Experiencing Dewey: Insights for Today's Classroom / Edition 1

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In this collection of essays, 45 authors consider their favorite Dewey quotations and share how Dewey has impacted their lives-specifically their teaching practices.

Each essay sheds light on a Dewey gem and its relevance for classroom practice. The essays make the sometimes daunting concepts of Dewey accessible and draw readers into a deeper study of his theories. Use this volume as required or suggested reading in undergraduate or graduate Educational Foundation courses. This keepsake edition includes memorabilia such as photographs, portraits, and handwritten letters. Put this book on your shelf among your collection of works by and about great educators.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780912099422
  • Publisher: Procrescent Promotions
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176

Read an Excerpt

Teaching Our Legislators a Big Idea in 52 Words or Less
Peter S. Hlebowitsh

It is the office of the school environment to balance the various elements in the social environment, and to see to it that each individual gets an opportunity to escape from the limitations of the social group in which he was born, and to come into living contact with a broader environment.
-Democracy and Education, MW 9: 24-25

Bipartisan support for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has left many of us in the profession of schooling shaking our heads over yet another small-minded school reform strategy. NCLB has some lively ideas in it, such as referring to the act of reading as a civil right, but its relation to school reform is largely procedural and represents little more than a demand to teach to the test. And its logic is straight out of a Pavlovian experiment gone bad: the public schools either answer the bell by meeting various state-established cut scores on proficiency exams in reading, math, and science or get zapped with a punishment equal to the effect of an electric prod.
Parents who send their kids to neighborhood schools should remember that if one statistically valid subgroup in the school (say, students with disabilities) fails to meet the state cut scores for five consecutive years, the school could become dissolved by NCLB. At that point, the school would be required to recast itself in the form of a charter school or to offer itself over to a private management corporation or a state takeover. And in such a case, almost everyone associated with the school likely would be fired. Even a school’s aggregate scores in the 99th percentile (as high as they can be) don’t influence this fate. One subgroup out of compliance for five consecutive years, and the school is done in.

The Refrain: Raise the Test Scores
Just think about what our legislators have done here. They finally have found a way to define what a good school does, and they came up with a whopper: good schools raise test scores. The progressive idea of fashioning the school as a comprehensive experience dedicated to socio-civic, academic, vocational, and socio-personal goals (most of which are not easily measured) is largely a lost cause. Raise the test scores is the refrain. And just try to criticize the law as unreasonable, and you’re likely to hear someone ask you which child you would like to leave behind.
So how did we get such legislation? Some educators, those who lean farthest to the political left, are certain that a right-wing conspiracy is at hand. They believe that a right-wing faction is prepared to dismantle the public schools as we know them, using the annual yearly progress (AYP) data in the NCLB legislation to swing a wrecking ball through the neighborhood school and clear out a spot for privatization efforts. Their case is straightforward. Good neighborhood schools eventually get dissolved, and look who moves into town-the private management corporation rubbing its hands over the prospect of getting schools access to the public purse.

What a School Does
I, however, am not among the conspiracy theorists. The fact that NCLB is the handiwork of bipartisan cooperation and the states always could tell the feds to get lost makes me think that the law is not moved by anything other than a base misunderstanding of what schools are and what schools do. My theory is that if you can get the legislators to understand the comprehensive agenda of the school, you stand a better chance of getting a comprehensive legislative strategy for its improvement.
Ideally, we could send our legislators back to elementary school, where they could find object lessons in the disconnect between what good teachers do with children and what NCLB tests. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. So, I propose something more modest. I’d simply like to ask our legislators to read the 52 words penned by John Dewey in 1916, which precede this essay, and to think about their meaning in the light of NCLB efforts. The intention is to convey a big idea that might encourage a bigger and better view of reform. Here is the quote again (Dewey 1980):
It is the office of the school environment to balance the various elements in the social environment, and to see to it that each individual gets an opportunity to escape from the limitations of the social group in which he was born, and to come into living contact with a broader environment.
To say, as Dewey did, that school provides an experience through which children can escape from the limitations imposed by family and community is quite a mouthful and is quite impolitic today. One could imagine the reflexive criticism from those who might be inclined to portray such a view as anti-family or as going against the core of individuality that makes American democracy so special. I could almost hear it-a Fox news analyst declaring, "And look who the liberals are quoting now: John Dewey, a liberal philosopher who wanted to impose the will of the government on the people and separate them from the very things that the family cherishes most."
So, here is a point that must be confronted. Is Dewey’s view anti-family? Most reasonable people will acknowledge that the family is not always a benevolent institution. Ask any teacher, social worker, police officer, or medical doctor, and you’re likely to learn a few horror stories about families. Fortunately, however, most parents love their children and take their responsibilities to socialize their children seriously. Parents try to reflect the forms of religion, language, culture, politics, ethics, and so forth that they believe are in the best interests of their children. But this would happen whether there was school in the child’s life or not.
The school, on the other hand, doesn’t fashion itself along the narrow dimensions of family or neighborhood life. It has a wider normative agenda to build a common experience across the differences that prevail among people, their families, and their neighborhoods. School has to transcend the differences, not by abusing them or ridiculing them, but by offering an expansion of experience that should have some effect in challenging or questioning the parochial.

Building a Common Experience
This is another way of saying that the school has some obligation to widen the margins of experience and to be sure that it finds a way to bring bright ideas about democracy, the problems of living, and history, literature, mathematics, and science into the hearts and minds of children. It also has to cultivate a wide range of skills, including a variety of thinking, inquiry, and communication skills.
Such a project balances the diversifying agenda with the unifying agenda of the school. We unify by teaching a common history, a common language, and common skills and values, as well as by providing a common universe for discourse. We diversify by ensuring that our common experience makes appropriate and useful inclusions of multiple perspectives and by securing a place in the curriculum for individualizing opportunities. Teaching children to read, to do math, and to learn science (the three critical NCLB areas) obviously is important, but so much more needs to be done to ensure that children have the opportunity to escape from the limitations of the experience into which they were born. And such a project will not get done with NCLB standing in its way.
In response to my argument, I imagine that Washington might aim to make NCLB even more pervasive in its testing reach. The logic would be on the scale of saying, "Let’s test everything; this way we make everything important." The problem with such a tactic is that no tests designed in the state capitals of our nation could capture the full complement of things that local schools teach children. So, if anything, the approach should move away from a statewide testing accountability system and toward the design of local evaluation systems. If the concern is about accountability, more might be gained if we asked school systems to design comprehensive evaluation systems that were responsive to their articulated purposes and missions (which few schools take seriously today). These evaluations might include tests, but they also might include a variety of other methods or instruments.
This way, the evaluation-including the tests-is of the experience, rather than the reverse. The general idea is to remove the test as a barrier to the fulfillment of the all-inclusive mandate of the school. Doing so would show our legislators that, all things being equal, an idea-oriented school curriculum (even one that yields lower NCLB test scores) that provides cosmopolitan experiences to children is better than a school that provides an impoverished taught-to-the-test experience. That’s a big idea-something we need more of in Washington.

Dewey, J. 1980. Democracy and education. In John Dewey: The middle works, 1899-1924, ed. J. A. Boydston, Vol. 9: 1916, 1-402. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

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Table of Contents

David T. Hansen

Donna Adair Breault and Rick Breault

Part I: Active Learning

Active Learning: A Growth Experience
Rick Breault

One Active Learning as Reflective Experience
William H. Schubert

Two ‘Impulsive Expression’: Desirable or Dangerous?
Robert H. Anderson

Three Work in School
Donna Adair Breault

Four Becoming a Student of Teaching
Robert V. Bullough, Jr.

Five Disdain for the ‘Pouring in’ Process
Frank E. Marsh

Six Listening for the Gentle Whisper
Rick Breault

Seven Providing Environments Conducive to Proper Digestion
Lisa Goeken-Galliart

Part II: The Educative Experience

An Educative Experience? A Lesson in Humility for a Second-Grade Teacher
Donna Adair Breault

Eight The Reconstruction of Experience
Edmund C. Short

Nine The Relations of One Great Common World
Gary Weilbacher

Ten Learning In and Out of School: Bridging the Cultural Gap
Ron W. Wilhelm

Eleven The Child and the Curriculum: Two Limits That Define a Single Process
William A. Reid

Twelve Relevance of the Curriculum
Marcella Kysilka

Thirteen Two Approaches to Planning
William Van Til

Fourteen What Imposed Standards Do to the Child
M. Frances Klein

Fifteen How Mechanization Leads to Contempt for the Teaching and Learning Process
Louise Anderson Allen

Sixteen The Teacher-Artist
George Willis

Seventeen Effort: The Outgrowth of Individual Interest
Robert C. Morris

Eighteen Growth: The Consummate Open-Ended Aspiration
Paul Shaker

Part III: Critical Thinking

The ‘Varied and Unusual’ Abuses of Critical Thinking
Donna Adair Breault

Nineteen Educator’s Genuine Freedom
James G. Henderson

Twenty A Spectator’s Version of Knowledge
Deron Boyles

Twenty-One Transcending False Dichotomies: The Dynamics of Doubt and Certainty
Tom Kelly

Twenty-Two Turning Sunlight into Children
Marilyn Doerr

Twenty-Three Reflecting on the Mentoring Relationship
Shelli L. Nafziger

Twenty-Four Making Informed Judgments
Dan Marshall

Twenty-Five Unexamined Presumptions
George W. Noblit

Part IV: Inquiry and Education

Inquiry and Education: A Way of Seeing the World
Donna Adair Breault

Twenty-Six The Power of an Ideal
Jim Garrison

Twenty-Seven Imagination of Ideal Ends
Craig A. Cunningham

Twenty-Eight Dogma, Democracy, and Education
William G. Wraga

Twenty-Nine What to Do? That All Depends
Thomas S. Poetter

Thirty The Teacher as Theorist and Lover
Greg Seals

Thirty-One The Role of Intelligence in the Creation of Art
Elliot W. Eisner

Thirty-Two Autonomous Education: Free to Determine Its Own Ends
Larry A. Hickman

Part V: Democratic Citizenship

Preparing Children for Democratic Citizenship
Rick Breault

Thirty-Three Teaching Democracy for Life
John M. Novak

Thirty-Four John Dewey and the American Creed
Daniel Tanner

Thirty-Five Realizing a Common Good
Randy Hewitt

Thirty-Six Teacher as Shaper of Social Process
Louise M. Berman

Thirty-Seven Foundations of Deweyan Democracy: Human Nature, Intelligence, and Cooperative Inquiry
Stephen M. Fishman

Thirty-Eight John Dewey and the Import of a Curriculum Devoted to Student Experience
Chara Haeussler Bohan

Thirty-Nine The Best and Wisest Parent
David J. Flinders

Forty The Value of Communication in a Classroom Community
Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon

Forty-One The Societal Purpose of Education
Jesse Goodman

Forty-Two Teaching Our Legislators a Big Idea in 52 Words or Less
Peter S. Hlebowitsh

Forty-Three Collecting and Preserving the Educational Present
Craig Kridel

Forty-Four Education for a Changing World
William Ayers

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