The Progressives: Activism and Reform in American Society, 1893 - 1917

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Eric Arnesen. Roger L. Rights, Not Interests. James A. Between North and South. Brett Gadsden. Jamie L. Silent Covenants. Derrick Bell. The Ongoing Burden of Southern History. Angie Maxwell. Southern Cultures: The Politics Issue. Harry L. Moreover, researchers and professors from the academia were given a bigger part to play in the societal and governmental transformation process. This paper attempts to examine the Progressive perspectives on education and review how the American administration and government harnessed the energies emerging from the academia in order to project them in the policy- and decision-making realm.

It is thus trying to set an example to be further elaborated on. They would be able to apprehend the challenges of the American Progressive Era, to reciprocate the positive lessons and avoid the negative ones, by adapting the model to the specificities of their own countries. The more so as the Progressive ideology continues to be an inspiration for contemporary academic debates and political thinking in the United States, In this respect, the case of the Inquiry is indicative of this governmental practice of filling its knowledge gaps and informing its decisions by taking advantage of academic thought.

Literature Review. The Progressive movement constitutes an appealing topic for the political scientists and philosophers in the United States due to its long-lasting impact on the American society and politics. Explaining who the Progressives were, what were their central ideas and how their thoughts were put into practice involved the use of secondary sources, primarily, as they have the advantage of hindsight in assessing the main traits and implications of Progressivism.

In this respect, the use of such works that document the era provide a valuable contribution and supports process tracing as a tool of qualitative analysis. Hence, Tim McNeese examines the context that led to the emergence of the Progressives in the American society and politics, elaborates on their central tenets and sets forth the effect their perceptions, thoughts and actions had with regard to the system of government and the state-society relationship McNeese, Likewise, Karen Pastorello approaches the roots of the movement, its development and lasting impact, but with a focus on Progressive recognition of the social, political, and economic demands of a society and system in the midst of sudden changes brought by the rapidly developing capitalism Pastorello, Walter Nugent provides a brief but detailed description and explanation of the American Progressivism, starting with the critical exploration of its origins, then chronologically tackling its representative figures and the endeared principles they shared, and finally assessing their accomplishments Nugent, Primary sources are additionally employed when addressing the Progressive debate in the field of education, either from original texts or from tertiary sources that compile excerpts from major works of the main Progressive thinkers and actors.

His selected volume is both a landmark exposition of Progressive educational theory and a philosophical study on the role of education in a democratic regime, aiming to discuss the public education reforms and trigger their implementation Dewey, Due to his huge impact upon world politics, in both theory and practice, Woodrow Wilson is a very popular figure among researchers and authors in the field of political science and international relations.

Scott Berg laboriously defines Wilson as a true architect, one that offered a model for higher education when he was leading Princeton, a model for a different type of government, still liberal but more interventionist, when he took his mandates at the White House, and a model for a new international system, based on a democratic world order, when he rose on the world stage at the Paris Peace Conference in Berg, Charles Zorgbibe vividly portraits Wilson as a crusader, always campaigning in the name of democracy for the weak and the poor, be it students at Princeton, ordinary American people, or nations around the world Zorgbibe, The Inquiry and the Peace Conference.

A great deal of research was dedicated to the Paris Peace Conference of , as one of the most intense, long-lasting, all-encompassing and high-impact diplomatic events in world history. The U. The aim is to study the role of this group, virtually a think-tank, in the decision-making process that produced the American official position papers and projects.

Peter Grose briefly pictures the context which led to the creation of the group but, more importantly, presents the Peace Conference from a different angle, the backstage of the experts and scholars that were preparing the meetings of the high officials Grose, Focusing on this unofficial perspective, on the peace-making rather than the formal texts of the treaties is the main reason for choosing personal accounts from participants to the Conference in as references.

David Hunter Miller collected an impressive number of documents, a great deal of them elaborated by members of the Inquiry, circulated at the Peace Conference among the members of the American delegation, allowing for a potential correlation of what has been proposed by scholars and adopted by decision-makers Miller, Progressivism: a brief outlook.

By the end of the 19 th century, the United States were in the midst of complex changes. In the decades that followed the Civil War, an urban and multicultural society had emerged, fueled by the industrial growth and immigration. Given their natural propensity to foster hope and to seek progress through changes, these reformers were later labeled Progressives, although they did not constitute a monolithic community but rather a very diverse one. In politics they were both from the Republican and Democratic parties and ran as wide as Socialists and Radicals, not to mention that they have even established a short-lived Progressive Party.

However, there are some common traits generally tying Progressives together, in terms of motivation or belief. The belief of virtually all Progressives was that there really existed a common good and a public interest Nugent, , p. Governmental languor to these ills was caused both by the lack of institutional and legal instruments, specific to the de-regulated environment of the late 19 th century, and, to a greater extent, to a corrupted system that paralyzed all levels of government: local, state and federal.

The jobs were instead distributed by political machines, the major urban political organizations, and their bosses on the basis of political loyalty or financial support. This black, invisible administration controlled the existence of entire communities and even the whole nation and its architecture was resistant to change: the bosses were not elected, but instead they were supporting the actual candidates, sometimes nominated by them, and as a result the election process. Governmental regulation was thus considered a vital condition for the quality of life of individuals, communities, and the nation.

Disinterested activism, private charity and pure research were not enough by themselves; they needed to be supplemented by new legislation and public services in order to provide better standards of living. Government started to appeal to Progressive intellectuals as a topic of research and sometimes even as a profession. Reform activism had a particularly strong intellectual inspiration. In this context, education was indispensable to government and to the whole reform process of both state and society. It was not just a recruitment pool for professional, competent bureaucrats, but a source of knowledge and expertise for policy.

Moreover, it was crucial for the creation of an educated, informed and thus empowered citizen as the actively engaged resource in democratic politics. As such, education as a domain became the focus of Progressive debates and proposed reforms. Progressive education in a democratic society. The heterogeneous character of Progressivism was also present in the education field.

Some historians point at administrative and pedagogical progressives, others divide them into conservative and liberal, while a last category define three schools of thought focusing on social efficiency, child development and social reconstruction Labaree, , p. While contemporary debates revolve around progressive pedagogy, centered on the nature of learning, needs of the students, and class methodology, the debate in the Progressive Era was won by administrative progressives and their utilitarian vision grounded in scientific curriculum-making and efficient management practices Labaree, , pp.

Utility also had the upper hand over the romantic vision that held in high regard the will and needs of the child Labaree, , p. Last but not least, the fact that Dewey, a major figure in the camp of the pedagogical progressives, moved early to the higher education system Labaree, , p. However, his ideas on learning and schooling were to become a legacy of the era and in the same time penetrated in the upper spheres of the education realm: universities.

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The result was that in the Progressive Era, more children and students attended schools and universities than ever in the educational history of the United States Pastorello, , p. The new research establishments held a different view on societies, economies and policies, in that they were treated as a whole organism. John Dewey stood tall among the Progressives. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, His principles never became dominant in educational philosophy in terms of class practice oriented toward the student, but they have contributed to the proliferation of the view that schools and universities are the means for the development of critical, applied, socially engaged intelligence that increases the awareness of the citizens with regard to public affairs, their understanding of the matter and the competences to effectively participate in decision-making.

Wilson and the Inquiry at the Paris Peace Conference True to the Progressive spirit, Woodrow Wilson, himself a highly reputable scholar, infused the politics and policies he pursued with the beliefs and ideas of the time. He wanted a stronger interventionist state, capable of fighting private interests, surging from politics or economics, as the only representative of the common will.

In the foreign realm, two capital legacies of Wilsonianism — self-determination and the League of Nations — were based on the historicist and humanist view of the Progressives that believed democracy was the next logical step in the evolution of humanity towards greater civilization and progress. A case in point is the work a group of scholars and experts — the Inquiry — that Wilson accepted, greeted and used as a basis for policy and action. Moreover, he encouraged their participation to the Paris Conference as members of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace. It is also worth mentioning that the Department of State, led by Bryan, also had the intention to create such a group but Gelfand, , pp.

In other words, the administration lacked the knowledge and expertise on a number of issues it was expecting and anticipating to discuss in Paris. Anyhow, the President clearly welcomed their recommendations. The result is obvious from the anatomy of the Inquiry Gelfand, , pp. These scholars redrew frontiers, arranged for economic treaties, formulated principles and designed institutions Grose, , p.

Although their work was eventually altered due to national interests and political action, their contribution was nevertheless valuable. Learning the lessons from the American Progressive Era leads to an obvious conclusion: good governance is depending on an increasing flow of talented scholars and knowledgeable expertise from the academia. Leaving common interest and openness aside, public authorities simply do not possess a better alternative to academic study as a guide and framework for statecraft.