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John Dewey and Our Educational Prospect

A Critical Engagement with Dewey's Democracy and Education

David T. Hansen

Publication Year: 2006

These original essays focus on John Dewey’s Democracy and Education, a book widely regarded as one of the greatest works ever written in the history of educational thought. The contributors address Dewey’s still powerful argument that education is not a preparation for life, but rather constitutes a fundamental aspect of the very experience of living. The authors examine Dewey’s central themes, including the dynamics of human communication, the nature of growth, the relation between democracy and education, and the importance of recognizing student agency. They link their analyses with contemporary educational concerns and problems, offering ideas about what the curriculum for children and youth should be, how to prepare teachers for the profession, what pedagogical approaches make the most sense given societal trends, and how to reconstruct the purposes of school. This first book-length study of Dewey’s extraordinary text attests to the continued power in his work and to the diverse audience of educators to whom he has long appealed.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

This book features a set of critical responses to John Dewey’s greatest educational work, Democracy and Education. The contributors address Dewey’s claim that education is not a preparation for life, but constitutes a fundamental aspect of the very experience of living. Dewey criticizes the cultural bias of...

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1. Introduction: Reading Democracy and Education

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pp. 1-22

What is John Dewey’s Democracy and Education? In a literal sense, it is a study of education and its relation to the individual and society. Moreover, Dewey tells us, it is a philosophical rather than historical, sociological, or political inquiry. His original title for the work was...

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2. “Of all affairs, communication is the most wonderful": The Communicative Turn in Dewey’s Democracy and Education

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pp. 23-37

Democracy and Education is not a book that gives itself easily to its readers. I have to confess that when I first read the book as an undergraduate, I found it quite boring. In its attempt to cover almost everything there was to say about education past and present, the book didn’t stand out...

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3. Curriculum Matters

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pp. 39-65

Suppose you are interested, as I am, in the curriculum in U.S. schools today—would there be any value in your consulting John Dewey’s Democracy and Education? After all, the title does not mention curriculum, and the book was published almost eighty years ago, at a quite different point in American and world history...

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4. Socialization, Social Efficiency,and Social Control: Putting Pragmatism to Work

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pp. 67-79

Given the assaults on public education that are currently being waged by the Bush administration, it is highly appropriate that we should revisit a key text of one of public education’s greatest champions: John Dewey’s Democracy and Education. For the purposes of this chapter I have selected three central terms from...

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5. Growth and Perfectionism? Dewey after Emerson and Cavell

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pp. 81-96

In contemporary education, the notion of growth, an idea so central to Dewey, has become increasingly unsteady. On the one hand, in the global market economy, growth is associated with free choice, competitive power, and success, often with the image of a differentiated self—an identity developed and extended...

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6. Rediscovering the Student in Democracy and Education

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pp. 97-112

Consideration of the student has all but disappeared from a good deal of the contemporary discussion about education. It is true that the student remains the object of this discussion, but he or she is left out of it nonetheless. I do not mean by this claim that students are not consulted, although they certainly are not...

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7. Dewey’s Reconstruction of the Curriculum: From Occupation to Disciplined Knowledge

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pp. 113-127

With the publication of Democracy and Education in 1916, John Dewey brought to near fruition his long-standing inquiry into the deceptively simply question: what should we teach? That question was brought into Dewey’s consciousness with a certain urgency once he had undertaken to found and run the...

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8. A Teacher Educator Looks at Democracy and Education

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pp. 129-145

I have always taken quiet pleasure in the fact that I studied at three of the universities where John Dewey taught,1 that I began my teaching career at the University of Chicago Laboratory School that he founded, and that I started my career as a teacher educator in the Department of Education at Chicago...

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9. Dewey’s Philosophy of Life

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pp. 147-164

Democracy is once again being claimed as value and virtue not solely for a form of governance, but as a way of life. That way of life is once again being taken as cause for which to die, and as justification to kill. Surely this calls us, as it did John Dewey in his times (1859–1952), to reflect on democracy’s relation to life...

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10. Dewey’s Book of the Moral Self

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pp. 165-187

Dewey closes Democracy and Education with this penultimate statement: “Interest in learning from all the contacts of life is the essential moral interest” (p. 3701). The fact that Dewey bookends the sentence with the term “interest” symbolizes its dynamic place in his wide-ranging inquiry...

List of Contributors

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pp. 189-190


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pp. 191-195

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480946
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469217
Print-ISBN-10: 0791469212

Page Count: 205
Illustrations: 1 table
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 78211833
MUSE Marc Record: Download for John Dewey and Our Educational Prospect

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Subject Headings

  • Education -- Philosophy.
  • Education -- Aims and objectives.
  • Dewey, John, 1859-1952.
  • Dewey, John, 1859-1952. Democracy and education.
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