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Response Paper 2

nina0404's picture

John Dewey: Experience and Education


            Upon reading this book I couldn’t help but compare my own education to the subdivisions that Dewey was speaking about. Was I a product of more traditional education or of progressive education? If I had to choose one I would say traditional. My school days before college were filled with routine, strict guidelines, top-down rulings, and other harsh descriptive words thought up during class. These negative words though seem to do injustice to my education though because while it might have not have been progressive it hardly seem old.

            I have had trouble distinguishing the positives and negatives between traditional and progressive education. Perhaps this trouble stems from my experience in one class. My 10th grade World History class was probably the strictest, rule bound class I have ever been in. If there was one class room to be exalted for order it was this teacher. Every day you started class by sitting quietly copying the fact and quote of the day in green pen. You would then proceed to analyze the quote, regardless if you knew anything about it. Notes were to be written in black pen, homework in blue, corrections in red. Failure to follow the rules resulted in deductions in grades. The word “no” was not allowed to be spoken. Any variation such as “I don’t believe so” was permitted but the word no was not. When you were spoken to you were expected to answer and if you didn’t know you were expected to explain what you thought the answer could be.

            Routine was the name of the game and if you didn’t follow it good luck. One would expect that from this class I would have been the most stifled intellectually and personally. The truth is that I learned more in that class than I had than in any other class before college. Through the surface rigidity I had learned to think critically. This was in fact one of the few classes where I could write my own inputs and analysis. My teacher while imposing an autocratic rule had allowed us to freely think on our own opinions.

When I think of the experience I had in that class I can see why Dewey helped to clear the confusion of either traditional or progressive. What I got from him wasn’t either or but how to create the environment for experiencing true learning. In some cases it does require freedom of the group in others it requires freedom from the pains of structure. I was free from worrying about structure which allowed me to focus on interpretation, critical thinking, and finding my voice and opinion. While Dewey focused on taking all of life’s experiences into the classroom what I thought would be more beneficial is seeing that the experience in the classroom translates into intellectual freedom. “The only freedom that is of enduring importance is freedom of intelligence.”