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Beyond Control and Rationality: Dewey, Aesthetics, Motivation, and Educative Experiences


by David Wong — 2007

Contemporary perspectives in psychology and education characterize ideal students as rational and in control of their thinking and actions. The good student is often described as intentional, cognitive, metacognitive, critical, and reflective. I begin with a brief history of control and rationality to establish how “The Tradition” is deeply rooted in philosophy, religion, and, in general, the story of Western civilization. Although these qualities are indeed important, I suggest that powerful educative experiences can neither be fully explained nor evoked if learners exercise only logical reasoning and self-control. I call on the aesthetic philosophy of Dewey and others to propose that transformative, compelling experiences require not only the rational, intentional processes of acting on the world, but also the non-rational, receptive process of undergoing. Dewey’s aesthetic experience, as described in “Art as Experience,” integrates both the rational and non-rational, and self-control and its opposite. In the implications section, I propose that anticipation—the imaginative sensing of possibility—as an important new motivation construct because it captures the aesthetic qualities of engaging educative experiences. I also discuss conditions that could support these kinds of experiences in the classroom. I conclude with a few provocative ideas: a new view of autonomy, the essential role of faith in education, value without work, suffering is passion, and responsibility redefined.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 1, 2007, p. 192-220
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12740, Date Accessed: 10/17/2017 2:02:12 AM

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About the Author
  • David Wong
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    DAVID WONG is an associate professor of Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at Michigan State University. His interests include the nature and design of compelling experiences, He believes there is much to learn on this topic not only from scholars within education, but also from professionals in the fields of art and entertainment.
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