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Propaganda and Public Pedagogy  

Phil Graham

Propaganda and public pedagogy are rarely juxtaposed in education research contexts. However, the two terms are closely related and require joint consideration for the broader future of critical education research. The terms describe state-based educational processes conducted on a mass scale and are in fact describing “the same thing” to a large degree. Both are forms of mass rhetoric that were swiftly tempered to industrial strength in the early 20th century during World War I. Since then, propaganda has come to be treated as a cultural derogatory, an inherently oppressive force, while public pedagogy has come to be framed as an unmitigated force for good. However, both are nationalist projects that involve the school in both positive and negative ways. Ultimately, this contribution is about methods, methodology, and axiology (the logic of values). By juxtaposing propaganda and public pedagogy as historically isomorphic terms, and framing both as state-based rhetorics designed to propagate specific habits, actions, attitudes, and understandings en masse, it becomes evident that if public pedagogy is to become an applied research agenda it requires applied methods and methodologies, along with conscious and positive normative theses in respect of purpose. The methods and methodologies, and in many important cases the axiologies developed by the propagandists, provide a rich source for assessment and potential application in the field of public pedagogical research. At some level that suggests a Faustian bargain: surely, the immensely negative connotations of the term “propaganda” preclude the application of its methods and values in the practice of public pedagogic research. Yet if public pedagogy is something that educators aspire to do rather than merely analyze or seek to understand, then the methods of the propagandists are, if nothing else, the most obvious starting point.

Article

John Dewey and Curriculum Studies  

Craig A. Cunningham

John Dewey (1859–1952) has been (and remains) the most influential person in the United States—and possibly in the entire world—on the development of the field of curriculum studies. His theoretical works on education, spanning more than 50 years, have been widely read by theorists and practitioners, who have used Dewey’s ideas as a kind of North Star for American educational theory. Of particular importance for the study of curriculum, Dewey strove to overcome traditional dualistic conceptions of the relation of the child to the curriculum, seeing them as two points on the same line, to be connected through the child’s experiences. Dewey offered general guidance for determining whether particular experiences are likely to lead to growth. Contemporary curriculum scholars who look at the many rich resources that Dewey offers in his works that are not explicitly about education may be richly rewarded. Books and articles about the arts and aesthetics, politics and democracy, ethics, logic, metaphysics, and psychology have yet to be fully incorporated into curriculum studies. In addition to his theoretical work, Dewey was the founder (in 1896) and director of the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife Alice Chipman Dewey conducted pedagogical experiments with elementary schoolchildren, demonstrating how a set of well-framed social activities could lead students to face and solve problems, thus gaining knowledge and skills from the subject-matter disciplines. Dewey also spent a lifetime demonstrating commitments to democracy and the public good. While Dewey offers many opportunities for criticism, overall, his expansive influence has resulted in better theory across educational fields including curriculum studies.

Article

Freedom and Education Revisited  

Pedro Tabensky

There is an influential and highly diverse tradition of philosophers and philosophically inclined educational theorists who argue that education should aim at freedom, indeed that education, properly understood, is the practice of freedom. On the one hand, there is the movement that neither commences nor ends with John Dewey (active during the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century), but of which Dewey’s philosophy of education is the neuralgic point. On the other hand, there is the movement, inspired to some extent by Dewey but quite distinct from it, launched by Paulo Freire in the second half of the 20th century—known as critical pedagogy. Freire and his followers—bell hooks and Henry Giroux, among them—explicitly claim that education is the practice of freedom and think of this practice as emancipatory in its aims. Dewey never explicitly describes education as the practice of freedom, but Richard Rorty, one of Dewey’s most influential followers, does so, and he correctly attributes the view to Dewey.

Article

Love of Wisdom  

B. B. North

Philosophy as the love of wisdom is informative and can be inspiring and generative to students; it opens up possibilities for philosophical thinking to be more relevant for everyday life. Highlighting philosophy as the love of wisdom emphasizes the ancient and deep-rooted value of philosophy and does not restrict philosophy to the use of specific methodologies or to a specific subject matter, but rather expands it to encompassing a way of life. In this way, philosophy is meant to help promote valuable human lives and the public good at large. Philosophy as the love of wisdom is a call to remember that philosophy is not only a discipline to be studied in academia. Plato’s Socrates can be interpreted as a paragon of philosophy as a way of life and as exemplifying a love of wisdom. Contrary to philosophy as the love of wisdom, the popular conception of philosophy—as the paramount use of logic and argumentation—can be alienating. The scholastic or instrumental view of education promotes this popular conception and conceptually segregates the different academic disciplines. When this occurs, education is not seen as continuous with life. To move beyond the narrow and popular conception of philosophy, it is helpful to look at how John Dewey explicitly connects philosophy and education: when considering the many different types of education, one should not forget the ethical value of the given intellectual pursuits. This opens up space for the peripheries of philosophy to be more centralized. Emotion, art, and practical considerations of everyday life are illuminated as the material of philosophic thinking. Philosophy is the lived love of wisdom.

Article

Teaching Literature in Schools for Democratic Citizenship  

Ruth Heilbronn

Education is a human right and benefits both the individual and the whole society. Education that encourages debate and discussion and acknowledges complexity and ambiguity is essential for people to develop a respect for others and for democracy—that is, to participate as citizens. This concept is encapsulated in the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. The humanities and the creative arts are important curriculum areas that can encompass diversity and complexity and support the development of a necessary critical disposition. Study in these areas helps to create people who are at home in a culture in which openness to others and criticality in receiving ideas are paramount. Literature plays a key role in attaining these curriculum aims.

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Philosophical Issues in Critical Thinking  

Juho Ritola

Critical thinking is active, good-quality thinking. This kind of thinking is initiated by an agent’s desire to decide what to believe, it satisfies relevant norms, and the decision on the matter at hand is reached through the use of available reasons under the control of the thinking agent. In the educational context, critical thinking refers to an educational aim that includes certain skills and abilities to think according to relevant standards and corresponding attitudes, habits, and dispositions to apply those skills to problems the agent wants to solve. The basis of this ideal is the conviction that we ought to be rational. This rationality is manifested through the proper use of reasons that a cognizing agent is able to appreciate. From the philosophical perspective, this fascinating ability to appreciate reasons leads into interesting philosophical problems in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. Critical thinking in itself and the educational ideal are closely connected to the idea that we ought to be rational. But why exactly? This profound question seems to contain the elements needed for its solution. To ask why is to ask either for an explanation or for reasons for accepting a claim. Concentrating on the latter, we notice that such a question presupposes that the acceptability of a claim depends on the quality of the reasons that can be given for it: asking this question grants us the claim that we ought to be rational, that is, to make our beliefs fit what we have reason to believe. In the center of this fit are the concepts of knowledge and justified belief. A critical thinker wants to know and strives to achieve the state of knowledge by mentally examining reasons and the relation those reasons bear to candidate beliefs. Both these aspects include fascinating philosophical problems. How does this mental examination bring about knowledge? What is the relation my belief must have to a putative reason for my belief to qualify as knowledge? The appreciation of reason has been a key theme in the writings of the key figures of philosophy of education, but the ideal of individual justifying reasoning is not the sole value that guides educational theory and practice. It is therefore important to discuss tensions this ideal has with other important concepts and values, such as autonomy, liberty, and political justification. For example, given that we take critical thinking to be essential for the liberty and autonomy of an individual, how far can we try to inculcate a student with this ideal when the student rejects it? These issues underline important practical choices an educator has to make.

Article

Democracy and Education in the United States  

Kathy Hytten

There is an integral and reciprocal relationship between democracy and education. Democracy is more than a political system or process, it is also a way of life that requires certain habits and dispositions of citizens, including the need to balance individual rights with commitments and responsibilities toward others. Currently, democracy is under threat, in part because of the shallow and reductive ways it has been taken up in practice. Understanding the historical relationship between democracy and education, particularly how democracy was positioned as part of the development of public schools, as well as current approaches to democratic schooling, can help to revitalize the democratic mission of education. Specifically, schools have an important civic role in cultivating in students the habits and dispositions of citizenship, including how to access information, determine the veracity of claims, think critically, research problems, ask questions, collaborate with others, communicate ideas, and act to improve the world. Curriculum, pedagogy, and organizational structures are unique in democratic schools. Developing an active, inquiry-based curriculum; using a problem-posing pedagogy; and organizing schools such that students develop habits of responsibility and social engagement provide our best hope for revitalizing democracy and ensuring that it is not simply an empty slogan but a rich, participatory, justice-oriented way of life.

Article

Public Schooling and Democracy in the United States  

Sarah M. Stitzlein

The health of our democracy in the United States depends directly on our public schools. The relationship between democracy and public schooling was established early in our history, growing and changing as practices and demands of democracy changed. Although we have failed to fully fulfill the relationship, it continues to be a key one for maintaining the strength of our society and our political system. This article clarifies that relationship and offers insight into how it might be maintained and improved.

Article

John Dewey and Teacher Education  

Margaret Schmidt and Randall Everett Allsup

John Dewey’s writings on schooling are extensive, and characteristically wide-ranging: teachers are expected to think deeply about knowledge construction, how we think and learn, the purpose of curriculum in the life of the child, and the role of school and societal reform. He worked throughout his life to develop and refine his philosophy of experience, describing all learning as defined by the quality of interactions between the learner and the social and physical environment. According to Dewey, teachers have a responsibility to structure educational environments in ways that promote educative learning experiences, those that change the learner in such a way as to promote continued learning and growth. The capacity to reflect on and make meaning from one’s experiences facilitates this growth, particularly in increasing one’s problem-solving abilities. While Dewey wrote little that specifically addressed the preparation of teachers, his 1904 essay, “The Relation of Theory to Practice in Education,” makes clear that he grounds his beliefs about teachers’ learning in this same philosophy of experiential learning. Dewey argued that thoughtful reflection on previous and current educational experiences is especially important in teacher preparation; teacher educators could then guide beginners to examine and test the usefulness of the beliefs formed from those experiences. Teacher educators, therefore, have a responsibility to arrange learning environments for beginning teachers to promote sequential experiences leading to increased understanding of how children learn, “how mind answers to mind.” These experiences can then help beginning teachers grow, not as classroom technicians, but as true “students of teaching.” Dewey’s ideas remain relevant, but must also be viewed in historical context, in light of his unfailing belief in education and the scientific method as ways to promote individual responsibility and eliminate social problems. His vision of a democratic society remains a fearless amalgam of human adaptation, continuity, change, and diversity: public schools are privileged locations in a democracy for the interplay and interrogation of old and new ideas. Teacher preparation and teacher wellbeing are crucial elements; they can provide experiences to educate all children for participation in their present lives in ways that facilitate their growth as citizens able to fully participate in a democracy. Despite criticism about limitations of his work, Dewey’s ideas continue to offer much food for thought, for both research and practice in teacher education.

Article

Ethical Literacy Education  

Jessica Zacher Pandya and Maren Aukerman

Ethics, broadly conceived, concerns the moral principles that guide what humans do, and the branch of knowledge related to moral principles. Ethics goes beyond simply what is, and endeavors to lay the groundwork for what should be; every pedagogical decision, including whether, what, and how to teach literacy, rests implicitly or explicitly on moral principles. The moral principles of educators and those charged with developing and supporting literacy education matter profoundly for educational decision-making. Relatedly, the issue of justice (social, redistributive, recognitive, representative) is an inescapable one in education, where children’s lives, futures, and flourishing are routinely determined by choices made by those with power. Some of the central ethical principles that may be taken from discussions of ethics and social justice into the specific realm of education include: ahimsa and satyagraha; human relatedness; a moral relationship to place and to non-humans; varied conceptualizations of love; respect for individual freedoms, including the freedom of human flourishing; equality of opportunity; and mutual respect for the multiplicity of differences that exist among people. There are three areas of inquiry that may help educators and researchers examine the moral principles at stake in instructional decision-making about literacy. First is the issue of how, or to what extent, literacy development should be conceptualized as an ethical goal. If it is conceived as an ethical goal, we should ask whose notions of development count, who has access to literacy, and who is included and excluded are all critical questions. Literacy goals should then also be seen as socio-culturally, contextually, and individually contingent. Second is the issue of how literacy teaching may be a pathway to support students in be(com)ing ethical individuals, and/or in transforming society itself to become more ethical. If literacy is understood in this way, ethical individuals should be willing and able to think deeply and carefully about ethics, use print and other media critically and with discernment, and take action in the service of making the world more just. Finally, the act of relating ethically to others (as teachers and students, as readers and writers) in the literacy classroom must be theorized. We must consider treating texts and authors in ethical ways, and consider ethical dialogue as a literacy pedagogy, and honor divergence in interpretation and composing. The intent is not to provide definitive answers, but to indicate some of the ways in which such questions and possible answers may complicate and expand views of literacy education.

Article

Rethinking Curriculum and Teaching  

Zongyi Deng

In academic literature there is a multiplicity and proliferation of alternative curriculum definitions, and the matter of defining curriculum is in a state of disarray. Likewise, there are diverse ways of defining teaching in which curriculum is virtually invisible. Invoking Dewey’s idea of “reality as whole,” this article makes a case for rethinking curriculum and teaching as two interrelated concepts embedded in the societal, institutional, and instructional contexts of schooling. Curriculum is construed in terms of societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula that give social meaning, normative and operational frameworks, and educational quality to the practice of teaching. Likewise, teaching is thought of as sociocultural, institutional, deliberative and curricular practice with a bearing on the societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula. The article concludes by questioning the technicist and reductionist treatment of curriculum and teaching associated with the global neo-liberal movement toward standards and accountability and by calling for reenvisioning curriculum and teaching in view of the educational challenges of the 21st century.

Article

History and Social Studies Curriculum  

E. Wayne Ross

Social studies education has had a turbulent history as one of the core subjects in the school curriculum. The fundamental content of the social studies curriculum – the study of human enterprise across space and time –however, has always been at the core of educational endeavors. It is generally accepted that the formal introduction of social studies to the school curriculum was instigated by the 1916 report of the National Education Association’s Committee on Social Studies, which emphasized development of citizenship values as a core aim of history and social science education. Earlier commissions of the N.E.A. and American Historical Association heavily influenced the Committee on Social Studies recommendations. The roots of the contemporary social studies curriculum, therefore, can be traced to two distinct curriculum reform efforts: the introduction of academic history into the curriculum and citizenship education. There is widespread agreement that the aim of social studies is citizenship education, that is the preparation of young people so that they possess the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for active participation in society. This apparent consensus, however, has been described as almost meaningless because social studies educators continue to be at odds over curricular content as well as the conception of what it means to be a good citizen. Since its formal introduction into the school, social studies curriculum been the subject of numerous commission and blue-ribbon panel studies, ranging from the sixteen-volume report of the American Historical Association’s Commission on Social Studies in the 1930s to the more recent movement for national curriculum standards. Separate and competing curriculum standards have been published for no less than seven areas of that are part of the social studies curriculum: United States and global history, economics, geography, civics, psychology, and social studies. Social studies curriculum is defined a lack of consensus and has been an ideological battleground with ongoing debates over its nature, purpose, and content. Historically there have been a diverse range of curricular programs that have been a prominent within social studies education at various times, including the life adjustment movement, progressive education, social reconstructionism, and nationalistic history. The debate over the nature, purpose, and content of the social studies curriculum continues today, with competing groups variously arguing for a social issues approach, the disciplinary study of history and geography, or action for social justice as the most appropriate framework for the social studies curriculum.