In an earlier article I posted the statement “school is life” in the context of the Chinese-American academic family. What I didn’t realize until wikimania was that I was quoting John Dewey’s statement that “education is life.”
This is an example of how ideas get bounced back and forth between China and the West and how ones view of the world is often influenced by people that you aren’t consciously aware of. In the case of John Dewey, he made a famous trip to China in the 1920’s, and a lot of the ideas that China absorbed from the West in the 1920’s subsequently took a path that was very different from what happened in the West. The educational ideas of John Dewey and a popular belief in the importance of science are something that are more influential in China than in the West. In the case of science, China didn’t experience the counter-culture anti-science/technology backlash of the 1960’s, and in the case of John Dewey, he didn’t become the target of an anti-liberal educational backlash in the 1980’s.
Also (and no one else has made this connection), I’m sure that Dewey’s philosophy of experimental learning really fit in with the pedagological model of the Evidential school which I’ve talked about here.
This points out something cool, which is a neat experiment. Take a belief, any belief, that you have, and try to trace back to the first person who came up with that idea. This points out something else cool, and that is that when an idea comes from China to the West or the West to China, it doesn’t enter into a vacuum, but rather interacts with all of the other ideas that were already there.