A is for Authority

| March 10, 2014

“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 are relative; if he loses his 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, John Dewey

During the last lesson, we briefly addressed the question; “What does it mean to have and aesthetic experience within an educational context?”

If I remember correctly, this issue arose as a consequence of watching the classical ballet footage described by Manning. As we were questioning whether or not we had learnt something by watching the video, I started thinking about what are the characteristics that I usually tend to extract, analyze and retain from the material I am presented with during a class. I decided the answer is simple; whatever interests me, whatever I desire to learn. One of the positive aspects of this class is the freedom with which we are allowed to approach each text, and the lack of restrictions with regards to the issues we wish to address in this blog. This, in turn, made me think of Dewey’s Experience and Education, and particularly of the chapter where he discusses the “Meaning of Purpose”. In this section, Dewey asserts that the learning process must be driven by a sense of purpose, the lack of which would turn the student into someone who “executes the purpose of another or is enslaved to his own blind desires.” He continues by describing what purpose is, namely, an intrinsic desire which must be considered in relation to the direct consequences of acting upon it. But if desire is intrinsic (and therefore comes from within), if I (as a student) should be able to independently select and extract from the proposed material what is worthwhile learning, what should the purpose of an educator be? Perhaps that of tapping into the individual desires and guiding the direction of purpose by helping students predict the consequences of their impulses.