Dr. Kathleen Kesson Examines Personalized Learning through the eyes of John Dewey.

Dr.Kathleen R. Kesson, LIU-Brooklyn


In 1916, two treatises were published which have come to exemplify the competing paradigms of 20th century American (U.S.) education. One was issued by a superintendent of schools who would become the nation’s first theorist of educational administration. Ellwood Patterson Cubberley emphasized the role of education as a force for widespread literacy, equalization of opportunity, and the cultivation of citizens for a democracy. Cubberley (1916) believed that the processes of schooling should be modeled on those of industry, which was successfully mobilizing capital and resources in this new era: Our schools are in a sense factories in which the raw materials are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. 

The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of the twentieth century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils to the specifications laid down. This demands good tools, specialized machinery, continuous measurement of production to see if it is according to specifications… (p.


Cubberley’s (1916) words provided an apt metaphor of schooling for the industrial age. It is worth noting that this idea is more than a metaphor however; it was literally the form of educational organization promoted by social engineers and school administrators for very specific purposes. In their efforts to “Americanize” the many immigrants flooding our shores, the elite managers of society decided that we needed a common curriculum (though differentiated by social class), prescribed doses of academic subject matter measured in credit hours or “Carnegie units,” graded course work, periodic testing, and a sequential progression through the school curriculum. Mass schooling required these sorts of efficiencies, which were only possible with the standardization of all of the educational components. Cubberley’s words epitomize what curriculum scholars call the “standardized management paradigm.” Larry Cuban (2003) provides an historical analysis of this management approach and concludes with a summary of its basic assumptions..... Read more here.