As I was reading John Dewey’s Experience and Education, I kept on reflecting on our very first class at the beginning of the semester. If I remember correctly, we were all asked a very simple question: what is education? There is no point in finding the perfect model for education if its very purpose is unknown. Dewey rejects the idea that education is merely the young’s’ preparation for their future lives. To me, education is instilling in the young the urge to learn, change, and innovate.
The two conventional education models (traditional and progressive education) have failed to live up to that purpose. Dewey does an amazing job at pointing out the fallacies present in both models. In the traditional model, adults’ standards and methods are imposed on the students that do not correspond to their capacities. As a result, the concepts and ideas taught are abstract with little to no application on a student’s life. On the other hand, the progressive model offers little organization and unguided freedom. This can create a lot of “miseducative” experiences.
Due to the inherent fallacies present in both models, students must find the perfect balance between organized learning and practical experience. Because students have different capabilities and interests, the quest for the perfect balance should be a personal one. For me, I have found the perfect balance here at Emory. I run chemical reactions in lab after learning them in my organic chemistry class; I have connected the knowledge I gained in physics class with my neuroscience seminar to write a research paper on how physics is changing the field of neuroscience. I have also used my physics knowledge to better understand some problems we discussed in philosophy class. School is no longer about memorizing abstract non-applicable concepts; I am applying the knowledge in different ways and forming interdisciplinary connections. This has certainly developed my new zest for learning and knowledge.