Long-time educator and author Larry Cuban points out it wasn’t so long ago that education reformers were using the school-as-factory metaphor to praise the efficiency and productivity of a model that could shape children for the demands of life. These days, progressive education reformers deride the factory model of education that treats all children the same way, expecting them to move through the system at the same pace, learning the same content in the same way. They point out that no two learners are the same and that education should meet individuals where they are to ensure the next generation of citizens are equipped to face future challenges. While other metaphors have been floated, the factory image remains strong because it can be twisted to suit both arguments.
You have seen images like these time and again: The idea of the school as an efficient factory assembly line has a long but surprising history. A century ago, the notion of schools delivering finished products to a democratic society was both new and admired. Here is what Professor Ellwood P.