What is Perfect Education?

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.

3 responses to “What is Perfect Education?

  1. Congratulations on finding a good balance at Emory, I hope your college experience takes you far in life. I agree with your assessment on Dewey’s view on education, as sometimes I also feel like education only prepares me for the future but does not inspire me to improve myself outside of the classroom. Much of traditional education merely teaches without inspiring innovation, however progressive education can also hinder learning by letting incorrect experiences dictate the way you think, leading to personal biases and erroneous stereotypes formed in your mind. It’s great that you found interdisciplinary connections in your education as this will surely help you find a unifying link between the different subjects taught at school.

  2. Dewey seems to agree with Rousseau that there is a problem with education. While Rousseau seems to pick at human social-institutions as a whole, Dewey examines the methods within our own social institutions as to what education should be. Just as Yang pointed out, it is important to know that there is drawbacks to both methods, Traditional or Progressive, and we should try to find a middle-ground in order to help with teaching/learning experience.

  3. Moses,
    I think you present a good argument and I would agree with you that students have to find a school with an educational system that benefits their learning style best. However, I feel that regardless of the fallacies between both traditional and progressive education, it is a necessity to incorporate both into your personal educative experience. I personally believe that there is much to be gained from traditional education that can help you develop a passion for a particular subject. Then from there, the student can embark on a more progressive educational approach to research further into the subject they developed a passion for. The only catch is that it depends on the effort of the student in a progressive setting to truly apply himself in order to gain from it and avoid a “miseducative experience.”

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