The incomparable means of instruction : John Dewey's Art as experience applied as the conceptual foundation for kindergarten through elementary curriculum

Hefner, David Randall
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John Dewey’s Art as Experience (1934) declares art to be the “incomparable organ of instruction” on the third to last page of the book. This dissertation analyzes the place of children within the aesthetic philosophy Dewey expresses in the text and what the implications of Art as Experience could mean if applied to the art-making of children as the foundation for developing kindergarten and elementary curriculum. By exploring Dewey’s earlier writings on education and art, the dissertation develops a view of how art-making could be applied in a Deweyan pedagogy. The main influences on Dewey’s aesthetic development are explored including the frequently overlooked influence of F. Matthias Alexander. Particular emphasis is given to Dewey’s relationship with Albert Barnes and Dewey’s place in the Barnes Foundation as the Director of Education. The writings of Barnes and Dewey’s three associate directors of education are considered for their possible influence on Dewey’s aesthetic development as it applies to establishing a Deweyan philosophy of art-based education. A selection of the initial reviews of Art As Experience from 1934 and 1935 are analyzed to establish the reception of the book. The contentious arguments that Dewey and Benedetto Croce exchanged in print from the late 1940s until both men’s deaths are explored for what they reveal about Dewey’s view of intuition in art-making. A selection of contemporary writers’ views on Dewey’s aesthetics are considered as well as the conclusions of the 1989 University of Illinois Symposium on the influence of Art as Experience. The dissertation concludes by isolating twenty concepts from Art as Experience and considering their meaning as the foundation on which kindergarten and elementary curriculum could be formed. The guidelines are built upon 76 passages from Art as Experience and establish John Dewey as a dominant influence in the formation of Art Education.