John Dewey and Education Theory Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

How many value-added units is the teacher-scholar producing?" and, Van Luchene continues, "Lip service is paid to educational considerations beyond quantitative measures... [and because of that] we stand to lose the vitality of our educational system. To boot, we may also lose our democratic form of government, depending as it does on education to foster deliberation, judgment, imagination..."

Meantime, Van Luchene stresses that Dewey's writing "provides a refreshing antidote..." To the lack of imagination in school systems today. Dewey's approach to evaluation (far from NCLB) was that "How one person's abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher's business...what is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning."

THIRD POINT REGARDING "C": The fact that federal law - tied to the funding of local educational systems - in a very real sense has forced teachers in many instances to teach "to the test" (to keep test scores at high enough levels so money continues flowing into school districts), has become a bigger issues than what children need to learn in 2005 to survive and thrive, intellectually, socially, and financially. A fair question, turning to Dewey's Lectures on Ethics: 1900-1901, is, not how do teachers keep their jobs by showing their students can pass standarised tests, but rather, how are children being taught in public schools to make moral judgments?

A very pertinent question concerning schools in 2005 should be: Are children learning anything at all about how they should, or need to, respond in later life when confronted with decisions about values, morals, ethics? In his critique of a book (John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics) by Steven Fesmire, writer J.E. Tiles (Tiles, 2004) sites Dewey's phrase "dramatic rehearsal" to emphasize the fact that a person must, logically, give silent thought (e.g., using one's imagination) regarding an important matter, prior to blurting out a verbal explanation or a sharply focused opinion.

What, it seems, Dewey was trying to convey is that if we are to consider how imagination makes it possible for a "tendency to act [to be] diverted and reconfigured," it is action and its effects that must be represented" in the deliberation of the matter at hand, Tiles explains. And Tiles goes on to paraphrase Fesmire's four examples - that Fesmire plucks and critiques from Dewey's above-mentioned book - of the different "ways in which people deliberate" when addressing worthy topics, three of which are silent "dramatic rehearsal" and one is verbal.

The first of Dewey's styles of deliberation is "by engaging in dialogue"; the second is by "visualizing certain results"; three, by "imagining themselves acting"; and four, tiles concludes, "by imagining other people commenting on what they have done." While these concepts would not be difficult to teach today's students - helping them to see how important it is to think things through prior to opening their mouths - they are, for the most part, not being taught, because they will not be found on the federally-mandated standardized tests that students must take to qualify for NCLB funds.

Dewey sought a "science" for the teaching of moral evaluation, Tiles explains. Dewey "thought that there are numerous inadequate ways," and some promising ways, "to reason about moral questions," and were Dewey active today, he would no doubt be offering workshops and lectures on ways teachers can instill in students the systems with which than may make good moral judgments.

This portion of the paper addresses part B of the assignment: "The lack of freedom of teachers to educate students, because students have more power and legal status than teachers and parents." FIRST POINT REGARDING "B": This statement is likely very applicable to current situations in some communities, where students have achieved a degree of legal manipulative advantage over a teacher, an administrator, or a school district, regarding a dress code which may violate a student's constitutional right of self-expression.

Two cogent examples of students having legal clout over teachers and schools are found in Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries ("Student Freedom of Expression..." 2004). First, in the case of "Pyle v. South Hadley School Committee," the court held that "high school students in public schools have the freedom under MGL Chapter 71, sec. 82 to engage in non-school sponsored expression (wearing a t shirt) reasonably considered vulgar, but which causes no disruption or disorder." And the second case that is germane to this discussion, "Tinker v. Des Moines Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S. Ct. 733, 21 L. Ed.2d. 731 (1969)" the Supreme Court held "that students who wore armbands which carried a message had a constitutionally-protected right, under the First Amendment, to do so."

Meanwhile, in his book, Lectures in the Philosophy of Education: 1899, Dewey addresses the issue of social laws and customs entering into the classroom. In Lecture II, (34-35), Dewey writes that "It is impossible, in conceiving what powers of the individual are to be developed, to get beyond the prevalent social customs. We put content into the powers of the individual in terms of the existing social order." Further, Dewey writes that "The individual is educated as a member of a certain community and his education will be in relations to the state of society than and there existing." Social habit, he continues, "determines the standard of education."

And what is the "social habit" of contemporary American society at this juncture in U.S. history? One key, high-visibility element of present-day "social habit" is: if things don't go your way, go ahead and sue; hire a good lawyer who is looking for a lot of media attention, and take those (school officials) standing in your way to court. High school kids - and in many cases, their parents - do not like school districts telling them what to wear and when to wear it, and hence, as Dewey intimates, a social habit of the greater society becomes a dynamic in public schools.

SECOND POINT REGARDING "B": Regarding students having "more power and legal status" than schools and teachers: in the case of the lively "Creationism vs. Evolution" debate, the parents of the students - with or without their children's support - have set the rules for schools in many cases, when it comes to biology textbooks. For example, many cases of parents demanding that school boards reject certain textbooks - because they only taught "evolution" and not "creationism" - have made the news lately. In Texas, in Georgia, and also in Tennessee, parents are winning battles to overrule schools and teachers with reference to curriculum.

The Blount County Board of Education (in Maryville, Tennessee) denied the adoption of three new biology textbooks because they teach evolution but do not cover creationism" (Hudson, 2003), the article explained. One board member, Mike Treadway, who voted against biology textbooks, was quoted as saying, "With the overwhelming references to evolution, I don't feel comfortable..." The vote was 2-1 against books without "creationism" in their pages, as four of the seven board members abstained from voting (in fear of retaliation one way or another from irate parents).

What did Dewey say about religion (which is what "creationism" really is) and schools curriculum? In his book, Education Today, in Chapter 6, "Religion and Our Schools" (76), Dewey writes: "...the responsibility for [the Church's initiation] belongs primarily to those within the churches." He also wrote that "...when the arguments for special religious education at special times and places by special means proceed from philosophic sources - from those whose primary premise is denial of any breach between man and the world and god, then a sense of unreality comes over me."


What did Dewey write about the study of democracy and of history? In his book, Democracy and Education, Dewey (p. 101) writes about democracy: "The superficial explanation is that a government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be successful unless those who elect and who obey their governors are educated." He added, "A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living." As to history, he wrote (251): "History deals with the past, but this past is the history of the present... [and] perhaps the most neglected branch of history in general education is intellectual history." The greatest heroes in history are not "politicians, generals, and diplomatists," he wrote (253), but rather the "scientific discoverers and inventors..." On the subject of scientific discovery, Michael Glassman (Glassman, 2004), an avid Dewey researcher, explains that Dewey saw "the potential danger of overlooking new information as you came upon it," and saw "the value in the efficacy of empirical information humans discovered through inquiry..."

Along with the theme of inquiry, Dewey was very interested in inquiring about and examining the various definitions and aspects of "experience." According to an article in Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society (Shook, 2004), Dewey…

Sources Used in Document:


Dewey, John. (1966). Lecture II: Education as a Social Function. In Lectures of the Philosophy of Education (pp. 34-37). New York: Random House.

Dewey, John. (1991). Lectures on Ethics, 1900-1901. D. Koch (Ed.). Carbondale, IL:

Southern Illinois University Press.

Dewey, John (1940). Religion and Our Schools. In Joseph Ratner (Ed.), Education Today pp. 74-86). New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

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