April 19, 2016

The case for cooperative education

Harry Boyte, Education Week - Cooperative Education is a method that combines academic study and classroom learning with practical work experience for which students can receive academic credit (see the Wikipedia entry). Co-op Education draws from Dewey's concept that education should be connected "with real things and materials" and his warning about "the tendency for every vocation to become exclusive...[emphasizing] technical method at the expense of meaning."

Cooperative Education, created by Dewey's contemporary, Herman Schneider, aimed to connect work and liberal learning. From 1965 to 1996 it was supported by federal legislation.  Charles Grassley, Republican senator from Iowa, was the leading champion.

Kathleen Knight Abowitz, who chairs the education leadership department at Miami University, proposes bringing liberal and vocational learning together. "Liberal education should be more vocationalized [with] social relevance and purposes in mind," she argues. "Vocational education should be liberalized [with] larger, holistic humanist aims and purposes." We also need stronger focus in both on civic agency, capacities to act collectively in and on the world.

A new Cooperative Education could help, while countering extremist attacks on education for being disconnected from "jobs."

It would also help to revive the idea of democracy as an empowering way of life, with government as the instrument of our common work.

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