Although Experience And Education is small in form and a mere 91 pages in length, it is packed with highly useful information not only for professional educators but also for parents and caregivers of children. It is bittersweet that Dewey’s work remains relevant many decades after it was first published. Sadly, too little has been done to improve the quality of education in this country. Writers and educators such as Dewey have given us the tools needed to provide high quality education to the youth of our nation. Unfortunately, there appears to be little resolve to implement them on a wide scale. One of the very few positive aspects of this situation is that Dewey is still read and much is still learned from this great figure in American education.
Dewey’s recipe for a successful education is clear and can even be inferred from the title of this book in which experience is placed before education. Education is a product of experience. According to Dewey, not just any experience will do. Experience must be related to prior experience and expand upon it so as to stretch the current limits of knowledge.
In order for experience to facilitate further growth in education, the educator must be a keen observer of their students, being able to monitor their current abilities. Rather than simply forcing knowledge onto students, Dewey believes that teachers should act more as group leaders. For Dewey, learning should be driven by the desires of the student with the teacher offering guidance, feedback, and structure to the activities. Dewey’s approach is on that can also be used to great effect by parents when planning activities for their children. A little extra preparation time when going to a zoo or museum can turn into a richer, more memorable experience.
There is little doubt that Dewey would be disappointed by the current state of American education. As a result of education slipping as a national priority, the quality of education has been in decline for decades. In addition, as funding has declined and the population has risen, class size has increased. This alone makes giving adequate attention to each student a virtual impossibility. Being unable to engage in careful observation of students prevents the implementation of progressive education. Consequently, Dewey’s methods remain relevant and would be useful reading for both educators and parents alike.