Learning From Caroline Pratt

  • Petra Munro Hendry


To understand the philosophy of the pragmatist philosopher Caroline Pratt (1867-1954) is a challenge I have struggled with for many years. Like pragmatism itself, Pratt’s philosophy is elusive. This evasion is central to her intellectual thought. In reading her 1948 autobiography, I Learn From Children: An Adventure in Progressive Education, she reflects, “All my life I have fought against formula. Once you set down a formula, you are imprisoned by it…I would not be talked into marking out any blueprints for education, outside the school or in it. This refusal to formulate a ‘system’ made me a problem” (pg 58). Her commitment to keep ideas in “play” is what made her an exemplar of pragmatist thought. Ironically, her refusal to be imprisoned by any system, blueprint or formula has relegated her to the margins of pragmatist philosophy and progressive educational history.