John Dewey: An Evangelical Evaluation Part I -- By: Kenneth O. Gangel

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 123:492 (Oct 1966)
Article: John Dewey: An Evangelical Evaluation Part I
Author: Kenneth O. Gangel


John Dewey:
An Evangelical Evaluation
Part I

Kenneth O. Gangel

[Kenneth O. Gangel, Chairman, Department of Christian Education, Calvary Bible College, Kansas City.]

Foundations of Dewey’s Philosophy

American education today is an arena of philosophical, religious, and political warfare. People everywhere are asking the questions: Does the Bible have a place in American education? Does prayer have a place in American education? What about federal aid to religious schools? What are the real implications of the separation of Church and State? As in most issues of human life, one must know something about the past to understand properly the conflicts of the present. The shadow of one man stretches entirely across the first half of the twentieth century in American education. That man is John Dewey.

Arguments rage as to Dewey’s ability as a philosopher and his genuine contribution to the philosophy of education. In the conferring of an honorary degree in 1930, the University of Paris called him “the most profound and complete expression of American genius.” Yet in 1963, the Center for Applied Research in Education can issue books entitled The Psychology of Learning and The Teacher and Learning and not mention Dewey in the bibliography of either. Perhaps Dworkin has come the closest to the correct evaluation when he says: “It is academic whether Dewey is best among the best American philosophers…. If we ask, however, about the degree to which our lives are different because of a man’s career, Dewey is unquestionably the most important.”1

American education was just about a century old when Dewey came on the scene. He was born in 1859 in Burlington, Vermont, the third of four sons in the family of a local grocer. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 and went on to the University of Vermont where he came in contact with Darwin, Huxley, and Comte, as well as the classical languages and mathematics which dominated the curriculum of the school at that time. Dewey graduated in 1879 and began to teach high school Latin and algebra. Later he studied further in philosophy taking his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1884. His extensive teaching career in higher education began in that year at the University of Michigan and extended to the University of Chicago in 1894, and Columbia University in 1904. During his years at Chicago Dewey founded the famous “laboratory school” in which a number of his early theories were put into practice. If there is any difficulty in understanding Dewey’s educational philosophy, it is not due to a lack of its expression in printed form. Dewey was a...

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