The Dewey-Hutchins debate: A dispute over moral teleology

Educational Theory 61 (1):1-16 (2011)
Abstract
In this essay, James Scott Johnston claims that a dispute over moral teleology lies at the basis of the debate between John Dewey and Robert M. Hutchins. This debate has very often been cast in terms of perennialism, classicism, or realism versus progressivism, experimentalism, or pragmatism. Unfortunately, casting the debate in these terms threatens to leave the reader with the impression that Dewey and Hutchins were simply talking past each other, that one was wrongheaded while the other correct, or that they held incommensurable ideological standpoints. Such an understanding obscures a deeper conflict that divided these two men and overlooks the depth of the differences in their moral outlooks. Johnston argues that both thinkers knew very well what morally significant principles and practices were at stake in the debate and, further, that this awareness, rather than the question of which foundation for education was better for students, informed their responses to one another
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