Remembering progressivism in education: Looking back on alternative schooling in the 1970s

Year: 2012

Author: McLeod, Julie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper draws on oral histories conducted with former teachers and students involved in the alternative school movement in the 1970s, focussing mostly on schooling in Victoria, but speaking more broadly to the up-swell of interest in alternative forms of curriculum and school structures during this period and the promise of self-consciously new ways of imagining and doing schooling. These interviews form part of a longer history of progressive ideas and practices in education that has emerged from a project on the history of Australian adolescence and education for citizenship (1930s-70s). Alternative schooling usually means something quite different now from its articulation in the 1970s, with the former linked to second-chance schooling or schooling for at-risk students. The latter can seem a romantic blip, an upsurge of optimism that in the present would not be tolerated or even imagined as possible. Looking to earlier expressions of progressivism in education offers another, and arguably more fruitful point of comparison, affording insight to how progressive ideas are mediated, transformed, forgotten and enacted across generations, time and place.  Three themes are explored in this presentation: 1) reconfiguring relations between school, community and curriculum; 2) memory of progressive ideas in the 1970s, and remembering the 1970s now; and 3) concepts of nostalgia, the event and the social production of memory in relation to the (recent) history of education.