Was John Dewey a Time Traveler?
I believe that this educational process has two sides - one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following. - John Dewey (1897)
Whether it be a PK-12 classroom, a higher-education classroom, or an adult learning setting, it is a common ideology that education of the past was extremely one-diminsional and teacher-centered. In the world of pedagogical strategies or curriculum design, the progressive views of student-centered or project-based learning receives immense push-back from those with an "old-school" learning belief.
However, when studying those who helped progress education in the past, it becomes evident that progressive thoughts started decades ago. In 1897, the great John Dewey stated:
"I believe that interests are the signs and symptoms of growing power. I believe they represent dawning capacities. Accordingly, the constant and careful observation of interests is of the utmost importance for the educator."
As I dissected this statement, I had a vision of a modern, student-centered, differentiated instruction-focused educator - but this is not the case. In fact, this quote is over 120 years old. Dewey supports this broad quote with other beliefs on the social importance of learning and the pyschological aspect of learning.
If we follow the misconception of one-room schoolhouse teachers slapping students with rulers, it is easy to think many of today's teachers are "indoctrinating" or "brainwashing" students. However, this is an extremely dangerous way of thinking. According to Dewey, "The educational process has two sides - one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following."
So... Was John Dewey a time traveler? Or, do we use the word "past" to misrepresent the empathy, compassion, progressiveness, and genius of those who paved a way for today's ideas? Dewey was student-centered and focused on a balance of choice and mental health. This sounds exactly like the needs of today's learners. Maybe he was a time traveler. What do you think?
Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. The School Journal, 54, 77-80.