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The Introduction of the “New Education” in Queensland, Australia

  • Peter Meadmore (a1)


Reformist educational discourses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, usually referred to as the “new education” or progressive education, emanated from the industrialized countries of the United States and Western Europe. They emerged partly as a response to social and economic conditions but also as an attempt by educationists to ameliorate the regimentation and pedagogical limitations of nineteenth-century schooling. A considerable degree of cross-pollination of ideas across different countries occurred through visits, study, and the exchange of publications between educationists, allowing an international focus to emerge. The various discourses that constituted progressive education were at times confusing, even contradictory, and the use of these umbrella-type categories masked and distorted the diversity of pedagogical practices. These discourses also found their way into the Southern Hemisphere including British colonies such as Australia.



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1 The term ‘the new education’ was used in Australia at the turn of the twentieth century as a label for the reformist educational discourses included in the term “progressive education.”

2 Rohrs, H.Internationalism in Progressive Education and Initial Steps towards a World Education Movement,“ in Progressive Education Across the Continents: A Handbook eds. Rohrs, H. and Lenhart, V. (Berlin: Peter Lang, 1995), 15.

3 This paper addresses the introduction, as opposed to the implementation, of a reformist syllabus in Queensland in 1905. It is not possible to assess the effects of the 1905 syllabus due to the complete lack of studies in this area.

As a point of clarification, in the Australian context, the word state has two meanings. It can refer to a particular level of government, State government or Federal government, or to the abstract concept of ‘the state’ as opposed to the private sector of industry and enterprise. In this paper State indicates the various Australian States (Victoria, etc.).

4 Beattie, NicholasContextual Preconditions of ‘Open Schooling': The English Case in Historical and Comparative Perspectives,“ Cambridge Journal of Education 27: 1 (1997): 5975.

5 Ibid.

6 See Reese, William J.The Origins of Progressive Education,“ History of Education Quarterly 41 (Spring 2001): 124.

7 Selleck, R. J. W. The New Education: the English Background 1810–1914 (London: Pitman, 1968), 336.

8 Cremin, Lawrence A. The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1816–1951 (New York: Knopf, 1961), x.

9 Cohen, SolThe Influence of Progressive Education on School Reform in the U.S.A.,“ in Progressive Education Across the Continents: a Handbook eds. Rohrs, H. and Lenhart, V. (Berlin: Peter Lang, 1995), 321.

10 Kliebard, Herbert M. The Struggle for the American Curriculum 1893–1958 (New York: Routledge, 1986); idem., Forging the American Curriculum: Essays in Curriculum History and Theory (New York: Routledge, 1992); idem., “Constructing the Concept of Curriculum on the Wisconsin Frontier,” History of Education 25:2 (1996) 123–139.

11 Zilversmit, Arthur Changing Schools: Progressive Education Theory and Practice: 1930–1960 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

12 Ibid., 2.

13 Ibid.

14 Hyams, B. K.Cyril Jackson and the Introduction of the New Education in Western Australia,“ in Pioneers of Australian Education, Volume 2 ed. Turney, C. (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1972), 250.

15 Rodwell, G. W. With Zealous Efficiency: Progressivism and Tasmanian State Primary Schools 1900–1920 (Darwin: William Michael Press, 1992), 67.

16 Selleck, R. J. W. Frank Tate: A Biography (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1982), 112.

17 Crane, A. R. and Walker, W. G. Peter Board: His Contribution to the Development of Education in New South Wales (Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, 1957).

18 Selleck, R. J. W. Hyams, B. K. and Campbell, E. M.The Directors—F. Tate, W. T. McCoy and S. H. Smith,“ in Pioneers of Australian Education: Volume 3 ed. Turney, 50.

19 Selleck, See The New Education, 2469.

20 See Butts, R. Freeman and Cremin, Lawrence. A. A History of Education in American Culture (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1953), 176179; Selleck, The New Education, 45; Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 4–7.

21 See Lamberti, MarjorieRadical Schoolteachers and the Origins of the Progressive Education Movement in Germany, 1900–1914,“ History of Education Quarterly 40 (Spring 2000): 2248.

22 Cruikshank, Kate in her review of Peter Metz, Herbartianism as a Paradigm for Professional and School Reform (Bern: Peter Lang, 1992) has drawn attention to a similar dissatisfaction with “the catechetical mode of teaching” in Germany. See History of Education Quarterly 36 (Fall 1996): 336. In a study of teachers in Queensland one-room schools in the period 1920–50, a common complaint of school inspectors in their annual report was that teachers continued to use the question and answer catechetical form of teaching. Associated with an instrumentary educational approach, the inspectors described it as being “mechanical” and “un-intellectual.” See Meadmore, Peter “Hard Times, Expedient Measures: Women Teachers in Queensland Rural Schools, 1920–50,” History of Education 28:4 (1999): 435–447.

23 Selleck, The New Education, 47.

24 Prior to the establishment of strict political party discipline, governments in Queensland were often short lived. As a result of this, permanent senior public servants such as Anderson and Ewart accumulated considerable power, as the ministerial incumbent usually did not have time to become familiar with his portfolio before being replaced as the result of a change of government.

25 Logan, Greg'Grey Eminence’ in the Treasury Buildings; David Ewart and Educational Reform in Queensland: 1888–1897,“ The Educational Historian 2: 2 (1989): iii.

26 Queensland State Archives, memorandum, 19 August 1890, Agriculture Various, 1889–1890, RSI 12347-1-132.

27 A Royal Commission into the Queensland Civil Service in 1887 found Anderson and Ewart to have acted in “an arbitrary, capricious and unfeeling manner” and that they failed to keep up with educational developments in other Colonies or in other parts of the world. See Greg Logan, “Soldiers of the Service: J. G. Anderson and David Ewart,” in Soldiers of the Service: Some Early Queensland Educators and their Schools eds. Greg Logan and Tom Watson (Brisbane: History of Queensland Education Society, 1992); idem., “‘Grey Eminence’ in the Treasury Buildings;” John Lawry, “Understanding Australian Education 1901 to 1914,” in Australian Education in the Twentieth Century eds John Cleverley and John Lawry (Melbourne: Longman, 1972); Ezra Wyeth, Education in Queensland (Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, n.d. [1955].

28 Brisbane Courier, 8 January 1903.

29 Ibid., 26 January 1904.

30 Votes and Proceedings, Queensland Legislative Assembly, 1904, Report of Convention.

31 Spaull, Andrew and Sullivan, Martin A History of the Queensland Teachers’ Union (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1989), 102.

32 Brisbane Courier, 30 January 1904.

33 Queensland, Annual Report of the Secretary for Public Instruction, 1903 (Brisbane: Queensland Government, [1904]), 54.

34 Ibid., 1903, 55.

35 Ibid., 1904, 23.

36 Cole, P. R.New South Wales,“ in Education in Australia: A Comparative Study of the Educational Systems in Six Australian States ed. Browne, G. S. (London: Macmillan, 1927), 19.

37 Ibid.

38 New South Wales, Department of Public Instruction, “The New Syllabus of Instruction-Preface,” New South Wales Educational Gazette (March 1904): 234. See Spaull and Sullivan, A History of the Queensland Teachers’ Union, 102–103; L. A. Mandelson, “Australian Primary Education, 1919–1939: A Study of Inertia, Continuity and Change in State Controlled Schooling” (Ph.D. diss., University of Sydney, 1974), 13.

39 Crane, A. R.The Development of State-controlled Education in New South Wales: 1900 to 1922,” (M.Ed. diss., University of Melbourne, 1949), 29.

40 Ibid., 26.

41 Queensland, Department of Public Instruction, Schedule 14, Preface to Syllabus of Instruction: Course of Instruction for Each Class (Brisbane: Queensland Government, 1904), 201.

42 Ibid., 202.

43 Ibid., 200.

44 Board, P. Report Upon Observations and Enquiries made with regard to Primary Education in Other Countries (Sydney: NSW Government Printer, 1903), 4.

45 Ibid., 6.

46 Connell, W. F. A History of Education in the Twentieth Century World (Canberra: Curriculum Development Centre, 1980), 64.

47 Queensland, Department of Public Instruction, Preface to Syllabus, 200.

48 Dunt, L. Speaking Worlds: The Australian Educator and John Dewey 1890–1940 (Melbourne: History Department, University of Melbourne, 1993), 7.

49 Ibid., 7. Dunt cites: W. G. Gates, “The Theory of Concentration,” Australian Schoolmaster and Literary Review, 18:21(1897): 229–230; S. Lasker, “Address on ‘Herbart',” Australian Journal of Education [hereafter AJE], 1:3 (1903): 16–19 and 1:4 (1903): 3–4; S. H. Smith, “Modern Educational Ideals,” AJE, 3:5 (1905): 11.

50 Connell, A History of Education in the Twentieth Century, 64.

51 Ibid., 65.

52 Ibid.

53 Selleck, The New Education, 252.

54 Queensland, Department of Public Instruction, Preface to Syllabus, 200.

55 Ibid., 202.

56 Connell, A History of Education in the Twentieth Century, 65.

57 Crane and Walker, Peter Board, 37.

58 Parker, F. Talks on Teaching (New York: Kellogg, 1893), 34.

59 Department of Public Instruction, NSW, Conference of Inspectors, Teachers, Departmental Officers and Prominent Educationalists (Sydney: Government Printer, 1904), 113.

60 Queensland, Department of Public Instruction, Preface to Syllabus, 201.

61 Ibid., 202.

62 Ibid.

63 Cohen, The Influence of Progressive Education on School Reform in the USA,“ 324326.

64 Queensland, Department of Public Instruction, Preface to Syllabus, 202.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid., 203.

67 Ibid.

68 Queensland, Annual Report, 1904 23.

69 Wyeth, Education in Queensland, 157.

70 Queensland, Annual Report, 1904 23.

71 Zilversmit, Changing Schools, 21.

72 New South Wales Educational Gazette, 13:12 (1904): 286.

73 Marks, E. N.John Shirley,“ in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1988), 598599. The University of Sydney awarded Shirley a doctorate in science in 1912.

74 Queensland, Annual Report, 1904 23.

75 Ibid., 24.

76 Hyams, B. and Bessant, B. Schools for the People? An Introduction to the History of State Education in Australia (Melbourne: Longman, 1972), 87.

77 Turney, C. ed. Sources in the History of Australian Education: 1788–1970 (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1972), 90.

78 Beattie, Contextual Preconditions of ‘Open Education.'

He has published widely in the history of education. The author wishes to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers from the History of Education Quarterly for their constructive suggestions.

The Introduction of the “New Education” in Queensland, Australia

  • Peter Meadmore (a1)


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