The Education of John Dewey

The Education of John Dewey: A Biography

Copyright Date: 2002
DOI: 10.7312/mart11676
Pages: 592
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  • Book Info
    The Education of John Dewey
    Book Description:

    During John Dewey's lifetime (1859-1952), one public opinion poll after another revealed that he was esteemed to be one of the ten most important thinkers in American history. His body of thought, conventionally identified by the shorthand word "Pragmatism," has been the distinctive American philosophy of the last fifty years. His work on education is famous worldwide and is still influential today, anticipating as it did the ascendance in contemporary American pedagogy of multiculturalism and independent thinking. His University of Chicago Laboratory School (founded in 1896) thrives still and is a model for schools worldwide, especially in emerging democracies. But how was this lifetime of thought enmeshed in Dewey's emotional experience, in his joys and sorrows as son and brother, husband and father, and in his political activism and spirituality? Acclaimed biographer Jay Martin recaptures the unity of Dewey's life and work, tracing important themes through the philosopher's childhood years, family history, religious experience, and influential friendships.

    Based on original sources, notably the vast collection of unpublished papers in the Center for Dewey Studies, this book tells the full story, for the first time, of the life and times of the eminent American philosopher, pragmatist, education reformer, and man of letters. In particular,The Education of John Deweyhighlights the importance of the women in Dewey's life, especially his mother, wife, and daughters, but also others, including the reformer Jane Addams and the novelist Anzia Yezierska. A fitting tribute to a master thinker, Martin has rendered a tour de force portrait of a philosopher and social activist in full, seamlessly reintegrating Dewey's thought into both his personal life and the broader historical themes of his time.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50745-5
    Subjects: History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-XIV)
  3. BOOK I Emergence
    • [BOOK I Introduction]
      (pp. 1-5)

      All biographies are interpretations of their subjects. The best biographers compose accounts that make use of every possible resource of representation that narrative can offer. They are concerned with a judicious dispersal of the facts of a life but also, much more important, with devising a form, a style, an attitude, and a perspective that can come as close as a book may do to paralleling the life of its subject. If this is done well enough, the book can truly resemble the man or woman it is describing.

      The biographer is the life’s second author or, perhaps, its editor....

    • Childhood
      (pp. 5-19)

      In 1856 Archibald Sprague Dewey, grocer, and Lucina Artemisia Rich Dewey, his wife, became the parents of a boy. They named him John Archibald, after his father. A second son was born two years later and was named Davis Rich after Lucina’s father. Both boys flourished. Then, on January 17,1859, there was a tragic accident. The Burlington, Vermont,Daily Free Presscarried the news:

      Distressing Accident.—We learn, with pain, that our friend and townsman, A. S. Dewey, has lost his oldest child by a distressing casualty. The child, a fine little boy, between two and three years old, was...

    • The Christian Influence
      (pp. 19-25)

      John’s fourth early crisis was his relation to Christianity. His father’s view of Christianity was, like the rest of his life, defined by his business relation to it. He was a member of the First Congregational Church of Burlington. During Archibald’s formative years, the First Congregational Church of Burlington was untroubled by theological disputes or schisms, and he grew up understanding religion to be solely a Sunday affair. When he became a church member, he devoted himself to the administrative aspects of church business. In 1849, he was appointed “collector” (or treasurer) of the Prudential (budget) Committee of the Congregational...

    • The Beginning of John Dewey’s Education
      (pp. 25-46)

      Meanwhile, with the war over, the country was still experiencing its own crises—one after another. The war had been the worst of times for the thousands of families that had lost loved ones in it or that had been uprooted and economically devastated by it. But the 1870s seemed like the finest of times. In the North, the military conflict had started prosperity rolling, and with the need to rebuild after the war, the economy was booming: “Reconstruction” was in the air, in rebuilding and reunifying the nation and in the so-called Reconstruction occupation of the South by federal...

    • A Career in Teaching?
      (pp. 46-58)

      Oil City was Burlington’s worst nightmare. All the social and cultural ills that came to Burlington with river commerce were underscored in Oil City. Before the lumber trade boomed, Burlington had been a relatively established town with a settled population, a university, and stable churches. Oil City, however, was a town created by an oil boom that had begun less than thirty years before Dewey’s arrival there.

      Oil City got its name from its trade. When oil was discovered in Pennsylvania in the 1850s, Oil City was born at the confluence of the Allegheny River and the newly named Oil...

    • A Career in Philosophy?
      (pp. 58-68)

      He traveled to Baltimore by a circuitous route, passing through West Point, New York, in order to visit his younger brother, Charles Miner Dewey, who was a freshman at the U.S. Military Academy there. Partly, this visit represented his ties to the family even as he was leaving it. Partly, it was Dewey acting like the older brother whom he had replaced and also substituting for a father who by now was in his seventies. But it mostly reflected the concern that everyone in the family had for Charles Miner. He had never gotten the attention from Lucina that her...

    • Dewey’s Philosophic Influences
      (pp. 68-74)

      George Sylvester Morris was the first of Dewey’s greatest influences. In 1877, when President Gilman invited Morris to give an annual series of public lectures—and, after a time, courses—at Johns Hopkins, it was because Gilman saw Morris as the leading research-oriented philosopher in America. Morris’s 1872–73 translation of Überweg’sHistory of Philosophy, Neil Coughlin remarked, was “one of the largest endeavors in pure scholarship [as] yet undertaken by an American philosopher.” In addition, from Gilman’s point of view, Morris had the “right” credentials: he had studied at the University of Halle with Hermann Ulrici and in Berlin...

    • Becoming a Philosopher
      (pp. 74-80)

      Always attentive to financial matters, Dewey had two things on his mind in addition to his studies during the spring of 1883. First, he now believed he had enough support and a good enough record of accomplishment to apply for a teaching fellowship for 1883–84. In December 1882 he sent his paper “Knowledge and Relativity of Feeling” to Harris, explaining that he had “attempted to apply to one of the phases of Sensationalism the same kind of argument which I used regarding Materialism.” By March, when he had still not heard back from Harris, Dewey wrote to ask whether...

    • Finding Both a Philosophic Niche and a Job
      (pp. 80-91)

      The presidential election of 1876, contested by Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, and Samuel Tilden, a Democrat, was decided by one electoral vote. While the contested election was still in doubt, Archibald remarked that if Tilden were the winner, the Civil War would have been “fought in vain.” (Both John and his brother Davis voted for Tilden.) Hayes won, but the two major parties continued to divide voters almost equally.

      The federal government tended to be weak, and patronage—the awarding of jobs—still flourished at all levels, from the federal government to the municipalities. Everyone spoke of governmental corruption,...

    • Dewey in Love
      (pp. 91-99)

      But it was a woman whom he found, a woman who saved him. The inward laceration of New England piety had come to him through his mother. His solitary existence in Oil City had done a great deal to release his energy and replace his pious self-examination with philosophic thought and the appeal of self-consciousness. Now it took another woman to release his stored-up capacity for emotional richness and an inner life, someone who could heal his inward laceration and ease his mind about the connections among his disparate thoughts. Undoubtedly to him, John Dewey’s experience was much more straightforward...

    • Dewey’s Philosophy Expands
      (pp. 99-108)

      His new interests, mostly influenced by Alice, did not stop with women’s health. W. T. Harris had stimulated his interest in educational theory, and G. Stanley Hall had given it a another push. Now Alice was interested in education and was preparing at the University of Michigan for a career in teaching. These influences combined to start John on a vital part of his own career. His growing awareness of the pressing need in America to reorient education led Dewey to join the Michigan Schoolmasters’ Club and to begin a philosophic study of education and educational theory in Europe. He...

    • Dewey’s Reputation Builds
      (pp. 108-111)

      No further development was possible concerning the fusion of idealist thought with empirical psychology that Dewey had accomplished inPsychology. For a long time—as late asHow We Think(1910) and beyond—Dewey used these empirical insights. But the idealist language and Hegelian influence began to fade. By April 1886, Dewey’s interest in applying psychology to social issues was growing while Hegelianism lingered, but now with little original spark. Other interests were building parallel to psychology. He wrote to Alice that he was “reading up on machinery & wages. . . . It has opened up a new field...

    • Fred Dewey
      (pp. 111-117)

      Frederick Archibald, usually called Fred, sometimes known as “dear Freddie boy” by his father, was born on July 19, 1887, in Fenton, Michigan, at the home of Fred and Evaline Riggs, where Alice had grown up. “Frederick” was for Alice’s grandfather, and “Archibald” was for Dewey’s father.

      Now began the many legends about Dewey’s curious behavior as a father. Lillian W. Johnson, who boarded at the Deweys, recalled one time, during “Sunday dinner, [when] Fred was making a great racket in the hall. Mrs. Dewey said, ‘John, go and make Fred keep quiet.’ ‘Oh, Alice, I can’t, it’s too hard...

    • To Minnesota and Back to Michigan
      (pp. 117-120)

      In the early winter of 1888, Professor Thomas Peebles resigned from the University of Minnesota. Dewey was almost immediately offered a full professorship and the chair of mental and moral philosophy and logic there, to begin in the 1888–89 school year. He was torn and explained his conflicts to Torrey. In Minnesota, he would be the entire department, which would limit advanced work; the students would not be as well prepared as those at Michigan; and there would be fewer of them. But there also were good reasons for accepting the job:

      The institution in Minn. is growing rapidly...

    • Writing About Ethics
      (pp. 120-124)

      Dewey’s involvement with his mother’s twin passions still influenced him. Although he continued to support Christian religion at Michigan, he was also at work full time on his advancing concern with freedom and social justice. His passion for social reform, his sense of the psychological dynamics of intention and the social fluidity of conviction, and, perhaps above all, his participation in the character and condition of his times brought him to reflect seriously on ethical questions. As the department’s new chair, he offered such courses as “Anthropological Ethics” and “Ethics of Human Relations.” Believing that the traditions of ethical writing...

    • A Utopian Deception
      (pp. 124-131)

      Unfortunately, throughout Dewey’s life, his wishes often deceived his intelligence. This was certainly the case concerning his gross misjudgment of a newspaperman named Franklin Ford. In the early 1880s, as a writer forBradstreet’scommercial paper in New York, Ford had decided that the defects in America’s democratic progress, associated with the rise of frenzied finance and rapacious capitalism, were due to the lack of journalistic intelligence in analyzing and reporting the news. Certainly, Ford had hit on a fertile idea and was a bit ahead of the progressive journalists who would soon try to bring about social reform through...

    • Family Life
      (pp. 132-136)

      During the 1880s and 1890s, Dewey put a lot of effort in a war of attrition with his old ideas. He was lost in thought, but he was also raising a family. The interest that he was developing in early education came directly from his experience with his own children. An old friend of the Deweys described the family in action. Thomas Trueblood, who had lived in the same boarding house with Alice Chipman and John in the fall of 1884, described a dinner at the Dewey house after the births of Fred and Evelyn. Trueblood told Willinda Savage “that...

    • Harper and the University of Chicago
      (pp. 137-144)

      One of these academic figures was William Rainey Harper, recently a professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages at Yale, but now the first president of John D. Rockefeller’s newly endowed University of Chicago. He had already hired Dewey’s former assistant James Tufts when Tufts returned from study in Germany, and he had also recruited another young psychologist-philosopher, Charles A. Strong, from Clark University.

      Tufts’s reasons for going to Chicago instead of returning to Michigan were personal and did not reflect any discontent with Dewey’s department at Michigan. He explained:

      I came to the University of Chicago through my personal acquaintance...

  4. BOOK II Experience
    • [BOOK II Introduction]
      (pp. 145-149)

      Once he arrived in Chicago, Dewey no longer took an active role in Congregational religion, but he maintained his interest in religious experience, and he never saw a reason to abandon the name “God” as an instrumental sign in the semiotic system of a spiritual life. This distinction between a religion and religious attitudes and his conviction that “God” denoted the “uniting of the ideal and actual” are the main themes of a short book that he wrote many years later.A Common Faith(1934) was Dewey’s only extended examination of the subject. It accurately describes the position at which...

    • Wealth and Poverty
      (pp. 149-154)

      In the 1890s, America turned a corner. After a decade of peace, everything seemed to break loose. Clouds of uncertainty gathered, although on the surface everything seemed fine. Progress had been so evident in the 1880s that even some social reformers could assume that it would solve poverty and bring about at least some of the conditions that such hopeful utopian commentators as Bellamy and Howells envisioned.

      In Chicago especially, hopes ran high. The city was booming. Louis Sullivan describes this period in hisAutobiography of an Idea(1924). In Chicago, he, Frank Lloyd Wright, LeBaron Jenny, Daniel Burnham, and...

    • Evelyn Dewey
      (pp. 154-158)

      Dewey’s education had numerous sources. He and Alice produced six children, and from each, in a different way, he learned something. Evelyn Riggs, named after Alice’s grandmother, was born in Minneapolis in 1889. Just as John had visited Fred’s school and observed him to be so happy and placid, he later went to five-year-old Evelyn’s but got just the opposite impression. “Poor Evelyn,” he wrote to Alice, her class was “playing with cubes, to find out about the edges & surfaces,” and he could see in her expression of “complete boredom” an “inner perplexity as to why they were doing...

    • Another Kind of Education
      (pp. 158-179)

      Shortly after arriving at the University of Chicago, Dewey observed, “The interest & ferment is quite as great . . . as it is in everything in Chicago. This place is the greatest stew house on earth.” Like the time of his remarkable, soothing vision in Oil City or those days when he fell in love with Alice, his life again changed in the summer of 1894. He was cut loose from his history. He left Michigan and moved to Chicago; Alice took the two older children to Europe in May; he had lost his emotional tie to organized religion;...

    • Morris Dewey
      (pp. 179-183)

      Overwork, eyestrain pointing to internal stress, and yearnings to be with Alice and the children again haunted him all through summer and fall, 1894. As early as August 5 he wrote to Alice, “I think yesterday was the bluest day I have ever spent.” Alice replied that she was just as depressed. She even thought of returning home as early as September. Alice had endless difficulties in locating proper lodgings and even more in her uncertainty about where she and the children should go. To make matters worse, she had unexpected trouble with hotel managers and landladies, all of whom...

    • Overworking at the University of Chicago
      (pp. 183-186)

      The University of Chicago was growing quickly. President Harper frequently called on his most distinguished professors. Chairpersons were especially burdened. As in any new university, rules and procedures had to be established (then modified); administrative tasks had to be regularized; and all sorts of unanticipated technical irregularities had to be resolved. New faculty had to be hired. New programs must be created. In short, a new bureaucracy had to be devised and accepted. A philosophic scholar, Dewey was now an administrator, and he was soon feeling bombarded by the seeming tons of memoranda that fell on his head.

      Dewey had...

    • More Publications
      (pp. 186-199)

      Still, at no time in his adult life, from the time he sent his first article to theJournal of Speculative Philosophy, did Dewey entirely cease writing for publication. Of his writing during his first years at the University of Chicago, W. R. McKenzie commented:

      At first glance, and even after a second look, Dewey’s writings of these years seem to represent an alarming diffusion, a scattering of effort in too many directions. They present so many reactions to so many influences on so many subjects expressed in so many forms that one looks almost in desperation for some element...

    • Progressive Education
      (pp. 199-203)

      The result of all this activity was a book,The School and Society(1899 ), which became Dewey’s most widely read work. He had turned the subject over and over in his mind as he lectured on it, and so the book virtually wrote itself.

      The School and Societyis built on the psychological theses of “Interest in Relation to Training of the Will,” but the theories of child capability and its development barely break the surface of Dewey’s extended argument that education contains three primary elements: the school; a dynamic, evolving society; and the children, who can pass through...

    • The Lab School
      (pp. 203-210)

      During these years, Dewey was unbelievably busy. When he had been head of a department at the relatively slow-growing University of Michigan, his administrative duties had been light. But unlike Dewey’s faculty in philosophy, into which most of his colleagues in Michigan followed him, the pedagogical faculty had to be trained or retrained for the new educational ventures that he and his colleagues wanted to try. The Lab School soon had twenty-three teachers and 140 pupils. In addition, the members of the philosophy department plus faculty from other departments of the University of Chicago had to be persuaded to join...

    • Resignation
      (pp. 210-214)

      Had Harper responded as cordially, accepted Dewey’s resignation from the School of Education, and made arrangements to grant his leave even at this late date, the Deweys would probably have gone off to Europe; Tufts would have filled in as chair of philosophy for a year; and Dewey would have returned in the fall of 1905 to resume a productive career in philosophy at Chicago. But Harper, anxious to resolve all questions after he had left so much unclear for too long, now pressed Dewey to be definite on all points. The trustees were meeting on April 12. Before he...

    • Lucy Dewey
      (pp. 215-218)

      Since Morris’s death, Alice had given birth to three more children. The oldest, Gordon Chipman, named after Alice’s father, was born in the late summer of 1896, about eighteen months after Morris’s death. His arrival helped console Alice and John for the loss of Morris; he “replaced” him, and both his parents doted on him. Almost from birth, Gordon seemed unruffled, calm, precociously mature, and self-contained. The two youngest children were girls, Lucy Alice and Jane Mary.

      Lucy Alice Dewey was born in Chicago on December 28, 1897. Although Alice was ill off and on during the first six months...

    • Jane Dewey
      (pp. 218-223)

      Jane Mary Dewey was born in Chicago on July 11, 1900, about two and a half years after Lucy. She was something of a “lost” child in the Dewey family.

      A few days after Jane’s birth, John took the other children with him to Chautauqua, New York, where he had promised to lecture, leaving Alice and the “new little girl” in Chicago. So began the separations from her parents that Jane experienced more frequently and at an earlier age than her siblings. She was separated from her mother before being weaned. John told Mrs. Tufts that Jane “is taking kindly...

    • Columbia Comes to the Rescue
      (pp. 223-228)

      One reason that John Dewey took so many jobs and gave so many lectures during his Chicago years pertained to the “imperial” tendency of his mind and personality. Intellectually, he was always pushing into unoccupied territory, but another reason for his activity had to do with the need for money, which expanded as the size of his family increased. With Jane’s birth in 1900 Dewey found himself with five children to support, and he wanted to nurture them as fully as possible, to take them to Europe, to give them the opportunity to learn languages, to expose them to culture....

    • Back to Europe
      (pp. 228-231)

      But one plan was settled. The family was to sail for Europe. Ten years earlier, Morris had died during the family’s European excursion that came between Dewey’s departure from Michigan and his arrival at Chicago. There had been little talk of European travel since then. But now the past was repeating itself. He was going from Chicago to Columbia and again planning a European adventure. Alice was still depressed over Morris’s death, more now that she had no work on which to focus her thoughts and give form to her feelings. But John’s desire to turn a separation into a...

    • Starting Over
      (pp. 231-238)

      Alice bravely continued their plan of keeping the children on the Continent to learn languages while John returned to New York to begin teaching at Columbia. He was inconsolable. At his new post, he told Alice, “I’m minding my own business . . . & not attempting to improve anybody or anything—I’m done with that.” News of Gordon’s death soon reached the Deweys’ friends in Chicago, and a memorial was held at Hull House, where Jane Addams gave the principal address to seventy friends of the Deweys. Addams recalled a moment when Gordon was brought to a car to...

    • The Gorky Affair
      (pp. 238-242)

      John Dewey arrived at Columbia University in January 1905, in the middle of his life, to start the last long phase of it. The depressing experience of Gordon’s death was mixed with new prospects and expectations. Dewey fell in love with New York City, telling Alice, “Chicago is a country village in comparison.” As his grief over Gordon faded somewhat, his concern for the living—in his family and outside it—steadily grew. Encouraged and supported by Alice, he soon saw his commitment to justice and principle tested by a nationally publicized and sensationalized event.

      In April 1906, the Russian...

    • Five Arcs of Activities
      (pp. 242-250)

      Following the Maxim Gorky episode, John Dewey settled into life in New York. In contrast to the hurried tasks of his earlier years, Dewey’s activities began to take shape as great arcs extending over several decades. He was just as engaged as ever, and his activities were as varied as they had always been. Life in New York gave him new opportunities, and his own increasing inner harmony led him to form long-lasting associations and to pledge himself to commitments that had a longer duration.

      The first of Dewey’s commitments was to voluntary organizations, which were central to his work....

    • More Publications
      (pp. 250-258)

      Between his arrival at Columbia in 1904 and the beginning of a new phase of his life when the war in Europe began in 1914, Dewey’s publications seemed to be somewhat a summing up, a consolidation, and the completion of an evolution in his thought.Ethics(1908), written in collaboration with James Tufts, marks the completion of a phase of thought that had begun with his 1891Outlines of a Cultural Theory of Ethics. Moral Principles in Education(1909) related his concern with ethics to several earlier articles on education and democracy and was closely related toSchools of To-Morrow...

    • Dewey’s Teaching Style
      (pp. 258-263)

      Dewey was a husband, a father, a philosopher, a promoter of social change, an activist, a political commentator, and perhaps, above all, a teacher. His teaching career began in 1879 in Oil City, Pennsylvania. In 1949, though officially having retired from Columbia University years before, he was still attending Philosophy Club meetings and arguing with graduate students. Although he published many books and articles and delivered hundreds of lectures, he probably spent more time teaching during these seventy years than in any other single activity. His style of teaching altered over time, but consistent through the years was his emphasis...

    • War
      (pp. 263-269)

      The social, economic, and political unrest of the 1890 s seemed to many to result from stresses that had been produced by America’s inward-looking continental expansion just before the closing of the frontier in 1890. After that date, many political and social thinkers began to look globally, not only because they believed it to be America’s manifest destiny to extend itself into the world, but also because such expansion would ease domestic tensions. In the same year that Frederick Jackson Turner declared the frontier to be closed, Alfred Thayer Mahan’s bookThe Influence of Sea Power Upon Historyappeared. All...

    • New Restrictions
      (pp. 269-275)

      In February 1917, an incident occurred that, it seemed to many, might lead to the beginning of the curtailment of free speech at Columbia. Count Ilya Tolstoy had been invited by a student society to speak at the university. He was well known as an opponent of Russia’s continued war efforts in support of the Allies and a proponent of its withdrawal. Then, with the acknowledged support of President Butler, the chair of the Department of Slavonic Languages prevented Tolstoy from lecturing, by withdrawing permission for him to use a university building, explaining that this “was due entirely to my...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • The Aftermath
      (pp. 275-278)

      This proposal developed slowly. Dewey’s associations with William James had allied him for a long time with Harvard’s philosophy department. Recently, in 1914, the secretary of the Harvard Philosophic Club, a young Ph.D. candidate then styling himself Thomas S. Eliot, invited Dewey to address the club. Dewey selected “What Are Minds?” as his topic. On the day following his lecture, he had lunch with young Eliot and Bertrand Russell, who was delivering the series of Lowell lectures on “Our Knowledge of the External World” at Harvard. Russell wrote to Ottoline Morrell that after lunch he and Dewey took a walk:...

    • The Polish Project
      (pp. 278-285)

      In Dewey’s graduate seminar and advanced undergraduate-graduate lecture courses on social and political philosophy in the fall of 1917, some of his best graduate students were enrolled: Irwin Edman, Brand Blanshard, and Frances Bradshaw. All eventually had distinguished academic careers as philosophers. Paul Blanshard, Brand’s twin brother, also attended occasionally. Another participant was not a student at all. This was Albert C. Barnes, a wealthy, complicated, eccentric, passionate businessman. Brand Blanshard described him as a “rough and ready type . . . a man with a violent temper and . . . very strong prejudices.” Barnes had done graduate work...

    • Alexander’s Influence on Dewey
      (pp. 285-287)

      It is worth pausing here over the person of Alexander and his place in Dewey’s life. From his youth Dewey had been plagued with psychophysiological problems—eyestrain, back pains, a painfully sore neck—which flared up whenever he was under such stress as he had been experiencing recently. In 1916 his friend James Harvey Robinson introduced him to F. Matthias Alexander, with the recommendation that Dewey seek therapeutic relief from him. Alexander’s understanding of psychophysiological distress was quite different from Freud’s emphasis on unconscious conflicts. Dewey’s own psychological experiments in his laboratory and his concept of the adjustive arc made...

    • A Philadelphia Story
      (pp. 287-293)

      One event occurred that summer that might have produced enough stress to test the efficacy of Alexander’s work, except that Dewey expressed his strained emotions through poetry rather than painful posture and eye problems. In 1918 he was a famous philosopher, a renowned educator, a married man of nearly fifty-eight, and the parent of four grown children—and he found himself in love with his coworker Anzia Levitas, who also was married. Intent on a literary career, she had left her husband and daughter, and apparently, in a wholly fantasized way she fell in love with Dewey. In fact, he...

    • Dewey’s Interest in Poland
      (pp. 293-300)

      Shortly after Dewey joined the group in Philadelphia, he became much more involved than he could possibly have anticipated, not with Anzia, but with the political turmoil of the Polish community. He soon was deeply concerned with “Little Poland” as an international problem.

      If any doubt existed concerning the depth of passion that Dewey could invest in research, his involvement in the study of the Polish community in Philadelphia would dispel it completely. Even before he arrived, reports from Barnes were calculated to fire his imagination. The local political leaders were not indifferent to the fact that the Columbia philosophers...

  5. BOOK III Engagement
    • [BOOK III Introduction]
      (pp. 301-305)

      Dewey’s tentative plan to give a series of lectures in Japan had formed early in 1917 when a Professor Fukusaki of the University of Tokyo proposed to try to get him an invitation to lecture there sometime in 1918–19. Dewey had let the possibility of this plan slip out when he responded to W. E. Hocking’s invitation to become a visiting professor at Harvard: “I have laid certain plans . . . which I hope . . . would take me to Japan.” A little later, this prospect of a semester lecturing in Japan in the spring of 1919...

    • Alice’s Depression
      (pp. 306-310)

      Alice had a lifelong history of depression. Her father mourned himself to death after her mother died when Alice was four years old. As very young children she and her sister watched him fade away, day by day, until he simply took a last breath, died, and made them orphans. All her life Alice kept the few letters she had from her father, which tell a pathetic story. In April or May 1863, Alice’s mother, Lucy Riggs Chipman, gave birth to her third child in Fentonville, Michigan. After a month’s illness, she died on June 5. Gordon O. Chipman, left...

    • On to Japan
      (pp. 310-314)

      A few days after Christmas, when a cablegram arrived confirming Dewey’s invitation to lecture at Tokyo Imperial University, he himself suddenly became regretful, worrying about the children and how they would manage without their parents’ constant attention. “The time seems short now and I have sinkings of heart to think we are to be so far away from you all. To wish you a happy new year seems so little in comparison with the love I would send you that it is hard to put it down.” He felt that he should leave enough money in the United States for...

    • China and “New Culture”
      (pp. 314-327)

      Alice still was in a low mood when they arrived in Shanghai on the last day of April. At first glance, from her depressed perspective, Shanghai looked like Detroit, but John was excited, impressed at once. Here he was, in Shanghai, the great Chinese city divided up into European, Japanese, and American concessions by John Hay’s Open Door policy. He could see for himself what contact with Europe had done to China. John found that he preferred the seemingly easygoing Chinese to the much more formal Japanese, but he usually found something good wherever he went. Alice continued to think...

    • No League and No War
      (pp. 327-330)

      Following the conclusion of the war and the collapse of left progressivism in Wilson’s failure to extend democracy to Europe, Dewey took up two causes closely connected with the war and wrote several essays on each. The first was his complete opposition to America’s joining the League of Nations. The second was his support of the movement to outlaw war.

      Dewey’s opposition to the League of Nations was based on a simple principle, which he had argued in “In a Time of National Hesitation.” The League, he insisted, was a European organization created for European ends. If America entered the...

    • Sabino Dewey
      (pp. 330-333)

      Despite being absorbed by the issues of war and peace, Dewey’s attention was never drawn entirely away from his family. As much as for any of his own children, his concern for Sabino was both intense and continuous. Although Sabino was not a Dewey by blood, he became one by practice.

      Both Deweys doted on the boy and were always worried about his health and his education. Sabino was superb at mechanical tasks, whereas the Dewey children were skilled intellectually. The major issue thus became finding something he really wanted to do. When the Deweys bought an automobile, Sabino liked...

    • Idealism Corrupted
      (pp. 333-335)

      The 1920s, following Dewey’s return from Asia, was the first decade in which the American character seemed to be in the process of breaking up. President Woodrow Wilson’s moral fervor, purity of purpose, and missionary single-mindedness reflected the democratic dream of virtue in public as well as private behavior. He stood for character. When Wilson told an audience in 1914, “there are some simple things in the world. One . . . is principle,” many Americans agreed. When he declared in 1915 that “America . . . will not fight . . . because peace is the healing and elevating...

    • Now to Turkey
      (pp. 335-341)

      Before he traveled to China and Japan, Dewey had achieved a definite sense of his own identity and a multifaceted public reputation: first, as the preeminent living American exponent of the first distinctive American philosophy, called pragmatism; second, as the leading theorist of and commentator on educational reform in America; and finally, as the philosopher of American democracy. By the time he returned to the United States in 1921, a subtle change had taken place in him. He continued to write and speak vigorously on philosophic method and instrumental logic. He remained deeply engaged in the ongoing debate over the...

    • Then to Mexico
      (pp. 341-344)

      Dewey spent the summer of 1926 in Mexico City, teaching in the summer program of the National University. He offered two courses, “Contemporary Philosophic Thought” and “Advanced Educational Problems,” to the five or six hundred U.S. teachers and students for whom the school was designed. Shortly after the Deweys arrived in Mexico City in late June to prepare for the opening of the term, Alice’s health problems flared up, just as they had the year before, in the summer of 1925 when she and John went to Copenhagen to visit Jane. At that time, she was hospitalized for exhaustion, although...

    • Losing Alice
      (pp. 344-350)

      During the fall of 1926, after his return to New York, Dewey’s forebodings concerning Alice’s heart problems were borne out. By the end of September, the doctors made it clear that Alice had no hope of a permanent recovery. By December, John believed that she needed intensive care, and he looked into nursing homes as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Asheville, North Carolina. She failed so markedly in vigor and the doctor’s prognoses were so negative that Dewey took a leave of absence from teaching in the spring of 1927 in order to attend to her needs. Briefly she...

    • Dewey Among the Soviets
      (pp. 350-358)

      Dewey’s attitude toward the Soviet Union was complex. He was a fierce critic of Leninist Marxism, but he also suspected that the Russian people, as distinguished from their party leaders, were not so much Bolsheviks as they were engaged in a human experiment to reform society. He wanted to see it for himself, and the chance came. The American Society for Cultural Relations with Russia was founded in 1927 at Lillian Wald’s Henry Street Settlement. John Dewey became one of its original directors, along with Edgar Varese, Edward Albion Ross, and Leopold Stokowski. Floyd Dell and Norman Hapgood soon joined...

    • Three More Books
      (pp. 358-362)

      Within a few years after his return from his long stay in Asia, Dewey published three important and related books:Human Nature and Conduct(1922),Experience and Nature(1925), andThe Quest for Certainty(1929). In a broad sense,Human Nature and Conduct, subtitledAn Introduction to Social Psychology, is a continuation of Dewey’s ongoing concern with ethical values and behavior. It is an advance on Dewey’s sections in his collaboration with James H. Tufts in the sense that by 1922 Dewey had worked out a clearer and more flexible understanding of the psychology of impulses, habits, cognition, intention, and...

    • The Gifford Lectures
      (pp. 362-368)

      Before Dewey left for Russia, one time period of his own future had already been arranged. In March 1928, he received a letter from Sir Alfred Ewing, principal of the University of Edinburgh, inviting him to accept an appointment there as the Gifford lecturer in natural theology. In philosophic circles, the Gifford Lectureship was internationally esteemed to be a high honor, and William James and Josiah Royce were the only Americans who had been appointed to it. One of James’s best books,The Varieties of Religious Experience, had come from his Gifford lectures thirty years earlier. Dewey’s selection, he was...

    • Enjoying Life Again
      (pp. 368-370)

      Dewey continued to accumulate international honors. Even during the Gifford lectures he took a day off to attend a ceremony conferring on him the honorary degree of fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland, as an expression of “appreciation [and] gratitude to him for the many pregnant and fruitful contributions he had made both to the theory and the practice of education, not only in his own country but the world over.” In the previous year he had been asked to accept an honorary doctorate of laws at the University of St. Andrews, but since he had planned to be...

    • Dewey Turns Seventy
      (pp. 371-376)

      As regularly as the seasons, honors came Dewey’s way. Universities showered degrees on him. He was asked to give talks in many of the world’s most distinguished endowed lecture series. Polls invariably named him as one of the most eminent Americans. Foreign countries offered him decorations. Just as regularly, beginning with Dewey’s seventieth birthday, Americans held national celebrations every ten years to pay homage to him. His seventieth birthday was on October 20, 1929, nine days before Black Thursday.

      One day in the winter of 1928, Henry Linville, the president of the New York Teachers Union and a close friend...

    • The Stock Market Crash and Its Aftermath
      (pp. 376-387)

      During the 1920s, the dream of material abundance blossomed: one could become rich, it seemed, with little effort, and Americans exhibited an extraordinary passion for wealth. Investment counselors dazzled them with visions of riches; bankers encouraged them with credit; and the steadily rising stock prices strengthened their confidence. In his final message of 1928, President Calvin Coolidge referred boldly to “the pleasing prospect” of “years of prosperity.” In short, Americans were determined to have prosperity at any cost. But then on “Black Thursday,” the cost became clear: stock values began to slide from a paper value of $100 billion and...

    • Dewey’s Political Philosophy
      (pp. 387-398)

      The books that specifically develop the philosophy underlying Dewey’s political activities in the 1930s areThe Public and Its Problems(1927),Individualism, Old and New(1930), andLiberalism and Social Action(1935). These are best read in the context of Dewey’s concrete political activities between 1928 and 1936. Dewey was a reconstructionist. Since lecturing in Japan, he had seen the role of the contemporary philosopher as reconstructing the ideas bequeathed to him by the traditions of Western thought. Such reconstruction, he argued, was imperative on American grounds because the fulfillment of democracy demanded a new conception of the idea of...

    • Dewey’s Interest in the Arts
      (pp. 398-405)

      Even as Dewey was engaged philosophically in defining liberalism in relation to democracy in a series of books and articles, he found a way of writing about a passion that he said rivaled his love of philosophy: the enjoyment of beauty in art. His involvement with Albert Barnes did not end with the Polish project. Dewey continued to meet with him all through the 1920s and 1930s, but now their association centered on understanding the visual arts.

      With the employees of the A. C. Barnes Company, Albert Barnes carried out a bold experiment: Following an idealistic American tradition initiated in...

    • The Last Educational Mission
      (pp. 406-407)

      The fifth and final of Dewey’s educational missions abroad came in 1934 when he and his daughter Jane went to South Africa from July 2 to July 17, 1934, at the invitation of the World Conference of New Education Fellowship in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The stated theme of the conference, “The Adaptation of Education to Meet the Rapidly Changing Conditions of Social and Economic Life, with Special Reference to South Africa,” reflected the dawning awareness of the country’s social, economic, and educational problems and expressed an urgent need for remedial measures. Dewey had consistently preached that social change must...

    • Leon Trotsky
      (pp. 407-423)

      Dewey’s writings and his own activities were inextricably intertwined in the 1930s. His books and the public affairs and policy recommendations and the lobbying into which Dewey put enormous energy went hand in hand. Now, following his writings on liberalism as an idea and ideal opposing the authoritarian absolutes that threatened to dominate the political, social, and economic spheres, Dewey was confronted by a new challenge to his commitment to intelligence-as-action on behalf of freedom and justice. This challenge came in 1937. The events that led to this special experience had begun some years earlier. Lenin’s death in 1924 had...

    • Dewey’s Logic
      (pp. 424-431)

      Liberalism, Dewey had been arguing for a decade, was a never completed quest. The finding of Dewey’s committee that Trotsky was “not guilty” was one more instance of Dewey’s ongoing effort to preserve freedom by means of liberal intelligence-in-action. When Stalin’s charges were refuted, of course, the Soviet Union did not collapse. Only one small stone in the edifice of Communism was loosened. The trial was over. But no one could doubt that both the fascist and the communist authorities meant business, that both accepted the notion that change would take place only through violence. And that meant war.


    • Dewey and Valuation
      (pp. 431-434)

      This closely related work is Dewey’sTheory of Valuation(1939). Both books are united in the belief that scientific inquiry enables knowing that may arrive at warrantable assertions, the best an investigator can get as part of the process of further inquiry.Method, rather thansystem,inquiryrather thanknowledge, orprovisional confirmationrather than thetruthwere the tools Dewey employed in his version of empirical, instrumental naturalism. He had been interested in the question of valuation for a long time. In several of his books and articles, he had been interested in the questions of value arising from...

    • Dewey’s Eightieth Birthday Celebration
      (pp. 434-438)

      By the time 1939 arrived, questions about the future in America abounded. How long would the economic depression last? Would there be a revolution of any sort in America? What was the likelihood of America’s being drawn into the European war? But there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that in 1939 the national celebration of Dewey’s birthday was to be repeated. Early in the year Horace Kallen began to take the lead in planning for Dewey’s eightieth birthday and the summing up of his personal achievements and significance for America during the previous ten years. He consulted a dozen...

    • Education and Freedom
      (pp. 439-442)

      During the 1930s, Dewey renewed his interest in education. Because he had established a reputation as America’s leading spokesman for reform in education, he was constantly being asked to lecture or be interviewed on educational issues. So education—education for a democratic society—was never far from Dewey’s thoughts. In the 1930s and 1940s, three currents of thought in America brought Dewey back to educational issues. The first was the increasing number of attacks on freedom of expression in the classroom; second was the development of a “humanistic” theory arguing that higher education should be based on classical traditions; and...

    • Bertrand Russell
      (pp. 442-449)

      By 1940, Dewey was again actively participating in educational controversies. He became embroiled in a battle involving Bertrand Russell, a philosopher who stirred controversy wherever he went. When Russell had gone to lecture in China in 1919, at Dewey’s suggestion, he had scandalized the Anglo-American community there by bringing his mistress with him. Now, in February 1940 the Board of Higher Education of New York City named Russell to a special visiting professorship of philosophy. He would teach courses on the relationship of philosophy to mathematics and also on advanced logic in the City College of New York and would...

    • More Controversies
      (pp. 449-459)

      Ironically, as Dewey was fighting on several fronts for Russell, his own university launched an attack on the freedom of expression on much the same basis that had earlier led to Columbia’s dismissal of Dana and Cattell, followed by Beard’s and Robinson’s resignations. The cause was the same—President Butler’s stand on the war which, in 1940, promised to involve America. Hardly had the Russell case been resolved by Barnes’s offer than President Butler addressed the faculty at the beginning of the new semester and stated his conviction that the United States would need to enter the war on behalf...

    • Further Views on Education
      (pp. 459-464)

      Many of the controversies in which Dewey engaged concerned a progressive education. His insistence on the social relevance of education consisted, in about equal parts, of a reaction against the routinized methods of instruction prevalent in his own youth; an effort to introduce the lower social-economic classes, and especially immigrant children, to democracy and openness of thought; a belief that the scientific methods of experimentation could provide a basis for free inquiry in an educational setting; and a conviction that an educated citizenry offered the only effective bulwark against surrender to fascism, communism, or merely money capitalism.

      His advocacy left...

    • After the War
      (pp. 464-467)

      In 1942, as the University of Chicago Press was preparing to publish John E. Stoner’sS. O. Levinson and the Pact of Paris, Dewey was invited to supply a foreword. Levinson, he wrote, attempted to “invent” peace. However, Dewey added, Levinson’s “immediate purpose was defeated as the second World War so tragically testifies.” Still, Dewey predicted, humankind’s wish for peace was undying, and Levinson’s movement to outlaw the “war system” had to be “recovered.”

      The whole world was at war when Dewey wrote this. Most of the history that Dewey had lived and helped make was obliterated by the fighting...

    • John and Roberta
      (pp. 467-475)

      When Roberta Lowitz came to New York in 1930, she called on John Dewey. Her father, Joshua Lowitz, had become friends with Dewey while he was teaching in Oil City and Joshua and his wife lived in nearby Pittsburgh. Roberta was born in 1904. During her childhood, her parents briefly went to China as missionaries, and she spent some of her early years in Asia. Now grown, she was an attractive woman, creative and active. She wrote travel articles for thePittsburgh Press, but she was no ordinary reporter. As early as 1931, she began to organize “travel clubs” in...

    • The Last Birthday Celebration
      (pp. 475-478)

      By 1949, America’s world was now a global one, and appropriately, Dewey’s ninetieth birthday celebration became an international occasion. Salutations arrived from all over the world. Programs of speeches about Dewey’s importance were organized in Canada, Denmark, England, France, Holland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, and Turkey. Waseda University in Tokyo, where Dewey had lectured in 1919 and 1921, held a three-day symposium of lectures on Dewey’s work. In Mexico, the Fondo de cultura economica publishing house marked the occasion with speeches, a radio address, philosophical articles, and a translation ofArt as Experience. Ömer Celal Sarc, president of...

    • The End
      (pp. 478-488)

      On the occasion of Dewey’s ninetieth birthday, Horace Kallen remarked to Dewey: “I do not recall any philosopher alive or dead who has retained so long the fullness of his powers.” Kallen was certainly right. Dewey’s first article was published in 1882. By 1949 he had been philosophizing for sixty-seven years and had published about a thousand essays, books, reviews, and works in other forms, and he had not yet written his last work. But from the mid-1940s on, his health began to fail. Certainly, as he told Joe Ratner, he now was “paying more On the occasion of Dewey’s...

    • Last Words
      (pp. 488-504)

      Like all biographies, my biography of John Dewey is a mixed form. Obviously, no biography is identical with the life itself; all biographies are inquiries into a life. My book aims at giving a single, unified but complex portrait of Dewey. But to attain that end, I have had to follow two separate paths rather than trying to make them one. On the one hand, in common with philosophical or scientific investigation, I have aimed atknowing, knowing John Dewey. A biography that does not accurately render its subject’s empirical reality will have little value. This means searching for “facts,”...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 505-510)
    Jay Martin
  7. Notes
    (pp. 511-538)
  8. Index
    (pp. 539-562)