December 14, 2011

“The introduction of computers is not the first challenge to education values. For example, John Dewey began his campaign for a more active and self-directed style of learning in schools over a hundred years ago, and in these intervening years numerous more or less radical reformers have strived to change School. Back then Dewey undertook his formidable task armed with little more than a strong philosophical sense about the way children develop, for at the time there was no strong movement from society in general for change in schools.

There was certainly no dissatisfaction with education in Dewey’s time as strong as the current one, which seems at times willing to accept the virtual destruction of the public school system rather than have things continue as they now are. Dewey remains a hero to those who believe in a twentieth-century vision of a child as a person with the right to intellectual self-determination, and there can be little doubt that a child treated with respect and encouragement rather than threat- ened with rejection and punishment will fare better under any system of education.

But while Dewey’s influence has surely removed some of the crudest impediments to the healthy development of the child, it has been so diluted that it barely addresses the next serious question: In trying to teach children what adults want them to know, does School utilize the way human beings most naturally learn in nonschool settings?”

Papert, S. (1993) The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. NY: Basic Books. page 5.

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