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Democracy and Education

Democracy and EducationDewey always said that his 1916 Democracy and Education was the fullest statement of his philosophy, although many have ignored this claim. One of the major stumbling blocks in reading Dewey is his appropriation of terms that mean something very specific to him, such as democracy, experience, growth, philosophy, and education. In using these terms, he leaves behind all of the classical dualisms between the self and society, mind and subject matter, theory and practice, and others. (For instance, society educates selves and selves constitute and can modify societal practices). The key to democracy is education (which is much more than just schooling) that promotes criticism, self-education, and constant growth. Philosophy, in the broadest sense, is criticism. Since life is best lived as growth (the unexamined life is not worth living), and democracy is the best way to deal with the constant changes that all societies face, an education that helps children love learning and change is essential to a democratic society. Unfortunately, many societal constructs are educative in a narrow sense, and allow us to be complacently self-satisfied and rigid in our habits (ie we become fundamentalists). Dewey warns against the business mind that, since the writing of this book, has thoroughly permeated many institutions, including the university.