The definition of progressive education, according to Dictionary.com, is “any of various reformist educational philosophies and methodologies since the late 1800s, applied especially to elementary schools, that reject the rote recitation and strict discipline of traditional, single-classroom teaching, favoring instead more stimulation of the individual pupil as well as group discussion, more informality in the classroom, a broader curriculum, and use of laboratories, gymnasiums, kitchens, etc., in the school.”
In progressive schools like C&C, teachers have a degree of autonomy over what they teach in their classrooms. Currently, the School’s curriculum moves linearly for the most part. Every two years the curriculum shifts to a different historical time period or a different geographical location.
The VIIIs study the Lenape Native Americans. That unit of study w leads into to learning about colonizers and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which are both part of the IXs curriculum.
Megan Holland, the current Xs Group Teacher who is taking over the IXs next year, said, “Moving forward, I would like to think more deeply about whose experiences we are centering in teaching American history and in our curriculum in general and the ways in which we can center perspectives that have been marginalized. Next year in the IXs, instead of focusing mostly on the experience of Westerners, marginalized people’s stories will be taught as well.”
The Xs study either Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, depending on the class, and the Middle Ages, which segues into a deep study of the Renaissance in the XIs.
The XIs study either Ancient China or the Golden Age of Islam, depending on the group. Daniela Jimenez-Gabb, XIsD Group Teacher, said, “I enjoy splitting my year between two pieces of content (Medieval Islamic world and Venetian Renaissance). We can examine both studies comparatively while also understanding the linear nature of the history we focus on. For this same reason, splitting the year can make it difficult to spend more time exploring deeply more aspects of the content.”
The XIIs study Ancient Greek culture, literature, and history while the XIIIs study 20th century American history in a global context. The XIIs’ and XIIIs’ curricula do not connect in any direct way unlike the other groups. These two programs of study could be distantly connected because the invention of democracy derived from Ancient Greece and the U.S. is a democracy. That being said, the XIIs do not necessarily completely focus on the invention democracy in Ancient Greece.
Sarah Whittier, XIIsS Group Teacher, explained the connection between her group’s curriculum and the XIIIs’ by saying “… our system of government as we know derives from ancient Athenian democracy. As a reminder of the values our ‘Founding Fathers’ sought to instill in our young republic, just look around the city, or go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Look at the Library at Columbia University, or the Stock Exchange on Wall Street, or the New York City Courthouse, or all the old 19th-century banks (the intersection of 8th Ave. and 14th St. has three!). Visit the American wing at the Met, which is full of "Greek Revival" furniture designs. If you're still not convinced, look across 13th Street at our very own Greek temple. Ancient Greece is everywhere in our culture.”
The Jobs Program plays a role in how the curriculum is chosen. Nearly every group’s job relates in some way to their Social Studies curriculum, with the exception of the XIIs who study Ancient Greece, and have the job of taking care of the IVs.
The VIIIs run the Post Office because they study trade routes and the Post Office involves moving from one place to another.
The IXs run the School Store as general stores were a major part of people's lives during the Westward expansion.
The Xs make signs for the school because being a scribe was a common job during the Middle Ages.
The XIs use the printing press because they study how different stories were spread to the masses quicker due to the technology of the time.
The XIIIs produce the Newspaper, which gives us the platform to generate discourse about a variety of topics that affect the School and our larger community.
Scott Moran, Principal, said, “The jobs are really important. Some of them develop originally out of the Social Studies… The VIIIs, for instance, when they were originally developing that study, they were looking at New York long ago and part of what came out of that was looking at different trade routes and ways in which things moved from one place to another. There are some places in the school where the jobs and the Social Studies are really tightly linked, and so that does put some limit on what [teachers can teach].”
In simple terms, a teacher can teach what they want to as long as they follow the guidelines of “when” and “where.” Ann Roberts, XIIIs Co-teacher, explained, “Developmentally, children understand a long ago time and a faraway place to different degrees at different ages. So the curriculum from year to year has to take that into account.”
Once a teacher fully develops an idea for a curriculum change, the proposal is presented to administrators, collaborating teachers, and consultants. Scott eventually makes the final decision.
The way in which the curriculum at C&C is chosen includes an active effort from teachers and administrators who need to follow developmental guidelines. In addition, teachers discuss what should be taught, as there are many different historical events and perspectives to study and not only Eurocentric ones.
Which topics do we study and which do we ignore? Why do we choose certain ones over others? These questions remain unanswered, and will most likely stay unanswered as curriculum is constantly changing because history is a living and breathing thing. Although for certain groups, the curriculum is clearly connected to what is studied in the preceding and succeeding years this is not true for every group. The XIIs and XIIIs curricula do not have the same connections. With the amount of autonomy given to teachers and administrators over curriculum, more connections can be made between different groups’ areas of study. Perhaps with that, more modern jobs could be created to accompany the refreshed curricula.