How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools

Noted educator Tom Little and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Katherine Ellison reveal the home-grown solution to turning American students into life-long learners.

The longtime head of Park Day School, Tom Little embarked on a tour of 43 progressive schools across the country. In this book, his life’s work, he interweaves his teaching experience, the knowledge he gleaned from his trip, and the history of Progressive Education. As Little and Katherine Ellison reveal, these educators and schools invigorate learning and promote inquisitiveness by allowing the curriculum to grow organically out of children’s questions—whether they lead to studying the senses, working on a farm, or re-creating a desert ecosystem in the classroom.

We see curious students draw on information across disciplines to think in imaginative yet practical ways, like in a “Mini-Maker Faire” or designing and building a chair from scratch. Becoming good citizens was another of Little’s goals. He believed in the need for students to learn how to become advocates for themselves, from setting rules on the playground to engaging in issues of social justice in the wider community.

Using the philosophy of Progressive Education, schools can prepare students to shape a vibrant future in the arts and sciences for themselves and the nation.


“Little shows that these occasionally misunderstood theories are vibrant and provide a strong foundation for learning. Highlighting some of the basic principles of progressive education, including a focus on the whole child and sensory learning, Little displays through historical connections and modern examples the effectiveness of progressive schools.”
-Library Journal

Loving Learning is a laudable book, both a compelling call to arms to reignite the tenets and practices of American progressive education and a good read.”

“When we talk about the ways children learn, it is accepted wisdom that different people learn in different ways, but with standardized testing, we’re looking at one small piece of their educations and extrapolating too far. Little’s enthusiasm and passion for the potential of progressive schools burn on every page and offers hope for a better way forward.”

“Educator Little and Ellison (Buzz) provide a rich overview of the history and methods of the largely abandoned progressive education model, as well as an optimistic vision for its future.”
-Publishers Weekly

“This will be an important and even a necessary book for educators, policy makers, and parents alike; even more, I think- and this is the true measure of Tom Little’s legacy- it will be a source of reassurance and strength.”
–Michael Chabon

“In this wonderful book, Tom Little shows us how to embrace our history and restore delight to the process of learning.”
–Ayelet Waldman

“This is the book we’ve all been waiting for: a vision of what schools can do to guide children to become happy and engaged learners, productive and creative workers, and active, caring citizens.”
— Madeline Levine, PhD, New York Times best-selling author of Teach Your Children Well

“Tom Little is a visionary champion of progressive education at a time when American children are more in need of its enlightened methods than ever. His book is provocative, educational, and full of wisdom and heart.”
— Deborah Meier, educator and MacArthur Award recipient

“Splendid new book: an overview & defense of progressive ed. by the late Tom Little, who ran such a school”
— Alfie Kohn, author of The Myth of Spoiled Child

“A New Must-Read for All Educators.”
— Elena Aguilar, Edutopia.com