The school that Arne Duncan chooses and President Obama chose (when living in Chicago) for their own children? University of Chicago Lab School founded by John Dewey (who eventually left due to disagreements with Administration and founded The New School for Social Research in NYC). Many of our roots in progressive education arise from John Dewey. His book Education and Experience was and still is an inspiration for, a launching point, a reminder of the value of what we can do for our children. His words have held their relevance and power for these more than one hundred years.
Imagine where we could be in our country if Duncan and Obama believed in Dewey’s vision of education for all children, not just their own. Imagine Dewey’s words animating what we do anyway.
“If I were asked to name the most needed of all reforms in the spirit of education I should say: ‘Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make of it the full meaning of the present life.’”
“The lesson for progressive education is that it requires in an urgent degree, a degree more pressing than was incumbent upon former innovators, a philosophy of education based upon a philosophy of experience.”
“There is, I think, no point in the philosophy of progressive education which is sounder than its emphasis upon the importance of the participation of the learner in the formation of the purposes which direct his [sic] activities in the learning process, just as there is no defect in traditional education greater than its failure to secure the active cooperation of the pupil in construction of the purposes involved in his studying.”
“Preparation” is a treacherous idea. In a certain sense every experience should do something to prepare a person for later experiences of a deeper and more expansive quality. That is the very meaning of growth, continuity, reconstruction of experience. But it is a mistake to suppose that the mere acquisition of a certain amount of arithmetic, geography, history, etc., which is taught and studied because it may be useful at some time in the future, has this effect, and it is a mistake to suppose that acquisition of skills in reading and figuring will automatically constitute preparation for their right and effective use under conditions very unlike those in which they were acquired.”
“There is no such thing as educational value in the abstract. The notion that some subjects and methods and that acquaintance with certain facts and truths possess educational value in and of themselves is the reason why traditional education reduced the material of education so largely to a diet of predigested materials.”
“The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.”
“We always live at the time we live and not at some other time, and only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future.”
“Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often is much more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learned. For these attitudes are fundamentally what count in the future. The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. If impetus in this direction is weakened instead of being intensified, something much more than mere lack of preparation takes place. The pupil is actually robbed of native capacities which otherwise would enable him [sic] to cope with the circumstances that he meets in the course of his life. We often see persons who have had little schooling and in whose case the absence of set schooling proves to be a positive asset. They have at least retained their native common sense and power of judgement, and its exercise in the actual conditions of living has given them the precious gift of ability to learn from the experiences they have.”
“Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often is much more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learned.”
“It is [the teacher’s] business to be on the alert to see what attitudes and habitual tendencies are being created. In this direction he[sic] must, if he is an educator, be able to judge what attitudes are actually conducive to continued growth and what are detrimental. He must, in addition, have that sympathetic understanding of individuals as individuals which gives him an idea of what is actually going on in the minds of those who are learning.”
“As an individual passes from one situation to another, his [sic] world, his environment, expands or contracts. He does not find himself living in another world but in a different part or aspect of one and the same world. What he has learned in the way of knowledge and skill in one situation becomes an instrument of understanding and dealing effectively with the situations which follow. The process goes on as long as life and learning continue. Otherwise the course of experience is disorderly, since the individual factor that enters into making an experience is split. A divided world, a world whose parts and aspects do not hang together, is at once a sign and a cause of a divided personality. When the splitting-up reaches a certain point we call the person insane. A fully integrated personality, on the other hand, exists only when successive experiences are integrated with one another. It can be built up only as a world of related objects is constructed.”
“The scientific method is the only authentic means at our command for getting at the significance of our everyday experiences of the world in which we live…scientific method provides a working pattern of the way in which and conditions under which experiences are used to lead ever onward and outward.”
I remarked incidentally that the philosophy in question is, to paraphrase the saying of Lincoln about democracy, one of education of, by and for experience. No one of these words, of, by, or for, names anything which is self-evident. Each of them is a challenge to discover and put into operation a principle of order and organization which follows from understanding what educative experience signifies.”