Monday, April 18, 2005

Schools, Experience, and Purpose

I was re-reading John Dewey's Experience and Education today, and this quote stuck with me:
"Nonetheless, growth depends upon the presence of difficulty to be overcome by the exercise of intelligence. Once more, it is part of the educator's responsibility to see equally to two things: First, that the problem grows out of the conditions of the experience being had in the present, and that it is within the range of the capacity of students; and secondly, that it is such that it arouses in the learner an active quest for information and for production of new ideas."

Dewey, ultimately, was dismayed by what so-called 'progressive education' had wrought in his name, and sought to restore the important link between experience and learning, the latter of which had at times been abandoned or neglected by those that struggled with his ideas. Subject matter and content area learning was important, and experiential learning, Dewey felt, was the best path to ensure that students cared to learn.

The question for today is: Should schools serve all students equally and seek the same outcome for all students? Neill argues that if a child's natural level is that of a street sweeper, he should be allowed to be a street sweeper if that is what he wants. I think he phrases it along the lines of being a happy street sweeper versus a neurotic scholar. If the answer to the question is yes, don't we have to determine what the purpose of education actually IS and what the outcome SHOULD be?
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