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one john dewey: his life and work Larry A. Hickman  In 1929 John Dewey declared in a newsreel clip: I am not here to knock going to college. If a young person has the opportunity to do so and has the character and intelligence to take advantage of it, it is a good thing. But going to college is not the same thing as getting an education, although the two are often confused. A boy or a girl can go to college and get a degree and not much more. On the other hand, a boy or a girl in a factory, shop or store can get an education without a degree, if they have the ambition. They have to work hard, want to learn, be observing (keep their ears and eyes open), talk to those wiser than themselves and set aside some time every day for reading. They have to struggle harder than those that go to college. But the struggle, if they make the effort, will give them power. They get their education from contact with the realities of life and not just from books. With some minor editorial changes, this chapter is the script of the video ‘‘John Dewey: His Life and Work,’’ written and narrated by Larry A. Hickman (Davidson PAGE 3 { 3 } ................. 17147$ $CH1 01-07-09 14:25:38 PS 4 john dewey: his life and work Dewey was already seventy when this newsreel footage, in which he distinguished education from mere schooling, was shot. It was rather a surprising position for a famous professor to take in the mass media of the day. After all, he was in his forty-fifth year of university teaching and had already written more than a dozen books. He would live another twenty-two years and publish eleven more books. What this little newsreel clip reveals is Dewey’s remarkable ability to envision possibilities beyond his own experience, his faith in the intelligence of average citizens, and his openness to the use of new technologies.1 These qualities were to be profoundly important in his scholarly writings and his involvement in human affairs. During his long and productive life, Dewey wrote widely about psychology, philosophy, art, and social issues. To give you an introduction to this wealth of material, I will focus on three general topics that are recurring themes in his work. These do not cover all of the many subjects that Dewey discussed, but I hope they will inspire you to delve more deeply into his work. The themes I am pursuing are: (1) his concept of the purpose and process of human learning; (2) his understanding of truth as a process, instead of something absolute and unchanging; and (3) his faith in democracy as the only means of social organization that can foster individual fulfillment, and its implications for education and the arts. Like all of us, Dewey was profoundly influenced by the historical and technical changes of his times. In the course of his ninety-two years he witnessed dramatic changes in almost every aspect of human life. When he was born, on October 20, 1859, Abraham Lincoln had not yet been elected president. The Civil War was only a storm cloud on the horizon. He died during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower after two horrific world wars, one ended by an atomic bomb. At the time of Dewey’s birth, most Americans were dependent on wind, water, and wood technologies. During that year, 1859, America drilled its first oil well, which led to technologies on which we all now Films 2001). It can be ordered through Davidson Films Inc., 668 March Street, San Luis Obispo CA 93401. For further information see http://www.davidsonfilms.com. PAGE 4 ................. 17147$ $CH1 01-07-09 14:25:38 PS larry a. hickman 5 depend. Also during 1859, Charles Darwin’s culture-shattering work The Origin of Species was published. This book was to have a major influence on Dewey’s thought. John Dewey was born in Burlington, Vermont, the third of four sons of Archibald Sprague Dewey and Lucina Artemesia Rich Dewey. During the Civil War his father, a grocer by trade, served in the First Vermont Cavalry as a quartermaster. It is almost certain that the young John Dewey witnessed the devastation of that war when the family joined Archibald at his post in northern Virginia in 1864. In 1867, the family returned together to Burlington. The Burlington of Dewey’s youth was...

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