John Dewey was a philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer in the early 1900s whose ideas were associated with the philosophy of pragmatism and psychology. His concerns with the standard of education drove him to develop a new method of learning. Along with a few colleagues at the University of Chicago, Dewey founded the New School of thought. His theories were presented in five major works: My Pedagogic Creed (1897), The School of Society (1900), The Child and the Curriculum (1902), Democracy and Education (1916), and Experience and Education (1938). In his books Dewey argued that since learning is a social process the school is a social institution so students should take part in their own education.
Dewey believed that education should help the student gain knowledge but also learn how to live. He firmly believed in growing through student-curriculum integration (Fishman & McCarthy, 27). Dewey advocated for a curriculum that involved the student instead of just focusing on learning the content. He also cautioned that curriculums should not be solely reliant on the student’s learning process. If a school focuses too much on students then the role of the teacher is diminished and so is the content. Education therefore must strike a balance between teaching content and involving the student. Dewey thus claimed that schools should drive students to reach a fuller, deeper experience in their education (Fishman & McCarthy, 28).
Dewey’s beliefs radically changed the standard of education in his day (Edmondson, xiv). However, current educators have reconsidered his philosophy of education, and some believe that Dewey was too liberal in his approach to hands-on student experience. Other educators say that the fault does not rest with Dewey but rather with the people who applied Dewey’s theories incorrectly. One modern critic stated that Dewey’s ideas “have gone on to undermine and distort American educational philosophy … [resulting in] the deterioration, confusion, and disarray we see all around us” (Edmondson, xiv).
Dewey has many profitable ideas but they are often misapplied by his followers. Education should be a mix of learning content and hands-on training. Job internships and teaching practicums should be included on a collegiate level. Field trips and hands-on experiences should be provided for all levels of education. Above all, teachers should promote intellectual development. If a student is not taught to think critically, he cannot reach his full potential in an academic or internship setting. In order to reach this goal, every school should have a philosophical coherence joined with excellence in teaching.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Edmondson, H. T. (2006). John Dewey & the decline of American education. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books.
Fishman, S. M. & McCarthy, L. (1998). John Dewey and the challenge of classroom practice. New York: Teachers College Press.