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Differences and Similarities: The Educational Philosophies of Dewey and Blair

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Differences and Similarities: The Educational Philosophies of Dewey and Blair

The central theme of John Dewey's education philosophy is that learning should be a hands-on and social experience. He stresses his philosophy from five perspectives; What Education Is, What the School Is, The Subject Matter of Education, The Nature of Method, and The School and Social Progress.

Dewey's perspective of What Education Is, explains that individuals begin an ongoing social education at birth. He uses this starting point to emphasize the connection between society and the role of education. "I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child's powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself."

He believes that education is a partnership between psychological and social processes. The psychological element provides the basis of the education, meaning that the content of instruction must be of interest to the individual. If the student cannot relate to the curriculum then it will fail to make a foothold. However, if it "coincide[s] with a child's activity it will get a leverage." The social element refers to the ability to develop the individual's interests in a manner that allows them to integrate into modern society. To put it simply, the role of education is to develop a person's strengths in order to become an asset to society.

Dewey's second perspective, What the School Is, defines his belief that "the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be the most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends." Dewey believes that the school is a type of microcosm of society. School is a place for children to develop the social skills they learn at home to a point where they can use their particular skill set to contribute to society. In addition to stating his idea of the role of the school, he points out the failures of the schools of his time. Those failures are that the schools are information centers where data is to be learned and "habits are to be formed." The simple transfer of information prepares the students to recall facts but does little to prepare them to think independently. Independent thought and decision making require a sense of morality and a role in society. Dewey believes that schools should play a significant role in developing a sound moral foundation in their students.

In The Subject Matter of Education, he asserts, "that the true centre of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child's own social activities." This statement emphasizes his belief in developing the individual student's interests is paramount to student success. He thinks that the forced instruction of subjects that the student cannot relate to is an imposition on the "child's nature" and will have poor results. He stresses his ideas of interactive instruction and having students learn by doing. His overtly idealistic views of education continue in his thinking that there can be no standardized curriculum. "It cannot, therefore, be true that the proper studies for one grade are mere reading and writing, and that at a later grade, reading, or literature, or science, may be introduced."

In his fourth section, The Nature of Method, Dewey pinpoints four elements that he believes are essential to the method of instruction. First, he asserts that passive learning is a waste of time. The student must be actively engaged in order to learn. Next, he states that an image-based method of instruction is the best approach to helping students learn. Thirdly, he thinks that teachers should look for and develop a child's individual interests. Lastly, he states that "formalism and routine" inhibits the student's emotions and feelings.

Dewey's final section, The School and Social Progress, emphasizes,

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