Educational Philosophy and Theory 48 (10):1029-1045 (2016)

Megan Jane Laverty
Teachers College, Columbia University
Contemporary educational theorists focus on the significance of Dewey’s conception of experience, learning-by-doing and collateral learning. In this essay, I reexamine the chapters of Dewey’s Democracy and Education, that pertain to thinking and highlight their relationship to Dewey’s How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking in the Educative Process—another book written explicitly for teachers. In How We Think Dewey explains that nothing is more important in education than the formation of concepts. Concepts introduce permanency into an otherwise impermanent world. He defines concepts as established meanings, or intellectual deposits used to found a better understanding of new experiences; they are what makes any experience educationally worthwhile. Dewey accuses traditional and progressive education of failing to appropriately form concepts in students. His position is that concepts are formed and transformed by experience, reflection and activity. He argues that the individual makes a personalized use of concepts for which he or she requires: continuity of experience, exposure to new or surprising possibilities, and sustained communication with others—all of which are discussed at length in Democracy & Education. I conclude with the practical recommendation that K-12 schools introduce philosophy into the curriculum. Philosophy not only invites students to engage their concepts in a reflective manner, but it also provides a valuable resource for that engagement. Most if not all of philosophy’s canonical texts are dedicated to analyzing such concepts as beauty, friendship, love and justice. The introduction of philosophy in K-12 education would, I suggest, offer a correction to both traditional and progressive education.
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DOI 10.1080/00131857.2016.1185001
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