John Dewey (1859-1952) was required reading in my pedagogy courses at Bowling Green State University in the mid-1970’s. I wonder if he is still read by undergrads. What I remember 40 years later is the three word summary of his ideas, ‘Learning through doing.’
As a proponent of social change and educational reform, Dewey’s philosophy, called experimentalism or instrumentalism, was inspired by reading William James, an American philosopher of pragmatism. Dewey’s other influences included Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955). Dewey studied with F.M. for several years and wrote the introductions to two of F.M.’s books, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (1923) and The Universal Constant in Living (1941).
Dewey claimed that humankind behaved out of habit, but that change was inevitable and required creative thinking and responding to the present, not the past or the future. Thought was the ‘means where-by’ the individual connected with the world. Dewey touted education as the key to discarding habit and embracing active thinking, engagement, and creativity.
In these precepts, he echoes Mr. Alexander, or Mr. Alexander echoes him, I’m not sure. They were co-existing in a particular milieu; a time of scientific discovery; an era of big ideas and those who devoted their lives to them. Both Dewey and Alexander believed in the power of education, and worked with youth; Dewey as the founder of alternative schools, and Alexander, who established a school for youth in the United States and also taught young students in his London studio.
Could we, the international Alexander Technique teaching community, renew this commitment to youth and to insuring that the principles of the Technique are an everyday part of life in a classroom? I’m pondering this possibility, and welcome your thoughts/ideas on the subject—-