A Summary of John Dewey’s Experience and Education from Steven Simpson’s Genuine Learning, Genuine Freedom: An Educator’s Reflections on the Philosophy of John Dewey
©2010, Steven Simpson & Wood ‘N’ Barnes Publishing
The following is a list of 11 key points from Experience and Education. For those not familiar with Dewey, it may whet their appetite. For others, it is a quick refresher course of some basic components of Dewey’s philosophy of education. Most experiential educators will find much of this information common sense and common knowledge. That should not be surprising. It is, after all, a slice of the philosophical foundation of the profession.
Point No. 1. It is not enough for experiential education to point out the weaknesses in traditional education; it must offer a viable alternative. A new educational system cannot be based on criticism of the old way of doing things; it must be based upon its own strengths and its own explicit philosophy.2
While the eleven points are not in a particular order, this is a good one to mention first. John Dewey was adamant that the tenets of progressive education, including experiential education, cannot be built around a distaste of the textbooks, lectures, examinations, and the excessive structure of some traditional education. Basing a new educational philosophy on a rejection of the current predominant perspective does two things that are detrimental to quality education. First of all, it throws the baby out with the bathwater. Traditional education has strengths, and rejecting it wholesale loses many important things, not the least of them the wisdom of the ages. Secondly, an educational perspective based upon a rejection of another perspective tells the educator what not to do, but not what to do. Krishnamurti described it as the difference between mere revolt and intelligent revolt. Mere revolt is a renunciation of the status quo without a clear knowledge of something better. Intelligent revolt is an attempt to replace the status quo with an identified, preferred alternative.3
Dewey noted that a traditional approach to education can function without an explicit philosophy, but anything questioning traditional education cannot. “Because progressive schools cannot rely upon established traditions and institutional habits, they must either proceed more or less haphazardly or be directed by ideas which, when they are made articulate and coherent, form a philosophy of education… Education reformers and innovators alone have felt the need for a philosophy of education. Those who adhered to the established system needed merely a few fine sounding words (e.g., culture, discipline, our great cultural heritage) to justify existing practices.”4
©2010, Steven Simpson & Wood ‘N’ Barnes Publishing from the work in progress, Genuine Learning, Genuine Freedom: An Educator’s Reflections on the Philosophy of John Dewey.
To be continued…
This lesson is compliments of Steven Simpson, PhD, the author of Leader Who Is Hardly Known and coauthor with Dan Miller and Buzz Bocher of The Processing Pinnacle.
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