Experience and Education

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Everyone who is part of a post-secondary university institution (both students and faculty) has succumbed to the formalized schooling system. We have been enculturated in an environment that prizes the prestige of higher education, often with an undertone suggesting that post secondary schooling is a necessary step on the road to success. This experience is flooded with order. Schedules are central to any regular day at school, and the docimological process determines one's success in how well they have learned the material of each subject. Both John Dewey and John Taylor Gatto write about dichotomies within the schooling system. While Dewey contemplates traditional versus progressive schooling, Gatto suggests that the current system is too regimented, and that an increase in student freedom would lead to a more positive learning environment. The concepts of freedom and education will thus be examined with regard to both Dewey and Gatto's respective ideological orientations. Perhaps a fundamental distinction must be made between schooling and education. These two terms are often (and mistakenly) used interchangeably. Education can occur at any place or time; it can be independent of schooling. As suggested by Stanley Aronowitz, "Education may be defined as the collective and individual reflection on the totality of life experiences: what we learn from peers, parents (and the socially situated cultures of which they are a part), media, and schools" (2004:21). Schooling, on the other hand, suggests a formalized setting within the confined walls of a school, led by a teacher or professor who is supposedly qualified to relay information to students. Yet, there is the common assumption that education necessarily takes place within the site of a school (ibid). When Dewey speaks of education, it is in fact paralleled with what would be considered formalized schooling, as it is primarily tied to structured activity within the school seting. Gatto affirms the issue discussed by Aronowitz, as he suggests that school training is not education (2005:51). In other words, Gatto believes that schooling actually inhibits education.

Dewey's ideas stem from binary opposites. Within the school system this dualism is seen through traditional and progressive schooling (17). The traditional system consists of information that has been formulated in the past; the schools (and teachers) are thus a means for this information to be conveyed to younger generations. This is achieved through what Dewey terms ‘patterns of organization.' They provide the systematic foundations of an orderly environment, one which provides the optimal circumstances for a teacher to instruct. The traditional system is perceived as a top-down approach. Stratification between adults teaching, and the children learning in schools, thus inhibits the ability of students to partake in greater amounts of active participation (19). The progressive school system, or the new education, germinates from dissatisfaction with traditional education. The new philosophy of education suggests that a direct relationship be made between experience and education. These terms, however, are not always experienced in conjunction with one another. Experiences may or may not be educative. Dewey makes note that departure from the traditional system would not be easy, nor perhaps would it be a desirable task:

…the point I am making is that rejection of the philosophy and practice of traditional education sets a new type of difficult educational problem for those who believe in the new type of education. We shall operate blindly and in confusion until we recognize this fact; until we thoroughly appreciate that departure from the old solves no problems (25).

It thus remains an issue that while the traditional system is criticized in its top-down methods, nor does the progressive approach rectify all problems within the schooling system.

Dewey outlines two...
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