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Ironic Contradictions

I'm a long time reader - since way back when I was seven. That makes it over three quarters of my life that I will be a reader for. But it is worth it. When I'm not reading or wasting my time online on here or Goodreads I'll be off playing video games, studying teaching and messing around with friends and pop culture. Or reading some more.
Experience and Education - John Dewey
It is highly curious that outside the arena of teaching the process of education itself remains very much misunderstood. In fact until you actually enter into the process of teaching - education seems very much like an act of guiding others with your bountiful knowledge. Of course very few realise that teaching is as much about learning as it is about passing knowledge. And that education also extends far beyond merely providing knowledge. It is however highly important that educators properly understand their work as they are dealing in and with a moral profession. They are working not with instruments of stone like builders but with flesh and blood people. John Dewey's work here is therefore a valuable insight into education from a theoretical viewpoint (which helps contribute to a practical stance on education). Although writing in a different era it appears that many of his points are still valid today as our education system (particularly in Australia) has not developed much past the traditional ideas.

Chapter 1

In chapter one Dewey raises the idea of progressive vs traditional education. He makes the solid points that traditional education is stagnant and static. It believes that what it teaches is the finished product. And from a philosophical and personal view I believe that much education is still dealt with in this way. I note that today many theories are taught as fact, something I very much disagree with. I think of that type of teaching as more indoctrinating. If we properly were to accept that perhaps these theories are not the finished product (and many of them may be flawed) we would encourage greater individual thought. And I believe personally at this point that education should serve the purpose of encouraging the individual to be an individual and to think for themselves, having their own opinion on issues.

Chapter 2

In his second chapter Dewey explains the need for a theory of experience. While I am still trying to grasp the full idea I see some of what Dewey is explaining. He very much explains how experience contributes to learning and how a conditioning method of education does not do much to allow for learning of practical skills and abilities. Many teachers will be challenged by students asking questions like: when will we use the quadratic formula in 'real life'? And that is what Dewey is explaining. That students experience school and they often view some things they learn as unnecessary experiences or perhaps even negative experiences. The question should become one of relevance then rather than curriculum. The quadratic formula should be seen in the understanding of aiding logical thinking (much like how Christopher sees maths in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and the relevance of the experience of learning should be able to be understood. But too often it is not. As a (hopefully) future Literature/English/History teacher I hope to be able to show and educate the relevance of studying fictional novels and past events. That they do affect our modern experiences.

"Just as no man lives or dies to himself, so no experience lives and dies to itself. Wholly independent of desire or intent, every experience lives on in future experiences."

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 explores the criteria of experience. Dewey uses this chapter to look in detail at the idea of negative and positive experience. He refers to the idea of someone gaining experience as a burglar in particular and uses that to show what experience should be for in education. There is a lot of depth and detail in this chapter but ultimately Dewey's argument boils down to discussing why we do things the way we do. For instance we have democratic systems he argues because we see through experience that they are better for human life. He also looks at how experiences outside of a classroom contribute to experiences inside a classroom and that teachers need to be aware of the intersection of the social community and the classroom.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 examines society and education. In particular the idea of social control and education. Dewey points out that some level of social control is needed in education. He uses the metaphor of how a children's game must have rules in order to provide mediation and allow for smoother running and enjoyment. In the same way education needs a level of social control but not to the point where it impedes on the ability of students to have a relevant experience and to mature. The question then becomes where to draw the line so that education is not about homogenising students and creating an end product of citizens for some supposedly glorious democracy which is no democratic idea at all.

Chapter 5

Dewey then communicates what he believes the role of freedom is within the classroom. I found the ideas about freedom itself interesting from a philosophical point of view. The idea that was hinted at in particular about that perhaps to be free we have to fulfil a purpose and role. This in particular tied into the next topic Dewey raised.

Chapter 6

Dewey looks at the meaning of purpose in Chapter 6. In many ways this chapter is designed to look at the questions students ask such as 'why do we need to learn this?' And in many other ways it is designed to look at the purpose of teachers, teaching and experience in regards to teaching. One idea I particularly noted was the idea of how purpose defines individuals. (Think about it we all identify ourselves more often by what we do than who we are - I'm a writer, reader and teacher for instance)

Chapter 7

This penultimate chapter observes the idea of subject-matter and education. Dewey looking at how experience and subjects like English, Math and History come together. This is a lengthy chapter and ties together much of Dewey's overall argument to show how his philosophy of experience is linked to education.

Chapter 8

In this final chapter Dewey summarises his argument, noting that education must move either backwards or forwards. He concludes that he has included the points that must be addressed for the later to occur in 'Experience and Education'. That being that educators must have a sound philosophy of experience so that education does not become pseudo-education.

Whether you agree with John Dewey's philosophy or not this is an important and informative text to analyse and read in regards to education. Because Teaching is linked to experience and the community in many ways and part of becoming a teacher is learning to adopt a professional outlook and manner. There is a lot of information in this relatively short text and I certainly have not retained it all. I do however think that personally there was a lot of useful pedagogical ideas in there and I do recommend it to anyone wanting to look at education and philosophy.