K–12 Schools Are Downstream From The University

This outsized influence of the university on K–12 schools occurs not without precedent. Once before, our nation’s dominant philosophy of education universally altered. Prior to the 20th century, American education was almost universally classical in nature — great books, grammar and rhetoric, direct teacher guidance, a healthy patriotism. However, the establishment of teacher colleges began to change that. Between 1910 and 1930, 88 normal schools — local institutions to train teachers — associated with universities and became teacher colleges.

At the most influential of these, Columbia’s Teachers College, John Dewey and William Kilpatrick trained 35,000 students and wrote popular essays that influenced countless more. With such an influence, the progressive pedagogy of Dewey and Kilpatrick — which rejects liberal notions of knowledge worth knowing and direct teacher guidance to instead center a student’s personal interests and exploration — supplanted classical education in American schools. The theory’s association with colleges of education legitimated progressive education and so flooded American schools with proclamations of “best practices” and “expertise.” Read more»

Daniel Buck | “How Public Schools Went Woke—and What to Do about It” | March 5, 2022


    Post authored by:

  • Heidelblog
    Author Image

    The Heidelblog has been in publication since 2007. It is devoted to recovering the Reformed confession and to helping others discover Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

    More by Heidelblog ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. certainly true, and by its turning of the students onto themselves does a lot to relieve the baby boomers as sole bearers of the stigma ‘the “me”-generation.’

  2. Public schools are to Kuyperians what alcohol is to fundamentalists—categorically evil

    • Zrim,

      My critique of public school is based on four things:

      1. 12 years of experience in two different districts and 5 schools.
      2. 27 years of experience as a teacher of undergraduate and graduate students, most of whom are the products of the public schools.
      3. The history of the public school experiment in the USA
      4. The empirical evidence presented by the Twitter feed, @leavepublicschool, which catalogues the daily arrest or criminal prosecution of public school teachers, staff, and administrators for sexual abuse of students, rape, child porn etc. Until I encountered the feed and began looking for myself at the news accounts, seeing that every day there is a new story about another crime involving a public school employee I was entirely unaware.

      Even were it possible to clean up the corruption that this the public school system the theoretical problems would remain. The teachers colleges are intellectually polluted and that waste shows up downstream in the schools.

      Obviously there are exceptions but the system itself needs to be overhauled from top to bottom and quite probably abandoned. The only thing that makes any public educational enterprise remotely viable in California, which has wrecked its system, is the charter school.

      None of this has anything to do with Kuyper.

  3. A good read on this subject is “The Book Wars: What it Takes to be Educated in America” by James Atlas. It’s a little dated now since it was published in 1990 (and republished in ’93 under the title “The Battle of the Books”), but subject matter is still relevant. If anything Atlas amassed a significant enough amount of information to predict the direction education, both tertiary and now secondary in the decades to follow, would take in the U.S. What Atlas describes is the move away from the classic books, or the “canon,” since they were, of course, culturally biased toward white European males, to the so-called culturally relevant pulp fiction that is being used in classrooms nowadays. It has been a sad, sad decline in education.

    • Very much so. I wish I was a lot more classically educated. I am only now jumping onto a lot of the great books outside theology.
      I am also a teacher; a public school one too at the moment. Taking classes to get my license, we were told repeatedly that learning is through doing, PBL, etc. ‘Critical thinking’ is the new big fad, along with equity (can’t discipline certain kids too much), thanks to a modern day Luddite movement revolving around tech. I was told that content is merely a vehicle to get them to think critically. Thankfully, there are a few sane voices left i.e. Greg Ashman but, it’s mostly an echo chamber filled with shallow and shoddy studies.
      Modern education is a joke and I hope Christian schools don’t start swallowing this garbage.

Comments are closed.