The Power of Words

In this post, I will unpack this quote, explain what it makes possible and impossible in education, explain what it says about the teacher and about the student, and how it relates to my understandings of curriculum and school.

I first learnt about John Dewey in my ECS 100 class. He is known by many as the “Father of Progressivism,” he was an American educational theorist who believed that classroom instruction should begin with the child’s experience rather than curricular objectives. Additionally, he thought that schools should help students become people who can think through complex problems. Or, in other words, he believed in active learning instead of passive learning. I chose to analyze a quote by him because we both have similar beliefs on what education should look like.

In the lecture on January 17th, we were asked to respond to the question: “what is the purpose of education?”. I noticed that a lot of answers centred around the fact that education is supposed to prepare students for the “real world.” My answer was very similar to that; I said that the purpose of education is to teach students the necessary life skills that they will need for everyday life. However, when I found this quote, I began to realize that one does not only learn inside a school building. People never stop learning, and that is why education is a process. At the end of grade twelve when someone graduates, society thinks that they are a finished product and that they are ready for university, the workplace, or whatever adventures life has in store for them, but really they are not a product; they still have so much left to learn. It is a social process because we are always learning from someone, be it ourselves, our peers, our teachers, or our bosses, through the stories we hear, instructions we are told, warnings we are given, etc. As we learn, we grow as people. We get smarter, learn to be good people, learn to be active citizens, and so much more. I think that when Dewey says “education is not preparation for life; education is life itself,” he means that it is in human nature to be curious, to desire further knowledge or understanding.

I think this quote makes changes in education and reflection on education possible. There is no perfect education system, just like, for example, there is no such thing as a perfect essay, but we can strive for perfection. We can revise our teaching practices or school principles and policies, just like we revise our sentences and paragraphs. What the quote makes impossible is a set of rules or guidelines for how students should be taught. Every teacher, school, and community is different so one will have to adjust to their surroundings.

From my perspective, I think that the quote wants teachers to be a guide for students. Instead of teaching to the entire class, the teacher teaches to individual students needs and wants. To do this, the teacher would potentially need to re-examine the curriculum, teaching what the students want to learn as opposed to what the government says that they are “supposed” to learn. In terms of the role of the student, I think the quote wants them to take charge of their learning by asking questions, being involved in the school community, and producing their best possible work.

Finally, how this quote relates to my understanding of the curriculum is that the curriculum is not perfect, and it is constantly changing. For example, there has been the addition of First Nations culture into the curriculum. That is why we are learning about the history of the curriculum, to see all of the changes that have been made to the curriculum and to compare with where we are today. Over time, I believe that the curriculum will continue to change.

Quote retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john_dewey

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