- Pragmatism and Education
In 1908, the Third International Congress of Philosophy convened in Heidelberg, Germany. According to the editors of Pragmatism and Education, this event witnessed a rejection of pragmatic ideas in Germany which would hold throughout most of the twentieth Century.1 In the wake of the American revival of pragmatism, the intellectual landscape in Germany has changed, enough so to invite a reconsideration of pragmatism's philosophical coherence and relevance for contemporary German educational thinking. In 2003, the editors organized a conference in Zurich to do just that. The resulting book consists of eleven papers along with the editors' Introduction. The papers range from the historical to the philosophical, and cover a variety of pragmatists, from Dewey, James and Mead, to Jane Addams and Mary Parker Follett. Each essay considers both the philosophical ideas of its subject and the relation of those ideas to German pedagogical thought in the twentieth century. Overall, although the papers (admittedly) do not constitute a comprehensive treatment of the issues, they represent an interesting and valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion of pragmatism and its relevance to the philosophy of education, inside Germany or out.
In the first chapter, James A. Good challenges the traditional view that Dewey made a complete break from Hegelianism by 1903. Much of the impetus for such a reading, Good argues, lies in an apparent need to dissociate Dewey from the "philosopher of the Prussian state" (19). On the contrary, Good argues, we ought to recognize that Dewey's early Hegelianism was influenced by the St. Louis Hegelians, who opposed that interpretation of Hegel (14). Dewey's early admissions of his debt to Hegel implicate the influence of the St. Louis Hegelians on this count. Second, [End Page 82] although Dewey reversed his interpretation of Hegel in German Philosophy and Politics, his reading of Hegel in that work is questionable, and Dewey returns to his original view in 1929 with the publication of The Quest for Certainty. Ridding ourselves of the anti-Prussian bias evident in Dewey's "middle interpretation" of Hegel clears the way for us to see how Dewey and Hegel were both pursuing similar tasks, what Good has argued more recently as a commitment to education as Bildung (Good, 2005, 2007).
The book's second chapter, by Meike Sophia Baader, compares James's view of religious experience to that of the Reformpaedagogik, a progressive educational movement in Germany at the turn of the last century. While James was a progressive about education, differences between his progressivism and that of the Reformpaedagogik are crucial for a complete understanding of their relationship. Importantly, reform pedagogy assumed a link, which James denied, between morality/ cognition and religion/emotion, and which underlies the former's concept of the "religious-moral personality" (35). Finally, the reform pedagogues saw the religious person as morally superior, and emphasized the cultivation of the moral-religious personality. Baader then notes several congruencies between James's views and contemporary writings on religion—individualism, pluralism, and globalism among them. Baader points out that the topic is clearly relevant for contemporary educational debate in Germany, since the role of religious instruction is still disputed, and since James's view, that the strength of democracy is rooted in religious pluralism, is a needed voice in those disputes.
The next two chapters both argue that Dewey's views offer a corrective to contemporary educational theorizing in Germany. Hans-Peter Krüger argues that the Deweyan concepts of individual, public, and communication are the necessary, but not sufficient conditions for transforming a "great society" into a "great community." Roswitha Lehmann-Rommel, also supporting Deweyan concepts, argues that his aesthetics is more a theory of qualitative experience, emphasizing the contingency and unpredictability of experience, rather than the projection of ideals (the role of art and aesthetics) and the intentionality of action. Lehman-Rommel argues that because the traditional model—of predetermined aims set out as the goals for intentional pursuit—lies behind much...