Sunday, October 26, 2008

The past and the future......

In 1916 John Dewey wrote a book, "Democracy and Education" that has sort of become my educational bible.  I believe strongly in most of what he says in this text.  Let me share a bit with you.... "A community or social group sustains itself through continuous self-renewal, and this renewal takes place by means of the educational growth of the immature members of the group." He goes on to say that the "problem is to discover the method by which the young assimilate the point of view of the old, or the older bring the young into like-mindedness with themselves. The required beliefs cannot be hammered in; the needed attitudes cannot be plastered on.   We must also consider how the social medium nurtures its immature members." Unfortunately, "in too many cases - the activity of the immature human being is simply played upon to secure habits which are useful. He is trained like an animal rather than educated like a human being."  Shortly thereafter, Dewey suggests that, "Making the individual a sharer or partner in the associated activity so that he feels its success as his success, its failure as his failure, is the competing step" (pp 10-14).  As Dewey continues, "The only way in which adults consciously control the kind of education in which the immature get is by controlling the environment in which they act, and hence think and feel. Any environment is a chance environment so far as educative influence is concerned unless it has been deliberately regulated with reference to its educative effect.  An intelligent home differs from an unintelligent one chiefly in that the habits of life and discourse which prevail are chosen, or at least colored, by the thought of their bearing upon the development of children." And, "Example is more potent than precept" (pp 18-19).
These words were written almost 100 years ago.  I wish we had leaders that would take them to heart as we build our society into the 21st Century.  As you design those learning environments of 25 years into the future, don't forget the value we can bring from the past.

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