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Reply with quote  #16 
Thanks for this post.

Dewey was a feminist (for his time.)  Visitors to the Dewey's commented on the fact that Alice was regularly part of the conversation and their family life has been described as collaborative by several people who know them.


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Chapter 19 Labor and Leisure

 In this short chapter, Dewey attacks another dualism, the categorical distinction between utilitarian education (to train for Labor) and cultural education (to train for Leisure). And, once again, our historical past the civilization of ancient Greek society is the culprit for this generating this incorrect dualism. In that society any practical work was done by actual slaves or people who were slaves for all practical purposes because they were classified as only useful for carrying out practical trades, such as farming or making things.  Culture was necessary and appropriate only for the leisure class who required education to pursue knowledge for its own pure sake.  The grievous error in this distinction is that practical activities require mental engagement and mental activity is diminished in value if it does not take into account the physical and social activities in which we all engage.

This dualism still impinges on developing a truly democratic education despite various compromises that have been introduced into education which only lead to “confusion.” “Only superstition makes us believe that the two are necessarily hostile so that a subject is illiberal because it is useful and cultural because it is useless.” (6th paragraph in section 2). Dewey also reminds us of the importance of imagination, “It will generally be found that instruction which, in aiming at utilitarian results, sacrifices the development of imagination, the refining of taste and the deepening of intellectual insight . . .also in the same degree renders what is learned limited in its use” (6th paragraph in section 2).

He also criticizes educators for accepting compromises that are often applied in distinguishing between the useful and the intellectual.  “The ‘utility”’ element is found in the motives assigned for study, the ‘liberal’ element in the methods of teaching. The outcome of the mixture is perhaps less satisfactory than if either principle were adhered to in its purity. (2nd sentence in 5th paragraph in section 2). “Natural science is recommended on the ground of its practical utility, but science is taught as a special accomplishment in removal from application.. On the other hand, music and literature are theoretically justified on the ground of their cultural value and are then taught with chief emphasis upon forming technical modes of skill.” (Last sentences in 5th paragraph in section 2).

I seems to me that the current emphasis on valuing higher education for its practical value in getting jobs and downplaying its value as “liberal education” is being carried out with a continuation of an attitude that the two categories fall into separate classes and are antagonistic. In the closing sentence of the summary, Dewey says, “The problem of education in a democratic society is to do away with the dualism and to construct a course of studies which makes thought a guide of free practice for all and which makes leisure a reward of accepting responsibility for service, rather than a state of exemption from it.”

Note that the next two chapters describe in detail how practice (real world experience) is an essential component of intellectual studies and how cultural issues (“naturalism and humanism” ) are integral to the study of science.


Chapter 20

Having declared in the previous chapter that intellectual activity is not divorced from action, Dewey provides an analysis of the history of how “experience” has been treated by philosophers.

Greek philosophy considered thinking and intellectual life more valuable than practical affairs. Unchanging ideas and truths were of a superior level compared to the constantly changing attributes of common experience. As he had before, Dewey attributes this to the rigid class structure of Greek society.

But, even as philosophy developed in the intervening 2,000 years, the correct interpretation of the relationship between what we experience and what it signifies has eluded philosophers. Most important was the emergence of scientific thinking—a move from primarily “trial and error” approaches to understanding nature to a rational system of engaging with nature through experiments under controlled conditions as promoted by Francis Bacon in the 17th Century—that shifted humans’ thinking about intellectual and practical activities. “When trying, or experimenting, ceases to be blinded by impulse or custom, when it is guided by an aim and conducted by measure and method, it becomes reasonable—rational (3rd paragraph, section 2). “Experience itself primarily consists of the active relation subsisting between a human being and his natural and social surroundings (beginning sentence of (i) in section 3).   But the sensationalism of John Locke, that our interpretation of nature comes directly from the sensual data transmitted to our passive “mind”, isn’t sufficient to explain our meaning making of the world.  That requires two things: a) recognizing that our mind is active and acting on the evidence from the senses (“Men have to do something to the things when they wish to find out something, they have to alter conditions” (paragraph (iii) the last before summary); and b) we have to interpret—make meaning—of the results of those actions. (“To just the degree that connections are established between what happens to a person and what he does in response . . . his acts and the things about him acquire meaning (paragraph (i) in section 3).

In the summary, Dewey states that doing science can “result in securely tested knowledge.” In later writings, especially The Quest for Certainty, he emphasizes that any such knowledge is not absolute, but always temporary, depending on the outcomes of future tested experimental actions.


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Reply with quote  #18 

Chapter 21 is the third chapter that discusses problems arising from the typical separation of subjects in school curricula.   Chapter 19 critiqued inappropriate dualism from the separation of labor and leisure, while Chapter 20 discussed the artificial distinction between the practical and the intellectual. Chapter 21 addresses the separation of science and humanities in school curricula.  The format follows the familiar pattern by discussing (Section 1) the historical development of the separation; followed by arguments (Section 2) why natural science should not be separated from its humanistic components and concluding (section 3) with proposals for unifying the two in the curriculum as they are in life.

The chapter begins with a summary of the main theme; it “focuses attention upon the philosophy of the connection of nature to human affairs . . . the educational division finds a reflection in the dualistic philosophies. Mind and the world are regarded as two independent realms of existence.” (first paragraph of the chapter.)  Greek thought focused on ideal knowledge. Only what was unchanging could be considered as a source of knowledge. This ruled out the constant flux and change of the natural world.  Aristotle, as is well known, was more interested in nature study than was Plato, but, “He subordinates civic relations to the purely cognitive life. The highest end of man is not human but divine” (2nd paragraph, section 1).  Similarly, Scholastic philosophers emphasized methods of argument over actually engaging with nature. When natural science began to assert itself through the recognition of the value of experimentation and the consequent flourishing of products produced by applying scientific thinking (see Section 2), the interaction between new material activities and their social consequences were not recognized. Dewey lists some modern practical devices that are part of “the usual experience of all persons in civilized communities . . . the stationary and traction steam engine, gasoline engine, automobile, telegraph and telephone, the electric motor.” (2nd paragraph in section 2 (c)) Note that only the steam engine and the telegraph predated Dewey’s youth. Our understanding of how these common devices influence our understanding of social issues has been slow. “But it is taking the [scientific] revolution many centuries to produce the new mind.” (2nd paragraph in section 2 (c)).

This discussion leads to the conclusion that natural science has a necessary association with humanistic study. Nature and man are not separate concepts, but exist in constant interaction.  Dewey’s goal in this chapter is “to secure recognition of the place occupied by the subject matter of the natural science in human affairs” (end of Summary).

In addition, this connection of science and humanities has a moral component.  Science and its achievements (and consequences) need to be considered not just in their social context, but also by asking whether their social outcomes are beneficial to society.  We have to overcome the separation of literary and humanistic studies from natural science “if society is to be truly democratic” (last sentence before summary). The separation of science from humanism “reduced the world to a barren and monotonous distribution of matter in space” and ignored “what is most interesting and most important to mankind” (end of section 2). For establishing or social goals, we need to bring into the educational system the latest advances of social science to get a true picture of the appropriate “social uses” of natural science “for furthering the public good without weakening personal initiative”  (1st paragraph of section 3).

Chapter 22. Dewey sees the need to tackle one more inappropriate dualism: the distinction between the individual and society.  Our minds are clearly individual, but “the dualistic philosophy of mind and the world implies an erroneous conception of the relationship between knowledge and social interest, and between individuality or freedom, and social control and authority.  Again, we have a short historical section on how “mind” has been conceived through the ages. Dewey argues that we only develop our own “minds” through our social interactions. “Through social intercourse, through sharing in the activities embodying beliefs, [the individual] gradually acquires a mind of his own. The conception of mind as a purely isolated possession of the self is the antipode of the truth. The self achieves mind in the degree in which knowledge of things is incarnate in the life about him; the self is not separate mind building up anew on its own account (end of 3rd paragraph section 2).

Another important argument in this chapter is Dewey’s insistence that children need physical action and ability to move around and interact with the world in order to learn (to develop their minds.) ”The whole cycle of self-activity demands an opportunity for investigation and experimentation, for trying out one’s ideas upon things, discovering what can be done with materials and appliances.  And this is incompatible with closely restricted activity (end of 3rd paragraph in section 3).

And finally, we need to honor individuality within our social structure. “A democratic society must, in consistency with its ideal, allow for intellectual freedom and the play of diverse gifts and interests in its educational measures.” (end of Summary).


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Posts: 16
Reply with quote  #19 
We’ve read two strikingly different chapters, but like all of the readings they emphasize Dewey’s constant themes: the moral component of education, the effort to overcome dualisms and the constant effort to strive for democratic practice in education.

Chapter 23 is the last chapter discussing one of the major dualisms (body vs. mind that expresses itself in education when education for work is contrasted to education for the mind) applied to education. Dewey’s ideas and arguments resonate with current educational issues, but the question of vocational education was a public discussion in 1900 – 1920. The new industrial age required training for young people to be able to work in the technologies. What should their education emphasize?  One side argued that the US should follow the German apprentice model and essential take 14-16 year old students out of school and have them to become apprentices.  The U.S. version of this was a tracking system that would put these students into new vocational schools that taught skills, but included little “liberal” education subjects.[1]  Not surprisingly, Dewey championed another model. In this chapter he makes a grand, general argument that “vocation” is a broad term and should be applied to all kinds of work including what is generally considered “professional” rather than ”labor.”  When we read about the progressive schools of his time they included a range of practical subjects—carpentry, shop work, cooking, gardening, etc. as part of a curriculum for all children.  Dewey recognized that the new vocational curriculum included little exposure to academic subjects. It would a) create separate classes in society; and b) provide its students with an inferior education that would limit their future life choices.

He begins by defining “vocation” broadly “a vocation means nothing but such a direction of life activities as renders them perceptibly significant to a person, because of the consequences they accomplish, and also useful to his associates.” (First paragraph chapter 23).  He goes on immediately to assert that a vocation (later repeatedly called “occupation”) is just one component of any person’s life using the example of an “artist.”

Eventually, he shifts the vocabulary to describing vocations” as “a calling” that is “an organizing principle for information and ideas; for knowledge and intellectual growth.  (2nd paragraph under 2. 2). And this applies to “The lawyer, the physician, the laboratory investigator in some branch of chemistry, the parent, the citizen interested in his own locality”.

The second section ends with a reminder (from earlier chapters) that “the only adequate training for occupations is training through occupations.” “The dominant vocation of all human beings at all times is living—intellectual and moral growth.” (1st paragraph, section 2, subsection 3.) And Dewey reminds us that divorcing vocational training from general education is undemocratic and will move society towards increased divisions into social classes. The only way to avoid this is to make vocational activities part of the common curriculum and make “all earlier preparation for vocations  . . .indirectly rather than direct; namely, through engaging in those active occupations which are indicated by the needs and interests of the pupil at that time.” (Last paragraph section 2, 3).

Unfortunately, this is not happening in vocational education as it was currently taught. The problems with this practice are listed in five distinct categories, described in (i) – (v) in section 3.   If this continues, and the privileged classes “split the system, and give to others, less fortunately situated, an education conceived mainly as specific trade preparation, [that] is to treat the schools as an agency for transferring the older division of labor and leisure, culture and service, mind and body, directed and directive class, into a society nominally democratic. (Last paragraph before summary.)


Chapter 24.

In his only serious autobiographical essay[2], Dewey wrote, “Although a book called Democracy and Education was for many years   that in which my philosophy, such as it is, was most fully expounded, I do not know that philosophic critics, as distinct from teachers, have ever had recourse to it. I have wondered whether such facts° signified that philosophers in general, although they are themselves usually teachers, have not taken education with sufficient seriousness for it to occur to them that any rational person could actually think it possible that philosophizing should focus about education as the supreme human interest in which, moreover, other problems, cosmological, moral, logical, come to a head.”

In this chapter tells us why he believes education is the key to expounding the meaning of a particular philosophy.  It also contains additional memorable, quotable sentences concerning education and philosophy:

“Philosophical problems arise because of widespread and widely felt difficulties in social practice . . . At this point, the intimate connection between philosophy ad education appears. In fact, education offers a vantage ground from which to penetrate to the human, a distinct from the technical, significance of philosophical discussions.”  (9th paragraph, section 2.)

“If we are willing to conceive education as the process of forming fundamental dispositions, intellectual and emotional, towards nature and fellow men, philosophy may even be defined as the general theory of education.” (10th paragraph, section 2)

“Philosophy is the theory of education as a deliberately conducted practice.” (last sentence of the summary)

Dewey delighted in being a philosopher, of thinking about life problems, the meaning of life and the ways in which he could analyze human life (experience) to make sense of it within the framework of a naturalist explanation (no extra-natural forces) and in a moral context of constantly attempting to improve human life and society.  For Dewey “improvement” (progressive) meant more democracy, more socially beneficial circumstances for all, more social justice.
--Our experiences are constantly changing and uncertain, so philosophy needs to take that into account and acknowledge constant change and the impossibility of certainty. “Completeness and finality are out of the question.  The very nature of experience as an ongoing, changing process forbids.”(4th paragraph, section 2.)
--Our lives are social; thus philosophy needs to consider our lives in a social context.
--And our philosophy needs to be relevant to how we maintain and help our society to grow; its most critical test is its relevance to education. “If a (philosophical) theory makes no difference in educational endeavor, it must be artificial. The educational point of view enables one to envisage the philosophical problems where they arise and thrive, where they are at home, and where acceptance or rejection makes a difference in practice.” (9th paragraph, section 2.)

In the middle of this chapter, Dewey also situates the function of science in his worldview.  Science provides facts (based on evidence), but by itself it is sterile and useless in developing a philosophy that can explain and guide society if that is all it provides.  “When science denotes not simply a report of the particular facts discovered about the world but a general attitude towards it—as distinct from special things to do—it merges into philosophy." (3rd paragraph of section 2).

 “Philosophy is thinking what the known [i.e. the knowledge of science] demands of us—what responsive attitude it exacts.  . . . Philosophy might almost be described as thinking which has become conscious of itself—which has generalized its place, function, and value in experience. (6th paragraph in section 2).

This is a short, but dense and crucial chapter for Dewey’s major arguments.

[1] The Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917 was an act of the United States Congress that promoted vocational agriculture to train people "who have entered upon or who are preparing to enter upon the work of the farm," and provided federal funds for this purpose. As such, it is the basis both for the promotion of vocational education, and for its isolation from the rest of the curriculum in most school settings.   (Wikipedia,–Hughes_Act)

[2] [First published in Contemporary American Philosophy: Personal Statements, ed. George Plimpton Adams and William Pepperell Montague (London: George Allen and Unwin; New York: Macmillan Co., 1930), 2:13-27.]


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Reply with quote  #20 
Chapter 25 Theories of Knowledge

In this penultimate chapter of D & E, Dewey explains why he sees a close connection between philosophy and education.  His main point is that the epistemology, the theory of knowledge, we accept has a direct bearing on education.  Education is about increasing our knowledge, but what that means in practice depends on what we believe “knowledge” to be.

Once again Dewey points out that the basic dualism that distinguishes between “things of this world” and “an inaccessible essence of reality” (end of first paragraph) as a basis for a theory of knowledge is not acceptable because it is associated with for 5 inappropriate dualisms, which he describes in the next 5 paragraphs:
1) It leads to “higher” and “lower” social classes.
2) It results in allocating “the particular and the universal” into two independent worlds.
3) It makes an inappropriate distinction between “objective, external” and “subjective, internal” knowledge.
4) It assumes that some knowledge is acquired “passively” (“that which we get directly from the senses”) and other knowledge is acquired “actively” using our minds.
5) It sets up a qualitative distinction between intellect and emotion.

In each instance Dewey argues that the dualism makes a separation into distinct categories where there is none in our experiences. “All of these separations culminate into one between knowing and doing, theory and practice, between mind and the end and spirit of action and the body as its organ and means.” (beginning of paragraph 8).

Paragraph 8 continues to summarize material from previous chapters that “make the untenability of this conception obvious and [require that we] replace it by the idea of continuity” (Early in paragraph 8). There are three reasons for this conclusion:
(i) The knowledge gained from “the advance of physiology and the psychology associated with it [that] have shown the connection of mental activity with that of the nervous system.” That is, mind and body have a connection.
(ii) The significance of evolutionary theory for philosophy.  Dewey wrote a strong article on this subject in 1909, based on a lecture he gave at Columbia University during the 50th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of the Species.
(iii) “The development of the scientific method.” Dewey’s faith in the methods of scientific thinking is clearly summarized here. “The scientific experimental method is . . . a trial of ideas; hence even when practically—or immediately— unsuccessful, it is intellectual, fruitful; for we learn from our failures when our endeavors are seriously thoughtful.”  It is “the practice which is most successful in making knowledge.”(penultimate paragraph before 2.)  He contrasts this with faith in “dogma, of beliefs fixed by authority.”

Section 2 relates the previous discussion to its specific application to education.  Our pedagogic methods are determined by the “system of philosophy” we espouse because these systems have “characteristically different conceptions of the method of knowing.” Dewey criticizes most of them—he lists “scholasticism, sensationalism, rationalism, idealism, realism, empiricism, transcendentalism sensationalism, pragmatism, etc.”—because they deviate “from the method which has proven most effective in achieving knowledge.” That last phrase refers to scientific thinking, specifically to its use to understand experience. Dewey’s criticism is that the “isms” above (except for pragmatism) separate knowledge as the product of thought from its intimate connection with actual experience. “the function of knowledge is to make one experience freely available in other experiences.” And “knowledge is a perception of those connections of an object which determine its applicability in a given situation.”  When we use what we have learned from previous experiences to make meaning of current situations, then we make use of what we have learned, thus turning experience into knowledge. “knowledge furnishes the means of understanding or giving meaning to what is still going on and what is to be done.”

In summary, most philosophies attribute value to “knowledge—no matter how it is obtained or what “standing’” it may have in the epistemology we accept—independent of its use for providing meaning to current and/or future experiences. For Dewey, experience is the source of knowledge, of intellectual growth, of learning, and all experiences that can allow this are educational.[1]

Chapter 26 Theories of Morals

Dewey was basically a moral philosopher. His overarching effort to “reconstruct” philosophy was an effort to reframe all of philosophy to make it applicable to people’s lives and to support democratic practice.  Considering this framework, it isn’t surprising that the last chapter of Democracy and Education emphasizes the moral argument for his position.  The moral purpose of education had always been foremost in Dewey’s consideration of education and he expressed this position frequently in earlier publications. In 1897, Dewey gave a lecture on Ethical Principles Underlying Education that was published and reprinted six times in the next decade by the University of Chicago. In 1909, Dewey revised it and used it as the second chapter of Moral Principles in Education, a pamphlet published by Houghton Mifflin.[2]  The syllabus for his 1894 course on ethics also mentions the moral value of education.[3]

The important moral responsibility of the school is presented using the familiar anti-dualism argument of challenging the distinction between “The inner and the Outer” which is “a culmination of the dualism of mind and the world, soul and body, end and means . . . In morals it takes the form of a sharp demarcation of the motive of action from its consequences and of character from conduct” (2nd paragraph, section 1. What follows is the familiar analysis that the two are not separated, “There is not first a purely psychical process, followed abruptly by a radically different physical one.  There is one continuous behavior (4th paragraph, section 1.) This is further elaborated in the next paragraph, “Our conscious thoughts . . .are important… They fulfill their destiny in issuing, later on, into specific and perceptible acts. . .They are activities having a new meaning in process of development. (5th paragraph section 1).

Next we have a brief historical reference to how thoughts and actions have been discussed by philosophers, before arguing that teaching “morality” independently from other topics and actions in the schoolroom and the school society is usually not very successful.  Section 2 describes another inappropriate dualism, the distinction between “duty” and “interest,” expanding the argument by criticism of the assumption that “the self is a fixed and hence isolated quantity”  (beginning of 3rd paragraph, section 2.) Other dualisms are discussed in section 3, (Intelligence and Character) and section 4, (The Social and the Moral), concluding that “All the separations we have been criticizing . . . spring from taking morals too narrowly—giving them on one side, a sentimental goody-goody turn without reference to effective ability to do what is socially needed, and, on the other side, overemphasizing convention and tradition so as to limit morals to a list of definitely state acts. (1st paragraph, section 4). Instead, Dewey argues that “The moral and the social quality of conduct are, in the last analysis, identical with each other. Therefore, “ (i) . . .”the school must itself be a community life in all which that implies.” and “(ii) the learning in school should be continuous with that out of school.” One reason for including many activities in the curriculum is a moral one: ”Playgrounds, shops, workrooms, laboratories not only direct the natural tendencies of youth, but they involve intercourse, communication, and cooperation—all extending the perception of connections.” (3rd and 2nd paragraphs before the summary).

Education is a process, as is all of life, and needs to be accepted as such in our efforts to understand life. “For conscious life is a continual beginning afresh” (last sentence before summary).  The best way to assure a continuation of democracy, to provide the basis for progress in society, is to develop and maintain an educational system in which “the school becomes itself a form of social life, a miniature community and one in close interaction with to other modes of associated experience beyond school walls.  All education which develops power to share effectively in social life is moral.  It forms a character which not only does the particular deed socially necessary but one which is interested in that continuous readjustment which is essential to growth.  Interest in learning from all the contacts of life is the essential moral interest.” (last sentences of D & E).

[1] Routine experiences or blind guessing are not “educative”.  This point is described in detail  (as its title suggests) in the 1938 Experience and Education.  “Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience. An experience may be such as to engender callousness; it may produce lack of sensitivity and of responsiveness. Then the possibilities of having richer experience in the future are restricted. Again, a given experience may increase a person's automatic skill in a particular direction and yet tend to land him in a groove or rut; the effect again is to narrow the field of further experience.” (E & E, Chapter 2, 2nd paragraph.)

[2] “There cannot be two sets of ethical principles, one for life in the school, and the other for life outside of the school.  As conduct is one, so also the principles of conduct are one. The tendency to discuss the morals of the school as if the school were an institution by itself is highly unfortunate. The moral responsibility of the school, and of those who conduct it, is to society. The school is fundamentally an institution erected by society to do a certain specific work,—to exercise a certain specific function in maintaining the life and advancing the welfare of society. The educational system which does not recognize that this fact entails upon it an ethical responsibility is derelict and a defaulter. Moral Principles in Education MW 4 1909 p. 267.

[3] “Every act (consciously performed) is a judgment of value: the act done is done because it is thought to be worth while, or valuable. Thus a man's real (as distinct from his nominal or symbolic) theory of conduct can be told only from his acts. Conversely, every judgment about conduct is itself an act; it marks a practical and not simply a theoretical attitude. That is, it does not lie outside of the matter judged (conduct), but constitutes a part of its development; conduct is different after, and because of, the judgment. [This is]  Illustrated in education where the main point is not so much to get certain acts done, as to induce in the child certain ways of valuing acts, from which the° performance of the specific deeds will naturally follow. That is, the best education aims to train conscience.” THE STUDY OF ETHICS: A Syllabus 1894 EW 4, p.224



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Reply with quote  #21 
hi, georgehein

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