Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Jack Leonard

Second Advisor

Joseph W. Check

Third Advisor

Thomas O'Grady


In the following history, I explore the evolution of teaching practices in high school English classrooms in education's progressive era. I define the progressive era as between January, 1912, when the National Council of Teachers of English published the first edition of The English Journal, and December, 1941, the beginning of WWII, which marked the first time that high school enrollments began temporarily to decrease. I synthesize the history of teaching English with an interpretation of progressive-era democratic teaching, which I argue reconceptualized the social, intellectual, and moral purposes of education. I justify this framework by citing contemporaneous philosophies of a democratic education, primarily those of Francis Parker, John Dewey, Boyd Bode, and Michael John Demiashkevich. I evaluate teaching practices using this interpretive framework of progressive-era democratic teaching to argue that teaching practices in the progressive era became more democratic. This represented a legitimate pedagogical reform rarely acknowledged in a historiography that tends to repudiate progressive-era efforts to reform teaching. The majority of the evidence I cite to demonstrate teaching practices comes from articles published in The English Journal between 1912 and 1941. However, I also cite numerous progressive-era teaching handbooks and textbooks. Ultimately, I explore the potential for democratic teaching to accomplish the social, intellectual, and moral goals of a democratic education. I consider specifically the apparent contradiction between the goals of democratic teaching and the racial prejudice and discrimination that defines the historical, and in many cases contemporary, issues in American public education.


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