This Won’t Make It Past Correlation!

John Nilssonbooks, curiosity, education, God, liberal, Mormon, orthodox, questioning, religion, thought 14 Comments

Here’s another quote from a discarded Church manual predating Correlation.  Who said it and why wouldn’t it fly in today’s Church?:

The pragmatic or experimental view of life has penetrated widely into the educational program of America, in the form known as Progressive Education…Most teachers who accept some of these ideas would indignantly reject any suggestion that the universe is naturalistic or Godless, that there are no fundamental moral truths, or that man is really an animal in the ultimate sense. They are simply unaware of the full logical implications of their adopted beliefs.  For this reason few L.D.S. people regard themselves as “Progressives” or “Naturalists,” even though they practice some of the things which are based on those positions.

Comments 14

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    I realize that when I started this series, I said I would include quotes I like. This is only partially true for this quote. I like the author’s familiarity with trends current in his time, but I disagree with his conclusions.

  2. Analysis pf this quote requires an expansion on what is meant by “Progressive Education”, and I would want to know what the person who said this thinks “Progressive Education” is not what others think it means.

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    One example of what the author cites as an example of “Progressive Education” is the principle that one should teach children, not subjects. The author also states that saying that children and other learners have “needs” and that those needs include “rich experiences, challenges, and democratic participation” would be examples of “Progressive Education”.

    That aside, there are interesting things about this quote which would be killed immediately by the Correlation Committee.

  4. Joseph Fielding Smith?

    Progressive education emphasizes individual experience in learning, diversity, and critical thinking, whereas the traditional public education (early 20th century) emphasized loyalty, duty and uniformity. This quote might be interpreted as a (limited) endorsement of these methods.

    On the other hand, maybe it would not pass correlation because it disparages a “naturalistic” interpretation of the universe. Such disparagement is the core of intelligent design theory, which is a pernicious philosophy that must be fought at all costs (I would hope)!

  5. I think it wouldn’t fly because no one uses terms like “progressives” any more. Kind of like how they dropped terms like “pinkos” and the “new math.”

  6. There is a propensity in the Church to distance itself from movements, even when it agrees with certain elements of those movements. We insist on retaining our peculiarity as a people. I see some merit in that attitude, at least at the macro level.

    However, I appreciate it for recognizing that the Church can do a better job of being progressive than Progressives can be in being progressive.

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    Nope, not Joseph Fielding Smith. Hint: The author was once an education professor at BYU. I share your hope about what stance the Correlation Committee would take on naturalism versus intelligent design, but I think that a larger reason the quote wouldn’t cut it today is it names and takes a position on a specific contemporary trend. That never occurs in manuals now, and rarely even in General Conference. Occasionally Maxwell would day something about secularism, and you’ll rarely hear a reference to materialism (not the philosophical variety) but to name a specific academic field and declare it antithetical to the gospel would not be allowed, I think, for many reasons.


    So true. And until this election year, I hadn’t heard the word socialism from politicians in a really long time too.


    I agree with your assessment that the Church distances itself from movements. I disagree that the author of the quote was making a positive evaluation of the term progressive in any sense.

  8. John N. – if I’m not mistaken, don’t progressives = socialists (according to conservatives)? Equivalent term, though, right?

  9. “I think it wouldn’t fly because no one uses terms like “progressives” any more.”

    American liberals use “progressive” as a synonym for “liberal” all the time.

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    True, the word progressive has morphed into the positive sounding synonym for liberal on the American left.

    Hearing it makes me think of that auto insurance company and of those dinners where you start at one house and move to another for the next course…

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    no one noticed that LDS was spelled with periods in the quote? When did the world’s acronyms shed their periods? 🙂

    1960: L.D.S.
    2008: LDS

  12. I should clarify. I meant no one uses Progressive as a label for a person. Policies or agendas are still referred to as progressive (generally by the left).

  13. Tell that to the Progressive Conservatives in Canada. The Conservative Party of Canada only shed its “Progressive” title about 5 years ago. The old Progressive Party was started in the 1920s and 1930s.

    By the way, I label myself as a progressive liberal. I have always understood the term ‘progressive’ to indicate a Liberal (or I suppose a liberal) that more sympathetic to social liberal ideas.

    I would love to know the source of this quote and to read the whole message. I am anxiously awaiting . . .

  14. I admit that the quote doesn’t make crystal clear that the practices LDS have based on the “progressive” are good things. We need to see if he’s condemning the Saints for their positions, or just noting that the Progressives have some goodness, even if that goodness was conceived in falsehood.

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