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Journal of Technology Education Vol. 3 No. 2, Spring 1992 Social Reconstruction Curriculum and Technology Education Karen F. Zuga . . . to shape the experiences of the young so that instead of reproducing current habits, better habits shall be formed, and thus the future adult society be an improvement on their own. (Dewey, 1916, p. 79) In the first half of the century, during the depths of the Great Depression, Progressive educators set out to reform education by calling for a social reconst
   Journal of Technology EducationVol. 3 No. 2, Spring 1992 Social Reconstruction Curriculumand Technology Education Karen F. Zuga . . . to shape the experiences of the young so that instead of reproducingcurrenthabits, better habits shall be formed, and thus the future adult society be animprovement on their own. (Dewey, 1916, p. 79) In the first half of the century, during the depths of the Great Depression,Progressive educators set out to reform education by calling for a social re-construction curriculum orientation.In this paper I will explore social recon-struction with regard to schools, curriculum, and technology education. In thefirst half of the paper I will explore what was meant by social reconstruction,the way in which it was implemented in experimental schools, and the legacyof social reconstruction.In the second half of the paper I will discuss the roleof processes in technology education curriculum, provide ideas for organizinga social reconstruction curriculum orientation in technology education, and listexamples of what a social reconstruction curriculum orientation in technologyeducation is not. Social Reconstruction In response to social conditions of the day, Progressive educators duringthe early half of the century were advocating a restructuring of education in thiscountry.Many of the Progressives believed that, due to school practices,schools and society were caught in a dualistic relationship which separated theschool from mainstream society and created an isolation of the schools.Theybelieved that what happened under the auspices of the schools was not real orreflective of the problems in society (Bode, 1933; Counts, 1932; Cremin, 1977;Dewey, 1916; Dewey and Childs, 1933).Furthermore, the Progressives arguedthat the artificial environment of the schools was miseducative in that the youthof the country were not prepared to see and understand the values and issueswhich would confront them as they became adults (Dewey and Childs, 1933).As a result of these beliefs, some Progressives proposed that the schools createa new social order (Counts, 1932). Karen Zuga is Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies, The Ohio State University,Columbus, OH. - 48 -   Journal of Technology EducationVol. 3 No. 2, Spring 1992 Definition Creating a new environment in the schools, ‘reconstructing’ the existingenvironment, was the Progressive agenda, but how that was to be accomplishedwas not universally agreed upon (Cremin, 1976).As with any other idea, arange of opinions were held with Counts proffering, perhaps, the most radicalopinion.Counts (1932) envisioned a restructuring of American society andeconomy as he said, ‘The times are literally crying for a new vision of Ameri-can destiny.The teaching profession, or at least its progressive elements,should eagerly grasp the opportunity which the fates have placed in theirhands.’ (p. 50) Others were lessradical in their suggestions for reform, but didbelieve thatsocial reconstruction was the central aim of a good education andwas necessary in schools, if not, society at large.Citing that many members of society were far too concerned with indi-vidual needs, that the fervent nationalism of the times inhibited internationalcooperation, and that the economic depression was signalling problems with theexisting society and economic structure (Dewey and Childs, 1933) mainstreamProgressives believed that the schools could be structured in a new way, and,in turn, encourage students as future citizens to reconstruct society.The focusof mainstream Progressives was on the restructuring of schools; an effort whichmany hoped would lead to eventual changes in society.For schools and stu-dents, mainstream Progressive educators had several goals which included:orienting students and helping them commit to the life in which they wouldparticipate; helping students to develop intellectual, esthetic, or practical inter-ests; setting up an environment which would lead to a deeper understandingof a democratic way of life; and reconstructing the procedures of the schoolthrough experimentalism (Hullfish, 1933).Mainstream Progressive educatorsdiffered with Counts in that they saw a future for the existing democracy.About the social reconstruction of the mainstream Progressives, Dewey andChilds (1933) said: Our continued democracy of life will depend upon our own power of characterand intelligence in using the resources at hand for a society which is not so muchplannedas planning--- a society in which the constructive use of experimentalmethod is completely naturalized.In such a national life, society itself wouldbe a function of education, and the actual educative effect of all institutionswould be in harmony with the professed aims of the special educational insti-tution. (Dewey and Childs, 1933, p. 65) Interestingly, the Progressives based their interpretation of social recon-struction in experimentalism, science, and technology.Experimentalism andfaith in science and technology are fundamental to the philosophy ofpragma-tism.As a leading pragmatic philosopher, Dewey conceived of pragmatism asa uniquely American philosophy which dealt with the concepts of theinstrumentalism of technology and the experimentalism of science as inquiry(Hickman, 1990; Smith, 1980).It is no wonder, then, that Dewey advocatedexperimentation in schools for both the students via the curriculum and for- 49 -   Journal of Technology EducationVol. 3 No. 2, Spring 1992 administrators as they determined the structure of schools.Moreover, Deweyand Childs (1933) spoke of the use of instrumentalism as a technology of edu-cation which would influence society:‘An identity, an equation, exists betweenthe urgent social need of the present and that of education.Society, in orderto solve its own problems and remedy its own ills, needs to employ science andtechnology for social instead of merely private ends.’ (p.64) Make no mistakeabout it, though, the purpose of the use of science and technology was to be asocial purpose, not an individual purpose and not a business purpose.Individ-ual and business values and actions were clearly criticized by the Progressiveswho linked these values and actions to the evident ills within society during thefirst half of the century (Bode, 1933; Counts, 1932; Dewey and Childs, 1933).  Implementation A number of experimental or laboratory schools were set up during theProgressive Era in education.It is from these schools that examples of whatsocial reconstruction would look like in education can be drawn.Bode (1933)explains social reconstruction as a ‘continuous reconstruction of experience’ (p.19) in daily school practice with the following examples: This reconstruction of experience, if it is to have any significance, must take theform of actual living and doing.Consequently the school must be transformedinto a place where pupils go, not primarily to acquire knowledge, but to carryon a way of life.That is, the school is to be regarded as, first of all, an idealcommunity in which pupils get practice in cooperation, in self-government, andin the application of intelligence to difficulties or problems as they may arise.In such a community there is no antecedent compartmentalization of values. There are a number of important points here about social reconstruction.Socialreconstruction involves active participation through ‘doing.’However, this isnot mindless drill, skill development, or even the completion of personallychosen projects, because the Progressives clearly intended a social purpose toall activity.They viewed the school as a community in which values and habitsuseful in the greater community would be instilled through practice.This wasnot to be an activity such as job training or skill development which fit studentsinto preconceived notions of what adults believed they should become.Thatis why there was an emphasis on self-government by students and that is whyBode (1933, pp.19-20) continued:‘Shopwork, for example, is not dominatedby the idea of personal profit, but becomes a medium for the expression of esthetic values and social aims.The quest for knowledge is not ruled by thestandards of research, but is brought into immediate relation with human ends.Judgements of conduct are not based upon abstract rules, but on considerationsof group welfare.’ The message is clearly one of social purpose as the guidingforce for the reconstruction of experience within the school.Social purposealso guided the selection of content and activities which formed the curriculum.The social purpose is documented in an overview of the science and technologycurriculum at The Ohio State University Elementary School and Kindergarten- 50 -   Journal of Technology EducationVol. 3 No. 2, Spring 1992 in 1935:‘In evaluating our results, we asked ourselves thoughtfully:‘Does theeducational experience we are setting up provide for real participation by eachstudent in each of these functions of living?’’ (Publications Committee, 1935,p.121) The curriculum of the laboratory school included a core of study aboutthe preparation of materials which was specified to take place in the science,all of the arts, and the home economics laboratories.Industry, distribution, andcontrol were some of the topics to be studied in this core.The Ohio State University laboratory school was organized about theconcept of social reconstruction and was often cited as an exemplar of socialreconstruction curriculum in action.The secondary school operated on thesame guiding principles.The effectiveness of the secondary program wasdocumented, uniquely, by the first graduating class who took it upon themselvesto write and publish a book about their perceptions of the social reconstructionprogram they had followed (Class of 1938, 1938).In their extensive work thestudents explained how they created their school environment with teacherswho served as friends and advisors.In the early years, much of the work thatwas done under the auspices of industrial arts involved modifying their ownschool environment by refurbishing the school building.In the experimental schools of the Progressive Era social reconstructioncurriculum involved student self government, the evolution of a communityconsciousness on the part of students, and group project work which focussedon the school, local, national, and international communities. The Legacy Very little evidence of the social reconstruction curriculum remains to-day.Vestiges of practices initiated in the experimental schools can be seen inefforts to operate student councils, attempts to provide students some freechoice in projects, and endeavors to maintain school laboratories in technologyand consumer science education.What happened?Dewey and Childs 1933 critique of the failure to adopt social recon-struction educational practices during that era has an all too familiar ring today: Why, even when the social concepts were retained in theory, were they treatedin a way which left them mainly only a nominal force, their transforming effecton practice being evaded?Why were they so often used merely to justify andto supply a terminology for traditional practices?The reason which lies on thesurface is that an abstract and formal conception of society was substituted forthe earlier formal concept of the individual.General ideas like the transmissionand critical remaking of social values, reconstruction of experience, receive ac-ceptance in words, but are often merely plastered on to existing practices, beingused to provide a new vocabulary for old practices and a new means for justi-fying them. (p. 33) Essentially, Dewey and Childs are critiquingthe failure to move from the ac-ademic rationalist curriculum of the Greek tradition and the personal needscurriculum of the Herbartian tradition.Educators are still struggling with these,- 51 -
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