January 2019
Gray Matters

Building on Our 50 Year Commitment to Progressive Education

Happy New Year and welcome back!  I trust everyone had a wonderful break, spending time with friends and family, relaxing and re-energizing.

On more than one occasion, likely this year in the context of reflecting on Capitol Hill Day School's 50th Anniversary, you have probably heard me write or say, "our mission and philosophy are as relevant today as they have ever been." Without question, in my mind, the relevance of teaching and learning at Capitol Hill Day School is rooted in our commitment to progressive education.   

Progressive philosophy, as a belief in what education should be, has a history that dates back to before the turn of the 20th century and stands up extremely well to what present day experts argue should be the emphasis for today's learners (critical problem solving, analytical thinking, creativity, collaboration). Most importantly, the tenets of progressive philosophy of education should ring true as the rationale for why we work with thoughtful intentionality to create the Capitol Hill Day School educational environment.

In his book Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America's Schools, Tom Little captures the foundations of progressive philosophy as well as anyone I have read:

  • Attention to children's emotions as well as their intellects
  • Reliance on students' interests to guide their learning
  • Involvement of students in real-world endeavors
  • The study of topics in an integrated way, from a variety of different disciplines
  • Support for children to develop a sense of social justice and become active participants in America's democracy

A misconception of progressive education is that it is not "academically rigorous." In my mind and others (see Alfie Kohn, Progressive Education: Why It's Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find) this could not be further from the truth. Capitol Hill Day School students develop a strong sense of self and a genuine concern for those around them (essential qualities for learners in and of themselves), and at the same time a deep love of learning and an ability to analytically solve and think critically about challenging problems.  

Our children are inheriting a complex social, political, and intellectual world.  As graduates of Capitol Hill Day School, I argue that they are well equipped to navigate all that is before them.  

To learn more about progressive education, I encourage you to join me at my Java with Jason on January 29. For this coffee, I invited current Capitol Hill Day School parents who attended progressive schools as children, to share their personal anecdotes of the impact of progressive education. 

Signature of Head of School, Jason Gray

Jason Gray
Head of School