Before Columbus by Frank G. Slaughter. It’s a fictionalized account of Bianco’s life, but one done with an attempt to represent accurately what is known about Bianco, while filling in the gaps with a plausible story.

Portugal’s ruler Prince Henry the Navigator, sent various expeditions into the western Atlantic and along the African coast, beginning in 1418. These voyages were secret. There was a real interest in adding to the knowledge of the world, but that was coupled with a desire to use that knowledge for private gain. Not all of the discoveries were shown on published maps, and some were designed to mislead commercial rivals by concealing the existence of new lands and resources.

Antilles within the Caribbean

Antilles within the Caribbean

The Portuguese had probably reached the Antilles archilpelago at the Eastern edge of the Caribbean by 1430. Between 1436 and 1448, Andrea Bianco made, but did not publish, maps showing the locations of Newfoundland, Florida, and Brazil. Later Portuguese maps, published in 1459 and 1489, show Asia with something like Florida, conveniently omit South America.

Bianco developed the “Tondo e Quadro” (“circle and square”) method for seeing and measuring a return course. This was invaluable for repeat voyages to secure foreign resources. He collaborated with Fra Mauro, who made other detailed world maps and estimated the world’s circumference within 10% of modern figures. See The Ancient Americas: Migrations, Contacts, and Atlantis, by David Pratt.

Prior to the Portuguese voyages, the famous Chinese admiral Zheng He (a Muslim) had circumnavigated the earth. A world map was published in China during the Ming dynasty in 1418. It shows that the Ming navy had a rough knowledge of Baja California, the west coast of South America, as well as Labrador, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. The Chinese maps probably contributed to the Europeans’ knowledge.

The Europeans also learned from Arab science and technology. Arabs put south at the top of maps. When you face the sun in the morning, south is on the right, and right has positive associations. Also, with the sea to the south their land was then on the top of the map. Europeans flipped the map to put north and themselves on top.

Andrea Bianco, explorer and mapmaker

Andrea Bianco, explorer and mapmaker

These points are supported by other historical accounts, which in sum show that 15 C Europeans knew that the world was a sphere roughly 24,000 miles in circumference and that there were large land masses between Europe and East Asia. The issue was not to “discover” America nor to prove the word was round, but to map the details and determine who should control it.

To me, this all suggests that what I had learned about voyages of discovery was mostly wrong, and much less interesting than the fuller, more objective accounts available today. School textbooks tended to minimize or omit entirely any non-European contribution. That left out crucial parts of the story, including the cultural aspects of geography.

The textbooks also represented the discovery era as one of courageous, individualized pursuit of knowledge. Instead, the voyages were an essential aspect of empire building based on already extensive knowledge. Rather than enlightening an ignorant world, they were used to acquire knowledge, then deliberately mislead competitors.

Smile for the camera

EAB attendees: Mustafa et al.

EAB attendees: Mustafa et al.

Turkey has an incredible number of archaeological sites, 52 in Ankara alone according to a display at the outstanding Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi (Museum of Anatolian Civilizations).

The museum was selected as the first “European Museum of the Year” in 1997. It has examples from Paleolithic, Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq and Ottoman periods.

More EAB: Fatih, Ömer, Fettah

More EAB: Fatih, Ömer, Fettah

But whether in the museum or at an actual site, whether the people are Turkish or foreign, whether it’s a recreational event or a conference on educational research, the event of the day is the photo op, often in the form of a selfie.

Our civilization adds the latest sediment on top of layers of complex and beautiful artifacts. This is the digital photo, often destined to reside forever within the memory of a smart phone, and occasionally to be shared on a social media site.

Everywhere there are people taking photos or asking to have theirs taken. I hear “one, two, three, cheese” spoken with a variety of accents. But there are many other ways to alert people to the click of the camera and to get them to smile. In Turkey, i’ve heard “one, two, three, peynir,” or “bir, iki, üç, peynir,” substituting the Turkish for “cheese,” just as an Italian might say “uno, due, tre, formaggio.”

People in China sometimes say “Qiézi (茄子),” which sounds a bit like a three-syllable version of “cheese.” Continuing the food theme, many Korean speakers say “kimchi.” In Norwegian, some say “smil,” both requesting a smile and making one happen. One of the more interesting ones I’ve heard is the Turkish, “üç yüz otul üç,” a tongue-twister meaning “333.” However, there are always some spoil sports, including some who say that “cheese” and expressions like that are not good for photos anyway:

Community school in Yeniceköy

Yeniceköy primary school

Yeniceköy primary school

The Multipurpose class, which I wrote about earlier, is in a small urban setting, but it has a sister class in the village of Yeniceköy, about 24 miles away. I had met the class for the first time when the class and I both visited the village. The school there was inaugurating a wonderful new early childhood space; their sister class students clearly approved.

The primary school in Yeniceköy has only 14 children in a multigrade classroom (grades 1 to 4). This structure was once common throughout much of the world, but is less and less so today. There is a tendency to see efficiency in ever larger schools. Many point out that one can offer more specialized classes, computers, better facilities, address special needs, etc. in the larger school. The larger school enables a greater focus on teaching only measurable skills, the unfortunate trend of the day.



However, much is lost in the move to larger, more impersonal schools. The challenge of teaching multiple ages seems daunting, but it’s less so when you realize that children of exactly the same age also vary greatly in terms of ability, interests, and learning styles. Moreover, children may learn even more as they become teachers of others.

The small school is not always a community school, but it has the possibility to become so. Writing in the journal, Progressive Education in 1933 about the Arthurdale, WV school, Elsie Ripley Clapp says,

The school is, therefore an experiment in democratic living…It is influential because it belongs to its people. They share its ideas and ideals and its work. It takes from them as it gives to them. There are no bounds so far as I can see to what it could accomplish in social reconstruction if it had enough wisdom and insight and devotion and energy.

New preschool space

New preschool space

Yeniceköy seems to be a community school. Parents have an involvement with the school and the learning there, which is rare in consolidated schools. Learning activities and village life are connected. It will be interesting to watch how the school develops. There is a wealth of energy and good will going into it, not limited to the preschool space alone. At the same time, larger societal pressures and values may push the school in other directions.

As Clapp showed in the Arthurdale community, the school can become a social center, a means for coordinating shared interests and skills to benefit the entire community. In her case, local Appalachian culture operated through the school to support self-identity and understanding. The community school then becomes, in John Dewey’s terms, the starting point for democratic life.

Personal geography: Life and death

Russian oil tanker

Russian oil tanker

As I watch the Russian oil tankers going through the Dardanelles, I’m reminded that Turkey has little oil, but does have large coal reserves. Looking away from the straits, I see the hills towards Soma, just 100 miles away, where over 300 coal miners died in a disaster that should never have happened.

Miners at Soma coal mine

Miners at Soma coal mine

Despite the callous response from the mine owners and the government, most people I see want to say “Soma ,adencisi yalnız değil” (Soma miners are not alone). On campus, students sell pastries to raise funds for the victims’ families. In town, people march and spray graffiti to protest the government’s policies before, and the response afterwards. In the countryside, I see people whom I can imagine as not so different from the villagers whose family members worked in the mine.

Trying not to think about Soma, I walk to the Dardanos Tümülüsü (tumulus). This is a burial hill not far from our apartment, with artifacts dating from the second century BC, possibly earlier. The Çingene (also called Gypsy) people in Çanakkale say that they have been there for six centuries, possibly before the Ottoman rulers. But long before they arrived, who were the people who built the tumulus? I wonder about their walking on the same hills and coastlines, which they did when there was no choice to take the bus or car.

Dardanos Tümülüsü

Dardanos Tümülüsü

My wanderings lead to wonderings about how we as humans, or any life, will survive the growth-at-all-costs ethos, dominant around the world. Fifty years ago, in the month I graduated from high school, Lyndon Johnson asked:

whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth…expansion is eroding the precious and time-honored values of community with neighbors and communion with nature.

At least, here at Dardanos, there is some respite, if only within an hour’s walk. I see children in the large playground. There’s a vineyard. In the scrub forest there is a maquis ecology, with small pines, fir, cedar, holly, cyprus, and other evergreen trees, as well as some nut and fruit trees, such as valonia oaks, almond, fig, apple, and olive. The underbrush includes flowering broom, sage, oleander, and many interesting grasses. Most striking are the wildflowers–poppy, petunia, aster, and rose, plus many I can’t name. There are butterflies everywhere, birds, frogs, and lizards, all mocking the many wild cats. The ocean seems full of life, with octopus and squid, many kinds of fish and seaweeds, in spite of the heavy ship traffic.

Poppy field

Poppy field

Alongside the Dardanos, these life forms seem in tune with the beautiful setting and oblivious to the massive commerce steaming past and the construction boom on land. Let’s hope they can continue for a long time.

I’m afraid that my generation hasn’t done much to manifest Johnson’s call for “the wisdom to use…wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.” We have more nuclear weapons, greater destruction of the environment, abuse of workers, and precious little understanding of neighbors at home or abroad. All too often, our “old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth.”



In that 1964 speech, Johnson said,

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.

I can’t say that I’ve learned very much in the fifty years since Johnson’s speech, but one thing is that the leisure he spoke about is not lost time, but a central aspect of being. Walking becomes for me a way to ensure that it happens. Otherwise I too often feel compelled to check the computer, go to a meeting, or accomplish some task. Or, I seek escape as a spectator, rather than participant in life.

That leisure is a necessary means to build connections and become one with the plants and animals nearby, the people, the land and sea, and the history that ties them all together. It’s both an essential part of life and means to understanding it better.

Global understanding


Finding Turkey

Finding Turkey

It makes sense that global understanding starts with understanding the globe. At least that’s what some children and I think.

It was a Monday in the Multipurpose Unit Early Classroom Intervention Program (MUECIP) in Çanakkale, Turkey. This program is an innovative approach for 4-5 year-olds from low-SES families, which integrates music and arts. The student teacher, Dilsad Korkmaz, did an excellent job of keeping the children engaged and allowing for the inevitable individual differences.

The program draws from approaches such as Orff, Babies with Identity, and High-Scope. There is ample use of graphic displays on class size, seasons, daily activities, birthdays, responsibilities, etc. Family participation is encouraged through interviews with the families and home visits to observe children in their natural lives. Parents rotate in providing breakfasts, which also gives them an opportunity to observe the class and engage in the activities.

Finding Cape Cod

Finding Cape Cod

Research by Özlem Çelebioğlu Morkoçc and Ebru Aktan Acar at Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University has shown that the program supports overall development, including cognitive and psychomotor skills, self-care, language, and personal-social skills.

It was more compelling to me that the children seemed so engaged in learning. They were excited to talk and share, to dance, and to investigate everything. I had to remove my electronic fitness bracelet when it became too great a distraction. Besides, it was embarrassing that they figured out how to operate it in about 1/10 of the time I had taken.

At one point we drew upon a globe for some collaborative map work. Using many fingers, we first found Turkey, then Cape Cod. I’m not sure how much they comprehended about the globe versus how much they just wanted to interact with each other and their American “uncle.”

A diet of worms

It’s fun to visit the famous sites when traveling, even if only to see all the diverse people coming to see those same sites. But What I tend to remember and value most are the unplanned, mundane, and more local adventures.

On Friday in Bucharest, there was one such involving worms. I was speaking at the aptly named “Friday meeting” at the university. The topic of planning in teaching (exploring the important sites?) came up and I had to share a story that Jack Easley, a math and science educator, had told.

Discovering worms

Discovering worms

Jack had been working in a second grade class, guiding a six week long unit on weather. Pupils learned about clouds, precipitation, storms, weather measurement, agriculture, and other such important topics, taught, I’m sure in a creative and engaging way. On the last day, it was raining outside until just before the class ended. Jack knew that there might be a rainbow. Viewing that could be an exciting culmination for the unit.

He took the class outside, preparing to discuss the visible light spectrum, refraction, moisture in air, and others such topics. But the pupils weren’t interested. While Jack was looking up, they were looking down at the closer and and more ordinary. He was a latter day Thales at risk of falling into a well while gazing at the stars. The children’s observations of the worms led them to ask, “Why do worms come out of the ground after a rain?”

Soil, plants, worms

Soil, plants, worms

Jack started to answer, then realized that he didn’t really know. So he asked the students to write down their question for scientists at the university. It turned out they had many ideas, but didn’t really know, either. A few days later a long article came out in the New York Times, saying that this was an important question for science and for agriculture, but the answer wasn’t simple. Even today, there is a lot to say about why earthworms surface after rain?. Jack saw that the pupils became most excited about their own question, which in turn was more like the science that scientists do.

Catalina Ulrich, a professor at the University of Bucharest, and my host, appeared to be quite excited by this little story. She pulled out her smartphone to show photos (shown here). Just the day before she had been observing in a crèche (preschool), where the children had been fighting over a bike. But then, one of them discovered a worm. Like Jack’s students, these even younger ones saw that soil and worms were more interesting and more attractive than whatever else they had been doing, and than many people might think.

Doreeen Cronin Diary of a WormThat evening, we had dinner at the home of Claudia Șerbănuță. I needed a toilet break, and as is my habit, couldn’t avoid looking at the reading material there. Right on top was Doreeen Cronin’s Diary of a Worm.

The book describes the world from a worm’s point of view. For example, in the beginning, it tells you the three rules about worms that you must never forget. The third rule is “Never bother Daddy when he’s eating the newspaper.” When I came out, I asked Claudia’s children about the book. Could they tell me the three things we must always remember?

They grew quite excited and shouted out the third rule in unison. When I asked about the others they weren’t so sure. The other two have something to do with how worms live, the making of soil, the interdependence of life, or global food supply. I couldn’t remember them either.

Inquiry-based learning through CeRe

New alley

New alley

CeRe, the Resource Centre for public participation in Bucharest says,

to have a better Romania, the governance must be closer to the citizens and their needs. And because “all politics is local”, we need empowered citizens and strong NGOs to get involved, to get mobilized, to write petitions, to participate at public meetings, to contribute to the policy making or even to protest in the streets.

I was fortunate to meet on Tuesday with CeRe staff and to see some of their community projects in action. CeRe employs an interesting and highly effective community organizing methodology. Although it is based on the specific situations of Bucharest today, its work is a model for community action anywhere.

Favorit Cinema

Favorit Cinema

A relatively small project, but one that makes a big difference in people’s lives, illustrates CeRe’s process well. Portions of a neighborhood were separated by a dangerous alleyway, with broken pavement, trash, poor lighting, and unpredictable traffic. Children had to traverse this to get to school.

In an initial phase, community organizers from CeRe went door-to-door in the neighborhood. Some citizens identified one or more problems in addition to the alley, others none at all. A consensus emerged that repair of the alley was a high priority that appeared amenable to solution.

Citizens organized to specify the problem, to propose concrete solutions, and pressure city officials for action. CeRe advised and facilitated, but was deliberately not the primary actor. The goal was to address the immediate problem, but more importantly, to nurture long-term participation in civic processes.

Playground 1

Playground 1

Eventually, the alley was cleaned and paved. Bollards were installed to restrict traffic, lighting was added, and what turned out to be a final obstacle, two trash bins were added. You can see the alley as it exists today in the photo. It’s a safe place to play or to move between sections of the neighborhood.

In another project, citizens designated Favorit, an abandoned cinema, as a blighted site that could become a neighborhood cultural center. They have secured the abandoned building and devised plans for redevelopment. The local council has allocated money for the center and is working with the neighborhood to make it a reality. In this case, the cultural center is still a vision, one that requires continued discussion within the community and with officials to specify its shape and goals.

Playground 2

Playground 2

One of the most impressive projects I saw was a playground, which obviously meets major needs for people of all ages. Citizen action demonstrated both those needs and how a broken down park could be used. Young people marked equipment there with green ribbons for good condition, yellow for needs repair, and red for needs disposal.

The community managed to get city officials to visit the site in person. Children played a role: They jumped up and down, creating dust, thus making evident the need for a cleaner, safer playground surface.

Inquiry cycle

Inquiry cycle

CeRe has come to recognize that learning is a key aspect of what they do. Although they didn’t conceive it as inquiry-based learning, they (and I) now consider it to be an excellent example of that. The process involves the initial ask  (a cere) by the door knockers and then the citizens, the investigation of the community issues (a investiga), the creation of potential solutions (a crea), discussions in the community and with city officials (a discuta), and reflection on the results and the process (a reflectă).

The process isn’t linear, and often entails stepping back, moving sideways, or redirecting energies to achieve the goals. Along the way, citizens learn not only about the specific problem, but also about working together, listening to each other, making decisions together, being a team, compromising, negotiating, discussing issues productively, and understanding the laws and municipal government.


Publications (in English) about CeRe’s work.

The Frontiers of Democracy, almost

The Social Frontier was a radical journal, which saw the school as an agent of social change. It was published at Teachers College for six years, starting in 1934. After that it was sponsored by the Progressive Education Association and changed its title to Frontiers of Democracy. The final issue was published in 1943.

The writers and editors for Social Frontier / Frontiers of Democracy (SF/FD) were dedicated to creating a more open society, one in which democratic participation was not simply a slogan, but a living reality. That meant expanding educational opportunities, increasing access, developing critical, socially-engaged citizens (where “citizen” means any resident), and involving all in what Dewey called the process of authority.

I’m sure the SF/FD writers would be pleased to know that the Teachers College Record and the Gottesman Libraries are “re-releasing the journal both because of its historical importance and because of its continued relevance to educators today.” The collection has been digitized and presented on a well-designed web page.

SF/FD writers would applaud the recognition of its continuing value. They would quickly understand the web as a new means for increasing access and accomplishing more of the democratic mission that they had undertaken. They would envision that teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, and the ordinary citizen as well, would certainly have some means for convenient access.

Along with that they would of course recognize the need to recover costs and to value the labor required to publish and distribute texts. But it’s hard to imagine that they would be pleased to know that the very journal they had established “to lead educators in the building of an enlightened America” (Harold Rugg) is effectively off limits to most of the people they hoped to reach, despite the new technological affordances.

How many individuals will choose to subscribe to TCRecord simply in order to access SF/FD? Even people at other universities willing to pay the appropriate costs, and current subscribers to TCRecord, are excluded since the institutional subscription does not include SF/FD. In the midst of information overload, the apparently modest terms can be off-putting: “The introductory rate of $20 is available for a limited time…Your membership will automatically renew every 365 days…No refunds are offered for early cancellation.” I suspect that at best many will decide to look at the print version if and when it’s available to them, and resign themselves to being unable to share any findings more widely with the very audience that the journal envisions.

Rugg’s books and the progressive education movement in general suffered from rightwing attacks through the late 1930’s into the McCarthy era. Today the movement suffers more from indifference and a lack of understanding of the issues involved. A paywall for a relatively obscure journal that ceased publication over 70 years ago does little to help. I assume that TC or TCRecord has full copyright, but it’s worth noting that the journal was sponsored for half its life by the Progressive Education Association (as Frontiers of Democracy), and as such only in part by TC.

In the final issue, Rugg says, “Our treasured American way of life is in great danger, not only from menacing fascists and false patrioteers, but primarily because our people, standing baffled and bewildered on the threshold of abundance are unable to bring about such a life.” Much the same could be said today; it’s a pity that the opportunity to further dialogue on these issues has been lost. As too often happens, a good project with a noble purpose undermines its own agenda, for apparently petty reasons.

Las Misiones Pedagógicas


Traveling libraries

As we’re about to set off on a trip both to explore and to discuss progressive education, I’m thinking about the example of the Misiones Pedagógicas in Spain in the early 1930’s.

My colleague, Iván M. Jorrín Abellán, just sent a link to a digital copy of the 1934 report: Patronato de Misiones Pedagógicas : septiembre de 1931-diciembre de 1933, in the collection of the Bibliotecas de Castilla y León. It tells the story of the Misiones  through text, photos, and a map. Even if your Spanish is as poor as mine you can enjoy the many photos and get enough of the text to appreciate the project.

Some of the photos of uplifted, smiling faces are a bit much for today’s cynical eyes. Still, it’s hard to deny that something important was happening for both the villagers and the missionaries.


Watching theater

The Misiones Pedagógicas were a project of cultural solidarity sponsored by the government of the Second Spanish Republic, created in 1931 and dismantled by Franco at the end of the civil war. Led by Manuel Bartolomé Cossio, the Misiones included over five hundred volunteers from diverse backgrounds: teachers, artists, students, and intellectuals. A former educational missionary, Carmen Caamaño, said in an interview in 2007:

We were so far removed from their world that it was as if we came from another galaxy, from places that they could not even imagine existed, not to mention how we dressed or what we ate, or how we talked. We were different. –quoted in Roith (2011)


Listening to music, outdoors

The Misiones eventually reached about 7,000 towns and villages. They established 5,522 libraries comprising more than 600,000 books. There were hundreds of performances of theatre and choir and exhibitions of painting through the traveling village museum.

We are a traveling school that wants to go from town to town. But a school where there are no books of registry, where you do not learn in tears, where there will be no one on his knees as formerly. Because the government of the Republic sent to us, we have been told we come first and foremost to the villages, the poorest, the most hidden and abandoned, and we come to show you something, something you do not know for always being so alone and so far from where others learn, and because no one has yet come to show it to you, but we come also, and first, to have fun. –Manuel Bartolomé Cossio, December 1931

There’s an excellent documentary on the Misiones, with English subtitles. It conveys simultaneously the grand vision and the naïveté, the successes and the failures. As Caamaño says, “something unbelievable arrived” [but] “it lasted for such a short time.”

Watching a film

Watching a film

In her study of Spanish visual culture from 1929 to 1939, Jordana Mendelson (2005) examines documentary films and other re-mediations of materials from the Misiones experience. Her archival research offers a fascinating contemporary perspective on the cultural politics of that turbulent decade, including the intersections between avant-garde artists and government institutions, rural and urban, fine art and mass culture, politics and art.

I’m struck by several thoughts as I view the documentation on the Misiones. Today’s Spain is more literate, more urban, more “modern”. But although the economic stresses are different, they have not disappeared.  There are still challenges, in some ways greater, for achieving economic and educational justice.

Iván and other educators are asking how the spirit of the Misiones might influence community-based pedagogy in current times. Their experiences have lessons for those outside of Spain as well.


Mendelson, Jordana (2005). Documenting Spain: Artists, exhibition culture, and the modern nation, 1929–1939. State College: Penn State University Press.

Roith, Christian (2011).High culture for the underprivileged: The educational missions in the Spanish Second Republic 1931 – 1936. In Claudia Gerdenitsch & Johanna Hopfner,  (eds.), Erziehung und bildung in ländlichen regionen–Rural education (pp. 179-200). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Journal series on progressive education

The International Journal of Progressive Education (IJPE) has now published a series of three special issues on “Progressive Education: Past, Present and Future”:

  1. Progressive Education: Antecedents of Educating for Democracy (IJPE 9.1, February 2013)
  2. Progressive Education: Educating for Democracy and the Process of Authority (IJPE 9.2, June 2013)
  3. What’s Next?: The Future of Progressivism as an “Infinite Succession of Presents” (IJPE 9.3, October 2013)

I worked on these journal issues with John Pecore, Brian Drayton, and Maureen Hogan, as well as article contributors from around the world. We’re now exploring options for developing some of the articles along with some additional material into a handbook. The series is timely given current debates about the purpose and form of education in an era of rapid technological change, globalization, demographic and political shifts, and growing economic inequities. It asks, “What have we learned about pedagogy that can support democratic, humanistic, and morally responsible development for individuals and societies?”

Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that emphasizes aspects such as learning by doing, student-centered learning, valuing diversity, integrated curriculum, problem solvingcritical thinking, collaborative learning, education for social responsibility, and lifelong learning. It situates learning within social, community, and political contexts. It was promoted by the Progressive Education Association in the US from 1919 to 1955, and reflected in the educational philosophy of John Dewey.

But as an approach to pedagogy, progressive education is in no way limited to the US or the past century. In France, the Ecole Moderne, developed from the work of Célestin Freinet, emphasizes the social activism side of progressive education. Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education demonstrates the importance of art in learning, a key element of the holistic approach in progressive education. Paulo Freire’s work in Brazil on critical literacy, highlights the link between politics and pedagogy. Similarly, influenced by his experiences in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi’s conception of basic education resonates with progressive ideals of learning generated within everyday life, cooperation, and educating the whole person, including moral development.

It is worth noting that progressive education invariably seeks to go beyond the classroom walls. Thus, the work of Jane Addams and others at Hull House with immigrants fits, even if it is not situated within a traditional school. Myles Horton and the Highlander Folk School focused on social activism with adults, exemplifying the progressive education ideals. So too is the Escuela Nueva in Spain, Colombia, and elsewhere. The informal learning in museums, libraries, community and economic development, and online may express progressive education more fully than what we see in many schools today.

We hope that these issues will prove to be a useful resource for anyone interested improving education for a healthier world.