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John Dewey Ignored! - Schools Teach One Narrow Category of Reality

Dec 28, 2006
Michael Hogan

What is taught in social studies classes? How is history taught in high school? Is history taught at all? If so, is history limited to one world view or weltanschauung? What does it mean to affirm one category of reality, while ignoring or denouncing others?

John Dewey was an American philosopher who used his philosophy to suggest how American education be operated. He became an educator of educators. American education was based on Dewey's philosophy until sometime after World War II. Certainly, for the first half of the 20th Century American education was determined by Dewey's philosophy. What was Dewey's philosophy? How did it differ from euorpean philosophy or the kind of American education we have today?

John Dewey was a pragmatist. He studied the works of other pragmatists such as William James and charles Sanders Pierce. Pragmatism is a philosophy that asserts all categories of reality are both valid and equal. Prior to James and Pierce inventing pragmatism at Harvard in the 1890's, european philosophers sought one absolute truth as superior to all other categories of reality.

American Pragmatism is the essence of open mindedness. In the extreme, one absolute truth is the essence of fascism.

Sometime after World War II (perhaps as late as the mid 1970's), American education junked Pragmatism as it's guiding principal. It was done in the unintelligible parlance of pedantic pedantry.  Reverence for mumbo jumbo replaced open minded Pragmatism. The obfuscation of knowledge was observed by many intellectuals in the 1960's and 1970's - including the english psychiatrist R.D. Laing.

What replaced American Pragamatism in American schools? According to several studies, teachers do not teach any known organized curriculum. Rather, teachers teach whatever their own beliefs and proclivities happen to be. Please remember, teachers are as robotized and propagandised as the rest of us. In the end, teachers teach whatever customs, values and beliefs they encountered in their formative years as they encountered life's institutions: family, church, school, military, etc.

Whatever a teachers values, customs and beliefs amount to, it is presented to students as absolute truth - as the one valid category of reality. It is my opinion that whenever one teaches a single vision of the world it is the fertile soil of propaganda and ensuing fascism. There is little doubt American history, as it is taught today, is but one version of the reality of America's past. Professor Howard Zinn's: "Peoples History of the United States" is an entirely different view of the past as compared to what is taught in schools. In Dewey's day, both versions of the past would be taught.

Social studies, as taught in schools, amounts to the single vision offerred up by the government's propaganda wurlitzer. Schools and mass media teach the neo-liberal propaganda that the world is driven by an incomprehensible jealous evil. Religion has taught this same evil theory for several thousnd years. Why have schools and a culture, if the one theory of what makes the world go round is several thousand years old. Just send evryone to Sunday school or shul and be done with any pretense of education. If  we get back to burning witches, it would be socially cathartic and it would allow individuals with a neo-fascist bent to externalize.

A parent teaching a child at home could offer alternate theories to the world is driven by irrational evil theory offerred by presidents and educators. A pragmatist would examine the others point of view. As late as the 1960's and 1970's readers of mass media were introduced to International Law in the form of the internationally respected Right of Self Determination that all people have. This perspective views "terrorists" quite differently. As late as the 1960's and 1970's, mass media referred to those seeking self determination as "freedom fighters," "patriots,' "nationalists," etc.

In the end, modern education has reduced itself to being yet another transmission vehicle for the Great Propaganda Wurlitzer.

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