Periodically, we receive the question “what is a progressive boarding school,” or “what exactly makes a school progressive?” This article is brief primer into the traits and qualities of progressive education.
At AdmissionsQuest, we have two AQ Member Schools dedicated to practicing progressive education- Buxton School (MA) and Midland School (CA). If you’re interested in reading more about Midland, Buxton or looking inside a progressive school, we invite you to read our interviews with admission officers from each.
If you’re looking into or considering a progressive school, here’s a basic primer on progressive education.
Basic Characteristics of a Progressive Education
- Community Comes First. Student responsibilities and work are framed beyond “what’s good for me” to “am I contributing and making the community better for everyone?” Collective governance is also a community foundation.
- Experiential Education. Direct student participation in school maintenance and governance. Labor provides the foundation for participation and understanding responsibility.
- Problem solving through recognition, hypothesis and application of student developed solutions.
- Connections and minimizing formal boundaries. The progressive classroom has few literal and figurative walls. Students are encouraged to lead and drive inquiry and discussion often working in collaborative groups- beyond the confines of traditional desks and walls.
- The Whole Child. Progressive education cultivates a thoughtful individual dedicated to hard work and building positive, creative relationships.
Progressive education requires a commitment from student and family. Daily connectedness, community responsibilities and a respect and dedication to labor are experiences that often lie outside of modern urban and suburban life. For a student inclined toward work, community, relationships and empathy a classically progressive education can be a great fit.
As the progressive educator Mortimer Adler argues, “Children should be prepared and motivated to make themselves the best human beings they are capable of becoming.”