"Turkish Modernization," Democracy, and Education: An Analysis from Dewey's Perspective

Article excerpt


Dewey is an important representative of the libertarian education movement, which has its roots based on the values of the enlightenment. Th is study aimed to analyze the relationship between "Turkish modernization" and education from Dewey's perspective. In the paper, the place and eff ect of Dewey in the Turkish pedagogical vision was analyzed within a wider historical context such as the "modernization problematic." Th e characteristic of the "Turkish modernization," which, at the same time, comes out as a tendency to become an education project, constituted the reason for this approach to the issue. Th is analysis relating to the "Turkish modernization" from the perspective of Dewey, who is a democracy philosopher, was inevitably regarding how much room this project gives to libertarian and democratic values in education. In the study, it was concluded that there was an irreconcilable confl ict between the values that "Turkish modernization" is based on which also constitutes the reference framework of the education system and the libertarian and democratic values Dewey advocates.

Key Words

Turkish Modernization, Democracy, Education, John Dewey.

Th is study can be described as a reading on Dewey and the relationship between the "Turkish modernization" and education from his perspective. Th e fundamental aim of the study was to evaluate the infl uence of Dewey on Turkish pedagogical thinking within a wider historical context such as the "modernization problematic."

Dewey in Turkey: An Intellectual Conundrum

In Turkey, Dewey is a thinker who was discovered by a very small intellectual circle, relatively late, often misunderstood and misintroduced (Wolf-Gazo, 1996). In Turkey, Dewey is seen only as an education philosopher, his works in other fi elds have not received enough attention and almost ignored. It is striking that educationists in Turkey, whilst evaluating Dewey within the context of the confl icts between reconstructivist, progressive, or pragmatist approaches or whilst taking his criticisms aimed at traditional education into consideration, have not felt the need to associate these thoughts of his with the other dimensions of his philosophy and to link these to the issue of democracy. Th e lack of a holistic approach in intellectuals in Turkey relating to Dewey has also led to inadequacies in interpreting his report (Dewey, 1939) relating to the Turkish national education (Ata, 2001; Bal, 1974; Bender, 2005; Brickman, 1984; Wilson & Basgöz, 1968).

Dewey visited Turkey approximately a year after the declaration of the Republic (in 1924), during a twilight period when the "old" had disappeared but the "new" had not yet materialized. It is seen that as a result of his observations in Turkey, he approached the reformation eff orts made in the fi eld of education positively, was impressed by the ideal of the Republic, the infrastructure of which was being founded in Ankara under conditions of deprivation and that he viewed this ideal sympathetically (Akyüz, 1999). Dewey's short (2 months) visit to Turkey is completely a conundrum (Ata, 2001). Th ere is no clear and certain information in the literature regarding either the start or end dates of this visit, by whom or which institution and for what purpose and with what authority Dewey was invited (Bilgi & Özsoy, 2005).

Dewey has a specifi c place among the foreign experts who have come to Turkey (Akkutay, 1996; Ergun, 1982). Th e founding leaders of the Republic who wanted to achieve a lot in a little time were infl uenced by Dewey's pragmatist philosophy to a great extent (Bal, 1989, 1991; Büyükdüvenci, 1995; Ergun, 1987; Kirby, 2000). Dewey's holistic approach to educational issues renders him unique among the foreign experts who have come to Turkey.

"Turkish Modernization" and Education

Th e most distinctive characteristic of Turkish modernization which distinguishes it from its western examples is that it is a state-centered project (Aktar, 1993; Ercan, 1996; insel, 1996, 2002; Mardin, 2000; Saribay, 1982; Tarih Vakfi, 1998, 1999a). …