John Dewey, Pragmatism, and Progressive Education Quotes

"In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers—or should I say, nurses?—will  be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there was a bunch of tall stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they."

C. S. Lewis
HarperCollins
1942
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Library Topic: Private Schools
Library Topic: Homeschooling
Library Topic: What is Education?

"If they embark on this course the difference between the old and the new education will be an important one. Where the old initiated, the new merely 'conditions'. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them more as the poultry-keeper deals with young birds- making them thus or thus for purposes of which the birds know nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation-men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda."

C. S. Lewis
HarperCollins
1944
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"I do not see how any honest educational reformer in western countries can deny that the greatest practical obstacle in the way of introducing into schools that connection with social life which he regards as desirable is the great part played by personal competition and desire for private profit in our economic life. This fact almost makes it necessary that in important respects school activities should be protected from social contacts and connections, instead of being organized to create them. The Russian educational situation is enough to convert one to the idea that only in a society based upon the cooperative principle can the ideals of educational reformers be adequately carried into operation."

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"I believe that the community's duty to education is, therefore, its paramount moral duty. By law and punishment, by social agitation and discussion, society can regulate and form itself in a more or less haphazard and chance way. 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."

John Dewey
The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No. 3
January 1897
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"I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living."

John Dewey
The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No. 3
January 16, 1897
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"I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends. I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living."

John Dewey
The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No. 3
January 1897
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"I believe that the teacher's place and work in the school is to be interpreted from this same basis. The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences."

John Dewey
The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No. 3
January 1897
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"For Dewey, education also [had] a broader social purpose, which was to help people become more effective members of democratic society. Dewey argued that the one-way delivery style of authoritarian schooling does not provide a good model for life in democratic society. Instead, students need educational experiences which enable them to become valued, equal, and responsible members of society."

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"Work is the greatest means of education. To train children to work, to work systematically, to love work, and to put their brains into work, may be called the end and aim of schools.  In education, no work should be done for the sake of the thing done, but for the sake of the growing mind."

Francis W. Parker
September 1884
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"The policy of letting the child 'do what he likes' is an insidious one, since the children are encouraged to continue always at their original superficial level, without receiving guidance in study. Furthermore, the 'three Rs,' the fundamental tools, are neglected as long as possible, with the result that the child's chance to develop his mind is greatly retarded. The policy of teaching words via pictures instead of by the alphabet tends to deprive the young child of the greatest reasoning tool of all."

Murray N. Rothbard
The Ludwig von Mises Institute
September 2006
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"Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It IS education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching. There are no uneducated people; only most people are educated wrong. The true task of culture today is not a task of expansion, but of selection-and-rejection. The educationist must find a creed and teach it."

G. K. Chesterton
What’s Wrong With the World
1910
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"Yet the diversity of American communities and of American life in general makes equally imperative some degree of variety in curricula. And whatever the limits placed on education by the demands of diversity and uniformity, there are also requirements for productivity to be met: are we producing enough scholars, scientists, poets, lawmakers, to meet the demands of our times? Moreover, schools must also contribute to the social and emotional development of the child if they are to fulfill their function of education for life in a democratic community and for fruitful family life. If the emphasis in what follows is principally on the intellectual side of education, it is not that the other objectives of education are less important."

Jerome S. Bruner
1977
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"Dewey aimed to integrate the school with society, and the processes of learning with the actual problems of life, by a thoroughgoing application of the principles and practices of democracy. The school system would be open to all on a completely free and equal basis without any restrictions or segregation on account of color, race, creed, national origin, sex or social status. Group activity under self-direction and self-government would make the classroom a miniature republic where equality and consideration for all would prevail."

W. F. Warde
(George Novack)
International Socialist Review, Vol. 21, No. 1
1960
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"Children are prepared for democracy by being led to discuss current events without first learning the systematic subjects (politics, economics, history) which are necessary in order to discuss them. The Mole effect is to substitute slogans and superficial opinion for considered individual thought. And the opinion is that of the lowest common denominator of the group."

Murray N. Rothbard
The Ludwig von Mises Institute
September 2006
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"The Progressive Education Association, inspired by Dewey's ideas, later codified his doctrines as follows:

1. The conduct of the pupils shall be governed by themselves, according to the social needs of the community.
2. Interest shall be the motive for all work.
3. Teachers will inspire a desire for knowledge, and will serve as guides in the investigations undertaken, rather than as task-masters.
4. Scientific study of each pupil's development, physical, mental, social and spiritual, is absolutely essential to the intelligent direction of his development.
5. Greater attention is paid to the child's physical needs, with greater use of the out-of-doors.
6. Cooperation between school and home will fill all needs of the child's development such as music, dancing, play and other extra-curricular activities.
7. All progressive schools will look upon their work as of the laboratory type, giving freely to the sum of educational knowledge the results of their experiments in child culture.

These rules for education sum up the theoretical conclusions of the reform movement begun by Colonel Francis Parker and carried forward by Dewey at the laboratory school he set up in 1896 with his first wife in connection with the University of Chicago. With his instrumentalist theory of knowledge as a guide, Dewey tried out and confirmed his new educational procedures there with children between the ages of four and fourteen."

W. F. Warde
(George Novack)
International Socialist Review, Vol. 21, No. 1
1960
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"The effect of progressive education is to destroy independent thought in the child, indeed to repress any thought whatsoever. Instead, the children learn to revere certain heroic symbols (Gentile), or to follow the domination of the 'group' (as in Lafcadio Hearn's Japan). Thus, subjects are taught as little as possible, and the child has little chance to develop any systematic reasoning powers in the study of definite courses. This program is being carried forward into high school, as well as grammar school, so that many high-school graduates are ignorant of elementary spelling or reading, and cannot write a cogent sentence. The ruling set of educationists are on the way to establishing colleges of this type, in which there would be no systematic courses, and have largely succeeded in the case of their teacher-training schools."

Murray N. Rothbard
The Ludwig von Mises Institute
September 2006
Library Topic

"The Minneapolis Board of Education was created in 1878 as a seven-member body, with each member serving staggered six-year terms. The early board dissolved the east and west divisions and oversaw 12 school buildings with an enrollment of 5,215. It faced a rapidly expanding urban population, the need to obtain state aid, the creation of a high-school program, and the introduction of domestic science, manual training, and industrial arts. The board soon embraced new educational philosophies that recognized the individualized needs and interests of students, and many programs including naturalization and adult education. State approval for the issuance of district school bonds had been granted in 1866, securing a source for school funding. ...

The early Minneapolis Board of Education was influenced by national education reform that would have its greatest impact on building design after the turn of the century. Faced with rapid and diverse urban population growth by the end of the 19th century, reformers sought to change the old school models and make public education widely available. Beginning in the 1890s, the Progressive Education Movement promoted child-centered education, social reconstructionism, citizen participation in all spheres of life, and democratization of public institutions. ... Progressive educators believed that a new education program could play an important role in transforming a society of greed, individualism, waste and corruption for one based on compassion, humanism and equality. Francis Parker, John Dewey, and the influential Laboratory School at the University of Chicago promoted the idea that students be independent and creative thinkers. This was a departure from previous authoritarian models based on memorization."

Carole Zellie
Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission
April 2005
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Commentary or Blog Post

"I asked Fulton County high school teacher Jordan Kohanim to write a piece about what she wanted for her students this year. Jordan joined forces with fellow Centennial High School English teachers Larken McCord and Cathy Rumfelt to write a powerful letter about their goals for their students and for all students. School resumes in Fulton County on Monday

Here is their combined effort....

Flanagan, seemingly a supporter of John Dewey's education philosophy and changes, portrays how Dewey went beyond the changes made by Horace Mann. Discussing his "laboratory school," which Dewey established in 1896, Flanagan argues that he created a school equally focused on both the student's individual pursuits and the preparation of each student to live in the community - both the...

Hager looks solely at the problem of competition and accountability with the public school system and specifically targets the progressive educators: "However, the social-management philosophes who fashioned the progressive education...

As one could guess given the name of the institute, this article urges that education on both sides of the Atlantic become more efficient and productive by enabling each participant significant choice on the matter. Lawson contends that this idea is far from where the British...

Describing the transition and evolution of education during the first several decades of the 20th century, Wiles characterizes the change as moving from a "closed" to an "open" system.  Throughout the rise of progressive thinking, Wiles argues, "no person epitomizes the acknowledgement of...

This brief introduction to Dewey's ideas asserts that the "most common misunderstanding about Dewey is that he was simply supporting progressive education. Progressive education, according to Dewey, was a wild swing in the philosophical pendulum, against traditional education methods.In progressive education, freedom was the rule, with students being...

Examining the causes of declining educational performance, Bernstein points to John Dewey's education philosophy as the cause. "[Progressive education's] main tenets have been widely incorporated into American schools. Our educators accept the premise that the target of education is not the student's rational mind. Since they believe that their goal is not to...

Prominent free-market economist and historian, Murray Rothbard, wrote an extensive 12-part analysis on the modern education system (including this piece, the last in the series).  He described the destructive trend of progressive education as being collectivistic, controlling and uniformitarian. And, in some...

In light of recent school violence, Woiceshyn takes a closer look at the progressive education philosophy. This philosophy "maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Dewey maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as 'true versus false' and 'right versus wrong'...

Emand and Fraser offer a helpful piece on Dewey's theories, which may often be confusing and seemingly contradictory. The article lays out a question, and then answers it with several quotes from various writings by John Dewey.

Gatto describes a plan developed by "Gary, Indiana, Superintendent William A. Wirt, a former student of John Dewey’s at the University of Chicago...in which school subjects were departmentalized; this required movement of students from room to room on a regular basis so that all building spaces were in constant use. Bells would ring and just as with Pavlov’s...

Anderson defines and highlights the legacies of Progressivism. He mentions two early Progressive leaders, Teddy Roosevelt and John Dewey. According to Anderson, Roosevelt exemplified the Progressives desire for a stronger executive branch and Dewey represented the Progressives dislike of a decentralized educational system. Anderson highlights 1913 as a key year because of the establishment of...

Analysis Report White Paper

Taking a markedly pro-Dewey stance, Novack discusses Dewey's international impact on educational reform as well as the necessity of such reform. Honoring what would have been Dewey's 100th birthday, Novack calls for further implementation of his theories and reforms. Novack includes the fascinating text of...

"This historic context study spans more than a hundred years and the approximately 140 buildings constructed, acquired, maintained, expanded, and sometimes removed by the Minneapolis Board of Education between 1849 and 1962. The timeframe extends from the first public schools constructed in Minneapolis to the expansion of elementary and junior high schools for the post-World War II baby-boom...

Taking a rigid free-market stance on education, Hood examines the inefficiencies and failures of America's public education system. Rather than siding with one group in particular over the matter, he finds numerous problems - monopoly of the system, centralized decision-making, tenure - which contribute to the downfall of such a system.

Abstract:

"In 1908 William A. Wirt was hired as the Superintendent of schools of Gary, Indiana, and it was in Gary that Wirt gradually built an innovative school system that captured national attention. Wirt devised a diverse curriculum to...

Field gives an in depth look at Dewey, including analysis on Dewey's social theories, the public's reception of him, and his thoughts on learning and education.  From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the article is cited thoroughly and examines Dewey and his philosophies with a keen academic eye.

The piece discusses the decline in America's schools, with regard to both its role as a government funded institution as well as the partnership that is formed between parent, teacher, and student. Donohue argues that the problem in the system is multifaceted. Though the structure of public education is flawed,...

McCluskey discusses current social conflicts in American public schools and then explores the history of American schooling from the Founding until now.

Executive Summary:
"It is all too often assumed that public education as we typically think of it today - schooling provided and controlled by...

Video/Podcast/Media

From the description: "This is a group project for teachers about the history of education from 1900-1950."

"The Travelers" describe some of the changes in society as a result of immigration, the transition from education emphasizing the "three R's" to a progressive education model of work, study, play, and the influences of Dewey and...

This is a 4-minute sample clip about Dewey from a film that is part of the series called GIANTS. It briefly explores Dewey's critique of the reflex arc concept in psychology, his belief in truth as process, and his belief in democracy.

"In this program, Columbia University professor Sidney Morgenbesser discusses the nuances of pragmatic philosophy as expressed by three of America's greatest thinkers. Moranbesser examines Peirce's theory of meaning and the notion of fallibilism that supports the changing nature of truth. James' concept of meaning, knowledge, and truth is examined within the context of the usefulness of...

"This video presents a positive view of progressive education although it begins with a parent complaining that children are not learning the fundamentals. Various educators are seen including famed John Dewey. One skeptic asserts that ideas similar to progressive education caused a collapse of the ancient Greek civilization. Current debates about educational techniques in many respects seem...

"A quick expose of why public schools in the US are mediocre. From John Dewey to now in only 4 minutes."

Primary Document

Arguably Dewey's most controversial essay, Impressions describes Soviet Russia in a strikingly positive light. Writing just as Stalin assumed official leadership, Dewey, despite finding some slightly troublesome qualities of the regime, recognized a certain legitimacy of the Soviet system. Though he...

In this piece Dewey truly does lay out his own "creed" on education, even beginning each paragraph with, "I believe."  Using his extensive background in psychology and combining it with his social philosophy, Dewey presents five sections concerning education:
1)      What Education Is
2)     ...

G.K. Chesterton’s essay on education addresses everything from what education is, to what role parents and public schooling should play in education. Chesterton believes that education is continually occurring whether or not a person is in an acceptable educational...

In late 1936 and early 1937 the famous educational theorist John Dewey issued a set of rebuttals to Robert Hutchins' book, The Higher Learning in America. Hutchins' book...

In late 1936 and early 1937 the famous educational theorist John Dewey issued a set of rebuttals to Robert Hutchins' book, The Higher Learning in America. Dewey uses his...

In this work, Lewis defends a universal law of morality: "Since I can see no answer to these questions, I draw the following conclusions. This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of...

This book and The School and Society, "which grew out of Dewey’s hands-on...

Perhaps the pioneer in progressive education, Parker helped pave the way for Dewey and others...

This book and The Child and the Curriculum, "which grew out of Dewey’s hands-on experience in administering the laboratory school at the University of Chicago, represent the...

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FAQs

This FAQ provides some background on education in Minnesota, which in turn will help one to understand today's state of education.

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