John Dewey on Education

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John Dewey, Mortimer Adler and Nel Noddings impacted our system of education in very profound ways. Dewey believed that there should be communication between the student and the teacher. Adler believed that schools should only teach the traditional courses (English, Math, Science, Social Studies and Foreign Language). Noddings believed that teachers should be more caring towards their students. John Dewey’s idea of education greatly affected our system of education today.

John Dewey’s ideas for education were to concentrate on students’ psychological and sociological qualities. Dewey believed in promoting an “unconscious education” where “the individual gradually comes to share in the intellectual and moral resources which humanity has succeeded in getting together. He becomes an inheritor of the funded capital of civilization” (Dewey 261). In other words, he thought this was a good method for teachers to analyze a student’s behavior in order to teach them more effectively. This also provided an opportunity for the student to learn without even realizing it. Dewey stated that a student’s psychological needs were the basis of his method of education. “The child’s own instinct and powers furnish the material and give the starting-point for all education” (Dewey 262). Dewey stressed the idea that, “Without insight into the psychological structure and activities of the individual the educative process will…be haphazard and arbitrary” (Dewey 262).

Dewey was also extremely interested in the social aspects of a student. He said that the, “knowledge of social conditions, of the present state of civilization, is necessary in order to properly interpret the child’s powers” (Dewey 262). This was a new technique for an educator to see and distinguish the instincts and tendencies in a student. Therefore, in order for an educator to know more about a student he/she must first study the student’s psychological traits in order to understand the unique characteristics of a child’s capacities, interests and habits. Then the teacher must translate their findings into terms of what they believe the child is capable of in a social setting.

In my opinion, Dewey showed a balance between the dialectic of academics and affective goals. This is also known as transaction, which is having both the teacher and the student interact in the classroom. Dewey believed that the academic goals of education should be, “a process of living and not a preparation for future living” (Dewey 263). He stated that the teachers’ job is not to influence him but to help guide the student into successfully forming with the community by letting the student experience some life occurrences. “The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child” (Dewey 263 – 264). Dewey also believed that tests should only be used to examine a child’s social capabilities in the real world. “Examinations are of use only so far as they test the child’s fitness for social life and reveal the place in which he can be of the most service and where he can receive the most help” (Dewey 264). In my opinion, this would be more of a conceptual test where the child can voice his or her own opinions.

Dewey’s main affective goals were to deepen the child’s meaning of himself and his values. “It is the business of the school to deepen and extend his sense of the values bound up in his home life” (Dewey 263). Dewey believed that it was important for the school to implement lessons that related to what a child would do at home. The school would also be responsible for simplifying their social life because; “existing life is so complex that the child cannot be brought into contact with it without either confusion or distraction” (Dewey 263). Therefore, if the child is exposed to too much social stimulation he will become,...
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