John Dewey (1859-1952) was one of America’s most prominent scholars. He was one of the major proponents of Progressive Education and Liberalism. He was a passionate advocate for children, believing civil liberty, democracy, freedom, and equality – happiness – all begin in the classroom. 

He placed great emphasis on training those who teach, and by 1903 his research was focused on teacher training. He came to believe that teachers become too ‘mechanical.’ Over time, they become more proficient practitioners of creating and delivering lesson plans and managing the classroom and begin to “work automatically,” focusing solely on the transmission of the approved curriculum. This, he argued makes students passive or inactive to the point where they are being treated as “Superficial beings.” 

Instead, he called for classrooms where, “The child must be presented with new content in such a way that allows the student to relate that information to prior experiences, thus deepening the connection with this new knowledge.” 

He advocated for teacher training that encourages not just content or subject-matter mastery, but which also trains teachers to become students of children – “students of education.” Teachers must be like doctors and lawyers, he wrote, who must constantly research new ideas about their professions. He especially wanted all teachers to understand that “The interaction of knowledge and skills with experience is key to learning.” Deep learning. 

120 years ago, John Dewey named this idea “Progressive Education.” Like his Italian contemporary Maria Montessori, he called for hands-on learning; discovery by doing. He stressed the value of problem solving and critical thinking skills. He urged collaboration amongst children and teachers. He believed schools were nurseries for democracy and social responsibility.

Over a century ago, he passionately argued that America’s K-12 administration has the responsibility to teach skills that will be required in the future. He didn’t think much of the textbooks in use and advocated for better and newer teaching resources. He was a member of the American Federation of Teachers union.  

He believed that if teacher training were to be refocused towards Progressive Education, the teacher not only had to become a proficient teacher of the curriculum but to become, “an inspirer and director of children’s soul-life.” 

“Imposing an alleged uniform general method upon everybody breeds mediocrity in all but the very exceptional.” John Dewey.

In an era in which the jobs of the future have not yet been created, schools indeed have an urgent responsibility to teach the skills children will require in the future. Who knew what an Influencer was a decade ago? 

Making this the most important question: How can we teach skills that children will always need? Start by identifying them. In my view, it’s a safe bet that no matter what job or life they choose to learn, move on, and grow, children will always need to Think, Collaborate, Solve, and Communicate. 

The really good news is that they already possess these skills from birth, there’s no need to teach them, even if we could, they’re hardwired. From that observation, it is only a small step to deduce that the focus must be on helping children polish these gifts as they learn for themselves. They do it anyway. 

Dewey believed there are roles for lecture style learning-teaching, but the better role is tutor, he thought. 

H.R. and Management consultants have a word for helping people polish their innate hybrid skills. They call it Upskilling. “Building upon skills you already have to fortify your expertise.” And it is a very high priority for businesses. 

Amongst employers, upskilling has been shown to be essential to improving engagement, interest, productivity, and customer and staff retention. Crucially, it empowers people to prepare for fast changing demands of the new economy, and it saves money. 

Does upskilling apply in the classroom? Do children have the hybrid skills on which they can build to fortify their expertise? Yes. They can think, collaborate, solve, and communicate. Thankfully, they are baked in. 

The world our teachers and children inhabit is constantly morphing. In response, we should be upskilling both children and teachers to “Skate to where the puck will be.” (Wayne Gretzky.) 

This is a cultural shift, and culture is moved by forces we do not individually control. We can control these forces collectively, however. But only way to do that is at the grassroots level. That is where nimbleness thrives. At the bottom of the power pyramid by servant leaders,

If an appropriate education is a civil right, as both Dewey and MLK Jr. argued, then a relevant education to futureproof children must also be the obligation of civil society to all its citizens.   

“What does a relevant education look like? “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1947.

The Terego Ideation Method™ is designed to ensure that children will think things through thoroughly, before making decisions.

Here is an example of how to unleash children’s potential using the Terego Ideation Method™. The video’s subject is “Why Does Math Matter?” But the subject could be anything, the method still works across all subjects and all ages.  

Download your Terego Ideation Method™ Certification workbook and get started with a child-led approach today. It’s FREE. Help children futureproof themselves.

“Finally, a program that provides an elegant solution to utilize what we know about learning and the teaching and learning process.” Stephen B. Graves, PhD, Professor of Education, University of South Florida

See Tim Seldin, President of the Montessori Foundation, explain why Maria Montessori would approve of the Terego Ideation Method™.

Thanks for reading, and please share with other teacher and parent friends. 


My Hybrid Learning book.   



Facebook/Blue Ocean Schools