John Dewey’s Education Concept and Educational GuidelinesJune 27, 2021
Democratic ideals in education Geneology Editor John Dewey (1859-1952) and Democratic ideals in education; John Dewey is recognized as the most important American philosopher of the first half of the 20th century. He was born in Burlington, Vermont in 1859.
After a short teaching career, he earned a doctorate in philosophy and after 1889 assumed the chair of philosophy at the University of Michigan. Later, during his tenure at the University of Chicago, he became actively involved in public education, where between 1896 and 1904 he founded the famous “laboratory school” where he deepened his observations on child education. For the remainder of his academic career, he was a professor at Columbia University. In order to better understand Dewey’s democratic ideal and the role he assigns to education in reaching this ideal, it is necessary to describe the period in which he lived in rough terms. Dewey was a philosopher of an age of crisis, uncertainty, and possibility.
In Dewey’s America, about twenty percent of Chicago’s residents in the 1890s were homeless; one in four was unemployed; diseases were rampant and health services were not reaching a large part of the population. Social conflicts were everywhere: violent strikes were common on an unprecedented scale today; there was a deep gulf between the rich and poor strata of society; political parties were in the hands of the powerful and local governments were mired in corruption. Every day, new immigrants who spoke only their own language were added to this turmoil. English was not yet a common language in Chicago, and only one in four people were born in America to parents.
However, this environment of crisis and uncertainty also contained opportunities for Dewey ideals to be realized. Wage and mechanical work order had not become the norm fully accepted by the working class; the working class was not yet organized to serve the needs of the consumer society; Even if high politics were monopolized by big corporations, it had not become a legitimate point of view, as it is today, that the masses of the people should be excluded from it. From the end of the 19th century, it seemed uncertain in which direction America would evolve in terms of popular participation in social life and politics thirty to forty years later. In a speech on education and democracy, Noam Chomsky introduces John Dewey as a thinker who is nourished by the libertarian values of classical liberalism and believes that reforms in early education will provide great opportunities for social change.
According to Dewey, “the ultimate goal of production should not be the production of commodities, but the production of free people who relate to each other on an equal basis”. “Education is not to fill a vase with water, but to help a flower grow in its own way.” According to Chomsky, the libertarian values that Dewey advocated are in irreconcilable contradiction with the rising values and structures of the early 20th century in which he lived. On the one hand, the Leninist and Stalinist command economies, on the other hand, the statist capitalist industrial economies being built in the USA and the West, both defend deep-rooted authoritarian values, demand obedience from individuals, seek brutal and competitive domination, not solidarity human relations on the basis of equality. supports relationships. According to the prevailing theories of politics and administration developed in the 20th century, the public should be in a position where, in Walter Lipmann’s words, “people in charge can be free from the clamor of a wild herd”; In a democracy, “the ignorant and meddling, that is, outsiders, have a function.” Their function is “to be a curious spectator of the action, but not a participant”.
In the 20th century, states, companies, political system, media and schools have been structured to realize this desire and foresight. According to Dewey, “politics is the shadow of big corporations on society” and as long as this is the case, “the weakening of the shadow will not mean that the matter itself has changed”. So the benefits of reforms are very limited. Dewey stated in the 1920s: “Today, power is in the control of the means of production, the exchange of goods, advertising, transport, and communications. Those who keep banking, lands, industry under special control, strengthen this control with their commands over the press, media outlets, and other means of advertising and propaganda. As long as private for-profit enterprises exist, that is, as long as the real system of power, the real source of oppression and control, remains in place, there can be no talk of democracy and freedom. In a free and democratic society, workers must be their own masters. It is therefore narrow-minded and immoral to educate children so that they cannot work freely and intelligently, but only for the sake of their assigned work.
It is necessary to sharply distinguish Dewey’s democratic ideal from his conception of a democratic society defined within the framework of high politics. According to Dewey, the basic criterion of a democratic society is the individual.