Welcome to the John Dewey Center for Democracy and Education
The John Dewey Center for Democracy and Education will explore questions of the nature of democracy and of education, and their meaning and implications for helping us to understand the continuing realities of changing times.
The Center will explore and update the meanings of a democratic education. It will provide a continuous critical assessment of the “present,” with education “toward” a “firmly” democratic future: toward the ability of each person to explore self, community, and their future(s). To further explore and improve education, we will look to countries around the world to see how well they have developed pedagogical practices in educating students at all levels of education and serve as a clearing house for distribution of that information. The Center will actively and critically explore the histories of ideas which surround and frame the ideas of the human – most often contrasted or compared with other species. These ideas have a number of “differences” in different areas, countries, and traditions – and the Center will study differences, trying to ‘”bring-together” the world’s peoples, to share our experiences, ideas, aspirations, and hopes.
John Dewey was one of the most expansive thinkers–and doers–concerned with the issues of democracy and education. In this era of globalization, we need to understand how do we express what is a democracy and what is a good education? We need to look at this from within the various contexts of politics, economics, history, ideas… and how we approach the future.
At the Dewey Center, we will continue to assume that democracy is a most viable and inclusive form of government and of living well and that education is essential for the possibility of a genuine democracy. The world is rapidly changing and the experience of and education toward democracy will require frequent grounding and citizen engagement in the critical understanding and practices of democracy, alongside fostering democratic participation in the question of what is a good education? What is it for?
As Dewey argued, throughout his life, democracy and education come together in the contexts of the necessity to have knowledgeable, attentive, critical, and perceptive citizens who will assume and practice the level of responsibility required to maintain democracy. Dewey’s argument for this can be found in his seminal work Democracy and Education.
As Dewey sums up his work, his is a “Philosophy of Life.” Thus the Center will expand its works from a more individual and political analysis, toward the history and critical assessment of the human. This is particularly central to understanding and gathering together all of the world’s people(s) – as well as the broader contexts of other species, widely understood – as a community of living beings who share the same world.
How this is occurring will be part of our study – located particularly in the “field of education” which exists within, but is widely “separated” from the rest of the university system. The practices and politics of teaching as it currently exists, as a kind of secondary or “fallback” profession for young persons, will be a central aspect or task of the Center. We also will focus on Deweyan questions of how to improve it in the context of a child’s experience as the focus of education, and of teaching/teachers how to guide children in their own education experiences.
But it is also important that we do not forget that our habits and ability to analyze and understand who and how we all are, resides within interesting and sometimes pervasive histories of ideas – political, cultural, economic, as well as religious, “structures” – which continue to pervade much of human thought and activities – and also a culture of ongoing technological innovation that changes our communicative and educational possibilities and potential.
The Center will be much concerned with the study and attempt to explore and provide ways of helping to provide “meaning” to all persons: abiding interests in life and living well, which we each explore, as we mature in our attempts to grow ourselves in contexts of meaning and communication, as increasing “wisdom” and the development of critical thinking.
As Dewey attempted to battle the traditional dualistic division of body and mind as characterizing the human, the Center will expand its visions of the human by extending Dewey’s ideas to include the ideas and observations of his closest friends and colleagues: George Herbert Mead and Franz Boas, whose thoughts and works are now becoming central to understanding the human, as well as many other thinkers from a wide variety of traditions and schools of thought.
If we want to understand how all/other humans are, we must study them! We refute the ideas that the human is deeply or essentially an isolated individual, inborn with language, reason, intelligence, and etcetera. We challenge the age-old arguments which been claimed “to explain” human nature. Instead, our approach is premised on the need to go out into the world, to look, to listen, and to try to understand others in their own terms. And study oneself…studying others!
We hold that the individual, the self, consciousness, morality, are all bound and can only be properly understood within the context of social existence. We (literally) do not survive without the living experience of our m/others “seeing somebody” in (to) us from the moment we are born – and eventually getting us to “become our-selves”. We are social creatures who become individuals, around the time when we are so active that we become dangerous to ourselves, as we explore the world containing and shared by others. The self is emergent from social being-in-the-world. Questions of the nature of the self remain to be further explored within our studies.
The Center will pursue questions of the human – development, the so-interesting complexities of the human body – now understood as much “deeper” than our dualistic thought which has been quite limiting in granting personage to all humans; how the human face – the central locus of recognition – actually develops in various social contexts, such as the development of language and how we learn how to explore the world within which we exist.
And…expansively…the complexities which seem to us so ordinary, in the facts of our living our lives in/as these so interesting bodies which live essentially “out-of-balance” (if we are looking for human uniquenesses). Dewey was a later-life student of “Alexander Technique” as he remained thoughtful and productive and gained insights “around” the ancient mind-body divisions of our being. Toward the study of oneself, studying the human…
In these times, the Center will explore the “gilded ages” of the past century plus – as we think about John Dewey, it is inspiring to recall that his works and ideas were quite “public’ as he was a major figure in the economics/politics of those times. He helped move us from the times of the “robber barons” of the late 19th century, toward a progressive democratic America. The Center will ponder, discuss, help to move us forward, and extend these ideas to an evolving, unified democratic world.
The Center will develop its Internet presence, to become an online multimedia resource and interactive network, wherein people from around the world can come together, show each other their projects, share their experiences and ideas, communicate with each other, and develop themselves into a “virtual” community based on democratic and educational participation. In this way, the Center will itself be a Deweyan project and exploration into democracy and education, wherein people will be able to develop their understanding of democracy and education through ongoing hands on practice and participation, reflection and discussion, from within a community of practitioners and thinkers all concerned with the future of democracy, education, and the world.
Develop communication structures that will allow global coordination with interested scholars, practitioners, and governmental leaders who are focused on improving education and enhancing democracy in our lives and establish a functioning clearinghouse for research and knowledge development.