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John Dewey on Education Essay

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, “either unduly specialized or else disintegrated” (Dewey 263).

I believe that Dewey’s views show that he is against standardization in schools. He believed that there was a lack of conscious states in schools. He asserts that children are, “thrown into a passive, receptive, or absorbing attitude” (Dewey 265). Dewey’s viewpoint is still an active discussion topic in today’s education system. However, some school districts insist on rote learning because their schools receive more funding when there is a high percentage of passing students on standardized tests.

According to Linda McNeil, students are taught on how to pass these tests without really learning. For example, McNeil states that, “students report that in the drills on the TAAS reading section, they frequently mark answers without reading the sample text. They merely match key words in an answer choice with key words in the text” (McNeil 218). According to Dewey, this is “not permitted [in following] the law of nature” (Dewey 265), resulting in “friction and waste” (Dewey 265).

Dewey believed that proper instruction should be exemplified by, “the preparation and presentation of lessons [which] might be more wisely and profitably expended in training the child’s power of imagery and in seeing to it that he was continually forming definite, vivid, and growing images of the various subjects with which he comes in contact in his experience” (Dewey 266). Standardization is not they key component of education, even though the state and federal government believe this is an important element for success.

According to Gerald Bracey, when students are applying to college, the SAT exam should be used as a guideline and not the final decision in acceptance. Bracey stated that the, “SAT scores had been falling for fourteen years” (Bracey 47). He also stated that, “While the developers of the SAT still called their test a ‘mere supplement,’ the public now saw it as the platinum rod for measuring school performance. And that performance was getting worse” (Bracey 47). Somehow over time, a student’s SAT score developed into an extremely significant number which seemed to become the overall determination of a student’s intelligent.

It seems harsh and unbalanced to put so much emphasis on one test. Of course, applicants are told that in combination with their SAT scores; their grades and outside activities are taken into consideration for college admittance. But the truth is these SAT scores still remain a huge factor for college applicants. Studies have shown that a high SAT score does not guarantee high grades in college however the politics behind these tests are stronger than the public’s opinion in order to get these tests repealed. Standardized tests do not lead the student to come into contact with the subject at hand or the experience related to it.

They also do not show the overall picture of an individual or what he or she can contribute while attending college. Scott Thompson is against the test-based reform of today’s society. Thompson claims that, “The human hearts and minds of others, I believe, are simply too complex and too inaccessible to read as a book” (Thompson 160). Thompson argues that the differences between test-based reform and standards-based reform. He concluded that standards-based reform involves more cooperation from parents, teachers and the students.

It also gives the students a high-quality method of learning and not simply learning techniques for test taking. “We should be interested in students who can produce high quality work rather than students who have mastered the ability to take standardized tests” (Thompson 159). Thompson would love to see that the idea of standardized tests be abandoned in the future.

Thompson argues that by giving these students standardized tests that they are reducing their potential of demonstrating their intellect, social and personal sides to the community. Test-based reform, through its focus on high-stakes test, narrows the curriculum to what is included on the tests and reduces instructional practice to test preparation” (Thompson 159). In contrast, “standards-based reform…involves a complete abandonment of the bureaucratic, ‘seat time’ approach to education and replaces it with a system of learning communities dedicated to helping all students reach their intellectual, social, and personal potential” (Thompson 159).

To summarize, without requiring students to take standardized tests they will greatly increase their academic potential and affective abilities. Bill Bigelow also stresses his concern of standardization. He believes that, “social studies knowledge is little more than acquiring piles of disconnected facts about the world” (Bigelow 231) and that “the world can’t be chopped into multiple choice questions, [in] that you can’t bubble in the truth with a number-two pencil” (Bigelow 239). Bigelow would be ecstatic to see the state do away with standardized tests.

He demonstrates some strong educational goals that the state should follow that show a balance between academic and affective goals for education. He claims that teachers should, “construct rigorous performance standards for students that promote deep thinking about the nature of our society. These efforts should acknowledge the legitimacy of a multicultural curriculum of critical questions, complexity, multiple perspective, and social imagination. They should recognize that wisdom is more than information” (Bigelow 239). I agree with his statement.

When considering the famous quote, “knowledge is power”; have we gained knowledge when we have learned the means by which to pass a standardized test? Or has knowledge been gained when a student has the sense of understanding conceptual ideas about society and civilization as a whole? I feel that standardized testing is something elected state officials want because these tests provide numbers and numbers are easy to put into a spreadsheets and show which schools are getting high scores and which schools are getting low scores. It is an easy format to determine budgets; one test is suitable for all students.

It is harder to define guidelines on how or what teachers should teach conceptually because that leads to a broader spectrum of learning. In conclusion, I believe that standardized tests are the “dumbing down of America”. These tests inhibit our abilities to question and reflect. The state and federal governments do not really want the American public to get smarter. They want a simple way to control what students learn and how they learn it. While many people agree that standardization is not improving learning, we are still unable to do away with these tests due to all of the politics involved.

I would love for high schools to be more like colleges in that, teachers can use whatever methods of teaching they like just as professors do. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Obviously, there are essential fundamental topics that much be taught that are necessary in order to have the basic foundation on which to grow intellectually. I feel that once a student has mastered the basics, it is crucial to one’s development to discuss controversial issues and to intelligently question the ways of the world.

I agree with Bill Bigelow; I do not believe that one test is a thorough determinant of a student’s ability and mastery of various concepts. A famous quote by George Santayana states, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. With all the controversial issues and problems in the world, shouldn’t learning how to use one’s mind and think “outside the box” be considered an integral part of learning? Isn’t it important and valuable to society to be able to intelligently discuss solutions rather than just be considered smart because you aced the SAT?

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