Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Dewey, Real Education, and the Child with a Soul

    March 27, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    Yesterday, I spent a little more time reading about education, the Amish, and technology. It was like a vacation, spending the day at my parents’. It didn’t matter that there were chores in need of doing at home. Because I wasn’t at home. And so I read in the sun while the children ran, screaming, along the path behind the trees.

    It was just windy enough to make them a bit wild.

    I am currently reading a wonderful chapter in Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James Taylor called Descartes and the Cartesian Legacy. Have I mentioned I love this book? Because I do. It is packed with wonderful, great ideas, and reading it is like eating a super-rich dessert. I take a bite at a time, savoring and examining. I am in no rush to finish, and I take the time to enjoy and let it assimilate into my being.

    Part of this chapter deals with Dewey as an heir of the Cartesian Legacy. I have heard many criticize Dewey and what he “did” to education, but I never understood the situation. I believe I am now beginning to understand the mystery of that educational transformation a bit:

    With the influences of Kant, as well as with Descartes, all learning now becomes a kind of effort and work which Dewey models after a dynamic idea of democracy of social change, where learning has as its end the fulfillment of a progressive society always changing toward some perfected goals. Everything is measured by the changing needs of a social end, rather than knowing and learning beginning as a natural and effortless good in itself and leading to the fulfillment of the innate desire to know and to love. Instead, Dewey states in his creed: “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.” {p 98}

    This, by the way, completely explains to me why “socialization” has become the battering ram the educational institutions prefer to use against homeschooling. The educational institutions do not define education in terms of knowledge, understanding, or wisdom. Of course, some individual teachers might, but I’m talking about the institution as a whole, which is fully devoted to Dewey’s philosophy. Because education, to them, is gained through encountering social situations, homeschoolers are viewed as completely uneducated.

    Our family, I am learning, is quite Medieval in its view of the child and his education. We see him as a soul, to be fed and watered. The end purpose of this soul is to, first and foremost, glorify and enjoy God. The secondary purposes of this soul are to live life as God designed, to form his own family and train the resulting new souls by feeding and watering them. And so it goes. The endless cycle of bringing forth godly seed.

    The learner, with Dewey, is more of an organism, a Darwinian species, to be adapted to the needs of the community. Since Dewey reassigns first principles and absolutes regarding human nature to no more than discovered instruments of mental activity to be used to understand and control the environment, there is no set definition of what the needs of the community are, beyond the utilitarian ends of an experimental democracy, whatever that might be…In short, the entire spiritual nature of the knower…Dewey reduces to a communal learner who will master “skills” and apply “tools of learning” to form a better democracy. {p 99}

    And then Taylor quotes John Senior in a way that made time stand still for me for a moment:

    John Dewey taught that schools are instruments of social change rather than of education, and that is one reason why Johnny neither reads nor writes nor dreams or thinks; but real schools are places of un-change, of the permanent things.

    Real schools are places of un-change, of the permanent things. To think that such a concept should be revolutionary! And yet it is.

    Taylor goes on to explain:

    [A] school as was understood since the time of Plato, conversed about those things that do not change because permanence had been discovered as standing underneath all appearances of change and thus was a greater reality than change. {p 99}

    Our society now desires Dewey’s ideas implemented on every level. We have an entire political party completely and utterly devoted to change. {I am not sure what the other party is devoted to.} However, as people of the Book, we should be people of un-change, people of the permanent things. While the world is clamoring after this and that new idea that they hope will save them or at the very least make their lives more tolerable, we can be the island of peace and stability. We know the unchanging God. We know His unchanging Word. We know where true salvation comes from. We have knowledge of the unchanging virtues. We, simply, have the answers.

    And so, yet another reason to keep a child out of institutional schools: I do not want my child to be trained to be nothing but a cog in the consumer-driven wheel. There is nothing noble in this sort of training, nor is there any comfort. As I recognize what my child is {viz., a soul given to me for training by his Creator} I realize the great responsibility I have to make sure his education recognizes, and does not attempt to mar or destroy, this true identity.

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit

    No Comments

    Leave a Reply