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June 20, 2003
John Dewey what's he all about?

This morning (early in the morning) I did some broadcasting. Not so you'd notice. It won't emerge onto the airwaves for several months. But once again, after I'd written that up, I find that my education blogging time is limited. Plus I have a headache. Maybe I should get a sick-note, scan it in and stick it up here.

So instead of the usual ranting and pontificating, I have a question. John Dewey. For years I've been trying to get a handle on this guy.

Can anyone suggest (links to) good articles about this guy that won't take me half a day to read?

I find oh dear, here comes some more educational pontification that if I want to learn of the significance of some thinker, I learn more and more quickly if I read stuff that is strongly partisan, in favour and against. Maybe it's that I come from two families of lawyers. I find that if I want the truth about something I stage an argument about it, and then judge. If you see what I mean. (That was the kind of programme I was involved in this morning also. The BBC has the adversarial principle built into its DNA, or at any rate the Radio 4, local radio, discussion bits that I get involved in.)

The Christians disapprove, right? And is that just the creationists? Or do other Christians have other objections? And how about all those conservatives who associate Dewey with falling standards? Which they do, yes?

My friend Chris Tame, who is a Randian, can't mention the name of Dewey without spitting metaphorical blood. What's might that be about?

It's not that there isn't enough stuff. It's that there is, if anything, too much. I don't know where to start.


This looks as if it might be helpful. As might this.

Guidance anybody? Thanks in advance.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:35 PM
Category: Education theory

As it happens, I noticed the other day that the NY Times list of historic obits currently includes Dewey


Comment by: Chris Bertram on June 21, 2003 12:43 AM

Hope your headache is better now.
This document has a section on Dewey plus lots of other really interesting stuff.

Comment by: Susan Godsland on June 21, 2003 09:09 AM

"At Johns Hopkins Dewey came under the tutelage of two powerful and engaging intellects who were to have a lasting influence on him. George Sylvester Morris, a German-trained Hegelian philosopher, exposed Dewey to the organic model of nature characteristic of German idealism. G. Stanley Hall, one of the most prominent American experimental psychologists at the time, provided Dewey with an appreciation of the power of scientific methodology as applied to the human sciences. The confluence of these viewpoints propelled Dewey's early thought, and established the general tenor of his ideas throughout his philosophical career."


"The attunement of individual efforts to the promotion of these social ends constitutes, for Dewey, the central issue of ethical concern of the individual; the collective means for their realization is the paramount question of political policy."


Comment by: D Anghelone on June 23, 2003 02:11 AM

Guess you can call yourself "Atomic Man." And this article should create some fission.

"Given the above exegesis of socioeconomic individualism, it ought to be clear that in the quotes which opened this essay Dewey is not suggesting that we attempt to attenuate our political maelstrom by reconciling the political one to the political many or by merely regulating the laissez-faire practices of atomic individuals through negative, curative, and reactive means. Trust-busting, 'progressive' taxation, reflex legislation, and all other ex post facto means only serve to weaken and buffer the system, not kill it. For, quite simply, to police the atomic individuals who deviate from prescribed norms and laws is still to presuppose the actual existence of the atomic individual."


Comment by: D Anghelone on June 23, 2003 02:31 AM

Thomas Sowell wrote a column about him ( http://www.townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/ts20020822.shtml ), which you might find interesting. I suspect that Sowell isn't fairly airing the Dewey's ideas, but I know nothing about him.

I have a copy of a book called "On Dewey," published by Wadsworth that I got at a booksale for $1. I've not read it, but I've found the "On [insert name of philosopher here]" series to be of consistently high quality. Each volume is short and written by an expert on the subject. I've very much enjoyed the volumes: On Godel, On Wittgenstein, and On the Buddha. I think they cost about $12 (7 pounds?) new.

Comment by: Lucas Wiman on June 26, 2003 08:28 AM
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