After having lunch with a friend today, whose husband was a member of the John Dewey Society, I decided to share with you some information about the relationship this famous educator had with Alexander.
John Dewey (1859-1952) was an American philosopher and the most prominent voice of the school of philosophy known as pragmatism. He had an enormous influence on American education - indeed, he is sometimes referred to as the “father of American education”.
F. Matthias Alexander(1869-1955) was an Australian who made some very important discoveries about human functioning and behavior, and how individuals could be taught to improve these qualities in themselves. Alexander's discoveries, and the practical methods he and his followers developed for teaching them, form the basis of what has become known today as the Alexander Technique.
Dewey met Alexander in during World War I when Alexander was visiting New York and he had his first lessons from Alexander at that time. Dewey was then in his fifties, and he continued taking Alexander Technique lessons for the next 35 years.
“(Dewey) said that he had been taken by (the Alexander Technique) first because it provided a demonstration of the unity of mind and body. He thought that the demonstration had struck him more forcibly than it might have struck someone who got the sensory experience easily and quickly, because he was such a slow learner. He had always been physically awkward, he said, and performed all actions too quickly and impulsively and without thought. ‘Thought’ in his case was saved for ‘mental’ activity, which had always been easy for him. It was a revelation to discover that thought could be applied with equal advantage to everyday movements.
“The greatest benefit he got from lessons, Dewey said, was the ability to stop and think before acting. Physically, he noted an improvement first in his vision and then in breathing. Before he had lessons, his ribs had been very rigid. Now they had a marked elasticity which doctors still commented on, though he was close to eighty-eight."