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John Dewey

Page history last edited by Butch Latimer 9 years, 6 months ago

John Dewey

Father of Modern Education


Presented by Lacey Palmer

Historical Context of Work

Born: 1859

Died: 1952

John Dewey held several titles, some of them including and influential educator, philosopher, and psychologist.  He and his works made a vast impact on American education and education around the world. 

Education and Influences

As a child, Dewey attended the public school in Burlington, Vermont.

At the age of fifteen, Dewey attended the University of Vermont, where he studied psychology, religion, and particularly, philosophy. 

Dewey graduated second in his class from the University of Vermont, at age nineteen.

After graduation, Dewey taught high school for two years, and then pursued further education in philosophy as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he eventually earned a doctorate degree.

People that influenced Dewey include:

  1. George Sylvester Morris, a German philosopher
  2. G. Stanley Hall, a well-known American psychologist at the time.   
  3. Charles Darwin, an English naturalist

Work Life

Dewey taught two years of high school, before pursuing his graduate degree.

After earning his doctorate degree, Dewey joined George S. Morris at the University of Michigan, where he also taught.

In 1894, Dewey went to Chicago, where he became the new head of the philosophy and psychology department. 

In 1904, Dewey joined the team at Columbia University where he continued his teaching profession.

Dewey became part in the development of the League for Independent Political Action, in 1929.

Dewey was also an editor of the New Republic magazine, and he helped found the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors.

After World War I, Dewey traveled and lectured in Japan and spent two years teaching at universities in China.

Dewey retired from teaching in 1930, but he did not stop publishing works.

Impact on Best Practices

John Dewey firmly believed that learning should be an engaging process, where students are active in discovering their own learning.  Dewey also thought that educators should teach students how to think and that education should not be a memorization process of large quantities of information.  Dewey believed that it was education’s role to teach students how to interact and work with one another effectively in order to function in society. Additionally, Dewey thought it was important for all students to have the opportunity to discover their own, individual personalities, and consequently they should be taught in a way that relates to them and their psychological and physical development.  

Problems or Failures

In the 1920s, Dewey’s educational (and political) beliefs were put into practice in the “progressive education” movement.  Dewey’s emphasis on students needing to focus on the “present” lead to interpreters completely disregarding the need to study the past and the need to prepare students for the future.  Because Dewey had such a major impact on American education, the flaws and problems with education fell on Dewey.  Many blamed him and held him responsible for what they found wrong in American education. 

Other Interesting Facts

In the early 1900s, with his wife, Dewey started an experimental school, called the “Dewey school,” in order to test his educational theories.  However, due to a disagreement with the school’s president, William R. Harper, who tried to fire Dewey’s wife, Dewey resigned. 

Impact on Others

Dewey’s belief that students should be actively engaged and involved in their own learning is still a philosophy being carried out in many classrooms today.  Additionally, his thought of making concepts relevant to each students psychology, physical development, and personality is very similar to today’s practice of “differentiation.”  Dewey greatly impacted several other writers, philosophers, and psychologists.  Some of them consist of:  Richard Rorty and Jurgen Habermas, two pragmatic writers, Sandra Rosenthal and James Edie, American phenomenologists, and philosopher, Hilary Putnam.


Dewey, J. (1897) My pedagogic creed. School Journal, volume 54.  Pp. 77-80.

Encyclopedia of world biography:  John dewey biography.  2011.  Retrieved on May 29, 2011. 



Field, R.  Internet encyclopedia of philosophy: A peer-reviewed academic resource.  2005. John Dewey. Retrieved on May 29, 2011. http://www.iep.utm.edu/dewey/



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