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Curriculum and Bobbitt

As a prolific author in the early 20th century, John Franklin Bobbitt was the father of the modern-day concept of the curriculum and the purpose of education. Rather than place too much emphasis on classic writings and teachings, Bobbitt believed that individuals should be prepared for the practical skills they will need in an increasingly industrialized society. Implementing his teachings at the Philippine Normal School in Manila, Bobbitt was able to hone his theories and develop a complex way of looking at the classroom management and environment and their goals.

Bobbitt and the Philosophy of Education

Curriculum and BobbittBobbitt's philosophy of education was about more than academic training; it was a means of providing individuals with the skills necessary to respond to social problems. Memorizing facts or concepts was not enough for a man to be considered educated. Instead, he needed to have the skills to support himself, the ability to make a living, and the critical thinking and analytical skills to become self-actualized. Maintaining adherence to the classical way of teaching in public education, Bobbitt argued, was akin to wearing blinders, as it kept one from identifying more practical solutions to modern problems. Through the use of human experience, job analysis, identifying and selecting objectives, and detailed planning, Bobbitt was able to revolutionize the classroom experience and engage his students in ways never seen before, giving them the skills and the independence necessary for success.

The legacy Bobbitt left to the field of American education rest in 4 main areas:

  1. The first education philosopher to assert that a curriculum was needed in order to keep educational goals consistent.

  2. His scientific method of outlining a curriculum set a standard for other educators and eduction researchers to adopt a methodical approach to outlining curriculum.

  3. Was the first to explicate that educational curriculums should run in the lines of “tracks”, which guide students towards a specific educational goal.

  4. Called for curriculums to be used as a form of social control in the educational process.

Expounding on these four areas, Bobbitt saw education as an opportunity to prepare students for adulthood. Education needed to be applicable to real world situations and he built his educational strategies around this concept. Not each student needed to be prepared for a college education and Bobbitt saw that the educational process should be segmented in order to properly prepare students for the life they would face after leaving school. As such, the old model of public education, which had relied on supervisory rather than managerial approaches, was increasingly rejected as one that was based on guesswork and that needed to be replaced by a system based on scientific accuracy. Moreover, where school supervision had essentially been a political job requiring little technical preparation, scientific management demanded the talents of highly trained social engineering professionals. The scientific movement in education would also be responsible for the elimination of preexisting evaluative procedures, which had relied heavily on personal opinion, and their replacement with standardized measurements for gauging the effectiveness of the new modern programs at the levels of the individual student, the school, and the school system. “Tracks” were Bobbitt’s way of guiding students towards a specific goal of either preparing for college or vocation and determining these tracks according to their personal aptitude.

Bobbitt's Curriculum and Progressive Education

Bobbitt was part of the progressive education movement which drew upon these charges to develop a critique of the scientific management approach to education, maintaining that the bureaucratic public school system engendered by that approach was steadily stifling the individuality of America’s children by treating them as a mass product to be measured and controlled through testing. The progressive education movement was heavily influenced by the works of John Dewey, who emphasized the need for democratic and cooperative values in education, in order to promote the development of more “socially conscious” students. The movement encouraged educational approaches that would encourage students, especially through social activities, to develop their unique individual talents for critical thinking and reflective inquiry that improved the outcome of education.

As such, central component of Bobbitt and the progressive education movement was the so-called “child study movement,” which stressed the centrality of the development of the individual young student. Particularly, during the 1920s the child- centered progressive movement more directly challenged the scientific management approach through a series of accessible and enjoyable books released during the decade, as well as in articles appearing in liberal popular magazines. Although the child- centered proposals for educational reform rarely dealt with broader social issues, they did emphasize the notion that every child was endowed with gifts of creativity and originality that could be elicited by releasing students from the fetters of routinized, standardized curricula and tests and overly rigid classroom procedures.