By Lawrence J. Dennis
Lawrence J. Dennis's intellectual biography of John L. Childs, a leading figure in twentieth-century American educational philosophy between 1930 and 1960, traces Childs's influence not only on education but also on midcentury politics, economics, and social issues. A disciple of John Dewey and an associate of William Heard Kilpatrick, George S. Counts, Boyd Bode, and other key figures in modern American education, Childs laid the philosophic basis for social reconstruction and became an important contributor to and interpreter of pragmatism as a philosophy of education.
Dennis describes how the Christian beliefs so central to Childs as a youth led him as a young man into a decade of YMCA missionary work in China. When he returned to the United States, Childs studied with John Dewey, later coauthoring two chapters of a book with him. Though Childs became a recognized expert on Dewey's educational theory, he eventually became more of a reconstructionist than his mentor.
Dennis carefully recounts Childs's long association with Dewey as well as his political activities in the American Labor Party, the Liberal Party, and the American Federation of Teachers. He likewise traces the debate about metaphysics, democracy, and indoctrination that ensued among the foremost pragmatists of the day.