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Philosophy Of Education

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Faith and optimism are the heart and soul of John Dewey's philosophy. For Dewey, possibilities opened up by experience within an essentially open universe empower human beings to think freely, plan effectively, and act decisively. According to Dewey, the world we get and the world we give is shaped in part by thoughtful criticism and reform. It is not all in our hands; nothing ever is. But conditions can be changed; human beings can grow; meanings can expand. The horizon of possible meanings we call culture or "mind" is undetermined, even infinite. Human capacity to imagine and weigh new possibilities in the light of old actualities is the engine of this hope and faith.

For Dewey, faith in experience is inseparable from faith in democracy. Whereas all types of authoritarianism, intellectual or social or political, imply a vertical, "top-down," or hierarchical scheme in which a few command and the rest obey, democracy is a horizontal arrangement in which freely reflecting individuals can work together as equals to propose and realize individual and social aims. Departing from classical hierarchical views that grade "levels of being" in the universe and society, Dewey regards even laws of nature as "democratic" results of mutual compact and contract among material elements and forces. Thus, Dewey views the physical universe as a democracy, subject to no supernatural authority and in which each unique being down to the smallest particle must be taken for what it is and evaluated fairly and freshly with scientific openness.

Dewey regards democracy in human affairs as an ideal arrangement which has been only partially realized. The requirement that human beings work together to solve vexing problems implies that as individuals they have acquired capacities for thinking freely and imaginatively and critically, for framing and evaluating purposes, and for acting decisively and cooperatively. In a word, Democracy requires education. What is learned besides content in both formal schooling and informal learning are habits of openness, reflection, and dialogue. Education means education in the classical sense of nurture and growth of persons as individuals and as citizens. This requires stimulation of intellectual and social capacities through the give and take of communication of ideas. The educational community, like the broader political or social community, calls for deepening and widening of meaning-horizons through shared communication of ideas. As even the partial victory of



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