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Democracy and Education

John Dewey

Book Overview: 

An important, controversial, and often cited work on public education. Dewey discusses the role of public education in a democracy and the different methods for achieving quality in education. After its initial publication, this book began a revolution in educational thinking; one that emphasized growth, experience, and activity as key elements in promoting democratic qualities in students and educators alike.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .It is rather the formation of mind by setting up certain associations or connections of content by means of a subject matter presented from without. Education proceeds by instruction taken in a strictly literal sense, a building into the mind from without. That education is formative of mind is not questioned; it is the conception already propounded. But formation here has a technical meaning dependent upon the idea of something operating from without. Herbart is the best historical representative of this type of theory. He denies absolutely the existence of innate faculties. The mind is simply endowed with the power of producing various qualities in reaction to the various realities which act upon it. These qualitatively different reactions are called presentations (Vorstellungen). Every presentation once called into being persists; it may be driven below the "threshold" of consciousness by new and stronger presentations, produced by the reaction of the soul to new mater. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Early in my presidential career, a colleague intent on giving me a finer appreciation of higher education recommended I read some of John Dewey's works. I dutifully purchased a couple his books. They sat on my dresser, unread, reproaching me, until this weekend, when I picked up "Democracy and Ed...more

This is the most accessible of Dewey's books I have so far had the chance to read. His ideas are usually fascinating, but his writing style extremely boring. For example, Experience and Nature is filled with brilliant ideas, and I consider it a very important book in my personal hierarchy, but I...more

Dewey has a great deal of practical advise for educators who wish to form functioning adults capable of enjoying their lives. As a history teacher, I particularly like his comments on the necessity of teaching material with actual purpose to the students now rather than trying to convince them th...more

A philosophical text on the relationship between democracy and education written at the turn of the last century. Dewey discusses the role of industrialization in forming our educational system, and how this cannot hold up in a democracy. We cannot build cogs for a machine if we want a real democ...more

I have read and taught this book several times. I first read it in 1974 (! True! I know! I look so youthful for my age!) when I was myself preparing to become an English teacher. It was work I read in a Philosophy of Education class, where Dewey's progressivism/experimentalism was opposed to esse...more

I first read this book for a graduate course on Pragmatism. While we used two other of Dewey's books for texts, the Logic and Experience and Nature, I chose this one to read for my oral presentation. I chose this because I was sure that I could certainly poke holes in the great man's views on som...more

Recognizing the challenges that existed in larger society with regards to capricious activities outlined by the economic / industrial need and the duality of concepts such as subject matter and method, work and play, thinking and experience, individual and the world to name a few, Dewey philosoph...more

Every educator in primary and secondary education should read this. Dewey was clearly ahead of his time. If education would implement more of his notions of educating for the whole person and connecting learning to life all students would likely be better prepared for navigating the world's compl...more

In his "Autobiography", Mill notes that his father recognized that the purpose of a good education was not to simply stuff the mind with facts, but to teach the mind to reason, to inquire and to question. This, it seems to me, is Dewey's ultimate point also: the point of a good education should b...more

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