He may be regarded as the father of modern education and as some articles describe him, he is a rock star when it comes to the educational system.-This brilliant philosopher built upon Charles Darwin theory of evolution to come up with his ideas of pragmatism. In this regard, he viewed education and knowledge as arising from the active adaptation of the human being to his/her surrounding (Thayer, 1952). The approach of evolution and natural selection of the human being disregarded dualistic epistemology and metaphysics that had taken hold of the educational system preferring a more naturalistic approach. All these philosophies that he introduced regarding education were published in numerous magazine articles and it is this that propelled him to the heights of fame, both on the political and educational fronts. On this note, the essay tries to describe the life of John Dewey and his philosophical ideologies on education.
Early Life and Education
John Dewey was born on the 20th of October in 1859 and was the third born in a family of four children, with the first born dying during infancy (Dykhuizen, 1973). It is important to consider that during his early childhood, his father played a big role in the path to philosophy. His father was a Union Army soldier during the civil war and had a passion for literature which he widely shared with his children. On the other hand, his mother was a Calvinist. During this time, the family lived in Burlington, Vermont where the young John would be introduced to the schooling system when he joined the Burlington public schools. Bright as he was, he performed exemplarily well consequently securing a place in the university at the tender age of 15 (Eldridge, 1998).
As a young student, John Dewey enjoyed studying philosophy at the University of Vermont, particularly under the wing of H.A.P Torrey. Later on, he would describe this relationship, which extended even after his graduation, as something that played a big role in his philosophical development. More to this is the fact that he was exposed to very influential thoughts by G.H. Perkins through his evolutionary theory and T. H. Huxley through the lessons in Elementary psychology. He would later on graduate from this university with a second class honors in 1879.
The ideologies about teaching may be attributed to the fact that John Dewey landed a teaching post at a seminary in Pennsylvania after his graduation. The post was allocated to him by his cousin who was then the principal but two years down the line, he resigned consequently leading to the laying off of John Dewey. After the laying off from this seminary, he continued in the line of teaching but this time at private schools in Vermont. Through all this turmoil of teaching, Dewey never lost interest in the philosophy of which he studied intensively during his free time and discussed with Torrey. Later on, he would quit his teaching post to join the John Hopkins where he would study philosophy and Psychology (Thayer, 1952). At this stage, two people who influenced him are Sylvester Morris and Stanley Hall. Dewey would later on graduate with a doctorate in 1884.
John Dewey was first hired at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor immediately after his graduation from John Hopkins. He would serve this post for 4 years before becoming a professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, a result of his family moving out of Michigan. He did not quite stick to this post for long because he left after one year and returned to the University of Michigan where he taught for five years. He would, later on, join the University of Chicago in 1894 serving as the head of the philosophy department. After this, he joined Columbia University to become a professor of philosophy. John Dewey retired from teaching back in 1930, the icing on the cake the title of Professor emeritus (Boisvert, 1998).
John Dewey disregarded the traditional epistemology theory and mainly concentrated on the theory or inquiry which he described to fit into his ideologies (Eldridge, 1998). It is important to consider that the epistemology theory focuses on knowledge on two aspects which are: the definition of the nature of knowledge which typically tries to acknowledge that someone knows something or he/she does not; the size of human knowledge basically trying to establish a limitation of the knowledge that human beings can acquire (Dykhuizen, 1973). In this regard, Dewey described this theory as to draw a sharp boundary between knowledge and the world of facts. He furthermore tried to correct the fact that the accuracy of thought in respect to the world as not credible (Thayer, 1952).
Working on the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, he would, later on, correct his initial solutions which were aligned on the Hegelian idealism (Dykhuizen, 1973). The theory developed along Charles Darwin described knowledge as the determinant of interaction between the human being and the environment. The theory was applied in his first four essays that would, later on, catapult him to the helm of educational reforms.
Reforms on Education
John Dewy was such an experimental person that he and his wife, Harriet, started an experimental primary school with the main goal to try and test the workability of his educational theories, particularly the idea that education is progressively learned through actions and doing. The school was known as the University of Elementary school, located at the University of Chicago. Things would not go smoothly as Dewey would resign afterward because the president of the University fired his wife.
His resignation was a stepping stone considering that later on, John Dewey and his colleagues founded the new school for social research back in 1919 (Dykhuizen, 1973). The school was found on an experimental front and tried to describe the free transfer and exchange of ideas on the philosophical branches of arts and social sciences. During this period, there were reforms that were being practiced in Russia of which Dewey observed first hand during his lectures on educational reforms. As a matter of fact, he was really impressed with the notion that education in the country was found on knowledge interaction with the past (Eldridge, 1998).
Boisvert, Raymoond D. John Dewey;Rethinking our time. Albany: State university of new york press, 1998.
Dykhuizen, George. The life and mind of John dewey. Carbondale:: Southern illinois University press, 1973.
Eldridge, Michael. Transforming experience:John Dewey’s Cultural instrumentalism. Nashville: Vanderbilt University press, 1998.
Thayer, S H. The logic of Pragmatism:An examination of John Dewey’s logic. New york, 1952.