Day 2: CALI conference

by Paul Maharg on 20/06/2008

Meetings, meetings — great to see folk, and talk about projects. Fascinating conversation with Conrad Johnson about the realist reforms at Columbia in the 1920s, which I discuss in my book, chapter three. While I was concerned to analyse the effects of Dewey and Thorndike on the reforms, and look at the line of curriculum development onwards, Conrad noted that the previous split earlier in the century had influenced the reforms post WW1. I hadn’t really considered that in my chapter, in part because I didn’t summarise the situation that far back; but Conrad has a point. Actually, his point raises the issue as to why curriculum reforms didn’t happen more effectively at NY Law School. Without having researched it, I’d guess it was a resource issue as much as anything else. If, as Oliphant observed in a memo to Dean Stone, one of the motives underlying the reform movement at Columbia was to ‘out-Harvard Harvard’, writing different casebooks is not the answer, albeit the content is entirely different. In the same memo Oliphant briefly considers what is an early version of problem-based learning, but then dismisses it because ‘this mechanical problem cannot be the center of interest in a study of the curriculum’. But the problem is neither mechanical nor peripheral. Dewey recognised this, as Tanner points out in her great study, and his Lab School at Chicago was founded on the principle.

Day 2 of the conference began with Joel Garreau. Interesting presentation, on the effects of technological change on how we think and live. Slides here.

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