8.2 Evolutionary Thinking in Educational Theories
Evolutionary thinking can lead to the following conclusions: (1) Since species arise and disappear by natural selection, reality is not a static, closed system but is a dynamic process of change and development. (2) Humans and their cultural achievements are only the products of a natural process of development. The latter conclusion undermines the theory that human beings are a special creation of God, a theory that is grounded in a Judeo-Christian monotheistic presupposition.
Evolution can be applied to both body and mind. The body is the culminated product of biological evolution, and the mind is an adjustive behavior in response to social evolution (1). Based on these presuppositions, the role of experience in the educational process was reevaluated in Dewey's theory of Reconstruction.
Traditional philosophies assert that since experience never rises above the level of the particular, contingent, and probable, only a power transcending the origin and content can impart to experiences a universal, necessary, and certain authority and direction. In contrast, Dewey elevated experience by declaring it a guide in science and moral life. He adopted a biological perspective and defined the essence of life as behaviors and activities. He visualized that an organism acts in accordance with its own structures. Thus, changes produced in the environment react on the organism and its activities. As a result, the living creature suffers or undergoes the consequences of its own behavior, and this becomes the organism's experience. In this sense, the interaction of the organism with its environment is the primary factor for the attainment of knowledge. This knowledge is derived from and is involved in the process by which life is sustained.
Sensational experiences that may be relative are emotional and practical, not cognitive and intellectual. However, the experiences are to provoke and incite challenge to decide what is to terminate as knowledge. The true "stuff" of experience is recognized to be the adaptive courses of action, liabilities, active functions, connections of doing and undergoing, as well as sensory and motor coordinations. Experience carries within itself the principle of connection and organization that renders unnecessary a supernatural and superempirical synthesis (2).
The outcome of Reconstruction was progressive education. The progressive educationist's motives were to discover how a newborn is influenced by organic needs, drives, and potentialities and how that child acquires the determinate interests, patterns, and values that interact with the social human environment. The progressive educationist stresses the present interaction of humans and their environment against a cultural  heritage. It identifies the end as the result of the process in which change of experience brings about added power of subsequent directive or control (3). The resulting objective of education is not to eliminate bias or preferential acts but to learn to justify the bias (1). Progressive education has put the traditional essentialist educators on the defensive. In contrast, the traditional essentialists educators stress the so-called subject-centered curriculum and demand that essential skills and basic knowledge be taught to all (4).
1. Childs, J. L. American pragmatism and education. New York: Henry Holt; 1956.