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Theory Paper

I believe that education is a process of living and not preparation for future living. (Mooney, 2000)
By: Sarah Flatten

John Dewey believed that you learn by living and by living you learn. You learn from your experiences and by learning from these experiences you go through the process of living. John Dewey said that we also need be focused on today and not preoccupied with the future. He also believed that we need to teach children how to live everyday life, and not just subject matter. He believed that many educators give a child subject matter without relating it to the childs world and their current daily experiences (Dewey, 1906). The child needs to be learning how to use their experiences and the subject material to live now. John Dewey also believed that children learned through the social situations they are naturally put in (Dewey, 1897). He also knew that children as well as adults may be faced with situations or interactions that could be harmful or useless for learning (Dewey, 1938). They could be useless if the child does not use them to learn from. It is important for teachers to use these situations as teaching opportunities and be an example for children to follow when they are interacting. Teachers can also show or explain what they have learned from situations themselves. Teachers can also use interactions between children and the natural situations they are in to teach children. For example, children will often have a hard time sharing. This would be a great time to teach them about being polite and why we need to share. This is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.

Children will naturally be faced with these situations. These situations and experiences may seem small, but John Dewey knew that it was just as important to learn from these experiences and situations as it is for children to learn from subject material. Dewey also thought it was also important for teachers to set up their classrooms in a way that encourages these situations and experiences to happen (Dewey, 1900). He said that the best product of schooling is when it is set up in way that guides the conditions of real life (Paringer, 1990). With that they need to understand why they are learning the materials that they are. Teachers need to set up the classroom to foster the childrens lives at the time they are learning. Many times classrooms are set up so that children can sit and listen (Dewey, 1900). Dewey believed that the classroom needs to be set up in a way that also allows the children to interact socially with one another and to be set up as a place that fosters real life. Not real life in the sense of the childs future, but the child now. When focusing on Early Childhood Education Curriculum, John Deweys theory reminds teachers that it is important to incorporate everyday living into the classroom. You can consider areas such as; dramatic play, snack time, and almost all other areas. Dramatic play allows the teacher to create a real life set up for the children to use and explore. For instance, if you use a kitchen type set up, you can teach the children about cooking, safety in the kitchen, and cleaning

up. These are just some examples of situations that will teach the children about everyday living. In many classrooms, still today, the set up is similar to what Dewey was against. The children are set up in rows and told to be quiet for most of the day. To incorporate Deweys theories it would be essential to arrange the room in such a manor. The room needs to allow children the freedom to interact and to learn on their own. They need to have objects and areas that foster creative thinking. It should also encourage the children to come up with their own theories and ideas of their world. It needs to also be a setting that is life like. In that I mean that the home and the school should have a huge difference. The school should teach children everyday living skills that a child would also use at home. We learned in our class notes that John Dewey also thought that it was important for teachers to be guides and not as the sole keepers of knowledge. I think that sometimes teachers do not always see the full potential of children. Teachers need to see children as competent and capable, as also discussed in our notes. I selected this theory, because I think many times people see children as the future. What I mean by that is people prepare children for their future lives instead of focusing on their lives right now. It is very important for children to be prepared to grow up, but it is just as important for them to be living for now. As a

child I always felt like everything I did was preparation for my future. I think this is how most people live their entire lives. Although this is a skill that needs to be learned, we also need to learn to enjoy where we are and know our importance in the world at every age. I really like how Dewey put so much importance on children and childhood. I believe that education is a process of living and not preparation for future living, (Mooney, 2000) is a simple statement, but there is much more behind it. I like that he put importance on teaching children to live now and learn how to live at every age and not just for the future. The other component of this theory is that you never stop learning. He believed that education was a part of life and you are always in the process of learning (Mooney, 2000). You are never too old to learn. I do disagree with the last part of the theory in one way. He says that education is not a preparation for the future. I believe that it is a process of living, but we also need to be preparing children. In school it is obvious that we do this, because children are going to the next grade so they are being prepared to be able to do that work and move up to next levels. Although I understand that he means getting to that next level is not preparation, it is a process, I do think it can arguable be intertwined. Education taken from the approach of a process of living can prepare children for their futures.

I do question Deweys emphasis on this theory. He states many times in his other work the importance of social situations and experience. These are two things that can prepare a child for their future and they are two things that a child can take with them throughout life. I do believe these are part of the reasons that Dewey saw them as important as he did. I think he just wanted teachers to realize that children are not just waiting to be adults, they are living now and have lives just as adults do. I do not think he meant the statement to be taken to the extreme. As a teacher I know I will take a lot from John Dewey. With this theory, I will always remember that it is not just about make children ready for tomorrow, they need to learn how to live for today also. In my experience this is still something I believe schools should be working on. As a child I always felt like I was preparing for the future and never taught to see the importance of every single age. I think that children should learn to celebrate every stage of their lives. This would be a great idea to learn early. I know I still have a hard time with it. In my class, no matter what age, I do want to allow a lot of time for social interactions and activities that do not need to be done sitting quietly in a desk. I would also like to have my children be able to do a lot of their work outside. I would also like to teach my children that learning is not just done in school. I think that this was a large part of Deweys theories. Learning can take

place anywhere and at any age. I do not want children to see learning as something that only takes place in the classroom. I want them to see it as an opportunity no matter where they are or what they are doing.

References Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education . Indianapolis, IN: Kappa Delta Pi. Dewey, J. (1897). My Educational creed. New York, NY: E.L. Kellogg & CO Dewey, J. (1906). The Child and the cirriculum. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Dewey, J. (1900). The School and society. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Mooney, C.G. (2000). Theories of childhood: an introduction to dewey, montessori, erikson, piaget, and vygotsky. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press. Paringer, W.A. (1990). John dewey and the paradox of liberal reform. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.