Dewey’s Theory of Theory and Practice

I really agree with John Dewey’s assessment that “there is no expression without excitement, without turmoil.” Dewey was one of the founders of the New School, and I’m sure he intended for the New School to stand at the forefront of excitement and turmoil.

Actually, the Media Studies program is probably the best current representation of Dewey’s principle — combining, as our program does, “theory and practice.” — Most communications programs are entirely about one or the other, but both are required if you want excitement and turmoil! Some people asked me earlier this semester, “why did I come to the New School?” I came because I was looking for a place to experience and create excitement and turmoil.

And I still think this program does that better than any other program anywhere. Honestly, I’ve been looking at PhD programs for next year and there are only like one or two in the WORLD that even come close to our hybrid nature here. We can thank Dewey for that.

Dewey writes, “Science states meanings; art expresses them.” But I don’t see how you can produce anything of value without both meaning and expression. This seems an obvious principle, but it’s one that very few people in acadaemia remember when designing programs.  That always drives me nuts.

I’m not sure I completely agree with his definition of art.  He says that art is never innocent (“At first a baby weeps, just as it turns head toward light… there is an inner urge but nothing to express….  The transformation of sounds, babblings, lalling, and so forth, into language is a perfect illustration of the way in which acts of expression are brought into existence and also the difference between them and acts of discharge.”)

I’m not sure I agree with that.  We had this discussion in my other class, where we had a long argument over whether pornography or advertising photos are art. The teacher said that pornography wasn’t, because it wasn’t trying to say anything but just appealed to base biology therefore was science.  I had written a huge essay saying that erotica is the art, since it is calculated to make people feel something and does make them feel, whereas advertising photos are not art since they are a scientific calculation to raise money. When a baby screams, or runs in a straight line with excessive enthusiasm, I think that is as much expressive as pornography is.

When we say that only developed language can produce expression, I think that is an elitist point of view. When a baby screams or pornography affects us, both those things have both science and art, therefore they produce expression.

Anyway, in summary, the New School and other schools would benefit students a lot more if they learned from the Media Studies program’s ideals (and some of its practice) and found more ways to combine science and art in many more programs — students will need to do that to succeed in real life media.


4 Responses to “Dewey’s Theory of Theory and Practice”

  1. What does science have to do with art? If I get that Cummings correct, he is saying that science is required for there to be expression. Why is that true? What about Rothko and his canvases that are full of squares? And Miro? He has blank white canvases at the MOMA. What does that have to do with science?

    Yeah, and I know what Cummings is gona say about my counter-argument here. He’s gona say that well, Rothko had to know geometry to create squares and Miro had to know how to measure a canvas and the principle of gravity that would have it hang on a nail. But in that case, doesn’t every movement or sound in the universe have science? When a baby screams, isn’t that biology? When someone looks at porn, isn’t that biology?

    That Cummings — if that is his real name, which I severely doubt — is always questioning the founders of the New School. Doesn’t he know that these people are scholars, therefore we have to read their books even if they are boring, and write reports on them? Doesn’t he know that we have to write papers for school so that we can stay accredited and all these dissertation-writing PhD advisers won’t realize that they should be writing for the popular audience?

    Sure, yeah, whatever. If he doesn’t like the school, maybe he should open a porn store instead. Go to hell.

  2. katherineer Says:

    I definitely agree that The New School does a great job incorportating theory and practice into their program which makes it so unique and overall correct. I think that if you want to succeed and really hone your craft well then you have to learn every aspect of what you are studying not just one portion. It is important to be well rounded in what you are learning so that you can be educated and really know what exactly you are interested in pursuing.

  3. murtaza14 Says:

    I kind of disagree with the fact when you say that advertising photos is not art. I think any kind of advertising is a form of art, because again lot of craftsmanship is involved in making that Ad. Yes, today it is a scientific calculation to raise money but again any art that is created and sold raises money. For e.g. an interior decorator would decorate your house. Here he is using his art but again he is paid for it.

  4. mediasaucy Says:

    I like that fact that you are simulating an outside respondent in replying to your own posting. What would Baudrillard say?

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