Apple and Beane (2007) believe that the pursuit of neoliberal aims of education has cut our connection with progressive schools of the past: they write, “Shall we forget that ‘developmentally responsive’ practices stretch back to the progressive, child centred schools created more than a century ago?” (p. 8). Indeed, John Dewey and his daughter Evelyn Dewey published Schools of Tomorrow in 1915, profiling schools in the United States in which new education ideas were put into practice. Our research is inspired by the Deweys’ use of illustrative cases to explore the theory practice relationship with a focus on teachers and it responds to Bean and Apple’s plea to pay attention to lessons from the past. The research also reflects the transnational circulation of new education ideas over the first decades of the twentieth century (Passow, 1982; Popkewitz, 2005; Röhrs & Lenhart, 1995) by exploring casestudy schools in four countries: John Dewey’s laboratory school at the University of Chicago (18941904); Jardim de Infância da Escola Caetano Campos in Sāo Paulo (18961930); the Malting House School in Cambridge (19241929) directed by Susan Isaacs; the Hietzing School in Vienna cofounded by Anna Freud (19271932).
Although the Sāo Paulo school continues today, none of the other institutions lasted more than a decade. However, to borrow a phrase from Dewey scholar Albert Balz (1949), they endure in historical memory as “symbols of the possible” (p. 328)—namely, of the promise of education to be individually and socially transformative. Moreover, insofar as the schools also functioned as stages for practicing the possible, their legacy endures in the later programs that Isaacs, Freud, and others established.