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On John Dewey's How We Think (1910) ch. 1 and Democracy and Education (1916) ch. 1, 2, 4, and 24.
What model of human nature should serve as the basis for education policy? Dewey sees the scientific method as a refinement of ordinary thinking: We wonder about something, and experiencing that uncomfortable uncertainty, we jump for an explanation. Education should train us to be comfortable entertaining that uncertainty for a longer period, holding out for a better explanation.
In Democracy and Education, Dewey sketches out the function of education: to enable transmission of culture. Most of this is done informally, by doing activities together. But with more complex culture to pass down, formal schooling on symbolic matters (i.e., books) is also needed. We need to be sure that this still stays rooted in practical concerns, though; school shouldn't be merely theoretical. We need to avoid a split between what we've learned consciously in school and what we've learned unconsciously through daily activity.
Education is a form of human growth, and school and society are both educational environments: We shape the environment to call out the responses that seem to maximize growth. These are going to be somewhat different for every person. We want to harness that person's interests and energy in their own learning, not teach through command or merely stimulus and response. And again, we're not just accumulating knowledge here, but acquiring habits that constitute social life. The primary task of school is to train us to be better learners, and so able to continue to grow. Dewey thinks we should try to eliminate the bad habits of perception and judgment that constitute poor taste and degenerate living. We want school to both show us different ways of life but also perform a unifying, assimilative function to enable us all to live together as one democratic society.
Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth (who had to jump off to tend to his child before we finished) are joined by educational theorist Jonathan Haber. Jonathan suggests that you also listen to PEL's treatment of Charles Sanders Peirce's "The Fixation of Belief."
Purchase Democracy and Education, read it online, or listen to it. Purchase How We Think, read it online, or you can hear (all of?) the chapter we read as part of the Boring Books for Bedtime podcast.
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Image by Solomon Grundy.
very timely as we are faced with all kinds of online education and bizarre human experiments in public health in classrooms.
“This article explicates a valuable but undernoticed point of contact between John Dewey and Michel Foucault. Both agreed that thinking arose in the context of problems such that the work of thought for both proceeds by way of working through and working over problems. Both affirmed that thinking arose in problematic situations; that it was about clarifying those situations, and that ultimately it was directed towards achieving a degree of resolution of what was problematic in the situation. Both agreed that thinking—or inquiry—was not fundamentally about the representations of a situation; either those produced by a contemporary thinker or as an exercise directed at historical materials. Both agreed that a history of ideas as autonomous entities, distorted not only the process of thinking as a practice, but also the reasons for which it had been engaged in, often with a certain seriousness and urgency, the first place: that is to say, such approaches covered over the stakes. Both agreed that the stakes involved something experiential and entailed a form of logic (or in Foucault’s later vocabulary a mode of ‘veridiction’), in which the thinker could not help but be involved.”
I think it’s a mistake to think that Dewey was promoting anything like applied academic philosophy/logic, better to think of him along the lines of Merleau-Ponty’s observations about how we learn to grasp aspects of the world (see Bert Dreyfus on the phenomenology of expertise/know-how) as the development of habits which when frustrated cause the kinds of tensions that call for reflection/imagination, Tony Chemero is doing some of the best work these days in how we enact our ways thru the world:
ps on the political front see the Dewey vs Lippman debates, he was woefully over optimistic about how lay people could grasp the complexities of modern life, would be good sometime to have a PEL on cognitive-biases.
@Freeyourmindkid · 22h Per the Georgia Department of Health, schools are required to classify anyone who has been within 6 feet of a covid victim for 15 mins or more as a close contact. Theresa Lyons, who sits on the Paulding County BOE, suggested students change seats every 14 mins to get around this.