Academic journal article High School Journal

Progressive Education and Quaker Schooling: Alabama Emigrants' Influence on Education in Monte Verde, Costa Rica

Academic journal article High School Journal

Progressive Education and Quaker Schooling: Alabama Emigrants' Influence on Education in Monte Verde, Costa Rica

Article excerpt

In 1950, a group of Quakers left Alabama because of their religious and political beliefs and resettled in Costa Rica, taking with them a strong commitment to educational progressivism and Quaker principles. The school the expatriates established, the Friends School of Monteverde, closely resembled the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, the well-known progressive school in Fairhope, Alabama, where many of the Quakers had been students, teachers, or administrators. Over the fifty years of its existence, the Friends School has also been influenced by the Quaker faith, child-centered progressivism, an d, increasingly, by Costa Rican culture. In turn, the Quakers and their school have become a significant influence in educating Costa Rican students. This paper, based on ongoing research in Fairhope and Monteverde, examines progressive and Quaker influences on education in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Introduction

In 1950 a group of Quakers left Alabama because of their religious and political beliefs and moved to Costa Rica. As modem pioneers, they literally started life over in a frontier area they named Monteverde--Green Mountain. The school the expatriates established in their new home, the Monteverde Friends School, closely resembled the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, the well-known progressive school in Fairhope, Alabama, where several of the Quakers had been students, teachers, or staff members. Over the almost fifty years of its existence, the Friends School has also been influenced by the Costa Rican culture, and, of course, by the Quaker faith. This paper, based on ongoing research in Fairhope and Monteverde, examines Progressive and Quaker influences on education in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Our research is grounded in oral, written, observational and participatory sources. One of the researchers is an historian of American education; two are ethnographers in comparative and international education. We initiated the study in Fairhope and traveled to Monteverde to gather data. In both locations we conducted interviews with people associated with the two schools, reviewed documents and participated in and observed school and community activities. Our research will add to the very limited literature on educational progressivism outside North America and Europe.

The Quakers from Fairhope, Alabama who immigrated to Costa Rica in 1950 settled on a large tract of land at about 5,000 feet elevation, situated on a remote mountain in the central portion of the country. The national government, looking to populate its uninhabited lands, became quite friendly to North American and European settlers after the 1948 democratic social revolution. Boasting a freely elected socialist government, no standing army, and large investments in education and health care, Costa Rica welcomed the Quakers. The settlers lost little time establishing institutions similar to those they left behind in the United States. The Monteverde Friends School was one such institution.

The Quakers who settled Monteverde influenced education in three ways. The strongest has been child-centered progressivism. For almost fifty years the Monteverde Friends School has offered Quaker and Tican (native Costa Rican) students an education that reflects Marietta Johnson's "organic" idea: "The school program, to be educational, must be life-giving to body, mind, and spirit--the complete organism.... Hence all true education is ORGANIC--that is, designed to meet the needs of the growing organism" (Johnson, 1946). Johnson opened her Organic School in the small Alabama community of Fairhope in 1907, and soon the school acquired a national reputation among advocates of the "new" education. John Dewey visited in 1913 and gave the school a rave review in his book Schools of To-Morrow (1915). Johnson went on to co-found the Progressive Education Association in 1919, write two books, publish several articles, and speak to audiences around the world. …

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