20/365 Back to Dewey 1.8

This post continues a mini-series examining John Dewey’s Experience & Education chapter-by-chapter.

Rather than taking us a step further, Dewey uses his final chapter to remind us where we’ve been and put to the future as well.
He points out he’s not attempting to justify his call to an experience-based they of education, saying he’s well aware that both conservatives and lie rails are well-removed from the actual workings of schools. The choices as Dewey sees them are a return to the reason and ideas of the ore-scientific age or a deeper and better utilization of the scientific method – giving it its rightful place as the basis for investigating the experiences he sees as key.
Failure, Dewey points out, is only possible if teachers agree to base their practice in experience examined through the scientific method without adequately utilizing that methodology.
To be successful, experiences must be thoughtfully designed with regard to the previous experiences of students, the mature knowledge of adults, and the thoughtful reflection on the goals of the experiences. To improvise or take a shortcut to learning is to sacrifice fidelity to experience and, thereby, learning.
Dewey concludes with his belief that we will attain this simple and difficult goal only when operating under a sound philosophy of experience.
This struck me most in that it wasn’t a hopeful call to action so much as it was a torch passing. Dewey seems to be saying, “Well, I’ve given you a plan. It’s up to you to follow it. If you choose not to, that’s fine, but we are all in trouble if you don’t make a decision one way or the other.
Looking at contemporary American schools, the landscape reveals the country didn’t make the decision en masse. While many schools languish in the same uncertainty Dewey warned against, two opposing forces are working to secure as much of that landscape as possible for either a purified version of what Dewey considered “traditional” education or the more slow-moving philosophy-driven “progressive” education he was championing.
It has not “become all one thing or all the other” to borrow a phrase. Instead, it has become some things some places and other things other places.
If this remains so, Dewey’s designs of a public education as the central democratizing force in society will never be brought to fruition.

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