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John Dewey and F.M. Alexander

It (the technique of Mr. Alexander) bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other human activities. - John Dewey, from his Introduction to F. M. Alexanders third book, The Use of the Self.

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.

“Intellectually, Dewey said, he found it much easier, after he had studied the technique, to hold a philosophical position calmly once he had taken it or to change it if new evidence came up warranting a change. He contrasted his own attitude with the rigidity of other academic thinkers who adopt a position early in their careers and then use their intellects to defend it indefinitely.” (from a chapter titled “Dewey and Alexander” in Freedom to Change by Frank Pierce Jones).

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