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Alice's Reading Notes 2/4

alesnick's picture

"Every experience is a moving force."

Dewey, Experience and Education

Chapter 1

"How shall the young become acquainted with the past in such a way that the acquaintance is a potent agent in appreciation of the living present?"

This connects with the import of time to schooling, which we noticed in class last time.  How does the issue of the extent to which education refers to and transmits knowledge of the past connect with the metaphors Cook-Sather describes?

Chapter 2

What is experience?

What makes an experience educative or miseducative?

"If I ask these questions, it is not for the sake of whole sale condemnation of the old education. It is for quite another purpose. It is to emphasize the fact, first, that young people in traditional schools do have experiences; and, secondly, that the trouble is not the absence of experiences, but their defective and wrong character-- wrong and defective from the standpoint of connection with further experience."  

"The difference between civilization and savagery, to take an example on a large scale, is found in the degree in which previous experiences have changed the objective conditions under which subsequent experiences take place. The existence of roads, of means of rapid movement and transportation, tools, implements, furniture, electric light and power, are illustrations. Destroy the external conditions of present civilized experience, and for a time our experience would relapse into that of barbaric peoples."

Hmmm What does Dewey's perspective, which reads as dated and unsophisticated to us now, suggest about his thinking here?

On Preparation and the significance of context:

"Now "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." 


How easy do you think it is to determine whether an experience is defective?  How much time do you reckon this takes?

"Just as no man lives or dies to himself, so no experience lives and dies to itself. Wholly independent of desire or intent every experience lives on in further experiences. Hence the central problem of an education based upon experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences." 

This sets up the experiential continuum -- stay tuned.

"Failure to develop a conception of organization upon the empirical and experimental basis gives reactionaries a too easy victory." 

What makes it challenging to design a curriculum upon an "empiricla and experimental basis?"  Have you ever experienced this?

Chapter 3

 " . . . the ultimate reason for hospitality to progressive education, because of its reliance upon and use of humane methods and its kinship to democracy, goes back to the fact that discrimination is made between the inherent values of different experiences. So I come back to the principle of continuity of experience as a criterion of discrimination. "

Key Point: "The basic characteristic of habit is that every experience enacted and undergone modifies the one who acts and undergoes, while this modification affects, whether we wish it or not, the quality of subsequent experiences. " 


"Does this form, of growth create conditions for further growth, or does it set up conditions that shut off the person who has grown in this particular direction from the occasions, stimuli, and opportunities for continuing growth in new directions?"