My colleague and friend Tricia Neal often pokes me with a sharp stick when I need it most and today was no exception. In thinking about the next steps for ‘Education UK’ I have become a little tight and depressed recently as I have seen things that I have held high for a long while potentially being sidelined for a system that I can have no philosophical time for.
I haven’t the temerity to suggest that some of my wonderings stem from my personal, original thinking but the do stem from a long time of reflection and practice.
Tricia reminded me (with a pointed stick) of the works of John Dewey, who, in my past, had been a beacon for my philosophical stance on education. I revisited again today some of the values that attracted me to teaching in the first place and wondered what part they will play in the careers of the PGCE students I work with and all young teachers today – never mind our young people.
John Dewey (1859-1952) believed that learning was active and schooling unnecessarily long and restrictive. His idea was that children came to school to do things and live in a community which gave them real, guided experiences which fostered their capacity to contribute to society.
Dewey was not a ‘de-schooler’ as was Ivan Illich but he became famous for pointing out that the authoritarian, strict, pre-ordained knowledge approach of modern traditional education was too concerned with delivering knowledge, and not enough with understanding students’ actual experiences.But he was also critical of completely “free, student-driven” education because students often don’t know how to structure their own learning experiences for maximum benefit.
I wonder what part these views will play in the re-structure of England’s ‘schooling’ system post the struggle for political supremacy ? And I wonder if there is the faintest hope that education can be slightly removed from politics so that the true philosophy needed for development can have a chance?