A letter by John Dewey to the New York Times.
OPPONENTS OF PROJECTS FOR bringing about social change have a number of defense devices they resort to almost automatically. One of the commonest, and laziest, of these devices is the assertion that the proposal goes contrary to human nature. More sweepingly still, it is often very constitution that the proposal is bound to fail and therefore shouldn’t even be tried. It is always dangerous from an intellectual point of view to try to oppose a practical movement with an argument drawn from a purely abstract idea.
This is the third in a series of articles exploring the meaning and significance of terms, which are important in thought and speech at the present time. This is not an attempt to present one authoritative "definition" which must be accepted by all. Rather, the emphasis is on securing a clear-cut statement of one informed person's understanding of each word so that in light of it, the concepts held by others may be challenged and clarified.
THE editor of THE SOCIAL FRONTIER has asked me to say something upon the topic represented by the above caption, taking at least my text and point of departure from the articles of Drs. Bode and Childs in the November number of this periodical. I consented before I had seen and read the two articles. After reading them I am wondering whether my promise was not somewhat rash. Both writers quote from my own writings with approval in support of their views, so I am forced to wonder whether I have been unsure as to my own ground and have taken different positions at different times—which might well be the case.
John Dewey - 1938
Philosophy is frequently presented as the systematic endeavor to obtain knowledge of what is called Ultimate and Eternal Reality. Many thinkers have defended this conception of its task and aim on the ground that human life can derive stable guidance only by means of ideals and standards that have their source in Ultimate Reality.
This article, prepared for the occasion of the New Orleans meeting of The John Dewey Society by Dewey himself, represents the clearest and most informative statement of the relationship of education and social change that has yet appeared.
PRESIDENT HUTCHINS' book, The Higher Learning in America, seems to me to be a work of great significance. I thought it such because, in addition to vigorous exposition of the present confused state of education in this country, it raised, as I supposed, a basic issue-one not often explicitly brought forward and one which is so basic in the philosophy of education that it needs to be stated and discussed.
PRESIDENT HUTCHINS' book consists of two parts. One of them is a critical discussion of the plight of education in this country, with especial reference to colleges and universities. The other is a plan for the thorough remaking of education.
Present education is disordered and confused. The problem as to the direction in which we shall seek for order and clarity is the most important question facing education and educators today. Teachers and administrators are not given to asking what the nature of knowledge is, as distinct from the subject-matter that is taken to be known, nor by what methods knowledge is genuinely attained-as distinct from the methods by which the facts and ideas that are taken to be known shall be taught and learned.
THE COMMEMORATION of the work of Horace Mann, which is now beginning, inevitably suggests certain questions. The two animating and guiding principles of Mann's activity were faith in the capacity of a people for free government and a stern conviction that this potentiality could be made actual only through a system of free universal public education.
I FIND myself rather confused by the articles that have appeared in The Social Frontier urging that educators adopt the class concept as their intellectual guide and practical dynamic. I do not know just what is meant by the class concept; what its implications are, intellectual and practical.
I AM not especially fond of the phrase academic freedom as far as the adjective academic is concerned. It suggests something that is rather remote and technical. Indeed, it is common to use the word as a term of disparagement. But the reality for which the phrase stands has an importance far beyond any particular expression used to convey it.
THE idea of civil liberties developed step by step as the ideals of liberalism displaced the earlier ' practices of political autocracy, which subordinated subjects to the arbitrary will of governmental authorities. In tradition, rather than in historic fact, their origin for English-speaking people associated with the Magna Carta.
IT IS constantly urged by one school of social thought that liberty and equality are so incompatible that liberalism is not a possible social philosophy.
IT is an interesting fact in the history of English words that the word liberal was applied to education even earlier than it was used to denote generosity and bountifulness. A liberal education was the education of a free man.
TODAY there is no word more bandied about than liberty. Every effort at organized control of economic forces is resisted and attacked, by a certain group, in the name of liberty. The slightest observation shows that this group is made up of those who are interested, from causes that are evident, in the preservation of the economic status quo; that is to say, in the maintainence of the customary privileges and legal rights they already possess.
FROM the standpoint of any European country, except Great Britain, the American public school system is chaos rather than a system. The British system, from the continental standpoint, is even more chaotic than ours, because public education there is superimposed upon schools carried on by religious bodies.
I CONFESS that I do not know very well just what is the youth question today. Is it what we are going to do with and for youth? Or is it what youth is going to do to us, later?
AT first view it may seem absurd to say that teachers are not adequately organized. In large places, especially, many teachers probably feel that, if anything, they are over-organized. There are associations by grades, associations by subjects, and general organizations, city, state, and national. If there is inadequacy, it is not in number and variety. But organizations exist for a purpose, not as ends in themselves. If adequate organization is lacking, it is on the side of aims and functioning for these aims.
THE current meeting of the Department of Superintendence of the N.E.A. makes appropriate a consideration of the problems of public school administration in this country and of the ways of meeting them. It is not necessary to insist upon the fact that the problems are complex and difficult. They present at least three phases, each of which in turn is composed of obscure and conflicting factors.
THE discussion of indoctrination in the January number of THE SOCIAL FRONTIER ought to clarify the intellectual atmosphere for teachers. But it involves a basic issue that, it seems to me, has not been made wholly clear. Upon this point I wish to say a few words, especially as it is closely related to the main topic of the present issue, the function of the public press. The point at issue is that of method.
SHOULD teachers be ahead of or behind their times? Perhaps some one with a logical turn of mind will object to the question. He will point out that there is another alternative—teachers might keep even with their times, neither ahead nor behind. One might ask whether this middle course id not the wisest course for teachers to steer? The idea seems plausible. But it suffers from a fatal defect.
THAT UPON the whole the schools have been educating for something called the status quo can hardly be doubted by observing persons. The fallacy in this attempt should be equally evident. There is no status quo—except in the literal sense in which Andy explained the phrase to Amos: a name for the “mess we are in.” It is not difficult, however, to define that which is called the “status quo”; the difficulty is that the movement of actual events has little connection with the name by which it is called.
The following addresses were delivered on the occassion of the installation of William Fletcher Russell, Ph.D., LL.D., as Dean of Teachers College, Columbia University, on April 10, 1928.
The fundamental factors in the educative process are an immature, undeveloped being; and certain social aims, meanings, values incarnate in the matured experience of the adult. The educative process is the due interaction of these forces. Such a eonception of each in relation to the other as facilitates completest and freest interaction is the essence of educational theory.
Charles DeGarmo, Charles A. McMurry, Frank M. McMurry, C. C. Van Liew, John Dewey & Francis W. Parker - 1927
One of the problems that has already forced itself upon us, is, therefore: What shall the public school teach. That this problem is already being vigorously attacked, witness the efforts of New England to shorten and enrich the grammar-school curriculum, the report of the Committee of Ten, and the report of the Committee of Fifteen on Elementary Education, presented last February before the Department of Superintendence at Cleveland.
This is a stenographic report of the second of a series of addresses given before the staff of Teachers College.
Stenographic report of paper presented before the Department of Kindergarten Education, Teachers College Alumni Conference, February 21, 1913.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to define the proper relationship of theory and practice without a preliminary discussion, respectively, (1) of the nature and aim of theory; (2) of practice.