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John Dewey - Essay Example

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People must be persuaded that the social order ultimately serves their long-range interests and that this interest harmonizes with the common good. Specific laws and customs are justified in so far as they provide for the common good. They are subject to continuous inquiry and revision…
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John Dewey
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Download file to see previous pages The community as a whole, through formal laws and customs, codifies behavior that ultimately commits individuals to a specific course of action. Such predictable actions are required for community life.
The schools function as socializing agencies, internalizing the child's recognition of social duties and the will to carry them out. Dewey insisted that social ties, like the parent-child relationship, are natural. The mutual responsibilities corresponding to these specific stations are therefore intrinsic and binding. By nurturing the social spirit of the child, an habitual disposition to act out of social service and for the common good will becomes manifest. Pursuit of self-advantage and infidelity to one's social responsibilities is a primary evil according to Dewey.
Freedom and social responsibility are not incompatible. Social authority is natural and inevitable, not a necessary limitation on personal freedom. Throughout his writings, Dewey retained the Hegelian insight that man achieves human qualities and fulfillment by participating in the enhancement of community life. Individuals should identify the social good as their own true good by perceiving the values and common interests that bind people together. Their freedom and happiness ultimately depend upon it.
Individuals should obey the la...
However, in advocating policy changes, they must persuade others voluntarily. The burden of proof is upon them to demonstrate how a specific law or practice fails to serve the common good.
Dewey's theory of democracy was designed to reconcile freedom with authority, social stability with the need for reform, and universal standards with specific circumstances. He substantively refined Lockean individualism, which is popularly associated with the modern liberal tradition.
Dewey comprehensively applied these insights to the reform of education. Once again, many critics mistakenly identify him with the radical, subjectivist approach of progressive education. Dewey denounced the progressive educator's romantic fetish for the "natural child." The child-centered school provided no standards at all; logically it culminated in anarchy. Proper teacher authority and a well-structured curriculum were indispensable.
Dewey argued that, "to fail to assure them guidance and direction is not merely a permit to operate in a blind and spasmodic fashion, but it promotes the formation of habits of immature, undeveloped, and egoistic activity." (Dewey, 1930) Indulging a child's selfish whims would lead to an arrest of growth and the disintegration of personality. The development of mental powers follows certain laws of growth. The fact that a child might desire something does not mean that it is in fact desirable. That judgment can be determined only after critical reflection. (Dewey, 1929)
The glorification of the spontaneous and immediately enjoyable also stunted the child's capacity to understand contemporary social life. These students were not socially responsible or cognizant of the forces of industrial civilization. While ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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