Volume XIX, Nos. 1 and 2, 2006
Glenn A. Davis
Irving Babbitt, the Moral Imagination,and Progressive Education
Glenn A. Davis
Literature and the American College
, Irving Babbitt’s critiqueof the new educational theories, was first published in 1908, it wasa shot fired across the bow of the ship of progressive reform inAmerican higher education. Babbitt fired a sound shot, but he lostthe war. Since that time, educational reform has run through vari-ous movements, including, but not limited to, the industrial edu-cation movement, the mental testing movement, differentiatedcurriculum, child-centered education, the mental hygiene move-ment, the efficiency movement, constructivism, and education forlife-adjustment, all reform movements advanced under the rubricof “progressive education.”
Yet, readers who review educationalpractice and who delve into the voluminous works on educationaltheory over the past century, will recognize that Babbitt’s writingson education as an ethical pursuit remain topical. Now more thanever, Americans argue the purpose and value of education and de-bate the central issues of educational content and methodology, asBabbitt did one hundred years ago.Babbitt’s voice should continue to be heard in the public de-bate because his central concern was with that timeless questionraised by the Greeks and most explicitly put forth by Christ: Forwhat is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose
is head of the Middle School Division, All Saints EpiscopalSchool, in Lubbock, Texas.
Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform
(New York:Touchstone, 2001), 60, 412.