Wednesday, July 19, 2006

John Dewey: Incompetent teacher?

Anyone who has been through a teaching credential program, or especially a Masters in Education program like I have, cannot have helped but hear the name John Dewey. It's not like we have a choice; as teachers, his philosophical ramblings are practically shoved down our throats.

John Dewey did more to ruin the institution of education in the United States than any other individual. He is most responsible for changing education from an individual academic pursuit, to one of social utilitarianism. Dewey was a socialist who believed that our schools should be used as factories that would mass-produce good little young socialists. Dewey's supporters swear up and down that this is not true, but would you expect them not to? Any cursory reading of Dewey's works will prove otherwise.

I am currently reading a book by Henry Edmondson III called John Dewey & the Decline of American Education: How the patron saint of schools has corrupted teaching and learning. One of the juicier bits of information I have read so far is the following:
The most astonishing symbol of education's surrealistic separation between theory and practice is this: although he has told millions how to teach elementary and secondary students, John Dewey himself was a poor teacher. He had trouble maintaining discipline in both the secondary teaching posts he occupied, and when he left the latter in Charlotte, Vermont, "the townspeople... were glad to see him depart.
In the endnote for this information, the author further explains,
...[e]ven an ardent admirer like Sydney Hook admitted that Dewey's teaching - this time at the college level - was so uninspired as to violate "his pedagogical principles."
So here you have a man who is worshipped the world over in the educational community for his writings and philosophy on methods of teaching, and the man could not even control the young students in his own classrooms! This is a textbook example of the problems faced by the political left regarding intentions versus results. My colleagues on the left often believe that as long as their heart is in the right place, the results of their (misguided) endeavors do not matter. In this case, we have out-of-control classrooms - then and now - due to the adherence to Dewey's rhetoric, but golly gee, don't his ideas sound great? Democratic education, pragmatism and practicality in the classroom, learning in a social, rather than an individual paradigm... who cares if in reality, it leads to an educational train wreck.

Good Day to You, Sir


Darren said...

I'd love to know for sure that he had difficulties maintaining control. How does your book cite that fact?

But whether or not it's true, the rest of your post certainly is!

Chanman said...

Here are the sources for that info:

Jay Martin, "The Education of John Dewey: A Biography". Columbia University Press: New York, 2002, pg. 55

George Dykhuizen, "The life and Mind of John Dewey". Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973, pg. 24

Alan Ryan, "John Dewey and the High Tide of America Liberalism", New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997, pg. 38