I just finished the recently published book, Loving Learning. Written by Tom Little with important help from Katherine Ellison, it is a more than a guide to some of the places where progressive education is thriving today. Taking each of the areas that Little sees as distinctive to progressive education, he traces their roots and looks at how they are expressed in today’s progressive schools.
It is fascinating to see how similar progressive practices are across the country, in public and independent schools, even though until recently communication between progressive educators has been very limited. Oakland California’s Park Day School was Tom’s base for 37 years, so it figures highly in Loving Learning, but he spent the 2012/13 school year visiting 43 progressive schools. While he distills what makes certain schools unique, and points out strong individual contributions to progressive practices with telling observations, we also recognize more and more clearly the common threads.
This excerpt about assessment (published in Salon) is particularly timely right now, with public school students enduring the annual high stakes testing that is the legacy of No Child Left Behind. Students at many independent schools are involved in standardized testing as well. Even without high stakes consequences the practice is questionable in a progressive context, as Tom is quick to point out.
Tom died shortly after he finished writing this book. His legacy as the Park Day School head of school would have been great all on its own, but he moved beyond that one wonderful place. He had a pivotal role in reinventing the Progressive Education Network. With this book he will reach many who never had the chance to know this thoughtful, empathetic and dedicated teacher in person.