Dewey, John (1859–1952)
DEWEY, JOHN (1859–1952)
Throughout the United States and the world at large, the name of John Dewey has become synonymous with the Progressive education movement. Dewey has been generally recognized as the most renowned and influential American philosopher of education.
He was born in 1859 in Burlington, Vermont, and he died in New York City in 1952. During his lifetime the United States developed from a simple frontier-agricultural society to a complex urban-industrial nation, and Dewey developed his educational ideas largely in response to this rapid and wrenching period of cultural change. His father, whose ancestors came to America in 1630, was the proprietor of Burlington's general store, and his mother was the daughter of a local judge. John, the third of their four sons, was a shy boy and an average student. He delivered newspapers, did his chores, and enjoyed exploring the woodlands and waterways around Burlington. His father hoped that John might become a mechanic, and it is quite possible that John might not have gone to college if the University of Vermont had not been located just down the street. There, after two years of average work, he graduated first in a class of 18 in 1879.
There were few jobs for college graduates in Burlington, and Dewey spent three anxious months searching for work. Finally, a cousin who was the principal of a high school in South Oil City, Pennsylvania, offered him a teaching position which paid $40 a month. After two years of teaching high school Latin, algebra, and science, Dewey returned to Burlington to teach in a rural school closer to home.
With the encouragement of H. A. P. Torrey, his former philosophy professor at the University of Vermont, Dewey wrote three philosophical essays (1882a; 1882b; 1883) which were accepted for publication in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, whose editor, William Torrey Harris, hailed them as the products of a first-rate philosophical mind. With this taste of success and a $500 loan from his aunt, Dewey left teaching to do graduate work at Johns Hopkins University. There he studied philosophy–which at that time and place primarily meant Hegelian philosophy and German idealism–and wrote his dissertation on the psychology of Kant.
After he received the doctorate in 1884, Dewey was offered a $900-a-year instructorship in philosophy and psychology at the University of Michigan. In his first year at Michigan, Dewey not only taught but also produced his first major book, Psychology (1887). In addition, he met, wooed, and married Alice Chipman, a student at Michigan who was herself a former schoolteacher. Fatherhood and ten years' teaching experience helped his interest in psychology and philosophy to merge with his growing interest in education.
In 1894 the University of Chicago offered Dewey the chairmanship of the department of philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy. At Chicago he established the now-famous laboratory school (commonly known as the Dewey School), where he scientifically tested, modified, and developed his psychological and educational ideas.
An early statement of his philosophical position in education, My Pedagogic Creed (1897), appeared three years after his arrival at Chicago. Four other major educational writings came out of Dewey's Chicago experience. The first two, The School and Society (1956), which was first published in 1899, and The Child and the Curriculum (1902), were lectures which he delivered to raise money and gain support for the laboratory school. Although the books were brief, they were clear and direct statements of the basic elements of Dewey's educational philosophy and his psychology of learning. Both works stressed the functional relationship between classroom learning activities and real life experiences and analyzed the social and psychological nature of the learning process. Two later volumes, How We Think (1910) and Democracy and Education (1916), elaborated these themes in greater and more systematic detail.
Dewey's work at Chicago was cut short when, without consulting Dewey, Chicago's president, William Rainey Harper, arranged to merge the laboratory school with the university training school for teachers. The merger not only took control of the school from Dewey's hands but changed it from an experimental laboratory to an institution for teacher-training. Dewey felt that he had no recourse but to resign and wrote to William James at Harvard and to James M. Cattell at Columbia University, informing them of his decision. Dewey's reputation in philosophy had grown considerably by this time, and Cattell had little difficulty in persuading the department of philosophy and psychology at Columbia to offer him a position. Because the salary offer was quite low for a man with six children (three more had been born during his ten years at Chicago), arrangements were made for Dewey to teach an additional two hours a week at Columbia Teachers College for extra compensation. For the next twenty-six years at Columbia, Dewey continued his illustrious career as a philosopher and witnessed the dispersion of his educational ideas throughout the world by many of his disciples at Teachers College, not the least of whom was William Heard Kilpatrick.
Dewey retired in 1930 but was immediately appointed professor emeritus of philosophy in residence at Columbia and held that post until his eightieth birthday in 1939. The previous year he had published his last major educational work, Experience and Education (1938). In this series of lectures he clearly restated his basic philosophy of education and recognized and rebuked the many excesses he thought the Progressive education movement had committed. He chastised the Progressives for casting out traditional educational practices and content without offering something positive and worthwhile to take their place. He offered a reformulation of his views on the intimate connection between learning and experience and challenged those who would call themselves Progressives to work toward the realization of the educational program he had carefully outlined a generation before.
At the age of ninety he published his last large-scale original philosophical work, Knowing andthe Known (1949), in collaboration with Arthur F. Bentley.
Experience and Reflective Thinking
The starting place in Dewey's philosophy and educational theory is the world of everyday life. Unlike many philosophers, Dewey did not search beyond the realm of ordinary experience to find some more fundamental and enduring reality. For Dewey, the everyday world of common experience was all the reality that man had access to or needed. Dewey was greatly impressed with the success of the physical sciences in solving practical problems and in explaining, predicting, and controlling man's environment. He considered the scientific mode of inquiry and the scientific systematization of human experience the highest attainment in the evolution of the mind of man, and this way of thinking and approaching the world became a major feature of his philosophy. In fact, he defined the educational process as a "continual reorganization, reconstruction and transformation of experience" (1916, p. 50), for he believed that it is only through experience that man learns about the world and only by the use of his experience that man can maintain and better himself in the world.
Dewey was careful in his writings to make clear what kinds of experiences were most valuable and useful. Some experiences are merely passive affairs, pleasant or painful but not educative. An educative experience, according to Dewey, is an experience in which we make a connection between what we do to things and what happens to them or us in consequence; the value of an experience lies in the perception of relationships or continuities among events. Thus, if a child reaches for a candle flame and burns his hand, he experiences pain, but this is not an educative experience unless he realizes that touching the flame resulted in a burn and, moreover, formulates the general expectation that flames will produce burns if touched. In just this way, before we are formally instructed, we learn much about the world, ourselves, and others. It is this natural form of learning from experience, by doing and then reflecting on what happened, which Dewey made central in his approach to schooling.
Reflective thinking and the perception of relationships arise only in problematical situations. As long as our interaction with our environment is a fairly smooth affair we may think of nothing or merely daydream, but when this untroubled state of affairs is disrupted we have a problem which must be solved before the untroubled state can be restored. For example, a man walking in a forest is suddenly stopped short by a stream which blocks his path, and his desire to continue walking in the same direction is thwarted. He considers possible solutions to his problem–finding or producing a set of stepping-stones, finding and jumping across a narrow part, using something to bridge the stream, and so forth–and looks for materials or conditions to fit one of the proposed solutions. He finds an abundance of stones in the area and decides that the first suggestion is most worth testing. Then he places the stones in the water, steps across to the other side, and is off again on his hike. Such an example illustrates all the elements of Dewey's theoretical description of reflective thinking: A real problem arises out of present experiences, suggestions for a solution come to mind, relevant data are observed, and a hypothesis is formed, acted upon, and finally tested.
For Dewey, learning was primarily an activity which arises from the personal experience of grappling with a problem. This concept of learning implied a theory of education far different from the dominant school practice of his day, when students passively received information that had been packaged and predigested by teachers and textbooks. Thus, Dewey argued, the schools did not provide genuine learning experiences but only an endless amassing of facts, which were fed to the students, who gave them back and soon forgot them.
Dewey distinguished between the psychological and the logical organization of subject matter by comparing the learner to an explorer who maps an unknown territory. The explorer, like the learner, does not know what terrain and adventures his journey holds in store for him. He has yet to discover mountains, deserts, and water holes and to suffer fever, starvation, and other hardships. Finally, when the explorer returns from his journey, he will have a hard-won knowledge of the country he has traversed. Then, and only then, can he produce a map of the region. The map, like a textbook, is an abstraction which omits his thirst, his courage, his despairs and triumphs–the experiences which made his journey personally meaningful. The map records only the relationships between landmarks and terrain, the logic of the features without the psychological revelations of the journey itself.
To give the map to others (as a teacher might) is to give the results of an experience, not the experience by which the map was produced and became personally meaningful to the producer. Although the logical organization of subject matter is the proper goal of learning, the logic of the subject cannot be truly meaningful to the learner without his psychological and personal involvement in exploration. Only by wrestling with the conditions of the problem at hand, "seeking and finding his own way out, does he think …. If he cannot devise his own solution (not, of course, in isolation but in correspondence with the teacher and other pupils) and find his own way out he will not learn, not even if he can recite some correct answer with one hundred percent accuracy" (Dewey 1916, p. 160).
Although learning experiences may be described in isolation, education for Dewey consisted in the cumulative and unending acquisition, combination, and reordering of such experiences. Just as a tree does not grow by having new branches and leaves wired to it each spring, so educational growth does not consist in mechanically adding information, skills, or even educative experiences to students in grade after grade. Rather, educational growth consists in combining past experiences with present experiences in order to receive and understand future experiences. To grow, the individual must continually reorganize and reformulate past experiences in the light of new experiences in a cohesive fashion.
School and Life
Ideas and experiences which are not woven into the fabric of growing experience and knowledge but remain isolated seemed to Dewey a waste of precious natural resources. The dichotomy of in-school and out-of-school experiences he considered especially wasteful, as he indicated as early as 1899 in The School and Society:
From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the school itself; while on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning in school. That is the isolation of the school–its isolation from life. When the child gets into the schoolroom he has to put out of his mind a large part of the ideas, interests and activities that predominate in his home and neighborhood. So the school being unable to utilize this everyday experience, sets painfully to work on another tack and by a variety of [artificial] means, to arouse in the child an interest in school studies …. [Thus there remains a] gapexisting between the everyday experiences of the child and the isolated material supplied in such large measure in the school. (1956, pp. 75–76)
To bridge this chasm between school and life, Dewey advocated a method of teaching which began with the everyday experience of the child. Dewey maintained that unless the initial connection was made between school activities and the life experiences of the child, genuine learning and growth would be impossible. Nevertheless, he was careful to point out that while the experiential familiar was the natural and meaningful place to begin learning, it was more importantly the "intellectual starting point for moving out into the unknown and not an end in itself" (1916, p. 212).
To further reduce the distance between school and life, Dewey urged that the school be made into an embryonic social community which simplified but resembled the social life of the community at large. A society, he reasoned, "is a number of people held together because they are working along common lines, in a common spirit, and with reference to common aims. The common needs and aims demand a growing interchange of thought and growing unity of sympathetic feeling." The tragic weakness of the schools of his time was that they were endeavoring "to prepare future members of the social order in a medium in which the conditions of the social spirit [were] eminently wanting" (1956, pp. 14–15).
Thus Dewey affirmed his fundamental belief in the two-sidedness of the educational process. Neither the psychological nor the sociological purpose of education could be neglected if evil results were not to follow. To isolate the school from life was to cut students off from the psychological ties which make learning meaningful; not to provide a school environment which prepared students for life in society was to waste the resources of the school as a socializing institution.
Democracy and Education
Dewey recognized that the major instrument of human learning is language, which is itself a social product and is learned through social experiences. He saw that in providing a pool of common meanings for communication, the language of each society becomes the repository of the society's ideals, values, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge. To transmit the contents of the language to the young and to initiate the young in the ways of civilized life was for Dewey the primary function of the school as an institution of society. But, he argued, a way of life cannot be transmitted by words alone. Essential to acquiring the spirit of a way of life is immersion in ways of living.
More specifically, Dewey thought that in a democratic society the school should provide students with the opportunity to experience democracy in action. For Dewey, democracy was more than a form of government; it was a way of living which went beyond politics, votes, and laws to pervade all aspects of society. Dewey recognized that every social group, even a band of thieves, is held together by certain common interests, goals, values, and meanings, and he knew that every such group also comes into contact with other groups. He believed, however, that the extent to which democracy has been attained in any society can be measured by the extent to which differing groups share similar values, goals, and interests and interact freely and fruitfully with each other.
A democratic society, therefore, is one in which barriers of any kind–class, race, religion, color, politics, or nationality–among groups are minimized, and numerous meanings, values, interests, and goals are held in common. In a democracy, according to Dewey, the schools must act to ensure that each individual gets an opportunity to escape from the limitations of the social group in which he was born, to come into contact with a broader environment, and to be freed from the effects of economic inequalities. The schools must also provide an environment in which individuals may share in determining and achieving their common purposes in learning so that in contact with each other the students may recognize their common humanity: "The emphasis must be put upon whatever binds people together in cooperative human pursuits … and the fuller, freer, intercourse of all human beings with one another …. [This] ideal may seem remote of execution, but the democratic ideal of education is a farcical yet tragic delusion except as the ideal more and more dominates our public system of education" (Dewey, 1916, p. 98).
Dewey's belief in democracy and in the schools' ability to provide a staging platform for social progress pervades all his work but is perhaps most clearly stated in his early Pedagogic Creed:
I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. All reforms which rest simply upon the enactment of law, or the threatening of certain penalties, or upon changes in mechanical or outward arrangements, are transitory and futile …. By law and punishment, by social agitation and discussion, society can regulateand form itself in a more or less haphazard and chance way. But through education society can formulate its own purposes, can organize its own means and resources, and thus shape itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to move …. Educationthus conceived marks the most perfect and intimate union of science and art conceivable in human experience. (1964, pp. 437–438)
Perhaps it was with these ideas in mind that Dewey was prompted to equate education with philosophy, for he felt that a deep knowledge of man and nature was not only the proper goal of education but the eternal quest of the philosopher: "If we are willing to conceive of education as the process of forming fundamental dispositions, intellectual and emotional, toward nature and fellow men, philosophy may even be defined as the general theory of education" (1916, p. 328).
See also: Progressive Education.
Archambault, Reginald D., ed. 1964. John Dewey on Education. New York: Modern Library.
Archambault, Reginald D., ed. 1966. Dewey on Education: Appraisals of Dewey's Influence on American Education. New York: Random House.
Cremin, Lawrence A. 1961. The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876–1957. New York: Knopf.
Dewey, John. 1882a. "The Metaphysical Assumptions of Materialism." Journal of Speculative Philosophy 16:208–213.
Dewey, John. 1882b. "The Pantheism of Spinoza." Journal of Speculative Philosophy 16:249–257.
Dewey, John. 1883. "Knowledge and the Relativity of Feeling." Journal of Speculative Philosophy 17:56–70.
Dewey, John. 1887. Psychology. New York: Harper. Dewey, John. 1902. The Child and the Curriculum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Dewey, John. 1929. My Pedagogic Creed (1897). Washington, DC: Progressive Education Association.
Dewey, John. 1933. How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process (1910), revised edition. Boston: Heath.
Dewey, John. 1938. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan.
Dewey, John. 1961. Democracy and Education (1916). New York: Macmillan.
Dewey, John. 1956. The Child and the Curriculum and The School and Society. Chicago: Phoenix.
Dewey, John. 1960. "From Absolutism to Experimentalism." On Experience, Nature, and Freedom. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.
Dewey, John, and Bentley, Arthur F. 1949. Knowing and the Known. Boston: Beacon.
Thomas, Milton H. 1962. John Dewey: A Centennial Bibliography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Jonas F. Soltis
"Dewey, John (1859–1952)." Encyclopedia of Education. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john-1859-1952
"Dewey, John (1859–1952)." Encyclopedia of Education. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john-1859-1952
John Dewey (1859–1952), generally regarded as the most influential philosopher in American history, was born in Burlington, Vermont. After receiving his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1884, he taught at the University of Michigan (except for a year spent at the University of Minnesota) until 1894, when he moved to the University of Chicago.
Dewey was attracted to Chicago because pedagogy there was included in one department with philosophy and psychology. At Chicago he established an experimental elementary school, wrote The School and Society (1899), and became involved with Jane Addams’ Hull House. At this time Dewey was developing his pragmatic approach to the theory of mind and his “instrumentalist” theory of logic: his essay “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology,” which had considerable influence on developments in psychology, appeared in 1896, and Studies in Logical Theory, a collection of essays by Dewey and some of his colleagues and students, appeared in 1903. The book was greeted by William James as the signal of the birth of a “Chicago school” of pragmatic philosophy.
In 1904 Dewey resigned his professorship at Chicago because he was displeased with the university administration’s actions toward the experimental school he headed. He moved to Columbia University as professor of philosophy, with additional teaching responsibilities at Teachers College. Dewey taught at Columbia until his retirement in 1929. During the 1930s he produced some of the most ambitious philosophical works of his career. He also continued to take part in a wide assortment of civic and political activities, the most dramatic of which was his service in 1937 as chairman of the unofficial commission that held public hearings in Mexico and found Leon Trotsky innocent of the charges made against him in the Moscow trials.
Intellectual influences. Dewey’s early intellectual attachments were to Hegel’s philosophy. Dewey’s New England upbringing had stressed the radical divisions that exist in man and the universe between body and soul, nature and God, the world and the self. He found these beliefs “an inward laceration.” Hegel’s philosophy, with its dialectical elimination of the presumed antitheses between matter and spirit, nature and the divine, and subject and object, offered release from these oppressive dualisms. Hegel’s influence on Dewey can be seen in Dewey’s lifelong polemic against all forms of dualism in philosophy, in his concept of individuality as a social product, in his tendency to identify freedom with rational self-realization, and in his view that logical and moral principles are not fixed, external standards to be imposed on human inquiry and conduct but are instead evolutionary phenomena that emerge within the actual course of human thinking and acting.
Over a period of fifteen years after leaving Johns Hopkins, however, Dewey drifted away from Hegel’s philosophy and eventually renounced it al-together. The theme that came to seem increasingly important to him was what he called “the intellectual scandal” involved in the separation of science from morals. Hegel’s abstract, metaphysical solution of this problem became increasingly uncongenial to Dewey, who desired to reformulate philosophical problems so that they implied clear alternative programs for social action. What Dewey described as his transition “from absolutism to experimentalism” was further aided by the pioneer work of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) in the development of a pragmatic theory of logic and by William James’s Psychology. Dewey’s own “pragmatism,” or “instrumentalism,” owes relatively little to James’s pragmatism but much to James’s biological approach to the problems of mind. The work of Dewey’s friend George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) also had considerable influence on Dewey’s philosophy. Dewey’s conceptions of the self, and of the genesis and function of such phenomena as “consciousness” and “conscience,” owe much to Mead’s work in social psychology and philosophy. Finally, Dewey’s thought is unintelligible except as a response to the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection. Dewey’s theory of mind, his translation of Hegel’s categories into biological and cultural terms, his views on logic and morals, and his conception of the task of philosophy are all efforts to trace the implications of Darwin’s mode of thought.
With respect to the question of intellectual influences on him, Dewey’s own judgment, however, should be emphasized. He believed that most of the significant influences on his intellectual development came not from books but from personal associations and practical experience, particularly in education.
Instrumentalism. Throughout his career Dewey’s central interest was to repair moral and social beliefs and practices by encouraging the application of scientific methods and critical intelligence to them. Dewey believed that one of the principal obstacles to this was the traditional notion, embedded in common sense and defended and enshrined by philosophy, that “theory” is contemplative, passive, and unmarked by practical concerns and that “practice” is by its very nature not susceptible to intellectual formulation or control. The development of a logic of human inquiry that would reveal the underlying unity of “theory” and “practice” was therefore Dewey’s central intellectual enterprise.
According to Dewey the advent of modern experimental science had shown that theory and practice, far from being opposed, are in fact interdependent in successful scientific inquiry. Using such inquiry as a model, he formulated the view that general ideas are instruments for reconstructing “problematic situations.” An idea, in other words, is what is sometimes known as a “leading principle” or an “inference ticket”—a rule directing and regulating the movement of an inquiry or argument from one set of observations to another. The truth of an idea lies in its capacity to reorganize the materials of experience so that the problem that originally provoked reflection is resolved in accordance with the canons of disciplined inquiry. The power of an idea is measured by the novelty and significance for further inquiry of the questions it leads us to ask. Dewey thus rejected, or seemed to reject, the traditional “correspondence theory of truth,” according to which the truth of an idea is simply a matter of its correspondence to the external, independent reality to which it refers.
Dewey’s “instrumentalism” appears to involve, at the least, an overstatement, for if all ideas are simply rules for making inferences, then we are forced to the paradoxical conclusion that there are no general statements in the sciences that refer to anything external to human habits of thought. The emphasis of Dewey’s instrumentalism, nonetheless, was extremely useful in enhancing critical under-standing of science. It presented inquiry as a phase in the continuing readaptation of a social animal to its environment and portrayed general ideas as prescriptions for behavior, mental or physical, and as directives for action on the environment. It thus cast doubt on classic distinctions between theory and practice.
Theory of moral judgment. To establish still further the continuity of science and morals Dewey also undertook to show that moral judgments are subject to the same essential logic of inquiry as that of the sciences. Dewey’s argument, as developed, for example, in Logical Conditions of a Scientific Treatment of Morality (1903b) and Theory of Valuation (1939a), is that moral ideals are properly interpreted as hypotheses proposing that certain courses of action will resolve specified sets of difficulties. Moral ideals, therefore, like the general ideas of the sciences, are instruments for the solution of problems, and their validity is to be determined by a matter-of-fact examination of the consequences of acting on them, analogous to the procedure by which general ideas in the sciences achieve acceptance.
Dewey’s position is frequently criticized on the ground that he erased the distinction between factual statements and value judgments, a distinction on which the very conception of an objective science depends. The force of these accusations is weakened when it is seen that Dewey’s argument entails the denial of the normally accepted view that there is a hard and fast distinction between means and ends. Critics of Dewey frequently ask how, in Dewey’s terms, instrumental moral value can be ascribed to a course of action when he denied that there are in the last analysis any ends that have value for themselves. Dewey, however, rejected this question as irrelevant to the actual conditions under which moral choice takes place, for he believed that moral perplexities arise in specific contexts where certain established values are imperiled but where a host of other values, which might be questioned in other contexts, are not in fact in question. The problem of infinite regress is therefore not relevant to the practical contexts in which moral judgments are made; it implicitly introduces standards of demonstrative certainty that are not appropriate to this domain of thought.
The analyses of moral judgments that Dewey offered in different works were, however, not entirely consistent, and in the eyes of many critics he never successfully refuted the charge that he confused descriptive and prescriptive statements.
Critique of philosophy. Much of Dewey’s work consisted of polemics against “the classic tradition” in philosophy. The major effort of classic philosophy, he argued in such books as Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920) and The Quest for Certainty (1929), had been to give men a sense of surcease from surrounding perils they were helpless to over-come. Accordingly, the usual message of classic philosophy was that behind the everyday world of change and irrationality there is an unchanging and rational world, in the contemplation of which men may gain understanding and serenity. Thus, in Dewey’s view, philosophical “dualism” was essentially an instrument of conservatism and retreat. It was also, he argued, an expression of such aristocratic social prejudices as the distaste for manual labor. Although relatively few scholars accept Dewey’s picture of the history of philosophy, his placing of that history within a social context has been the source of a considerable reappraisal of the Western philosophical inheritance.
Philosophy of education. For Dewey the principal object of education was to instill in students the attitudes and habits conducive to the development of their capacity to solve problems. As he argued in Democracy and Education (1916a), this required that classroom emphasis be placed not on arrays of factual information or on inherited ideas presented as settled and accepted but on the intellectual methods by which such factual information or such ideas are discovered and reliably established. This view was further fortified by Dewey’s belief that objective attitudes toward moral and social questions require the rejection of absolutes and the cultivation of flexibility and tolerance. Moreover, Dewey argued that a democratic culture requires from its members a capacity to adapt to diverse circumstances and to cooperate as equals with men and women of many different sorts. Schools responsive to these democratic imperatives would therefore aim at training students in habits of free and constant inquiry, in capacities to learn quickly, and in attitudes of social fellow feeling and cooperation. In spelling out this prescription, Dewey laid great stress on the atmosphere of the classroom: he opposed rote learning, stressing in-stead the pedagogical desirability of “learning by doing” and of connecting the materials of formal school instruction with the child’s experiences out-side the classroom.
Dewey’s theories of education came to be widely adopted, and they were given a variety of interpretations by ardent disciples. In his short book Experience and Education (1938a), written toward the end of his life, Dewey took account of some of the varieties of “progressive education” that had been associated with his name and expressed his serious misgivings about them.
Conception of the social sciences. Dewey provided intellectual support for the view that the logic of inquiry in the natural sciences is applicable in its major features to the study of human affairs. However, although he argued that the social sciences could and should offer objective descriptions of facts, he also stressed that their progress as intellectual disciplines depended on the importance of the subjects they chose for study and on the refusal of social scientists to dodge controversial issues. He argued that adequate social inquiry, like physical inquiry, requires the experimental manipulation of existential conditions. Accordingly, the removal of taboos against social planning, he believed, would greatly aid the progress of man’s social knowledge.
Social outlook. Dewey’s social views, in general, may be characterized as reasonably typical of the so-called progressive era of American thought. His special contributions to progressive thought consisted in his critique of ivory-tower ideals of scholarship, his attacks on such intellectual absolutes as the doctrine of natural rights, and his enlargement of the concept of freedom to include the dimension of personal self-realization, beyond the mere absence of external restraints. Closely connected with this was Dewey’s restatement of the relation of the growth of individuality to environing cultural conditions, a view that led to the emphasis on the role of the school in social reconstruction. In such essays as “Logical Method and Law” (1924), Dewey also applied his instrumentalist approach to questions of jurisprudence, influencing the evolution of American “legal realism”; in The Public and Its Problems (1927), he applied a similar approach to problems of political science, contributing to the progress of “interest group” theory.
The broad ideal behind his social outlook was articulated in several works, most notably, perhaps, in Art as Experience (1934). His critique of the industrial society of his day was based mainly on his conviction that this society reduced men to a state of passive acquiescence in external routines laid down for them. His image of a good society was one in which men are active agents, intelligently setting their own standards and participating freely and equally in the making of their common destiny.
Influence. Dewey’s impact on American philosophy before World War ii was massive, and his impact on educational theory and practice was even greater. His influence on psychology, juris-prudence, political science, and styles of thought in history and economics was also considerable. Even more important, perhaps, was his general influence on the atmosphere of American scholarship. He helped free that scholarship from subservience to genteel conventions and theological modes of thought, and he was one of those principally responsible for the acceptance of the view that the study of human affairs is properly a task of empirical science. By the example of his life, by his activities as a leader of such organizations as the American Association of University Professors, and most of all by his courageous articulation of his conception of philosophy, he contributed as much as any man to the spread of the idea in America that free scientific inquiry, recognizing no limits to the questions it might ask, is the linchpin of a sound society and of all responsible social action.
[For the historical context of Dewey’s work, see the biographies ofDarwin; Hegel; James; Mead; Peirce. For discussion of the subsequent development of his ideas, seeEducation; Educational psychology; Learning; and the biographies ofAngell; Beard; Bentley; Merriam; Robinson.]
1896 The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology. Psychological Review 3:357–370.
(1899) 1961 The School and Society, Rev. ed. Univ. of Chicago Press.
1903a Studies in Logical Theory. Univ. of Chicago Press.
1903b Logical Conditions of a Scientific Treatment of Morality. Univ. of Chicago Press.
(1916a) 1953 Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan.
(1916b) 1953 Essays in Experimental Logic. New York: Dover.
(1920) 1948 Reconstruction in Philosophy. Enl. ed. Boston: Beacon.
1924 Logical Method and Law. Philosophical Review 33: 560–572.
(1925) 1958 Experience and Nature. 2d ed. La Salle, III.: Open Court.
(1927) 1957 The Public and Its Problems. Denver, Colo.: Swallow.
(1929) 1960 The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action. New York: Putnam.
1934 Art as Experience. New York: Putnam. → A paper-back edition was published in 1959.
1938a Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan.
(1938b) 1960 Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. New York: Holt.
1939a Theory of Valuation. International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. 2, No. 4. Univ. of Chicago Press.
1939b Freedom and Culture. New York: Putnam.
Berkson, Isaac B. 1958 The Ideal and the Community: A Philosophy of Education. New York: Harper.
Cremin, Lawrence A. 1961 The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876–1957. New York: Knopf.
Geiger, George R. 1958 John Dewey in Perspective. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Hook, Sidney 1939 John Dewey: An Intellectual Portrait. New York: Day.
Schilpp, Paul A. (editor) (1939)1951 The Philosophy of John Dewey. 2d ed. New York: Tudor. → Contains an extensive bibliography.
Thayer, Horace S. 1952 The Logic of Pragmatism: An Examination of John Dewey’s Logic. London: Rout-ledge; New York: Humanities.
White, Morton G. 1943 The Origin of Dewey’s Instrumentalism. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.
"Dewey, John." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/dewey-john
During the first half of the 20th century, John Dewey (1859-1952) was America's most famous exponent of a pragmatic philosophy that celebrated the traditional values of democracy and the efficacy of reason and universal education.
Born on Oct. 20, 1859, in Burlington, Vt., John Dewey came of old New England stock. His father was a local merchant who loved literature. His mother, swayed by revivals to convert to Congregationalism, possessed a stern moral sense. The community, situated at the economic crossroads of the state, was the home of the state university and possessed a cosmopolitan atmosphere unusual for northern New England. Nearby Irish and French-Canadian settlements acquainted John with other cultures. Boyhood jobs delivering newspapers and working at a lumberyard further extended his knowledge. In 1864, on a visit to see his father in the Union Army in Virginia, he viewed firsthand the devastating effects of the Civil War.
Dewey's career in Vermont public schools was unremarkable. At the age of 15 he entered the University of Vermont. He found little of interest in academic work; his best grades were in science, and later he would regard science as the highest manifestation of human intellect. Dewey himself attributed his "intellectual awakening" to T. H. Huxley's college textbook on physiology, which shaped his vision of man as entirely the product of natural evolutionary processes.
Dewey later remembered coming in touch with the world of ideas during his senior year. Courses on psychology, religion, ethics, logic, and economics supplanted his earlier training in languages and science. His teacher, H. A. P. Torrey, introduced him to Immanuel Kant, but Dewey found it difficult to accept the Kantian idea that there was a realm of knowledge transcending empirical demonstration. Dewey also absorbed Auguste Comte's emphasis on the disintegrative effects of extreme individualism. The quality of his academic work improved and, at the age of 19, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and second in his class of 18.
Dewey hoped to teach high school. After a frustrating summer of job hunting, his cousin, principal of a seminary in Pennsylvania, came to his rescue. For 2 years Dewey taught the classics, algebra, and science, meanwhile reading philosophy. When his cousin resigned, however, Dewey's employment ended. He returned to Vermont to become the sole teacher in a private school in Charlotte, near his alma mater. He renewed acquaintance with Torrey, and the two discussed the fruits of Dewey's reading in ancient and modern philosophy.
At this time most American teachers of philosophy were ordained clergymen who tended to subordinate philosophical speculation to theological orthodoxy. Philosophy was in the hands of laymen in only a few schools. One such school was in St. Louis, where William T. Harris established the Journal of Speculative Philosophy. Here Dewey published his first scholarly effort. Finally, Dewey decided to pursue a career in philosophy and applied for admission to the newly founded Johns Hopkins University, another haven for lay philosophers.
At Johns Hopkins in 1882 Dewey studied with George S. Morris, who was on leave as chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Michigan. Under Morris's direction Dewey studied Hegel, whose all-encompassing philosophical system temporarily satisfied Dewey's longing to escape from the dualisms of traditional philosophy. In 1884 Dewey completed his doctorate and, at Morris's invitation, went to teach at Michigan.
In Ann Arbor, Dewey met and married Alice Chipman. His interests turned toward problems of education as he traveled about the state to evaluate college preparatory courses. His concern for social problems deepened, and he adopted a vague brand of socialism, although he was unacquainted with Marxism. He still taught Sunday school, but he was drifting away from religious orthodoxy. In 1888 he accepted an appointment at the University of Minnesota, only to return to Michigan a year later to the post left vacant by Morris's death.
The next stage in Dewey's intellectual development came with his reading of William James's Principles of Psychology. Dewey rapidly shed Hegelianism in favor of "instrumentalism," a position that holds that thinking is an activity which, at its best, is directed toward resolving problems rather than creating abstract metaphysical systems.
In 1894 Dewey moved to the University of Chicago as head of a new department of philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy. Outside the academic world he became friends with the social reformers at Hull House. He also admired Henry George's analysis of the problems of poverty. To test his educational theories, he started an experimental school, with his wife as principal. The "Dewey school," however, caused a struggle between its founder and the university's president, William R. Harper. In 1904, when Harper tried to remove his wife, he resigned in protest. An old friend of Dewey's engineered an offer from Columbia University, where Dewey spent the rest of his teaching years. His colleagues, some of the most fertile minds in modern America, included Charles A. Beard and James Harvey Robinson.
Peak of His Influence
Living in New York City placed the Deweys at the center of America's cultural and political life. Dewey pursued his scholarship, actively supported the Progressive party, and, in 1929, helped organize the League for Independent Political Action to further the cause of a new party. He also served as a contributing editor of the New Republic magazine and helped found both the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors. After World War I, reaching the peak of his influence, he became a worldwide traveler, lecturing in Japan at the Imperial Institute and spending 2 years teaching at the Chinese universities of Peking and Nanking. In 1924 he went to study the schools in Turkey and 2 years later visited the University of Mexico. His praise for the Russian educational system he inspected on a 1928 trip to the Soviet Union earned him much criticism.
As a teacher, Dewey exhibited the distracted air of a man who had learned to concentrate in a home inhabited by five young children. Careless about his appearance, shy and quiet in manner, he sometimes put his students to sleep, but those who managed to focus their attention could watch a man fascinated with ideas actually creating a philosophy in his classroom.
In 1930 Dewey retired from teaching. A year earlier, national luminaries had used the occasion of his seventieth birthday to hail his accomplishments; such celebrations would be repeated on his eightieth and ninetieth birthdays. He continued to publish works clarifying his philosophy. In public affairs he was one of the first to warn of the dangers from Hitler's Germany and of the Japanese threat in the Far East. In 1937 he traveled to Mexico as chairman of the commission to determine the validity of Soviet charges against Trotsky. His first wife having died in 1927, Dewey, at the ripe age of 87, married a widow, Roberta Grant. In the early years of the cold war Dewey's support of American intervention in Korea earned him criticism from the U.S.S.R. newspaper Pravda. He died on June 1, 1952.
In his philosophy Dewey sought to transcend what he considered the misleading distinctions made by other philosophers. By focusing on experience, he bridged the gulf between the organism and its environment to emphasize their interaction. He rejected the dualism of spirit versus matter, insisting that the mind was a product of evolution, not some infusion from a superior being. Yet he avoided the materialist conclusion which made thought seem accidental and irrelevant. While he saw most of man's behavior as shaped by habit, he believed that the unceasing processes of change often produced conditions which customary mental activity could not explain. The resulting tension led to creative thinking in which man tried to reestablish control of the unstable environment. Thought was never, for Dewey, merely introspection; rather, it was part of a process whereby man related to his surroundings. Dewey believed that universal education could train men to break through habit into creative thought.
Dewey was convinced that democracy was the best form of government. He saw contemporary American democracy challenged by the effects of the industrial revolution, which had produced an over concentration of wealth in the hands of a few men. This threat, he believed, could be met by the right kind of education.
The "progressive education" movement of the 1920s was an effort to implement Dewey's pedagogical ideas. Because his educational theory emphasized the classroom as a place for students to encounter the "present," his interpreters tended to play down traditional curricular concerns with the "irrelevant" past or occupational future. His influence on American schools was so pervasive that many critics (then and later) assailed his ideas as the cause of all that they found wrong with American education.
To the year of his death Dewey remained a prolific writer. Couched in a difficult prose style, his published works number over 300. Some of the most important works include Outlines of a Critical Theory of Ethics (1891), The Study of Ethics (1894), The School and Society (1899), Studies in Logical Theory (1903), How We Think (1910), The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays in Contemporary Thought (1910), German Philosophy and Politics (1915), Democracy and Education (1916), Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), Experience and Nature (1925), The Public and Its Problems (1927), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Individualism Old and New (1930), Philosophy and Civilization (1931), Art as Experience (1934), Liberalism and Social Action (1935), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), Freedom and Culture (1939), Problems of Men (1946), and Knowing and the Known (1949).
For more information see Dewey's autobiographical fragment,"From Absolutism to Experimentalism," in George P. Adams and William Pepperell Montague, eds., Contemporary American Philosophy: Personal Statements (1930). His daughters compiled an authoritative sketch of his life in Paul Arthur Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of John Dewey (1939), which also contains valuable summaries of aspects of his philosophy.
Indispensable for any examination of Dewey's thought is Sidney Hook, John Dewey: An Intellectual Portrait (1939). John E. Smith presents an excellent chapter on Dewey in The Spirit of American Philosophy (1963). Paul K. Conkin in Puritans and Pragmatists: Eight Eminent American Thinkers (1968) attempts an evaluation of Dewey's place in the context of American ideas. Morton G. White, Social Thought in America (1949), considers assumptions common to Dewey and his colleagues in other disciplines. Longer, more challenging treatments of Dewey's ideas are in George R. Geiger, John Dewey in Perspective (1958); Robert J. Roth, John Dewey and Self Realization (1962); and Richard J. Bernstein, John Dewey (1966). See also Jerome Nathanson, John Dewey: The Reconstruction of the Democratic Life (1951).
Campbell, James, Understanding John Dewey: nature and cooperative intelligence, Chicago, Ill.: Open Court, 1995.
Ryan, Alan, John Dewey and the high tide of American liberalism, New York: W.W. Norton, 1995. □
"John Dewey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/john-dewey
"John Dewey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/john-dewey
Dewey, John (1859–1952)
Dewey, John (1859–1952)
America's foremost philosopher of education, John Dewey grew up in rural Vermont, earned his doctorate at The Johns Hopkins University, and taught at Michigan, Chicago, and Columbia universities. Dewey was one of the founders and the leading philosopher of Progressive education, an important late-nineteenth-century and twentieth-century movement for school reform that emphasized meeting the needs of the whole child–physical, social, emotional, and intellectual. In addition to his work in developing a new philosophy of education, Dewey, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, created a uniquely American approach to philosophy–Pragmatism.
Dewey developed his educational philosophy when he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1894 and added a department of pedagogy to his responsibilities. Aided by his wife, Alice, he founded the university's Laboratory School to test scientifically his ideas for improving schooling.
As a philosopher who was profoundly affected by the English naturalist Charles Darwin's thinking, Dewey believed that in a post-Darwinian world it was no longer possible to envision life as a progress toward fixed ends. His reading of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) convinced him that the only constant in life was change or growth (the term Dewey preferred). Therefore, Dewey held that the purpose of formal education was not to prepare children for any fixed goal, but rather that schools should be devoted to encouraging children to grow and to prepare them to continue to grow and develop as adults in the uncertain future that they would face. Childhood was not merely a prelude to adulthood; it was a stage of development that was important and valuable in its own right. Accordingly, schooling should be based on meeting the needs of children, as children, rather than only striving to prepare them for adulthood.
Dewey faulted contemporary schools for regarding children as empty vessels to be filled with intellectual content. Schools treated pupils as passive learners. Dewey argued that children were naturally curious and that outside of school they learned through activities. They came to school with many interests, which he classified in his 1899 publication The School and Society as "the interest in conversation, or communication; in inquiry, or finding out things; in making things, or construction; and in artistic expression." These, he maintained were "the natural resources, the uninvested capital, upon which depends the active growth of the child" (1956, pp. 47–48). The role of the teacher, Dewey argued, was not merely to give pupils the freedom to express these impulses, but rather to guide them toward the learning they needed. As he noted in his 1902 work The Child and the Curriculum, this would not ignore traditional learning. "It must be restored to the experience from which it has been abstracted. It needs to be psychologized ; … translated into the immediate and individual experiencing within which it has its origin and significance" (1956, p. 22). Progressive teachers, therefore, should construct a curriculum based on both the interests of the pupils and knowledge of the subject matter that children should master.
Dewey was the most significant educational thinker of his time and he influenced educational discussion for a century. His followers took his ideas in many directions. Dewey's disciples, most notably William Heard Kilpatrick, emphasized one part of Dewey's philosophy–the need to appeal to the natural interests of the child–at the expense of consideration of the importance of the traditional fields of study. For Kilpatrick, subject matter was not important. Moreover, some of Dewey's followers extended the idea of relying on the natural curiosity and interests of children to define the curriculum in the upper grades and in secondary schools. This conflicted with Dewey's philosophy: "The new education is in danger of taking the idea of development in altogether too formal and empty a way…. Development doesnot mean just getting something out of the mind. It is a development of experience … into experience that is really wanted…. What new experiences are needed, it is impossible to tell unless there is some comprehension of the development which is aimed at … adult knowledge" (1956a, p.19). Dewey maintained that the study of traditional subjects was important because "they represent the keys which will unlock … the social capital which lies beyond the possible role of … limited personal experience" (1956b, p. 111).
Dewey did agree with Kilpatrick that one of the ultimate goals of education must be social reform. For Dewey the ideal society was thoroughly democratic and the school should be organized as an "embryonic community…. When the school introduces" children "into membership within such a little community, saturating … [them] with the spirit of service, and providing … [them] with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guaranty of a larger society which is worthy, lovely, and harmonious" (1956b, p. 29).
During the Great Depression Progressivism's social reform impulse turned increasingly into a critique of the capitalist system that was blamed for the economic disaster. This, in turn, helped fuel a strong reaction against Progressive education during the anticommunism of the post—World War II period. In addition, in the 1950s Progressive education was increasingly blamed for the academic shortcomings of American students. In this setting, Dewey's reputation waned. The movement toward establishing rigid standards that began with the Reagan administration's 1983 report, A Nation At Risk, regarded Dewey's ideas as not only wrong but harmful. The states joined in a movement to establish knowledge standards and a schedule of rigid testing to see if the children met those standards. Teachers increasingly taught to the test–an educational program that neglected Dewey's ideas of relying on children's natural curiosity and interests.
While a distorted version of Dewey's educational philosophy had weakened the curriculum, especially in secondary schools, a proper understanding of the kinds of schools that Dewey wanted to establish is still regarded as relevant by a dissenting minority who believe that schools need to meet the broader needs and interests of children.
See also: Child Development, History of the Concept of; Education, United States.
Cremin, Lawrence A. 1962. The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876–1957. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Cremin, Lawrence A. 1988. American Education: The Metropolitan Experience, 1876–1890. New York: Harper and Row.
Dewey, John. 1938. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan.
Dewey, John. 1954 . "The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy." In American Thought: Civil War to World War I, ed. Perry Miller. New York: Rinehart.
Dewey, John. 1956a . The Child and the Curriculum. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Dewey, John. 1956b . The School and Society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Dewey, John. 1966 . Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: The Free Press.
Dewey, John. 1967–1972. The Early Works, 1882–1898, 5 vols. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Dewey, John. 1976–1983. The Middle Works, 1899–1924, 15 vols., ed. Jo Ann Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Dewey, John. 1981–1990. The Later Works, 1925–1953, 17 vols., ed. Jo Ann Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Ravitch, Diane. 2000. Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Westbrook, Robert B. 1991. John Dewey and American Democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Zilversmit, Arthur. 1993. Changing Schools: Progressive Education Theory and Practice, 1930–1960. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
"Dewey, John (1859–1952)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john-1859-1952
"Dewey, John (1859–1952)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john-1859-1952
During the first half of the twentieth century, John Dewey was one of America's most famous teachers of philosophy (the study of the universe and man's place in it). He also made some controversial suggestions for changes in the American educational system.
Born on October 20, 1859, in Burlington, Vermont, John Dewey was the third of Archibald Dewey and Lucina Artemisia Rich's four children. His father was a local merchant who loved literature. His mother possessed a stern moral sense based on her belief in Calvinism (a religion in which one's faith is expressed through moral behavior and good works). John Dewey learned about other cultures from nearby Irish and French-Canadian settlements. Boyhood jobs delivering newspapers and working at a lumber-yard added to his knowledge. While visiting his father, who served in the Union Army in Virginia, he viewed the horror of the Civil War (1861–1865) firsthand.
At the age of fifteen, Dewey, after receiving average grades in Vermont public schools, entered the University of Vermont. His best grades were in science, which he would later regard as the highest expression of human intellect. Dewey became aware of the world of ideas during his senior year. Courses on psychology (the science of mind and behavior), religion, ethics (the study of moral values), and logic (the science of reasoning) interested him more than his earlier training in languages and science. His teacher, H. A. P. Torrey, introduced him to the works of different philosophers. The quality of his work improved, and at the age of nineteen, he graduated second in his class.
Unsure of what career to pursue, Dewey hoped to teach high school. After an unsuccessful summer of job hunting, his cousin, principal of a seminary (institute for the training of priests) in Pennsylvania, got him a teaching job, which he held for two years. Dewey continued to read philosophy in his spare time. When his cousin resigned, however, Dewey lost his job. He returned to Vermont to become the only teacher in a private school in Charlotte. He began to spend time with Torrey again, and the two discussed Dewey's readings in ancient and modern philosophy.
At this time most American philosophy teachers were religious men, who placed more importance on religious ideas than on creative thought. Philosophy was taught by lay teachers (teachers not associated with any particular religion) in only a few schools. One such school was in St. Louis, where William T. Harris established the Journal of Speculative Philosophy. Here Dewey published his first essay. Dewey decided to pursue a career in philosophy and applied for admission to the newly founded Johns Hopkins University, which also attracted and employed lay philosophers. At Johns Hopkins, Dewey studied with George S. Morris, who was on leave as chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Michigan. In 1884 Dewey completed his doctorate and, at Morris's invitation, he went to teach at Michigan.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Dewey met and married Alice Chipman, with whom he would have seven children. He became interested in problems of education as he traveled around the state to monitor the quality of college preparation courses. In 1888 he accepted an appointment at the University of Minnesota, only to return to Michigan a year later to replace Morris, who had died. The next stage in Dewey's intellectual development came with his reading of William James's Principles of Psychology. Dewey became a believer in "instrumentalism," a belief that thinking is an activity which, at its best, is directed toward resolving problems.
In 1894 Dewey moved to Chicago, Illinois, after accepting a position as head of a new department of philosophy and psychology at the University of Chicago. To test his theories of education, he started an experimental school with his wife as principal. The "Dewey school," however, caused a struggle between its founder and the university's president, William R. Harper. In 1904, when Harper tried to fire his wife, Dewey resigned in protest. One of Dewey's friends then got him a job at Columbia University in New York, New York, where Dewey spent the rest of his teaching years.
Peak of his influence
Living in New York placed the Deweys at the center of America's cultural and political life. In 1929 Dewey helped organize the League for Independent Political Action in hopes of creating a new political party. He also served as an editor of the New Republic magazine and helped found both the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors. After World War I (1914–18), he traveled the world, lecturing in Japan at the Imperial Institute and spending two years teaching at universities in China. In 1924 he went to study schools in Turkey, and two years later he visited the University of Mexico. His praise for the Russian educational system he inspected on a 1928 trip to the Soviet Union earned him much criticism. Dewey was a shy and quiet man, and as a teacher he sometimes put his students to sleep. Those who managed to stay awake, however, could watch a man fascinated with ideas actually creating ideas in his classroom.
In 1930 Dewey retired from teaching, but he continued to publish works clarifying his ideas. Although many are difficult to read, he published over three hundred books and articles. In public affairs he was one of the first to warn of the dangers from Adolf Hitler's (1889–1945) rise to power in Germany and of the Japanese threat in the Far East. At the age of eighty-seven, Dewey married a widow, Roberta Grant. (His first wife died in 1927.) In the early 1950s Dewey's support of American intervention in Korea earned him criticism from the Soviet Union. He died on June 1, 1952.
In his philosophy Dewey sought to rise above what he considered the inaccurate statements made by other philosophers. While he saw most of man's behavior as shaped by habit, he believed that the processes of change often produced conditions that could not be explained. The resulting conflict led to creative thinking in which man tried to reestablish control of his changing environment. Thought, for Dewey, was part of a process by which man related to his surroundings. Dewey believed that universal education could train men to break through habit into creative thought.
Dewey saw American democracy, which he considered the best form of government, challenged by the effects of the industrial revolution, which had led to too much wealth in the hands of a few men. This threat, he believed, could be met by the right kind of education. The "progressive education" movement of the 1920s was based on Dewey's ideas. Because he placed great importance on the classroom as a place for students to encounter the "present," his interpreters sometimes neglected to study the past and to prepare students for the future. Dewey's influence on American schools was so strong that many critics attacked his ideas as the cause of all that they found wrong with American education.
For More Information
Dewey, John. The Essential Dewey: Ethics, Logic, Psychology. Edited by Thomas M. Alexander and Larry A. Hickman. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.
Hook, Sidney. John Dewey: An Intellectual Por trait. New York: The John Day Co., 1939. Reprint, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995.
Jackson, Philip W. John Dewey and the Lessons of Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.
Ryan, Alan. John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
Westbrook, Robert B. John Dewey and Ameri can Democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.
"Dewey, John." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john
American philosopher, educator, and psychologist who made significant contributions to the establishment of the school of functional psychology.
John Dewey was born near Burlington, Vermont. After receiving his B.A. from the University of Vermont, he taught high school and studied philosophy independently before entering the graduate program in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1884, Dewey served on the faculties of the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University. Dewey was a founder
of the philosophical movement called pragmatism, and his writings on educational theory and practice were widely read and accepted. He held that the disciplines of philosophy, pedagogy, and psychology should be understood as closely interrelated. Dewey came to believe in an "instrumentalist" theory of knowledge, in which ideas are seen to exist primarily as instruments for the solution of problems encountered in the environment .
Dewey's work at the University of Chicago between 1894 and 1904—together with that of his colleague, Rowland Angell (1869-1949)—made that institution a world-renowned center of the functionalist movement in psychology. Dewey's functionalism was influenced by Charles Darwin 's theory of evolution, as well as by the ideas of William James and by Dewey's own instrumentalist philosophy. His 1896 paper, "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology," is generally considered the first major statement establishing the functionalist school. In this work, Dewey attacked the prevailing reductionist methods of such figures as Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) and Edward Titchener (1867-1927), who used stimulus-response analysis as the basis for psychological theories that reduced human experience to the simplest and most basic units possible. Dewey considered their approach flawed because it ignored both the continuity of human behavior and its significance in terms of adaptation . In contrast, functionalism sought to consider the total organism as it functioned in the environment—an active perceiver rather than a passive receiver of stimuli.
Dewey was also an educational reformer and a pioneer in the field of educational psychology . Paralleling his philosophical and psychological theories, his concept of instrumentalism in education stressed learning by doing, as opposed to authoritarian teaching methods and rote learning. Dewey's ideas have remained at the center of much educational philosophy in the United States. While at the University of Chicago, Dewey founded an experimental school to develop and study new educational methods, a project that won him both fame and controversy. He experimented with educational curricula and methods, successfully combining theory and practice, and also pioneered in advocating parental participation in the educational process. His first influential book on education, The School and Society (1899), was adapted from a series of lectures to parents of the pupils in his school at the University of Chicago. During his time at Columbia, he continued working on the applications of psychology to problems in education, and his work influenced educational ideas and practices throughout the world.
Dewey wrote the first American psychology textbook, titled Psychology (1886), which was followed by William James's The Principles of Psychology four years later. Dewey served as president of the American Psychological Association from 1899 to 1900 and was the first president of the American Association of University Professors in 1915. In 1920 he helped organize the American Civil Liberties Union. In the following years, Dewey surveyed educational practices in several foreign countries, including Turkey, Mexico, and the Soviet Union. After his retirement in 1930, Dewey continued his writing and his advocacy of political and educational causes, including the advancement of adult education. Among Dewey's large body of writings are: Applied Psychology: An Introduction to the Principles and Practice of Education (1889), Interest as Related to Will (1896), Studies in Logical Theory (1903), How We Think (1910), Democracy and Education (1916), Experience and Nature (1925), Philosophy and Civilization (1931), Experience and Education (1938), and Freedom and Culture (1939).
See also Assessment, psychological
Boydston, Jo Ann. Guide to the Works of John Dewey. Edwardsville, IL:Southern Illinois University Press, 1972.
Hook, Sidney. John Dewey: An Intellectual Portrait. New York: John Day Co., 1939.
"Dewey, John." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john
John Dewey, 1859–1952, American philosopher and educator, b. Burlington, Vt., grad. Univ. of Vermont, 1879, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins, 1884. He taught at the universities of Minnesota (1888–89), Michigan (1884–88, 1889–94), and Chicago (1894–1904) and at Columbia from 1904 until his retirement in 1930. His foreign consultancies included two stints at the Univ. of Beijing and a report on the reorganization of the schools of Turkey.
Dewey's original philosophy, called instrumentalism, bears a relationship to the utilitarian and pragmatic schools of thought. Instrumentalism holds that the various modes and forms of human activity are instruments developed by human beings to solve multiple individual and social problems. Since the problems are constantly changing, the instruments for dealing with them must also change. Truth, evolutionary in nature, partakes of no transcendental or eternal reality and is based on experience that can be tested and shared by all who investigate. Dewey conceived of democracy as a primary ethical value, and he did much to formulate working principles for a democratic and industrial society.
In education his influence has been a leading factor in the abandonment of authoritarian methods and in the growing emphasis upon learning through experimentation and practice. In revolt against abstract learning, Dewey considered education as a tool that would enable the citizen to integrate culture and vocation effectively and usefully. Dewey actively participated in movements to forward social welfare and woman's suffrage, protect academic freedom, and effect political reform.
Among his writings, which are concerned with almost all philosophical fields except metaphysics, are Psychology (1887), The School and Society (1899; rev. ed. 1915), Ethics (with James H. Tufts, 1908), Democracy and Education (1916), Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), Experience and Nature (1925), The Public and Its Problems (1927), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Philosophy and Civilization (1932), A Common Faith (1934), Art as Experience (1934), Liberalism and Social Action (1935), Experience and Education (1938), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), Freedom and Culture (1939), and Problems of Men (1946).
See J. A. Boydston and K. Poulos, ed., Checklist of Writings about John Dewey, 1887–1977 (1978) and B. Levine, Works about John Dewey, 1886–1995 (1996); G. Dykhuizen, The Life and Mind of John Dewey (1973); J. J. McDermott, ed., Philosophy of John Dewey (2 vol., 1981); biographies by S. C. Rockefeller (1991), R. B. Westbrook (1991), A. Ryan (1995), and J. Martin (2002); studies by G. R. Geiger (1958, repr. 1974), A. Wirth (1966, repr. 1979), F. F. Cruz (1988), L. A. Hickman (1990), H. Cuffaro (1994), and A. Ryan (1996).
"Dewey, John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john
"Dewey, John." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dewey-john