Dewey and Education

dewey education

Democracy and education by John Dewey is the greatest work of the Philosophy of Education. Indeed, Dewey is the initiator of the “hands-on learning”, opposed to a “lecturing” approach. Dewey created a laboratory school away from the usual authority where the teacher is a guide, and where the student learns by doing. Dewey wants to reconcile spirit and action, work and leisure, interest and effort. He believes that children should act rather than listen. For these reasons, He is one of the leading educators of new education movement.

Education and Democracy

Dewey does not hesitate to assert that “the formation of a certain character is the only true foundation of moral conduct” or to identify the “moral conduct” in democratic practice. The individual is realized, according to Dewey, using his own talents to help welfare of the community as a result, the crucial function of education in a democratic society is to help the child develop the “character” – the sum of habits and virtues – which will be fully realized in this way. All in all, he believes, American schools fail in this task. They employ methods for most oriented strongly “individualist”, which require all students from one class to read same time the books and recite the same lessons. Under these conditions, the social impulses of the child atrophy, and the master can not take advantage of the innate desire of every child “to give, to do is to say, to serve”. The spirit Community is replaced by “motivations and highly individualistic norms” fear, emulation, rivalry, judgments of superiority and inferiority and, as such, “most weak lose their sense of their abilities and accept an inferior position and persistent sustainable “while” the strong are tempted to boast of being the strongest “. For the school to cultivate in children the meaning and develop their social democratic spirit, we should have, said Dewey, whether organized as a community cooperative. If we want that education prepares for democracy, schools must become “a institution that is, temporarily, a place of life for the child, the child is a member of the society and is aware of this membership and agrees to contribute “.

Dewey, education and the formation of the democratic sense

This objective is not an easy task: indeed, such a provision of the mind is not something teachers may require students they need to create a social environment to encourage children to assume the responsibilities of a spontaneous moral conduct democratic. But this moral life, Dewey notes, “exists only where the individual has its own appreciation of the goals he seeks and works with interest and dedication to their realization “(Dewey, 1897a). Dewey understands it takes a lot to teachers and therefore, recalling the late 1890s, their role and social importance, it falls back into the Social Gospel that he had abandoned, when told the teacher that he is “the herald of the true kingdom of God” (Dewey, 1897b)

Dewey’s educational theory is much less child-centered and more on teaching than is often thought. Its conviction that the school teaches children the virtues of democratic proceeds in the trust he has not so much in the “capacity of raw and spontaneous the child “in the ability of teachers in their classrooms to create a cleanbring the child to transform them into “social habits, the result of an intelligent understanding of their responsibilities “(Dewey, 1897b). Dewey’s faith in the teacher is also reflected in his belief, expressed in 1890s, that “education is the basic method of progress and reform society “(Dewey, 1897b). And there is some logic in this profession of faith: in that school plays a decisive role in shaping the personality of children of a given society, it can, if designed for this purpose, so turning fundamental that society. The school is in fact a kind of culture broth may affect the actual course of its evolution. In fact, if teachers did a good job, any reform would almost BE superfluous: a democratic and cooperative community emerge directly from the class. The trouble is that most schools were not designed to transform society, but to reproduce. Dewey himself acknowledges, “At any time, the system school was based on the dominant type of organization of social life “(Dewey, 1896b). Beliefs that set out in its educational credo about the school and teachers were therefore less than what was what could be. So that the school becomes an agent of social reform rather than social reproduction, it had to rebuild itself from top to bottom. This was the most ambitious plan that fed.


Dewey as a reformer of education: Changing schools

“School is the only form of social functioning in abstraction and in a controlled environment to be directly experimental, and if philosophy must never become an experimental science, the starting point is the construction of a school “(Dewey, 1896a). Dewey arrived in Chicago with a pretty good idea of ​​the type a “laboratory school” that he would establish himself. In 1894, he confided to his wife: I have in mind, more and more present, the image of a school, a school where some real work constructive will be the center and source of everything, from which the work is still growing in two directions: first the social dimension of this constructive activity, on the other hand, the contact. Nature providing the raw material. I see very well in theory, how the business of carpentry set effort to build a model house, for example, will be the center of a social formation, a hand, science, on the other, all as part of physical training, practical and positive, of the eye and hand “(Dewey, 1894). The ball was now in the court of the university authorities, to which Dewey had extolled the merits of a school, keeping in contact with the theoretical work requirements practice, would be the essential element of a department of education – “the nerve of the whole system “- and it receives support from Harper himself very actively engaged in the campaign for educational reform in Chicago (Dewey, 1896c). In January 1896, the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago opened its doors.

Dewey’s democratic ethics.

Central to the program of the School Dewey figure what Dewey calls “occupation”, that is to say, “a mode of activity on the part of the child, which reproduces a Working exercised in social life is parallel ”

Because business practices constituting these “occupations” have implications that is, on the one hand, the scientific study of materials and processes they put in game, and, secondly, their role in society and culture, centering on a theme occupation provides an opportunity not only training manual and a research history, but also work in mathematics, geology, physics, biology, chemistry, visual arts, music and languages. At the Laboratory School, Dewey observed, “The child comes to class to do things: cooking, sewing, woodworking, and use tools for acts of simple construction, and it is in context and in connection with that these acts are ordered studies: writing, reading, arithmetic, etc. Expertise such as reading is acquired when the child reaches the stage where recognizes the usefulness of this knowledge to solve problems facing him in the activities that make up its “occupation”. According to Dewey, “If a child understands the reason to acquire know-how, acquiring him is greatly facilitated. Books and reading are considered strictly as a tool “.

When reading the descriptions and accounts of the Laboratory School, the difficult to understand how some critics have seen as the champion of Dewey progressive education “profit.” Dewey, however, stated explicitly the objectives of the curriculum, also immediately visible in practice daily teacher with whom he worked. Dewey gives much more than the price rigid traditionalists in accumulated knowledge of mankind, and he understands that students his elementary school have access to the wealth of science, history and arts. He wants as they learn to read, write and count, to think scientifically and express themselves in a manner desired. With regard to the subjects of study, the objectives educational Dewey are actually quite conventional methods are only innovative and radical, but conventional or not, these objectives are explicitly stated.

So important may have been his laboratory school as a testing ground for functional psychology and pragmatism of Dewey, it was more like expression of ethics and democratic theory of this great teacher. “The Social education function  was the rule. Dewey School was primarily an educational experience for democracy.


Cite this article as: Tim, "Dewey and Education, March 19, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, March 19, 2012,

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