What struck me about this article was that Dewey seemed to be frustrated that he had all of these "followers" who claimed to be progressive but that had completely missed the point of a progressive education. I also like what he said about it's not true that just because the more traditional form of education imposed "the rules of conduct of the mature person upon the young does not mean that the "knowledge and skills of the mature person has no directive value for the experience of the immature."

Very interesting comparisons between the two perspectives. I think our role as educators is to be facilitators rather than an obstacle to progress. However it does bring up important questions about what exactly our role as teachers (facilitators) is, and also how willing schools may or may not be to adopt a system that is so different from the traditional form of learning. I like the idea that students are not just a deposit for content, and that they can actually build new knowledge based on their own experiences and interesting interactions.
:) Paola

Experience and Education
John Dewey

This short article by John Dewey explores the contrast between traditional and progessive education.

On the one hand is the traditional educational idea that there is a body of infomation which should be transmitted to future generations for success in life. Schools are a unique kind of institution where conformity is perpetuated. Textbooks and teachers represent the connections for students with the material for learning which is essentially imposed upon students. Learning is measured in terms of acquisiton of what is already written in textbooks. Knowledge is a finished product and static as it assumes that the future will be much the same as the past.

On the other hand we have the progessive approach which is more about expression and cultivation of individuality. Acquisiton is all about learning through experience. It is focused on making the most of the present and acquaintance with a changing world. The vital question here seems to be having the correct idea of what is meant by experience. Furthermore the question of how much guidance can be given without interfering in individual student freedom is an interesting one.

Clearly the "new" progressive approach to education brings a "new" set of problems to consider. Dewey argues that the role of textbooks and the teacher become unclear under this new education. He also stresses that the "experimental" method may not be adequately developed and be over simplified causing educators to not practice it properly. Attainment of the ideal conditions for progressive education requires more work and effort not less and is essentially reliant on co-operative work from its adherents. Meral

Great comments above! Dewey is perhaps too often looked to as the end all and be all of liberal/progressive education. I must admit that while I knew the name and general idea of his philosophy, I had never really read his work. I'm glad I have begun to do so now. While his writing style leaves something to be desired, his ideas are insightful, provocative, and, above all, fair. He is not, I would argue, advocating for radical change. I think radical change is necessary, but I tend to be a pragmatist, as I think Dewey is. He wants to address the reality of the educational system of his time:

  • "...the general principles of the new education do not of themselves solve any of the problems of the actual or practical conduct and management of progressive schools."
  • "A philosophy which proceeds on the basis of rejection, of sheer opposition, will neglect these questions. It will tend to suppose that because the old education was based on ready-made organization, therefore it suffices to reject the principle of organization in toto..."