Dewey's Democracy & Education

One of Kieran’s guiding questions is the starting point for my thoughts:

How many dualisms/oppositions does Dewey set up in Dem. & Educ. Do you think this technique has been important to his success?

I am not certain of the actual number, but the dualities that Dewey sets aside (neutralizes?) are many: leisure/labour, school/”real” world, mind/body, play/work, intellectual/practical, man/nature, individuality/association, culture/vocation, method/subject matter. I find myself aligning with Dewey’s playing with opposites. We think with dichotomies. Dewey urges us to use dualities rather than be used by our dualities. The collapsing of each of the opposites he takes up inspire me to rethink, re-experience other dualities that may be propping up traditions and worn out beliefs I may possess. For this reason, I think this technique is a too-often overlooked element of his success.

In particular (there’s another one: particular/general), I will need to spend more time reflecting on Dewey’s reframing of naturalism/humanism. Now, at the risk of mapping our current challenges back to 1916, I wonder if we might imagine a present-day Dewey to get his perspective on the environmental challenges we face. What insight might he be able to offer us? In what ways are we cutting ourselves off from our experiences with our natural environment? There were a few instances where he speaks of the natural sciences’ ability to control nature. I’m thinking now of any number of so-called “natural” disasters over the past decade (hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes, mud slides). How has controlling nature worked out thus far? What would an approach to living-with and -in nature look and feel like if we laid down some of our dualities?

EDUC 901 - John Dewey: Democracy and Education


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