Journal of Educational Controversy


Monday, December 1, 2014

In Memory: John Goodlad 1920-2014

It is with sadness that I share with our readers the passing of educator and philosopher John Goodlad. Our journal had a very special relationship with Dr. Goodlad. Our association with a local progressive school as part of a team that participated in Dr. Goodlad’s National League of Democratic Schools enabled us not only to write about democratic educational theory but to see it in action. The head of that school, Susan Donnelly, created her school as a laboratory for democratic practices. And teachers in that school like Vale Hartley shared real life democratic experiences by writing about them in our journal. See “The Elementary Classroom: A Key Dimension of a Child's Democratic World.” They are both the legacy that John left. They shared his passion for democratic education and worked to realize his vision in the reality of their school.

John’s purpose in forming the League of Democratic Schools was to bring together those committed to the ideal of democratic renewal to regional conferences where they could share their many experiments in democratic living as well as find fellowship and support with others who shared the same vision.

Our journal’s winter 2010 issue was dedicated to John Goodlad’s lifetime work in helping us to think about the kind of education that is required to sustain a vital democracy. In his prologue to the issue that he titled, “An Agenda for Education in a Democracy,” he shared his deepening concern that public schooling was increasingly betraying its commitment to any democratic public purpose. “Whatever happened to the educational system,” he wrote, “that was once regarded as the source of our enlightenment and the bastion of our security?” John’s prolific writings were a clarion call for reclaiming a democratic public purpose for our schools against the assault by what he called “the god of economic utility.” The League of Democratic Schools was the active arm to his life of research and writing.

And so it remains an unfinished project. But his legacy will be in all those who believe we must educate “as if democracy really mattered.” John asked us to continue to think about what it means to really create a public that is capable of sustaining a vital democracy. We at the journal hope we can continue his conversation.