John Dewey Biography

John Dewey (1859-1952), American philosopher, psychologist, social critic and education reformer, was a leading exponent of pragmatism, succeeding Charles Peirce and William James. Books he wrote include: Reconstruction of Philosophy, (1887) Democracy and Education, 1916 and The Quest for Certainty. (1929)Early Training and EducationDewey was born in Vermont, USA, on October 20, 1859. He was raised in a New England industrial town, his father a grocer. At age 16, Dewey went to the University of Vermont and upon graduation, began his professional career as a high school teacher for three years, an exposure significant for his later work as an educational theorist.Influence of PragmatismHe was 23 when he began graduate work at Johns Hopkins University where he was attracted by the biological doctrines of T.H. Huxley and by the philosophy of Hegel. These very significant influences instilled in him a strong conviction of the interrelatedness of things in which he proved a fixed resolve that these dualisms should be opposed:matter and mindexperience and necessityfact and valueThe Pragmatic PhilosopherAs a pragmatic philosopher, Dewey's philosophy of education stressed these influences: development of the person, understanding of the environment, and learning through experience.The EducationistAs an educationist, Dewey argued that home and social life should only be end point of the educative process, that knowledge is power, the only enabler for man to cope with his environment and ultimately dominate it, and makes possible processes of experimentation and readjustment in the life process from birth to death.According to Dewey, the school essentially copes with a child's interests and aptitudes and not with future needs nor altruistic goals. He fails to give due allowance to the conceptual framework of education, ignores man's need to subscribe to ideals towards which he can strive and against which he can measure progress, accepting society as it is. His morality is relative and situational. The most serious criticism is that he based his educational program upon personal inspiration and shrewd hunches rather than upon thorough scientific analysis of the evidence.The Educator University of Michigan, taught and published works on psychology.Chicago University, taught and established an experimental school, testing and applying the theory of learning by doing set out in The School and Society in Chicago.Columbia University, remained until his formal retirement in 1930. The important periodical Journal of Philosophy was started at Columbia, a means for presenting and discussing ideas of his principles, that the mind is an instrument of men's practical purposes over a wide range: logic, metaphysics, art, ethics and social problems.In the 1930s, campaigned against militarism, and in favour of civil liberties.Presided over an inquiry about Trotsky at the Moscow trials.Actively defended Bertrand Russell against legal harassment in New York.Published widely on psychology and education as well as philosophy.Books by John DeweyPsychology, 1887The School and Society, 1899The Child and the Curriculum, 1902Ethics, 1908, with James TuftsDemocracy and Education, 1916Reconstruction in Philosophy, 1920Human Nature and Conduct, 1922Experience and Nature, 1925The Quest for Certainty, 1929Art as Experience, 1934Logic, the Theory of Inquiry, 1938Experience and Education, 1938Freedom and Culture, 1939Resources: Chambers Biographical Dictionary, editor Una McGovern (2002)Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thinkers, edited by Alan Bullock and R.B. Woodings (1983)