John Dewey's Influence on American Education
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Rarely is there an educator that sets such precedence in the field of American education. John Dewey first became interested in the reform of educational theory and practice during his tenure at Chicago. He is credited as being one of the founders of pragmatism, a pioneer in functional psychology, and a leader of the progressive movement in U.S. education. One of the tools of Dewey’s success was the manner in which he thought of education. He did not merely see it as a means to an end that students survived through, but he believed that democracy (in the classroom) provided citizens with the opportunity for maximum experimentation and personal growth. John Dewey’s practical education methods have impacted the American (and international) education system in many ways. His impact manifests itself most in his educational legacy. In your research paper on John Dewey, you may want to explore the influence of John Dewey in his philosophy about education and his institutions.
American Education, Dewey and Education Reform
“I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. All reforms which rest simply upon the law, or the threatening of certain penalties, or upon changes in mechanical or outward arrangements, are transitory and futile….But through education society can formulate its own purposes, can organize its own means and resources, and thus shape itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to move….Education thus conceived marks the most perfect and intimate union of science and art conceivable in human experience.”
American Education and Dewey
The most noteworthy contributions Dewey made to the field of American education were:
- Dewey's views on how it fell short from educating all individuals in a way that would be practical and beneficial for them in society.
- Dewey felt that education should not stop at being a preparation for life but that it should be life to the student.
- Dewey was the first to incorporate the student’s input into the lesson plan because he knew that adults did not always know the best way to teach the students and that they may know themselves.
He was criticized for taking a democratic approach to teaching and was accused of opposing an authoritarian institutions when, in actuality, he did not advocate the lack of guidance and control. He seemed to adopt the notion that people will rise to your expectation of them and that if you treat them like participants in their own education (i.e. life) they will respond in a coherent way.