New College, Teachers College, Columbia University: A demonstration experimental teachers college (1932-1939)
In 1932, an experimental undergraduate school for the purpose of teacher training was established at Teachers College (TC) during the Great Depression, a period of global, political and socio-economic turmoil. Planted amidst the conservative ivy of Columbia University, "the New College for the Education of Teachers" was rooted on the progressively left side of the greenhouse within the social reconstructivist tradition. Established under the leadership of Dr. Richard Thomas Alexander (1887-1971), New College was designed to develop a critical consciousness in its students for intellectually based social leadership and provide guidance in effectually meeting the universally persistent problems of living, that is, the essential problems of living that students would face in all stages of their development as individuals, as members of social groups, and as teachers of children and adults.
Using innovative ideas such as extended foreign study, community-based active research, and authentic assessment, a portfolio-based undergraduate learning curriculum was developed which rejected traditional summative grades or the accumulation of credits as the basis of degree completion. New College would close within seven years under the pretext of financial hardship over the protestations of some of the country's leading academic, political, and social figures of the era.
This experimental demonstration college and the significance of its philosophy, its students and faculty on the American educational landscape of the 1930's and beyond has been a long forgotten footnote in educational history. No complete chronological record of the school or its founder, Dr. Richard Thomas Alexander exists today. It is hopeful that this work will fill that void in educational and curriculum history.
Colleges & universities;
0520: Education history