Educational philosopher and professor

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DEWEY, JOHN 1859-1952


  philosopher john dewey was a signer of the humanist manifesto, which was published in the may-june 1934 issue of new humanist . the library of congress.Philosopher John Dewey was a signer of "The Humanist Manifesto," which was published in the May-June 1934 issue of New Humanist . The Library of Congress.  


John Dewey was an innovator in the fields of education, psychology, and philosophy, His theories of education were radically different from those previously employed in America and brought him to the forefront of the movement known as "progressive education." Dewey's influence was not limited to America, for at various times during his life he served as educational consultant to Japan, China, Turkey, and Mexico. He believed that research as well as teacher training should be part of the mission of any university's education department. In addition,Dewey was one of the most prominent moral philosophers of the twentieth century.

The Laboratory School

After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1879, Dewey taught high school for three years before enteringJohns Hopkins University, where he received his doctorate in philosophy in 1884. After ten years at the University of Michigan, he became head of the department of philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy at the newly founded University of Chicago. In 1896 he organized the University Elementary School, better known as the Laboratory School. Here Dewey could test his pedagogical innovations as well as his more general philosophical principles. While in Chicago he formed personal and professional relationships with philosophers William H. Mead and James H. Tufts and reformer Jane Addams. In 1903 the Laboratory School was merged with the Francis W. Parker School. This merger precipitated to a series of disputes with University of Chicago president William Rainey Harper that ultimately led to Dewey's resignation in April 1904. In less than a month he had been hired by Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler. For the rest of his life Dewey was associated with Columbia, first holding a primary appointment in the department of philosophy and then a joint appointment at the Teachers College.

Progressive Education

Dewey was heavily influenced by the pragmatism of William James and developed it into a scientifically oriented theory of education known as "instrumentalism." Based on his research, Dewey saw education as the accumulation and assimilation of experience. He contended that a child learns through his or her experiences and activities, thereby developing into a balanced personality aware of many things. This theory changed the philosophy of children's education from an emphasis on lecture, memorization, and drill to a focus on students' becoming more actively involved in the learning process; this concept could be described as "learning by doing."

Moral Philosopher

Dewey's theories also stressed the moral aspects of education, and he bemoaned the separation of the moral and the intellectual in traditional educational systems. In many of his works Dewey outlined and defined his conception of the moral life. These works include Ethics (written with Tufts, 1908), Democracy and Education (1916), andHuman Nature and Conduct (1922). He was a founder of the New School for Social Research (1919). In addition to his research and teaching duties, Dewey was the first president of the American Association of University Professors and was a charter member of the American Civil Liberties Union, the League for Industrial Democracy, and the League of Independent Political Action.


Dewey retired from Columbia and was named professor emeritus in 1930 but continued writing and consulting. His theories drew criticism from realists as being too vague and from theists for being too naturalistic. However, despite these charges Dewey had more influence on the direction of American education than any other theorist in the twentieth century.


John Dewey, Experience and Nature (Chicago: Open Court, 1925);

Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (New York: Holt, 1922);

Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed (Washington, D.C.: Progressive Education Association, 1929);

Dewey, The Philosophy of John Dewey (New York: Holt, 1929);

Dewey, The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relationship of Knowledge and Action (New York: Minton, Balch, 1929);

Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy (New York: Holt, 1920);

Martin Dworkin, Dewey on Education (New York: Columbia University Teachers College Press, 1959);

George Dykhuizen, The Life and Mind of John Dewey (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973).

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

"Dewey, John 1859-1952." American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 3: 1920-1929. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 May 2013.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3468300777

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