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John Dewey Biography

(1859–1952), The Child and the Curriculum, Moral Principles in Education, Democracy and Education, Experience and Education

education philosophy university theory

American philosopher and educationist, born in Burlington, Vermont, educated at the University of Vermont and Johns Hopkins University. After lecturing at the universities of Minnesota, Michigan, and Chicago, in 1905 he became a professor at Columbia University. The political and social stimuli to which he was exposed during his ten years in Chicago brought about the convergence of his socio-cultural and philosophical preoccupations. As Director of Chicago's School of Education he established the Laboratory School, in which he experimentally applied his principles of active and creative learning. Among his early works on education was The Child and the Curriculum (1902); the many publications which followed include Moral Principles in Education (1909), Democracy and Education (1916), and Experience and Education (1938). The extent of his influence on the theory and practice of education in America and beyond gives him pre-eminence among the educational reformers of the twentieth century. The emphasis on practicality in his educational writings reflects his philosophical pragmatism, which formed an extension of the work of William James and was informed by his readings of Darwin. His doctrine of ‘instrumentalism’ viewed intellectual activity as a function of the instinct to adjust for survival in the human species. Among the expositions of his ideas which gained him a wide reputation as a philosopher were Outlines of a Critical Theory of Ethics (1891), The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy (1910), and Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920). Experience and Nature (1929) and The Quest for Certainty (1929) argued for a provisional and socially oriented conception of philosophy, challenging the traditional assumptions of academic philosophers concerning the abstract nature of knowledge. The concern with the spiritual dimensions of experience in his later work is most evident in A Common Faith (1934), in which he maintained a firm distinction between religious ideals and religious dogma. His many other publications include Logic, the Theory of Enquiry (1938), Public Schools and Spiritual Values (1944), and the collections of essays Characters and Events (1929) and Problems of Men (1946). George Dykhuizen's The Life and Mind of John Dewey appeared in 1973. See also Black Mountain Writers.

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