Response Paper: Experience & Education
University at Albany, SUNY
Education and Experience offers Dewey’s thoughts about traditional and progressive education and the importance of a theory of experience. The two principles underlying experience are continuity and interaction. By considering these two ideas and their relationship to each other, we can try to understand experience. What is an educative experience as opposed to a non-educative experience? What do continuity and interaction suggest about growth, intelligence, and purpose?
Dewey discusses the limitations of traditional education upon the development of the young. The subject-matter of traditional education is, “so bound up with the past as to give little help in dealing with the issues of the present and future” (p. 23). What is missing is the connection of the past and present within experience. To remedy the divide between traditional and progressive education, he calls for a theory of experience.
In order to find the connection between the past and the present and future, continuity needs to be considered. “From this point of view, the principle of continuity of experience means that every experience both takes up something from those which have gone before and modifies in some way the quality of those which come after” (p. 35). There is the past experience of others that have already established a path, a fact, some piece of knowledge, and then there is the experience of someone now in the present who takes that path, that fact, that piece of knowledge and makes it their own. Continuity is the knowledge of the experience of the past being adjusted through the lens of someone else’s experience in the present. Continuity keeps that knowledge going, in a forward direction.
It is important to have continuity for an educative experience. As one has experiences, information can be amassed into piles. Without continuity the piles of information are just that, separate piles of information. Without reflection, the information is not truly your own knowledge. Without judgment, there are no connections to what is being observed and what is being recalled from previous knowledge. There can be no growth without reflection and judgment. The experiences won’t lead to anything further so they are non-educative.
What goes on between an individual and an object or an individual and others is interaction. The individual can be likened to Hawkins’ “thou,” and the relationship of thou and it or thou and thou. “An experience is always what it is because of a transaction taking place between an individual and what, at the time, constitutes his environment…The environment, in other words, is whatever conditions interact with personal needs, desires, purposes, and capacities to create the experience which is had” (p. 43-44). From an initial impulse, there is an interaction between thou and it. The...