©2001 NewFoundations

The Educational Theory of Theodore Burghard Hurt Brameld
Analyst: Deborah B. McKay

edited 4/30/14

1. Theory of Value:

What knowledge and skills are worth learning? What are the goals of education?

Theodore Brameld believed that the goal of education was to employ schools as agents for social change. He is the founder of the educational philosophy of Social Reconstructionism whichemphasized addressing social questions and a quest to create a better society and worldwidedemocracy (Haindel, page 1). The knowledge and skills that are worth learning include science,economics, mathematics, human relations, arts, religion and politics as these areas can teachpeople to reason. Education As Power means education competent and strong enough to enableus, the majority of people, to decide what kind of a world we want and how to achieve that kind ofworld (Brameld, page 9). Only the power of education is capable of controlling the other powersthat man has gained and will use either for his annihilation or for his transformation (Brameld,page 1).

2. Theory of Knowledge:

What is knowledge? How is it different from belief. What is a mistake? What is a lie?

Knowledge is virtue and our civilization will fail if power and virtue are not balanced. It is different from belief since Brameld believed that people could be taught toreason. With education as the core and creation of culture, the world can save itself fromdestruction by choosing to reason accordingly. A mistake would be construed as "man's inabilityto solve the crises in favor of a reconstructed and higher equilibrium" (Brameld, page 20). A lie is man's inability to face the consequences of his actions.

3. Theory of Human Nature:

What is a human being? How does it differ from other species?

What are the limits of human potential?Human beings have become emotionally ill as the mores and values of society have changed and aloss of equilibrium has occurred. Man has the ability to build a better society, however, throughbringing this issue of values into a clearer focus. Human beings have the ability to analyzecritically what is wrong with the values that we have been holding and then to decide about the values that we should be holding. It is ultimately man's decision whether the power that isacquired be used for good or evil purposes since man does have the capacity to destroy itself.

4. Theory of Learning:

What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired?

Learning is acquired through a cultural context. Students learn through participation in a democraticprocess, which includes a problem-based context and cooperative investigation. For example, as students discover and learn history and the context of the past and present cultural and societalenvironments and analyze the data, then students are able to make better decisions to affect thegreater good of mankind. Skills and knowledge are acquired as continual interaction betweencommunity and school occurs.

5. Theory of Transmission:

Who should teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be?

Teachers should help young people learn how the scientific method applies, not just to physics,chemistry or biology, but to the whole of life, including personal and social life (Brameld, page 53).

In addition, teachers should help students to understand themselves as well as their relationship toothers. Teaching, however, should not be limited to teachers. In the Floodwood Project, "students met two or three times each week with the instructor acting as chairman to exchange information andquestions, listen to guest experts and plan the schedule ahead" (Thompson, page 266).

The methods of instruction should include: group research, reports, analysis of current issues, reading, guestspeakers, small group discussion, field trips, essay writing, students refonnulating ideas and providingstrategies for implementation. Curriculum should be designed around contemporary social life ratherthan academic disciplines and should be whatever is going to help a culture to evolve, change and problem solve.

6. Theory of Society:

What is society? What institutions are involved in the education process?

Education as power means that we, the teachers, the students and the parents, are the only ones whoshould control education-control it for our own good ends and by our own good means (Brameld,page 8). He believed in a commitment to building a new culture in which the common people wouldemerge as the leaders of society (Haindel, page 1).

In addition to these stakeholders, there are otherinstitutions that should be involved in the educational process. In the Floodwood Project, this is clearly seen: A wide range of pamphlets and books from more that 40 organizations were collectedfor classroom use. They included publications issued by the National Association of Manufacturers,the Cooperative League, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and federal new Deal Agencies(Thompson, page 270).

7. Theory of Opportunity

Who is to be educated?

Education is the right and responsibility of each person. The average student must be educated to thelimits of his ability-above all, his ability both to understand and serve the prevailing power struggleon his own level. We see our fundamental goals as a world civilization and an educational system which in all ways support human dignity for all races,castes, and classes; self-realization; and the fullest vocational, civic, and social cooperative and service(Brameld, 1965).

8. Theory of Consensus

Why do people disagree? How is Consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence?

American philosophers have disagreed with one another a great deal in the area of consensus since different ideals have different meaning for different people. The bottom line, though, is that eachand every human being has the right to'have their basic needs satisfied and to have the opportunityfor self-actualization. Brameld contended that social consensus is the basis of meaningful socialaction (Thompson, page 277). The individual must find ways to satisfy personal needs through social consensus (Haindel, page 1). Ultimately, the good of mankind must take precedence.


Brameld, T. (1965). Education As Power. New York/Chicago/San Francisco/Toronto/London: Holt,Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

John Dewey Project on Progressive Education. (2001). Theodore Brameld Papers. http://www.uvm.edu/-dewey/collections/bram.html

Haindel, B. (10/04/01). Theodore Burghard Hurt Brameld: The Prophet Father of the Coming World. http://www.selu.edu/Academics/Faculty/nadams/educ692/Brameld.html

Thomas, T. (1999). The Difficulties and Successes of Reconstructionist Practice: Theodore Brameld and the Floodwood Project. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision. Vol. 14, No. 3, 260 - 282.