I was rereading the blog of Prof. Paul L. Thomas the other day when I came across the quotation below. (But first, massive props for Prof. Thomas’ work with pre-service teachers. We need more people like him in those positions.)
Thomas quotes Dewey:
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? (Experience and Education, p. 49)
I’d not encountered/remembered this quotation from my previous readings of Dewey. I wonder…is it problematic? Does it merely draw attention to the war that’s been ongoing for so long around content and skills, between the conservative wings of pedagogy and the more romantic/progressive wings?
As well, Dewey seems to indicate that winning that information comes at the cost of losing one’s soul. I wonder if it isn’t possible to gain information and yet retain the soul. I sure as heck hope so. Though, I suppose what Dewey’s reacting to is a system that so champions acquisition over meaning and human growth as to suck the soul out of the very natural act of learning itself.
I think about these kinds of situations a lot, especially now that I’m working on a class, inNOVAtion Lab, in which I’m employing a rhizomatic approach to learning, an approach that champions the community as the source of the curriculum. I’m still navigating the difficulties of moving from a curriculum map to a community that maps the curriculum itself, but if your curriculum map is anything like the ones I have to deal with, I’d rather have the community map the curriculum any day.
I’m not sure what my point is here. I’m drawn to the work of David Cormier around Rhizomatic Learning, as well as to the writings of Ira Socol around similar topics, and, though I find it far more prickly, the writings and ideas of Gary Stager that stick a knife deep into the concept of curriculum in general.
Certainly a first-world problem, though, given how old “learning” is when compared with “teaching” and the school system itself, maybe not so first-world after all.