The Education of John Dewey

Article excerpt

Jay Martin. The Education of John Dewey. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

John Dewey (1859-1952) was, perhaps, the most influential thinker with respect to the development of educational philosophy in the twentieth century. His educational ideal combined notions of philosophical pragmatism; the importance of interaction, reflection, and experience; and a belief in community and democracy. Often misrepresented, and incorrectly linked to the idea of "child-centered" education, he really recommended "social-centered" education.

Unlike the current "back-to-the-basics" movement, which seems to be gaining momentum in these difficult economic times, Dewey argued that education must engage with and enlarge experience. Rather than being mere receptacles for teacher-centered lectures, Dewey maintained that children learn best by active doing. And he practiced what he preached, setting up a laboratory school at the University of Chicago to test his ideas. (Founded in 1896, the school still exists and is a model for schools worldwide, especially in emerging democracies. …