1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dewey VII

Later, Dude!

Let God be the judge between you and me, Mr. Dewey! I tried (and tried) to read your book with an open mind in order to understand what is attractive about your thought. As I mentioned before, Experience and Education came highly recommended from a man I admire and respect (Dennis Littky), so I thought, "OK, I'll give Dewey a second chance."

I did so. When you went from obscurity to obscurity, I pressed on; when you used ordinary words (i.e., experience, freedom, purpose, etc.) in the most peculiar ways, I remained open to the possibility of some good emerging from my Herculean labors. While I can say that I do have some vague notion of what your approach to education is all about, I would have to emphasize "vague."

The Scientific Method

Were I forced to say what you say the essence of education is, it would run something like this:
Education is most authentic when it uses the scientific method as its means and ends: one hypothesis leads to another "truth" that serves as a stepping stone for another hypothesis which leads to more and more transitional truths, which lead to more and more growth.
I'll pat myself on the back for such a concise statement of your thought, but I freely acknowledge that it might be inaccurate. But this summary does seem to sum up your love for science and it as a model for education. But I think you are patently wrong on this score: If education is all about life, then take a look around and see how life is more than "science." Science reduces reality to what can be managed, manipulated and manufactured. Education-as-science is something ultimately inhuman.

A final quotation

On the last pages of Experience and Education you write:
What we want and need is education pure and simple, and we shall make surer and faster progress when we devote ourselves to finding out just what education is and what conditions have to be satisfied in order that education may be a reality and not a name or a slogan (90-91).
"Finding out"? "May be a reality"? I believe, sir, that the primary purposes of writing non-fiction are either to understand better some aspect of reality one is wrestling with or to communicate some truth to others one has discovered. It seems to me you have done neither.

Farewell, Mr. Dewey. I shall now take the advice of that great theist, C.S. Lewis, and read an ancient text after I have read your thoroughly modern work.

(Mutter, mutter! Twenty two days of reading his book and all I have are rambling posts and a raging headache! Mutter, mutter...)

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