Confronting History in the Heartland
Chapter 2. Learning-as-a-Service
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Every method which appeals to the child’s active powers, to his capacities in construction, production, and creation, marks an opportunity to shift the center of ethical gravity from an absorption which is selfish to a service which is social.
—JOHN DEWEY (1903, P. 17)
The assumptions reflected in the CHP stand out against the current educational landscape, but they are not without precedent. This chapter places them in the context of a long, primarily Deweyan tradition and sets out a rationale for investigating the public value of students’ work products. There has been a tendency in recent thought and practice, even among Dewey’s heirs, to regard these work products as externalized indications of capacities for thinking and understanding that are the property of individual learners. Occasionally, they are taken as cognitive achievements shared among members of a classroom learning community. I would like to draw attention to another possibility: of considering those work products in terms of the values they create for others—the ways in which they edify, entertain, enlighten, or prove otherwise useful—especially for audiences outside the school. Of course, it will always remain important to consider the capacities that students develop through this work. It is in the public interest, most would agree, to see that young citizens develop skills, habits, and values necessary to sustain a democratic society. Such a society also typically affirms the legitimate pursuit of personal interests, subject to some...
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