The Centenary of William H. Kilpatrick’s “Project Method“: A Landmark in Progressive Education Against the Background of American-German Relations After World War I
Keywords:William H. Kilpatrick, John Dewey, Project Method, American-German relations in education; Peter Petersen
In 1935 a book was published in Germany with essays by John Dewey, the most famous American philosopher, and his equally internationally-renowned pupil, William H. Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick’s essay, “The Project Method”, published in 1918 (September), had triggered a storm of enthusiasm in the USA to convert the curriculum of public schools to the project method, which, however, in principle, had been used decades earlier in manual training schools. The article is the starting point of a larger investigation which shows how Kilpatrick’s Project Method came to Germany when its popularity had already evaporated and criticism dominated. This attempt at historical construction is based on previously unpublished letters by Kilpatrick 1931-34. To do this, we must describe the contemporary background, in particular the relations between American and German specialists in education, which were institutionally fostered by the Teachers College of Columbia University, New York City, and the Zentralinstitut für Erziehung und Unterricht (Central Institute for Education and Teaching), in Berlin. Both institutions were engaged in an exchange of educational experience through study trips until 1932. The different attitude and the ambivalence of Kilpatrick and Dewey with regard to the race question in the USA will also be mentioned. Claims of the more recent German Dewey reception that there was no interest in Dewey, Kilpatrick and American education in Germany between 1918-1932 are given critical examination.