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J. Dewey: Democracy in Education (1903)

By Mary R., Michael Z., Talia C., Stephanie H., Tsen-An W.
by

Tsen-An Wang

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of J. Dewey: Democracy in Education (1903)

J. Dewey:
Democracy in Education (1903)

Article: Democracy in Education (1903)
Main Ideas
1. Freedom of teachers to influence curriculum.
2. Freedom of students to express their individuality through intellect and environment.
3. The inconsistencies of democracy in society vs. democracy in education.
4. The lack of a democratic process to determine curriculum.
5. Freedom of students to be active learners.

Freedom of Teachers to Influence the Curriculum
Quote
“The dictation, in theory at least, of the subject-matter to be taught, to the teacher who is to engage in the actual work of instruction, and frequently, under the name of close supervision, the attempt to determine the methods which are to be used in teaching, mean nothing more or less than the deliberate restriction of intelligence, the imprisoning of the spirit (Dewey 196). ”

Freedom of Students to Express Their Individuality Through Intellect and Environment
Quotes
"To subject mind to an outside and ready-made material is a denial of the ideal of democracy, which roots itself ultimately in the principle of moral, self-directing individuality (Dewey 199)."

"If individuality were simply a matter of feelings, impulses, and outward acts independent of intelligence, it would be more than a dubious matter to urge a greater degree of freedom for the child in the school (Dewey 199)."

"Reform of education in the direction of greater play for the individuality of the child means the securing of conditions which will give outlet, and hence direction, to a growing intelligence (Dewey 199)."
The Inconsistencies of Democracy in Society vs. Democracy in Education
Quote
"But until the public-school system is organized in such a way that every teacher has some regular and representative way in which he or she can register judgment upon matters of educational importance, with the assurance that this judgment will somehow affect the schools system, the assertion that the present system is no, from the internal standpoint, democratic seems to be justified. Either we come here upon some fixed and inherent limitation of the democratic principle, or else we find in this fact an obvious discrepancy between the conduct of the school and the conduct of social life—a discrepancy so great as to demand immediate and persistent effort at reform (Dewey 195). "
The Lack of a Democratic Process to Determine Curriculum
Quote
"The logic which commits him to the idea that the management of the school system must be in the hands of an expert commits him also to the idea that every member of the school system, from the first-grade teacher to the principal of the high school, must have some share in the exercise of educational power. The remedy is not to have one expert dictating educational methods and subject-matter to a body of passive, recipient teachers, but the adoption of intellectual initiative, discussion, and decision throughout the entire school corps. The remedy of the partial evils of democracy, the implication of the school system in municipal politics, is in appeal to a more thoroughgoing democracy (Dewey 196)."
Mary R., Michael Z., Talia C., Stephanie H., Tsen-An W.
By Mary R.
Artifact
Teacher in Trouble Over Teaching About the Middle East
Analysis
In this 5-minute video clip, a reporter describes a teacher that was using materials from an approved source about the Middle East. She supplemented the materials with clothing from that part of the world. The students were delighted with the realia and they took pictures of one another wearing the garb. When the pictures the students took with their phones circulated, local citizens became outraged that a teacher was trying to help students have a favorable impression of the Middle East.
Eventually the incident made national news. Many people were upset because they saw the clothing the teacher brought as a symbol of Middle Eastern oppression of women. They thought the teacher should have taught about that oppression. Instead, the teacher tried to help the students take the perspective of the people of the Middle East, many of which do not see covering women as oppressive.
Analysis
Analysis
Dewey would have been outraged by this fracas. He would have thought that people were oppressing the teacher and the minds of the students by trying to “closely supervise” her, limiting her ability to “determine the methods,” which in this case was realia to help the students practice perspective taking. This “deliberate restriction of intelligence” would have been anathema to him.
Analysis
While Eisner draws a distinction between materials and curriculum, these experiences teach us that learning materials—both official and unofficial—play powerful roles in how curriculum is made and how the public perceives it. I think the clip also suggests that while teachers today might have freedom in theory about what they will teach, they are not free in a practical sense from public criticism of the curriculum that unfolds in the classroom.
Discussion Question
How can teacher educators make teacher candidates aware that teaching in progressive ways can get them into trouble while still inspiring them to try and helping them anticipate ways to deal with communities when there is discord because of a lesson?
By Talia C.
Artifact 1
Project Based Learning
Artifact 2
Project Based Learning
Analysis
In this short video clip an explanation and examples are given about what project based learning or for short, PBL really is. The video is very explicit in explaining how PBL can allow students to conduct projects directly related to their areas of interest. The football player can apply his project to sports, the musician can write a song that supports her project’s subject matter and so on.
Analysis
Dewey believes that students should have the freedom to express themselves in ways that challenge their critical thinking skills and include the environment around them. PBL is an engaging method for allow this freedom. Scripted curriculums don’t allow for creativity like Eisner and other educational professionals have concluded.
Analysis
Ultimately, every teacher has a classroom with X amount of individuals, individuals who are curious and passionate about different ideas. Allowing the freedom for students to engage in their interest creates what Dewey termed as a growing intelligence. The second video shows students who have participated in PBL and realized how much it has affected their lives. One of the individuals even explains how she is still closely connected with people she filmed for her project.
Analysis
Project based learning is not something that is forgotten the morning after it is due. It is a process that stays with a student for a lifetime and allows them to build on that interest becoming more and more familiar and knowledgeable about its content.
Discussion Questions
Think about the grade level you’ve taught/teach or would like to teach and explain how you could engage them in a project based learning lesson? What struggles may you have?

Project based learning is just one way for students to express their individuality in schools, what are some other ways this can be done in school?
By Stephanie H.
Artifact
KIPP NYC Teachers on Curriculum
Analysis
American society prides itself on its democratic principles. In every aspect of society seems to center around democracy. However, in one of the most important pieces of society democracy has taken a back seat. Democracy in the education system manifests itself in a completely different way than in society. In society, democracy is about collective ideas coming together for the best policy. Usually this process involves experts at the heart of the discussion.
Analysis
However, in the education system the “democratic” process exists in Washington and in Topeka and doesn’t involve the classroom at all. In his work Democracy in Education Dewey discusses these inconstancies. He makes this assertion that the system in 1903 is undemocratic and that we need to start reforming that piece of education.
Analysis
Yet, over 100 years later the democratic system is even worse. In the provided video clip the KIPP program of schools discusses their curriculum. They have taken charge of their curriculum within the context of Common Core, and the teachers helped to build their content curriculum.
Discussion Questions
So is this what Dewey wanted? Is this an example of democracy in action in an education setting? Should all school districts model this curriculum?
By Tsen-An W.
Artifact
Seattle Teachers, Students Win Historic Victory Over Standardized Testing
Analysis
This is a 7-minute clip about how teachers, students and parents in Seattle won their campaign to throw out standardized tests in reading and math after months of protests. In January 2013, teachers at Garfield High School started a boycott of the test, saying it was used unfairly to assess the students’ performances.
Analysis
The boycott spread to other schools, with hundreds of teachers, students and parents participating. In May 2013, the school district gave in and announced that the Measures of Academic Progress test is now not obligatory for high schools, but those refusing the test must find another approach to measure student performance.
Analysis
This video has portrayed a nice picture about returning the power of ruling the educational methods and subject-matter back to the teachers and students, which Dewey prompted in the article. The video talks about how the teachers wish to teach the students different skills they can apply to real life events instead of following the school-mandated curriculum and filling out bubbles, which applies to what Dewey encouraged.
Discussion Questions
Do you agree or disagree with boycotting standardized tests in reading and math and use alternative assessment instead? Why or why not?
How do you envision the future of school curriculum?
Freedom of Students to be Active Learners
Quote
“What is primarily required for that direct inquiry which constitutes the essence of science is first-hand experience; an active and vital participation through the medium of all the bodily organs with the means and materials of building up first-hand experience (Dewey 200)."

“Until the emphasis changes to the conditions which make it necessary for the child to take an active share in the personal building up of his own problems and to participate in methods of solving them (even at the expense of experimentation and error), mind is not really freed (Dewey 201)."
By Michael Z.
Artifact
From Worms to Wall Street: Projects Prompt Active, Authentic Learning
Analysis
In this video clip, students at Newsome Park Elementary School in Newport News, VA, are prompted to become active learners through project-based activities that involve first-hand experiences, in-depth investigations, and real-world applications. After implementing more active learning projects, Newsome Park soon saw improvements in both test scores and classroom behavior.
Analysis
In Democracy in Education, John Dewey promotes his belief that these kinds of active learning experiences are crucial for the mental growth of a child. Dewey suggests experiences such as taking children outside to explore nature and geography, and starting school gardens so children can learn about agriculture/horticulture.
Analysis
As for indoor activities, he suggests science experiments, weaving, cooking, and tool-work, and allowing children to express themselves through art and music. The projects that we see students working on at Newsome Park are exactly the kind of active learning experiences that Dewey had in mind.
Discussion Questions
In what ways do you (or will you) try to promote active learning in your classroom? Do you ever find this to be difficult due to the curriculum or other factors?
Full transcript