The Chief Advocator of Social Efficiency in Education: David Snedden

David Samuel Snedden (1868–1951) was a prominent figure in the field of education during the Progressive era. He is widely recognized as the chief advocator of social efficiency in education, a concept that aimed to reconcile the demands of industrial society with the capabilities and interests of children. Snedden’s ideas and contributions have had a lasting impact on educational theory and practice.

Background and Education

David Snedden was born in Kavilah, California, in 1868. He pursued his higher education at St. Vincent’s College in Los Angeles, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in 1890 and Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in 1892. Snedden furthered his academic pursuits at Stanford University, earning a second B.A. in 1897. He then went on to complete another M.A. degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1901.

Career and Contributions

After completing his education, Snedden embarked on a career in education that spanned various roles and institutions. He served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in California’s schools for ten years. Subsequently, he held positions as an assistant professor at Stanford University from 1901 to 1905 and as an adjunct professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, from 1905 to 1909.

One of Snedden’s notable contributions was coauthoring the first school administration textbook titled “The Administration of Public Education in the United States” in 1908. In this influential work, Snedden advocated for a reform that transferred school government responsibilities from politicians to education experts. He emphasized the need to safeguard democratic rights while improving the efficiency of the public school system.

From 1909 to 1916, Snedden served as the first State Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts. During his tenure, he implemented significant vocational education reforms and championed the spread of the project method of teaching. Snedden believed that traditional schools did not adequately prepare students for industry and life. To address this, he established specialized vocational schools that focused on teaching the specific skills and techniques required for various occupations.

As a professor of educational sociology at Teachers College from 1916 to 1935, Snedden further developed his concept of social efficiency. He applied this concept to curriculum construction, civic education, and character building. Snedden argued that education should aim to develop both productive abilities and the capacity to appreciate and consume. He advocated for a scientific approach to curriculum-making, drawing on the principles of scientific management, which aimed to increase industrial productivity. Snedden believed that a curriculum aligned with social efficiency would equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in life.

Social Efficiency Movement

David Snedden played a pivotal role in the social efficiency movement within the field of education. He was a pioneer in the field of educational sociology and a passionate advocate for the principles of social efficiency. The movement sought to address the perceived inefficiencies and undemocratic nature of the American school system, particularly in relation to preparing students for the demands of an industrial society.

Snedden believed that the prevailing educational system favored academically inclined students bound for college, while neglecting the needs and interests of the majority of students who were more practically minded. He argued for the expansion of the common school system and the establishment of vocational schools to provide equal opportunities for all students. Snedden championed part-time and full-time industrial education, as well as practical project work, as means to promote economic and social progress.

Overall, David Snedden’s contributions as the chief advocator of social efficiency in education have left an indelible mark on educational theory and practice. His ideas continue to shape discussions and policies surrounding curriculum design, vocational education, and the pursuit of social progress through education.

FAQs

Who was David Snedden?

David Snedden (1868-1951) was a prominent educator during the Progressive era and a leading advocator of social efficiency in education. He held various roles in education, including teacher, principal, superintendent, and State Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts.

What is social efficiency in education?



Social efficiency in education is a concept that aims to reconcile the demands of industrial society with the capabilities and interests of children. It advocates for an educational program that prepares students with the skills and knowledge needed for success in their future careers and promotes economic and social progress.

What were David Snedden’s contributions to education?

David Snedden made several notable contributions to education. He coauthored the first school administration textbook, advocated for educational reforms that placed school governance in the hands of experts, implemented vocational education reforms as the State Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts, and developed the concept of social efficiency in curriculum design and character building.

How did David Snedden promote vocational education?

David Snedden played a pivotal role in promoting vocational education. As the State Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts, he institutionalized specialized vocational schools and courses that focused on teaching the practical skills and techniques required for various occupations. Snedden believed that vocational education was crucial for providing equal opportunities and preparing students for the demands of industry and life.

What was Snedden’s approach to curriculum construction?

David Snedden advocated for a scientific approach to curriculum construction. He believed that a curriculum aligned with social efficiency should be designed based on scientific principles, drawing on the principles of scientific management. Snedden emphasized the importance of developing both productive abilities and the capacity to appreciate and consume, aiming to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in life.