Developmentalism: An Obscure but Pervasive Restriction


  • J. E. Stone East Tennessee State University



Academic Achievement, Accountability, Child Development, Educational Change, Educational Improvement, Educational Practices, Educational Research, Educational Theories, Teaching Methods


Despite continuing criticism of public education, experimentally demonstrated and field tested teaching methods have been ignored, rejected, and abandoned. Instead of a stable consensus regarding best teaching practices, there seems only an unending succession of innovations. A longstanding educational doctrine appears to underlie this anomalous state of affairs. Termed developmentalism, it presumes "natural" ontogenesis to be optimal and it requires experimentally demonstrated teaching practices to overcome a presumption that they interfere with an optimal developmental trajectory. It also discourages teachers and parents from asserting themselves with children. Instead of effective interventions, it seeks the preservation of a postulated natural perfection. Developmentalism's rich history is expressed in a literature extending over 400 years. Its notable exponents include Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget; and its most recent expressions include "developmentally appropriate practice" and "constructivism." In the years during which it gained ascendance, developmentalism served as a basis for rejecting harsh and inhumane teaching methods. Today it impedes efforts to hold schools accountable for student academic achievement.


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Author Biography

J. E. Stone, East Tennessee State University

J. E. Stone is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Learning at East Tennessee State University. An Ed. D. graduate of the University of Florida, he is a licensed educational psychologist and school psychologist. Since 1972, he has taught more than 10,000 classes in ETSU's College of Education. His primary scholarly interest is educational reform in both K-12 and higher education. Currently, he heads the Education Consumers Clearinghouse--an internet networking and information resource for parents and other consumers of education.




How to Cite

Stone, J. E. (1996). Developmentalism: An Obscure but Pervasive Restriction. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 4, 8.