Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Goodman on Dewey

Paul Goodman, 1964:

Historically, the intent of Dewey was exactly the opposite of what the critics say. Progressive education appeared in this country in the intellectual, moral, and social crisis of the development of big centralized industrialism after the Civil War. It was the first thoroughgoing modern analysis of the crucial modern problem of every advanced country in the world: how to cope with high industrialism and scientific technology which are strange to people; how to restore competence to people who are becoming ignorant; how to live in rapidly growing cities so that they will not be mere urban sprawl; how to have a free society in mass conditions; how to make the high industrial system good for something, rather than a machine running for its own sake. [...]

The thought of John Dewey was part of a similar tendency in architecture, the functionalism of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, that was trying to invent an urbanism and an esthetic suited to machine production and yet human; and it went with the engineering orientation of the economic and moral theory of Veblen. These thinkers wanted to train, teach--perhaps accustom is the best word--the new generation to the actualities of industrial and technical life, working practically with the machinery, learning by doing. People could then be at home in the modern world, and possibly become free. [...]

But the school, (Dewey) felt, could combine all the necessary elements: practical learning of science and technology, democratic community, spontaneous felling liberated by artistic expression, freedom to fantasize, the animal expression freed from the parson's morality and the schoolmaster's ruler. This constituted the whole of Deweyan progressive education. There would be spontaneous interest (including animal impulse), harmonized by art-working; this spontaneity would be controlled by the hard pragmatism of doing and making the doing actually work; and thus the young democratic community would learn the modern world and also have the will to change it. Progressive education was a theory of continual scientific experiment and orderly, nonviolent social revolution. (Compulsory Mis-education, pp. 50-52).

I'm not interested in any new vision of education which does not harmonize with a new urbanism.


Chris Lehmann said...

Yeah. That's pretty much spot on... and one more good reasons why we have to keep reading if we're going to be smart about the way we move forward.

Thanks for adding another book to my list.

Bill Kerr said...

paul goodman