All Commentary
Thursday, March 1, 1956

Book Review: Why Teachers Cant TeachA Case History by Joan Dunn

New York: David McKay Co. Inc., 1955. 224 pp. $3.00.

It was John Dewey’s dream that “the school itself shall be made a genuine form of active community life, instead of a place set apart in which to learn lessons.” For the past 30 years or so, “public” education has been shaped by this philosophy under the name of progressive education. Has it proven its worth?

Joan Dunn has written a book in support of her claim that it hasn’t. Behind her book are four years of practical “experience” (which Dewey deemed so necessary to the learning process) as a teacher in the New York City government school system. Her diagnosis is that the patient (government education) is sick internally and cannot be cured by the application of assorted “Band-Aids.” Our educational system has substituted training in life adjustment for education; but even in what it strives to do, it is defective, having nothing better for a guide than the amoral philosophy of the progressives. There is no cure for this situation in the currently prescribed remedy—federal aid. The clamor for federal funds is premised on the mistaken belief that there is nothing wrong with our educational system that a lot of spending won’t cure. We can spend more, but we can’t buy better—unless our educational philosophy is radically changed.

E. Victor Milione