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In American Life and the School Curriculum, Harold Rugg explains his idea of future

schooling through a progressive educational theory. His approach to this form of education can
be explained by asking two questions: Why can indoctrination not be the basis of a true
democracy and why is intelligent consent, based on the study of social issues, the only way to
further democracy? Through this, Rugg explains that the goal of educators should be to lead and
inform the community in the study and understanding of society (pg. 303 line 26-27).
To start, it is important to answer the question concerning the reasons against
indoctrination as the basis of a true democracy and social reconstruction. Rugg begins by posing
two questions: Does and must indoctrination take place and should a new society be designed
and forced into the school system (pg. 297 line 10-14)? First, he explains that it is impossible to
prevent the indoctrination of students, for it is a part of daily life (pg. 297 line 16-20). Secondly,
and more importantly, Rugg warns against temptations of indoctrination as portrayed so
effectively by the Soviets and Hitlerites who efficiently use this to impose programs and other
forms of education upon society (pg. 297 line 2-10). Rugg follows this up with the examples of
the dictatorships under Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin to show the danger of indoctrination to
coerce a society into a role of support (pg. 298 line 8-15). In the case of Ruggs life, propaganda
from big businesses was used to indoctrinate society against him, saying that Rugg was
corrupting the way of education for the cause of communism. This intentional use of propaganda
shows that indoctrination can be a powerful tool to persuade society, which is why Rugg cautions
against this for the benefit of democracy. Also, indoctrination hinders the expression of free
speech as well as the opportunity to share and impart all opinions in group discussion, which is
crucial to a democratic society (pg. 299 line 6-11). In this form of society, the multiple sides of
an argument will be undisclosed and leave the people lacking in critical thinking. For these
reasons, Rugg explains that the coercive nature of indoctrination will be opposed by those who
support a democratic society (pg. 299 line 2-4).
Lastly, in explaining Ruggs progressive educational theory, it is crucial to answer the
question regarding intelligent consent based on the study of social issues and why this is this
most effective way to further democracy. Rugg explains that extensive and structured group
discussion is the clear democratic way to implement intelligent consent (pg. 298 line 22-24).
There are multiple ways that this form of intelligent consent brings about democracy such as the
collaboration of intelligent minds, the discussion of different interpretations and sides of an
argument, as well as group learning and experience of alternative ideas (pg. 298 line 24-27).
Rugg then uses Mary Follet to flesh out this idea who explains the idea of circular response as
means of communal education. Rugg and Follet both agree that the product of the intelligent
group discussion is a more complete, intellectual, well rounded thought process which is much
more useful than a single persons view or input created without the collaboration of others (pg.
298 line 29-34). This interplay of minds is crucial to a democratic society as it takes into account
all peoples views and ideas and also builds off each one, creating the most efficient and well
rounded conclusion or product. The next important part of intelligent consent in regards to a
democratic society is implementing the discussion of controversial and contemporary issues
which Rugg explains is the only way, if society desires to reject the imposition of a specific
social order and grow in intelligent consent (pg. 299 line 25-31). Rugg begins this explanation by
giving a view into the past where it was taught that controversial issues would corrupt or skew
childrens minds toward alternative ways of social reform (pg. 300 line 8-13). And even when
discussion of these contemporary issues slipped through the cracks in education, they were still
heavily censored and often fell subject to the interpreting control of the dominant economic class
(pg. 300 line 16-22). Though history has not been supportive of this strategy, Rugg suggests that
it is the most logical route because in order to deal with the social issues and crises of modern
society, people have to be educated on all various possibilities of resolution. Rugg explains that
the current ways of formulas and fixed solutions to social issues is part of the past and needs to
be replaced by the integration of discussion regarding all sides of social issues (pg. 301 line 5-8).
Therefore, in order to further democracy through intelligent consent, society must resist
dangerous indoctrinations and move forward with the study and understanding of the
controversial and contemporary issues at hand.

Rugg creates quite a vivid picture of what his progressive educational theory looks like
which results in a great deal of application to the twenty first century classroom. As he has
stated, the indoctrination of students is inevitable, however, the way in which one can channel
that knowledge and understanding in relation to a group is the real skill to be acquired. The way
to accomplish this relies on two aspects of education: the intelligent consent of group discussion
as well as the leadership of the educator in the study of society. Through these two aspects, a
democratic society can be strengthened and prolonged.
First, regarding intelligent consent in the form of group discussion, particularly pertaining
to present and controversial issues, a school in the twenty first century must be structured around
discussion of relevant topics. In the classroom, this would look like the collaboration of every
student participating in one form or another because all views and ideas are accepted as valuable
building blocks. Rugg explains that in order to be in touch and active with contemporary issues
and life there must be an involvement of controversial issues. This, he shows, can be done with a
dramatic and realistic portrayal of history and the inner workings of past societies. The reality of
history presented in full and truth is extremely beneficial to students as they navigate their own
understandings and create new ideas. The activity of bringing in current events from newspapers
and relevant internet sites is a way that this education can be produced. Not only does this task
give students the freedom to choose the aspect of the news they want to discuss, but each student
will then present their article and state the relevancy behind it. Because these are events of the
present day, students will then be placed into groups of four or five and be asked to discuss the
various topics, analyzing the issues from as many aspects as possible. After small group
discussion has been completed, the topics can be opened up to a large group discussion involving
the whole class. This is where the real knowledge can be gained as students integrate their own
personal views and build on top of others at the same time. This is directly tied with Mary
Folletts idea of circular response in which students are able to brainstorm and reach conclusions
together, benefitting from each persons thoughts, rather than wrestling with these issues
independently.
Lastly, the educator plays a crucial role in the progressive educational theory that Rugg
explains. Ultimately, they are the ones responsible in leading the community in the study of
society. This can be accomplished by leaving as much intellectual freedom for the students as
possible in order to benefit a democratic society and resist coercive indoctrination. A teacher is
responsible in protecting their students against indoctrination by being incredibly well educated.
This means that they should be informed about as many different sides and aspects of a
controversial issue as possible. This is because in order to present the information to their class in
the most open way, they must have a firm grasp on what a variety of people think and say about
the controversy. A teacher should encourage discussion whenever possible. This looks like
setting aside part of each class period to pause, look at what is being learned, and discuss as a
class, making sure that as a teacher, all sides are being well represented. Teachers must daily
strive to teach students to critically think about every situation, giving the students discernment
to decide for themselves and be readily prepared to face the social issues of the current day.
When classes are structured around ways to fix and work among social issues, change is
inevitable, however, this change is one that is concluded personally by each student after
thoughtfully considering every option available through extensive group conversation. With
intelligent consent in the form of group discussion, being led by an extremely knowledgeable
and informed teacher, the possibilities for social democracy are strengthened and prolonged.