Tuesday, November 07, 2006

healthy, nutritious education

"Education at the Dewey School was based on the idea that knowledge is a by-product of activity: people do things in the world, and the doing results in something that, if deemed useful, gets carried along into the next activity. In the traditional method of education, in which the things considered worth knowing are handed down from teacher to pupil as disembodied information, knowledge is cut off from the activity in which it has meaning, and becomes a false abstraction. One of the consequences (besides boredom) is that an invidious distinction between knowing and doing - a distinction Dewey thought socially pernicious as well as philosophically erroneous - gets reinforced . . .

One of Dewey's curricular obsessions, for instance, was cooking. (Like all courses at the school, including carpentry and sewing, cooking was coeducational.) The children cooked and served lunch once a week. The philosophical rationale is obvious enough: preparing a meal (as opposed to, say, memorizing the multiplication table) is a goal-directed activity, it is a social activity, and it is an activity continuous with life outside the school. But Dewey incorporated into the practical business of making lunch: arithmetic (weighing and measuring ingredients, with instruments the children made themselves), chemistry and physics (observing the process of combustion), biology (diet and digestion), georgraphy (exploring the natural environments of the plants and animals), and so on. Cooking became the basis for monst the science taught in the school. It turned out to have so much curricular potential that making cereal became a three-year continuous course of study for all children between the ages of six and eight - with (on the testimony of two teachers) 'no sense of monotony on the part of either pupils or teacher.'"
(322-3)

This from Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, chapter 12, titled "Chicago" . . .

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