John Dewey: The Father of Progressive Education

John Dewey's Epitaph - Burlington, Vermont

While studying at the University of Vermont this summer, I went and visited the grave of John Dewey (1859-1952). He was an influential leader of American education and his philosophy of education is still relevant today. He graduated from the University of Vermont and his grave is in the courtyard of the Ira Allen Chapel on campus.

Dewey was one of the first to propose “progressive” education. This means to educate young people to be change agents in a democracy.

From their inception in the 1830s, state systems of common or public schooling have primarily attempted to achieve cultural uniformity, not diversity, and to educate dutiful, not critical citizens.”

Progressive education promotes a respect for diversity and the development of critical, socially engaged citizens. Dewey in his lifetime saw the decline of small enterprise and community life. This is still true today.

Today, scholars, educators and activists are rediscovering Dewey’s work and exploring its relevance to a “postmodern” age, an age of global capitalism and breathtaking cultural change, and an age in which the ecological health of the planet itself is seriously threatened. We are finding that although Dewey wrote a century ago, his insights into democratic culture and meaningful education suggest hopeful alternatives to the regime of standardization and mechanization that more than ever dominate our schools.

The excerpts above are from the University of Vermont’s page on progressive education. Below is the chapel on the campus.

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