Friday, August 15, 2008

Margolis, Eric. "Teaching John Dewey." EDUCATION REVIEW November 29, 2007.

  • Johnston, James Scott. Inquiry and Education: John Dewey and the Quest for Democracy. Albany: SUNY Press, 2006.
  • Martin, Jay. The Education of John Dewey: a Biography. New York: Columbia UP, 2002.
  • Simpson, Douglas J. John Dewey. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.
John Dewey was born two years before the Civil War and lived to see the Cold War. As a psychologist he is credited with developing the functionalist school; he helped found “pragmatism,” which is widely considered the first “American” school of philosophy; and of course, he had an enormous impact on education research and pedagogical practice that ran from the Laboratory School he created at the University of Chicago in 1896 through his long tenure at Teachers College at Columbia University. He was also a prolific social critic of the type we currently call “public intellectuals.” His written works have been collected in 37 volumes. Only teaching Hegel, Marx, and Sartre offer as daunting a challenge. I had used Democracy and Education (1916), which, while a definitive text, did not work well in isolation. Students simply did not have enough context to place the work within the history of social thought. In seeking an answer to how to teach Dewey, I read three recent books on him that could not be more different from one another. Jay Martin’s work, probably the definitive biography, discusses Dewey’s life and intellectual development against a broad background of world history. Simpson’s text is an accessible primer on Dewey, perhaps intended to introduce the man and his basic work to students in teacher preparation programs. Johnston’s book is an elaborate defense of Dewey’s philosophy (particularly his epistemology) against all critics foreign and domestic. There is so little overlap that I will discuss the volumes separately. . . . Read the whole review here:

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