Dewey's Dream: Universities and Democracies in an Age of Education Reform : Civil Society, Public Schools, and Democratic Citizenship

By Lee Benson; Ira Harkavy et al. | Go to book overview

3
Dewey Leaves the
University of Chicago
for Columbia University

In its deepest and richest sense a community must always
remain a matter of face-to-face intercourse…. There is no
substitute for the vitality and depth of close and direct inter-
course and attachment…. Democracy must begin at home,
and its home is the neighborly community
.

JOHN DEWEY, THE PUBLIC AND ITS PROBLEMS (1927)

SOON AFTER HIS 1902 ADDRESS to the National Education Association, John Dewey quarreled with William Rainey Harper and others over the operation of the remarkably comprehensive School of Education, which Harper had finally succeeded in creating to implement his long-held vision of a highly integrated schooling system, from kindergarten through university. As a result of those quarrels, Dewey decided to trade his position at a university that was directly and actively engaged in the problems of its city for one in the traditionally scholastic Department of Philosophy at Columbia University1

In light of Dewey's vision of the transforming role schools could play as social centers, his departure from Chicago in 1904 was a tragic mistake, which had devastating consequences for the American schooling system—and American society—in the twentieth century. It was a tragic mistake because, among other reasons, Harper had created an unprecedentedly comprehensive university school of education in 1902 and had appointed Dewey its director. It seems reasonable to conjecture the following: given the “engaged” culture and environment

-45-

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