William Heard Kilpatrick (1871–1965) - American EducationAmerican educator and philosopher whose books prompted the implementation of John Dewey’s progressive pedagogical methods in tens of thousands of schools throughout the world. Born and educated in Georgia, Kilpatrick was a teacher and school principal in his home state and taught college mathematics at his alma mater, Mercer College, before taking a teaching post at Columbia University Teachers College in 1909. There, he met and became a disciple of John Dewey, who, although a prolific writer, expressed his ideas in complex and excruciatingly vague language that allowed for much misunderstanding among those in the practical world of teaching.
A popular teacher and gifted writer, Kilpatrick wrote a number of widely read books that translated Dewey’s theories of education into easily understood teaching practices that schoolteachers and administrators could institute immediately. Key to these was the so-called project method, which Kilpatrick refined into a straightforward series of projects, such as building play houses or furniture, cooking a dinner for a “formal” dinner party or making clothes. Although the children considered such projects fun and nothing more than play, teachers used them to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, measuring and other basic academic skills. Kilpatrick railed at schoolteachers, administrators and educators who variously misread and misunderstood Dewey’s theory of PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION as meaning that children should be permitted to play freely in school, free of discipline. Like Dewey, Kilpatrick believed in strict behavioral controls and close teacher supervision of children. Indeed, Kilpatrick was a harsh critic of the MONTESSORI method that left children free and unattended much of the time, to learn or not, by doing whatever interested them on their own. His convincing opposition in his 1914 book, The Montessori Method Examined, brought the Montessori schools movement to a halt in the United States until after World War II.
In addition to his graduate teaching and writing, Kilpatrick was deeply involved in the operations and curriculum development of Horace Mann Lower School, the experimental school of Columbia Teachers College whose curriculum was based in part on Dewey’s original UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LABORATORY SCHOOL. The Horace Mann Lower School used Kilpatrick’s project method as the basis for teaching academic skills from the four-year-old group through sixth grade. Kilpatrick remained at Teachers College until his retirement in 1938—a span of 29 years, during which he also helped found Bennington (Vermont) College (1925), the first college to base its program on progressive education. Kilpatrick was president of its board of trustees from 1931 to 1938. Among his many important books are Source Book in the Philosophy of Education (1923), Foundations of Method (1925), Education for a Changing Civilization (1926), Education and the Social Crisis (1932), Remaking the Curriculum (1936), Group Education for a Democracy (1940) and Philosophy of Education (1951).