Customer Reviews: Experience And Education
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on June 24, 2002
Dewey is considered "America's only Philosopher" par exellence, but he wrote so much that is hard to get to the core of his philosophy. In any event, whether you want to understand Dewey's philosophical center or simply get a quick, concise overview of progressive, experience-based educational theory, this would be the book to start with. However, you might want to check out _John Dewey: The Later Works, 1938-1939_, edited by Jo A. Boydston. It not only contains "Experience and Education," but also "Freedom and Culture," "Theory of Valuation," and a handful of other essays. Not only does this volume give you more of Dewey, but Boydston puts the works in historical and philosophical context. This book [is available] in both cloth or paperback editions.
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on August 15, 1999
You can thank Dewey for making all Americans think that school should be relevant to real life and that solving problems is more important than reciting factoids. The man wrote the book on it, and this little book is his effort much later to clarify what he really meant, which is to have a balanced and informed experience, not a forced choice between extremes of the didacticc and the practical. So if you are only going to read one book to find out why he should be remembered (and revered) for much more than a decimal system in the library, read this book. And be ready to become passionate, even political, about liberating our children from factory schools which make them passive and stupid. A good companion book is C.S. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man", at least the first chapter, followed by "The Paideia Proposal" by Mortimer J. Adler.
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on March 20, 2004
I read this book for a class on environmental education with no background in education itself. When I started reading this book, I simply assumed it was written recently, in the last two decades, because his writing style was so clear and because the ideas in this book were so relevant now, to my own experiences in education, and my own understanding. I thought he was telling modern day teachers to move away from rote teaching and instead add new experiences onto the experiences of their students. He explained the struggle between an old, traditional system of teaching and a new, progressive style, but I assumed that it was happening now, because it seemed like that new movement never fully got here...
And then I started getting hints that this work was older. I started thinking... it must have been a 70's book, for it fits in well with the movements of that age, which founded many 'learning community' style colleges like my own. But I got more clues. 60's? 50's? How could someone write so well that I can understand him as if he were a modern writer?
This little book was originally published in 1938, but even then, I learned that this was a response to cricicism from his life work. This is a summary of his thoughts and a rebuttal to his critics. Because of his audience, he tends to repeat himself in this volume, to make it perfectly clear what exactly he is trying to say. Other students found this repetition annoying, while I found it helpful, and I truly appreciated the attempt he made not to offend anyone, so that his thoughts could be judged on their own merit with as little bias as possible.
So there is the chance that some will not like this book while others like myself enjoyed it immensely, but this work is relevant, quite readable despite the possible 'flaws' in his style, and so short, there's little to lose.
Our teacher told us that each and every one of us will find some quotes in this book that will speak to us, she guaranteed. And she was right.
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This book was written about 20 years after Dewey's best-known education book, Democracy in Education. By the time he wrote this, he was celebrated by many (progressive educators) and scorned by others (traditionalists). Dewey wrote this book as a way to tell both sides that they have it wrong: in frustration with traditional methods of education, progressives were rebelling too far in the opposite direction. Tight external discipline was replaced by no discipline. Inflexible curricula were replaced by thin curricula. Strict drill was replaced by lax 'learn what you want' attitudes. In brief, Dewey wrote against the "either/or" approach he saw prevalent in education.

IF you look at the lesser-starred reviews below, you will see that one main criticism about this book is that it seems to state the obvious. I was not around then, but I am betting that this is a testament to Dewey's influence that what needed to be said then now seems so commonplace. Curriculum is necessary, Dewey wrote, but that doesn't mean that it can't be made relevant to students' lives. Explicit teaching and discipline are necessary but that doesn't mean that the student must be 'put upon' as much as 'worked with.' Education should not be simply the passive receipt of information from instructor to student via memorization, but that doesn't mean that schools should be squeamish about instilling things into students (or that everything has to be student-initiated).

If I have one complaint about this book, though, it is not that its contents are commonplace, but they are sometimes a bit contradictory. A big contradiction in this book, and in much of Dewey's educational work, is the simultaneous idea that planning curricula and teaching should be purposeful (with an end-goal) and that there should be no specific end-goal in education. It is a given that teaching is done with an end in mind (if only that certain information should be learned, if not that the student will become a certain type of person), and it is difficult to see how education can be education without a fixed end goal.

I also think that this book, like many critical of 'traditional' methods of education, may be unfair in depicting those 'traditional' methods. Dewey calls 'traditional' education a "military regimen" using "straght-jackets and chain-gang procedures." I have read several books discussing education in this time period and none (except for those advocating progressive education) seem to share in this view. I suspect that Dewey's description of these schools is clouded by ideology or (possibly) limited observational experience.

Be that as it may, the book is still a good one to read for anyone wanting to understand the history of educational thought. Dewey, as always, tries to find a middle ground between two extremes of traditional and progressive education. And unlike most of Dewey's work, this book's prose is quite easy to get through and straightforward. Even if Dewey's arguments don't always convince or sometimes seem commonplace, it is interesting to read what was going on in education when Dewey wrote.
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on March 26, 2010
Here is the essential question Dewey poses in Experience and Education:

"What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul: loses his appreciation of things worth while, of the values to which these things are relative; if he loses desire to apply what he has learned and, above all, loses the ability to extract meaning from his future experiences as they occur?"

If you think this is a relevant question for students, teachers, and educational leaders to ask, I feel you will enjoy the book. Dewey's meditation poses complex ideas about what constitutes experience, what an instructional program based upon experience looks like, and what sorts of things we should value in considering experiential pedagogy. Probably the shortest, and most accessible, of his major works (but not an easy read).
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on February 22, 2016
This text also was proprietary to higher education as it covers the advent of all education and the importance of conceptual creations constructed by yester-year educational theorists that are still successfully in place today. Work experience is a theory promulgated by John Dewey in the 19th century that incorporated these experiences into the classroom curriculum is currently promoted in schools of the 21st century via academic credit for work experiences. In fact, several more of Mr. Dewey's theories abound effectively in modern institutions of higher education. Pedagogy again at its best.
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on December 15, 2014
Amazing thank you very helpful! Highly recommended!

Renee (Rivki) Silverberg
Author of Understanding Children and Families with Autism Spectrum Disorders
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2006
This book is possibly just as important, if not more important now as ever before. Dewey asserts that true learning occurs by experience (labs, experiments, hands-on activities) and not by fact-learning and regurgitation of statements. It is important to note that he also claims that not all experiences are "educative."

As contemporary educational philosophy shifts to more a more standardized curriculum and testing methods (i.e. No Child Left Behind) educators need to review this American philosopher's ideas because the quality of education is becoming more "miseducative." If the current trend of education continues in the same direction I can only assume that Literature classes will also be reduced to multiple-choice tests. One can only assume that Dewey is cursing contemporary education from his grave.

This is a great text for the message and philosophy contained within its pages. It is extremely concise and takes a couple of hours to read. I recommend this to all educators at every level.

Also recommended: "The School and Society & The Child and the Curriculum" by John Dewey.
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on November 8, 2006
Finally somebody who gets it! Unfortunately, as I read John Dewey's Experience & Education I constantly needed to remind myself that Dewey understood what education should be back in the late 1930s, and the "new" education, contemporary or "progressive" as he often referred to it reflects a new-fangled educational system that by today's standards would seem old fashioned. Regardless the times, Dewey's précis is "the rise of what is called new education and progressive schools is in of itself a product of discontent with traditional education". Though he outlines both the wrongdoings and celebrations of both traditional and progressive philosophies of education, Dewey's prescription is for a "sound philosophy of experience...not a name or slogan". The question remains nearly seventy years later, have we yet filled a prescription which lends educators the ability to look beyond the `isms' of educational philosophies and reason in terms of the greater realm of experience?

In 2006 educators are still wading through a sea of ever-changing views of education. According to Dewey, we continue to consent to struggling with new philosophies due to our disgruntlement with policies of the past. The "old" school of education was flawed because teachers were enforcers; experts of education that pushed "autocratic and harsh" arrangements upon students, withholding the undeniable experiences students sought and deserved. Traditional schooling demanded teachers uniformly enforce a "military regime of pupils who were permitted to move only at certain signals" impeding a learner's ability to experience intellectually beyond the surroundings of the habitual desks, blackboard, and meager school yard. Old schools imposed an appalling hypocrisy of memorization of facts and figures, historical dates and such all in preparation of the unknown future, with little regard to the present. Generally in an attempt to keep order, teachers failed to seek the cooperation of students in preparing the purposes of education and learning.

Therefore, in what was likely the backlash of traditionally educated pupils sprouted a generation of new-age educators referred to by Dewey as the progressive-ists. Bearing mind that progressive education realistically commenced at the end of nineteenth century, the wrongdoings of the era I shall now reflect upon, are quite a century old. While progressive education focused on the freedom of the learner, the dismissal of traditional education aroused contemporary difficulties when educators recognized that new education was more difficult than the old. Progressive schools, founded in life-experiences, were rarely well organized as few teachers truly conceptualized the discrepancies in experiences. Moreover, because children were perhaps overly indulged in the participation of learning purposes, school was an amusing fun time in which "visitors (were)...shocked by the lack of manners in students they came across".

As with all educational philosophies that withstand the test of time, the celebrations of such generally outnumber the wrongdoings. Traditional, as well as progressive schools were no exception. Traditional educators were able to keep order in the learning environment in turn providing more teachable time to study the foundations of education, upon which all future learning would take place. In addition, traditionalists valued one of the most important lessons of life: that of "mutual accommodation and adaptation" of others. Surely an adult visitor to a traditional school would be impressed with the periods of "quiet reflection" offered, even for the youngest of pupils. Progressive education was not without its celebrations. Because progressive educators emphasized the freedom of the learner, genuine education came through experience and children were allowed their natural tendencies to socialize and participate in the purposeful planning of the curriculum. New schools even offered the opportunity to study life-skills experiences such as homemaking and mechanics. Yet despite the moving-forward approach of progressivism, "we are told that our schools, old and new, are failing in...the ability to (produce students that) reason".

Experiences are not enough. Dewey reminds us in Chapter 3: Criteria of Education that not all experiences are educative and some are even mis-educative. Everything depends on the quality of the experiences, and that if experience is within and of itself a philosophy of education it requires a plan of what and how such experiences will be implemented. This plan, which Dewey submits as a "Category of Continuity" is responsible for discriminating between the experiences that are meaningful and those that are not. Educational processes must be measurable in terms of good growth, for example providing opportunities for future growth in decent directions. In what is perhaps the finest vignette of Experience & Education Dewey tells of a burglar who gains experience robbing others and as his experiences grow "the burglar may grow into a highly expert burglar" hence not all experiences constitute positive growth. Still within the principle of continuity are the outside sources (i.e. demographics such as income, neighborhood, ethnicity, etc.) and social set-up of the surroundings (equipment, books, materials of learning) that make up the experimental situation. Lastly, teachers must take into account how such experiences are going to enhance his students in the future.

Dewey suggests that educational experiences are vital as some people with little schooling have been given the "precious gift of the ability to learn from the experiences they have (had)", and certainly not all educational experiences occurred in the schoolroom. According to Dewey, good experiences (and bad) are acted upon by a single impulse. I wonder what it might feel like if I put my hand in the fish tank, a student of mine might ponder. Their purpose for choosing to act upon the impulse, which creates the experience, will end with an observation. In this case the student observes the surrounding conditions of the sensation of warm, flowing water, a rapidly moving, exotic, tropical fish, and the final numbness of the fingers when the fish confuses the daring hand with that of his food. The observations my student has just experienced will undoubtedly aid him in future situations. The knowledge of this experience may be enough to prevent future finger-numbing encounters with the tropical chiliad, as their judgment in imminent situations will be the collectivity of previous knowledge and observations.

While we can be aware of consequences through previous experiences, the goal of the educator is in finding material for creating organized learning experiences. The search for high-quality learning experiences could be in of itself a paradox to Dewey's decree that we need to get back to an education that is "pure and simple"; an education that is a reality and "not a name or a slogan". After all, the "sound philosophy of experience" Dewey seeks is in actuality a name and a "slogan" called Experiential Education, which finds its way into the progressive era, in-between the common schools movement and the eras of school reform. Therefore, in answer to my earlier question: Have we yet filled a prescription which lends educators the ability to look beyond the `isms' of educational philosophies and reason in terms of the greater realm of experience? No; because it is the very nature of educators and humans in general to philosophize a new wave of education as a result of our discontent with the current. And these waves of change are good as it defines the very character of learners; those whose experiences constantly alter the way we perceive the world.
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on March 4, 2015
I just started the first two chapters. The thought of viewing education in terms of what kind of experience do we want to offer students is really fascinating. And I like it that the author jumped out of the linear way of thinking, the typical western way.
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