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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:493 (Jan 1967)
Article: John Dewey: An Evangelical Evaluation Part II
Author: Kenneth O. Gangel


John Dewey:
An Evangelical Evaluation
Part II

Kenneth O. Gangel

Dewey’s Educational Theory

Whether John Dewey was a great philosopher or not, does not change the fact that his impact on American education has been greater than that of any single individual in the history of this country. Five aspects of educational philosophy have been selected to reflect Dewey’s thinking on the total educational process. Perhaps a review of Dewey’s definition of education would be relevant here. For Dewey, education had to do with “reconstruction” and “reorganization” of experience. This gives meaning to present experience and makes future experience more possible. To say that Dewey believed in learning by doing is not really an oversimplification; for his emphasis on experience as the only means of education is dominant in all his writings.

Dewey viewed education as existing to further the aims of society. Immature members of any society must be preserved physically, initiated into the total milieu of the society, and taught to share the experiences of that society. Education spans the gap between experienced members of society and the immature members. As a society increases in complexity, the need for learning increases concurrently. It is education,

therefore, that guarantees the preservation of society in general, and in particular, society as we know it. Education is not preparation for society, nor is it a discipline to train the mind; but it is actually social living. In short, as far as Dewey was concerned, the more the learning situations approximate social life in general, the more thorough and competent they will be.

The Objectives of Education

Some have accused Dewey of having no aims in education. In a sense this is valid, but in another sense it is not. Whether or not he ever achieved satisfactory aims may be questioned, but certainly he gave a great deal of consideration to the importance of aim. Aim, for Dewey, “implies an orderly and ordered activity, one in which the order consists in the progressive completing of a process.”1 Aim in education must allow a “foresight of results” and must also allow a participation of the learner in the setting up of desirable aims.

What would Dewey consider some legitimate objectives of education? He himself names a few.

Self-control. In Experience and Education, Dewey says clearly and simply: “The ideal aim of education is creation of power of self-control.”2 He criticizes some progressive educators for trying to achieve self-control ...

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