Preface to a post on Donalda Dickie

Last weekend the twitter account linked to this blog became the centre of a bizarre discussion on social media. One educationalist described the account as satirical and someone’s idea of “a bit of fun.” If he had left it at that, the discussion might have amused some on a cold Sunday. However, he went on to disparage the names of progressive educators from the past:

We might imagine that the tweets came from a traditionalist. Yet the source was someone who uses the twitter handle @imagineinquiry, writes about the Mantle of the Expert (MOE) and trains teachers in its methods. Unfortunately, he seems to have little idea about the history of his own preferred pedagogy and the ideas of Dorothy Heathcote, the founder of MOE.

In a PhD thesis on Heathcote and MOE, Ruth Sayers says: “Heathcote’s work was rooted in progressive teaching methods.” In the earlier work, according to Sayers, Heathcote adopted Dewey’s description of testing ideas in the “crucible of real life experience”, using ‘crucible’ as a metaphor for the classrooms in her drama-based model of learning. Moreover, Heathcote explicitly used the context of a laboratory in her later works, echoing Helen Parkhurst’s Dalton Laboratory Plan.

We should add that it was the 1931 Hadow Report (also mentioned in the timeline of our twitter account and similarly disparaged as “an esoteric article”) that was one of the first official reports in the UK (from the Board of Education) that recognised the importance of child play and dramatic work: “Drama, both of the less and more formal kinds … offers further good opportunities of developing that power of expression … closely correlated with the development of perception and feeling.”

dickieWhile the ignorance of the educationalist might concern his publishers, his puerile and even offensive comments about the names of the leaders of our movement require a response from progressives.

In the next post, we shall honour the contribution of one of the progressives belittled for her ‘funny-sounding’ name. Donalda Dickie (right) was involved in devising the Enterprise Method and enacting system-wide change of education in Alberta (Canada). She is an inspiration to teachers who attempt to promote progressive education in state schools.