The Marriage of Progressive Education and Technology | Jeannette Lee-Parikh | 7 Min Read

March 7, 2023

You must have heard about the debacle with the AP African American History class. Rest assured, I am not going to rehash it. Instead, this wholly predictable episode (given the fraught intersection of race and the current political landscape) reveals part of what is wrong with the current industrial model of education: the emphasis on testing knowledge acquisition. The real question is: How is it that the billion-dollar business model of a private company, which exists to make money ranking and sorting our students, is not inspiring more outrage in the 21st century when AI can reproduce the answers since the approach is about the breadth of coverage? Just to be clear, I am not rejecting the AP African American History class; instead, my question is: Why is the race to cover information still so much the focus of education?

Knowledge acquisition, even if the face of the potential disruption ChatGPT raises, is still largely accomplished through content regurgitation. Why do we need students to reproduce content that can be found using Google search, Wikipedia, YouTube, even TikTok, and now ChatGPT? If the answer can be found using any of these tools, then it was a question not worth being asked in a formal learning environment because essentially it is a query not designed to incite curiosity, foster critical thinking, and inspire the imagination. An apt analogy also from the world of education would be to return to weekly vocabulary and grammar tests when ubiquitous spelling and grammar checks are commonly accepted AI tools. Instead, forward-thinking English departments remind students to use the built-in spell checks and focus on helping students make intentional rhetorical choices by using writing and literature models. Which approach incites curiosity, fosters critical thinking, and inspires the imagination of students? Which approach aligns with progressive education?

If we take progressive education seriously, which includes experiential learning, problem-solving, collaborative learning, active participation in a democratic society, integrated curriculum, and lifelong learning, then information acquisition, of which the AP African American History class is an example, wouldn’t dominate. In “The Meaning of African American Studies,” Robin D. G. Kelley, a professor of history at U.C.L.A. and one of the authors whose work was removed from the revised course, explains that African American studies/Africana studies/Black studies at the university level is the study of Black lives: “the…

Register Now
You may use your member school or partner discount code !!!

Jeannette Parikh

Jeannette M E Lee Parikh, PhD, is the assistant editor for Intrepid Ed News as well as the chair of the English department and head of community reading at The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW). Before CSW, where she has been since the fall of 2010, she taught at the college level for six years. She is an ISTE Certified Teacher and OER advocate. She is an experienced practitioner of integrating department-wide academic technology that serves pedagogical and curriculum goals. Her teaching philosophy exists at the intersection of the science of learning and cultivating creative thinking, joy, curiosity, playfulness, and self-awareness in all learners. She has presented at conferences on the importance of deep reading, critical listening, authentic discussion, and strategic writing in the 21st-century classroom.