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Idealism Transformed

Idealism Transformed: The Making of a Progressive Educator

Copyright Date: 1985
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    Idealism Transformed
    Book Description:

    John Harold Putman, inspector of Ottawa public schools between 1910 and 1937, was a leading progressive educator. At that time the progressive education movement in Canada was composed of two major intellectual strands, neo-Hegelian idealism and new liberalism. By tracing the thought and practices of this eminent educator, Wood shows how the neo-Hegelian philosophy of the late nineteenth century was transformed by its own logic and social imperatives into what seems to be its opposite. Idealism, ironically, ultimately comes to resemble pragmatism. Elected to the Ottawa City Council in 1905, Putman allied himself with progressive urban reformers seeking solutions to urban chaos, ward patronage, and inefficient city government. As inspector of public schools, he brought his reformist outlook to bear on providing for the discontented adolescent in the school and on implementing an efficient school system. Two schools established by Putman provided a diversified program for the adolescent; they led, however, not to the self-realization of the individual but to social unification and streaming for vocational roles. At the end of World War I the Ottawa public schools under Putman were judged the most efficient and progressive of any in Canada. But following the tenets of new liberalism and of urban school reformers in the United States, Putman achieved this goal by creating more bureaucratic practices and more formalized procedures, which again contradicted the idealist's moral, humanistic intent. In the postwar period Putman extended the efficiency principle to his survey of schools in British Columbia and his campaigns for junior high schools and county boards in Ontario. By the end of the 193OS, the author contends, the progressive educator had effectively transformed the use of schooling for life adjustment, not for intellectual purposes.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8538-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Urban Progressive/Rural Conserver
    (pp. 3-19)

    The municipal elections of December 1905 were highly significant in the nation’s capital. Mayor James A. Ellis fought the whole campaign on what was termed the “public principle,”¹ a major plank of Canadian municipal reformers which particularly focused on the question of municipal ownership of utilities. Ottawa’s Rideau Ward became the battleground for this principle.

    At the beginning of the year a number of progressive ratepayers, dissatisfied with the lacklustre performance of the three incumbent aldermen in Rideau Ward, formed a committee to bring out candidates to oppose them. They persuaded John Harold Putman, headmaster of the Ottawa Model School,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO A Creed of Practical Idealism
    (pp. 20-43)

    From the moment he arrived in Ottawa to take up his position as second assistant in the Ottawa Model School in 1894, Putman took advantage of the new Senate regulations of Queen’s College allowing degree programs to be followed extramurally.¹ By 1897 he had completed the requirements for the junior and senior French course, and by 1899 those for junior philosophy, junior Latin, animal biology, annd senior philosophy. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in April 1899.² The two courses in which he strove to excel were French and philosophy, the latter under Professor John Watson.³

    In its most...

  6. CHAPTER THREE A School for Higher English and Applied Arts
    (pp. 44-60)

    On 6 October 1910 the public school trustees of Ottawa elected by secret ballot John Harold Putman as inspector of the Ottawa Public School Board. It was a significant choice. Putman, the only nominee with a Doctor of Pedagogy degree, defeated by a six-vote lead two Ottawa principals, thereby establishing the reformers’ principle of merit over local favouritism. The onus was now on him to carry forward this progressive mandate.

    Putman chose the establishment of a school, fittingly, to inaugurate his reform platform. A School for Higher English and Applied Arts epitomized his New Education philosophy and became an object...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR “Painting with a Big Brush”
    (pp. 61-85)

    In his first year of office as inspector of the Ottawa Public School Board, one of Putman’s major concerns was with the 40 to 50 per cent of pupils who had failed the provincial entrance examination to high school. His chief reason was psychological; most of these students were “concrete minded” and would develop their mental powers through some form of handwork rather than through the literary and mathematical, or “bookish,” curriculum imposed by the entrance standard. At the end of his career he considered his most important reform to have been “a changed emphasis upon studies and activities which...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE American Models
    (pp. 86-105)

    In March 1913 Dr Putman, accompanied by Building Inspector W. B. Garvock, toured the schools of eastern and mid-western cities in the United States to investigate their most progressive policies on school administration and accommodation. The seventeen articles which Putman wrote en route for theOttawa Citizenwere designed to educate the Ottawa public and to provide supporting evidence for the reform program he was implementing. His chief concern, as well as that of the Ontario Department of Education, was to establish a more efficient school system. As a result Putman concentrated on reforms which emphasized a corporate model of...

  9. CHAPTER SIX An Efficient School System
    (pp. 106-127)

    A key preoccupation of progressive educational reformers was that of waste in education, the subject of an address by Putman to the Ontario Educational Association in 1916. Deplored by scientific management experts and leading American schoolmen such as Franklin Bobbitt at the University of Chicago, whose article on the same topic came out in theElementary School Teacherof 1912, waste was equated with inefficiency. Putman’s own Methodism, which had deeply ingrained in it the idea of accountability and decentralized organizational structure,¹ strongly influenced his attitude to waste. The Ontario Department of Education, of course, was renowned for its centralizing...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Imperialism and Postwar Reconstruction
    (pp. 128-147)

    Despite his visits to the United States and his adoption of many American management policies, Putman strongly tempered his reformist impulses with a conservatism derived from the Canadian sense of imperialism. During World War I this conservatism became apparent in three areas: the Strathcona Trust program of the Ottawa public schools in physical and military training, which included the cadet movement; the civics and history emphases in the program of studies; and the campaign for adult education. All three mirrored trends that had been developing in the province and across Canada from the turn of the century, but the war...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Putman-Weir Survey
    (pp. 148-168)

    On 23 April 1924 S.J. Willis, superintendent of education for the province of British Columbia, announced to the BC Teachers’ Federation that a provincial education survey was to be conducted to inquire into a broad range of financial, curricular, and administrative questions. Reform-minded schoolmen were elated. Two years earlier the federation had passed several resolutions calling for an educational survey by experts, but no action had resulted. A delegation headed by F.J. Nicholson, chairman of the Vancouver School Board, and supported by such diverse groups as the Parent-Teachers’ Federation of British Columbia, the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Vancouver Trades...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Progressive School Reformer
    (pp. 169-181)

    On his return from British Columbia in 1925, Putman decided that he had to tackle two major administrative reforms in the educational system of Ontario. Following the passage of the Adolescent School Attendance Act in 1919, intermediate or junior high schools needed to be established for adolescents who were compelled to attend school until sixteen years of age. Larger administrative units were needed in rural areas to equalize educational opportunities and the great range of tax rates in local districts throughout the province. Although neither goal was successfully attained during his lifetime, the measures, when they were achieved, brought to...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 192-195)

    In the last ten years of his life many people heralded John Harold Putman for his progressive leadership in education. In 1931 he was appointed president of the Ontario Educational Association. Four years later, on the occasion of his silver anniversary with the Ottawa Public School Board, his fellow teachers held a large banquet in his honour at the Chateau Laurier. Included in the toasts were many tributes to his outstanding service. In 1936, in celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the OEA, Putman was chosen as one of four leading educationists in Ontario to receive an honorary doctorate of...

  14. Abbreviations
    (pp. 196-196)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 197-220)
  16. Index
    (pp. 221-232)