School Was Our Life

School Was Our Life

Remembering Progressive Education
Jane Roland Martin, foreword by Estelle R. Jorgensen
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/06/2018
ISBN: 978-0-253-03303-1
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The late 1930s and early 1940s were the peak of progressive education in the United States, and Elisabeth Irwin's Little Red School House in New York City was iconic in that movement. For the first time, stories and recollections from students who attended Little Red during this era have been collected by author Jane Roland Martin. Now in their late eighties, these classmates can still sing the songs they learned in elementary school and credit the progressive education they loved with shaping their outlooks and life trajectories. Martin frames these stories from the former students "tell it like it was" point of view with philosophical commentary, bringing to light the underpinnings of the kind of progressive education employed at Little Red and commenting critically on the endeavor. In a time when the role of the arts in education and public schooling itself are under attack in the United States, Martin makes a case for a different style of education designed for the defense of democracy and expresses hope that an education like hers can become an opportunity for all.

Author Bio

Jane Roland Martin is Professor of Philosophy Emerita at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a recipient of a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is author of Reclaiming a Conversation, The Schoolhome, and Education Reconfigured.


“This sparkling, intimate, and delightfully written memoir demonstrates conclusively how and why elementary education should be designed to fit the natural growth of the human mind.”
 — E.O. Wilson author of The Social Conquest of Earth

“Drawing on her own experiences 75 years ago and those of her classmates, researchers and many others, [Jane Roland Martin] has made it clear why we, even though she and the rest of us privileged to have gone through Little Red can't write cursive and never had to memorize facts and figures, are "The Lucky Ones." She draws on memories of everything from class trips, to writing poetry, to group singing to explain why much of the conventional literature about progressive education has missed the story. If it's too late for you to apply (or send your children and/or grandchildren) to Little Red, read School Was Our Life: Remembering Progressive Education. It's the next best thing.”
 — Victor S. Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation

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Table of Contents

Foreword / Estelle R. Jorgensen



1. Remembering Little Red

2. Child-Friendly Schools

3. The We’ve Been There and Done It Fantasy

4. Close Encounters of an Educational Kind

5. Buried Treasure