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The School and the Life of the Child

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This is the second chapter of Dewey’s book The School and Society. In this chapter, Dewey is trying to explore “the relationship of the school to the life and development of the children in the school” (pp. 31). He begins this exploration by arguing that traditional school has an antagonistic relationship with the life and growth of the child. This is because the centre of gravity in this system is anywhere but in the child. Dewey states that living with the child means to be able to “identify ourselves with the real instincts and needs of childhood…” (pp. 54). Therefore to make the child centre of gravity.

This can be possible in the ideal school, which for Dewey is, the expansion of ideal home environment. He anticipates that the reader will ask if a child can learn at home then is there a need for a school. To this he responds that the school is required for two reasons. Firstly, it will give an opportunity to children to meet a comparatively larger number of adults and children. Secondly, in this school, children will get an opportunity to try out their impulses with teacher’s guidance who will question, criticize, and guide student impulses in a constructive manner. This kind of educational experience will help in the active growth of the child. This active growth, Dewey illustrates, rest on four impulses, that is, interest in conversation; inquiry; construction and artistic expression.

During my visits to a Nai Talim (Wardha scheme of education) school, I observed how engagement in productive manual labour actually creates opportunities for the development of these four impulses.

I would like to open this discussion with a question, Dewey here argues for a school which is an extension of home. Can this kind of education address to social change? How?