Friday Lesson: John Dewey, 10

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, in 11 parts.

©2010, Steven Simpson & Wood ‘N’ Barnes Publishing

Point No. 10. Experiential education is not only student-centered. It also is community-based.

Another reason that Dewey did not worry about experiential educators exercising excessive control was the influence of society (or community). A “one size fits all” notion of education cannot work because learning does not exist in a vacuum. It occurs in a community, and each community has its own physical setting and own social conditions that influence an educational experience. Community, of course, has both its positive and negative influences. For every place of natural beauty or historical interest that may personalize curriculum and bring it to life, there is a societal obstacle to providing quality programming. For every community need that may give education a clear and immediate purpose, there is a political agenda wanting indoctrination to creep into the curriculum. Still experiential education has no choice but to tie its programming to the community. “Traditional education,” wrote Dewey, “did not have to face this problem; it could systematically dodge this responsibility. The school environment of desks, blackboards, a small schoolyard, was supposed to suffice. There was no demand that the teacher should become intimately acquainted with the conditions of the local community, physical, historical, economic, occupational, and so on, in order to utilize them as education resources. A system of education based upon the necessary connection of education with experience must, on the contrary, if faithful to its principle, take these things constantly into account.”1 To oversimplify it slightly, education can exist inside four walls and create a simulated microcosm of society or it can step outside those walls and be an actual part of society. There are benefits to each approach, but experiential education has opted for community involvement.

To be continued…

    1 Experience and Education, p. 40.

©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.

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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