In 2005 when Human Events compiled a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Democracy and Education by John Dewey was number five.
John Dewey, who lived from 1859 until 1952, was a “progressive” philosopher and leading advocate for secular humanism in American life, who taught at the University of Chicago and at Columbia. He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes. In Democracy and Education, in pompous and opaque prose, he disparaged schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking “skills” instead. His views had great influence on the direction of American education–particularly in public schools–and helped nurture the Clinton generation.
I wrote a number of posts on Dewey because his influence has never abated, and his ideas continue to permeate education. Because utopianism is the wellspring of progressive understanding on the role of the state, you’ll find the theme running through numerous posts, and the first four posts open this discussion. I’ve included a post on G. W. F. Hegel because philosophy permeated utopian thinking. Utopia was written last, but I’ve listed it first because it serves better as an introduction than as a conclusion.
Caricature of John Dewey by André Koehne. GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.