Tom Alexander on John Dewey, Democracy and Education (Part Three)

John Dewey (Image: Library of Congress)



Tom Alexander on John Dewey, Democracy and Education (Part Three)

By Max Eternity


“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.”

John Dewey, Philosopher, Moralist and Educator


The conversation continues with Tom Alexander on the life and legacy of 20th century philosopher, moralist and education reformer, John Dewey.

Alexander is a faculty member of Department of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University, and he’s also co-director of the Center for Dewey Studies, and is as well a former president of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.  He’s also the author of John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience and Nature: The Horizons of Feeling.


Dewey made seminal contributions to nearly every field and topic in philosophy and psychology. Besides his role as a primary originator of both functionalist and behaviorist psychology, Dewey was a major inspiration for several allied movements that have shaped 20th century thought, including empiricism, humanism, naturalism, contextualism, and process philosophy. For over 50 years Dewey was the voice for a liberal and  progressive democracy that has shaped the destiny of America and the world.

Dewey ranks with the greatest thinkers of this or any age on the subjects of pedagogy, philosophy of mind,  epistemology, logic, philosophy of science, and social and political theory. His pragmatic approaches to ethics, aesthetics, and religion have also remained influential.

Part One of the Alexander interview can be found here, and Part Two can be found here.  Now in Part Three, the discussion begins with Dewey’s thoughts on social justice.  With so many written works by Dewey that speak to virtues of democracy—and in light of the fact that Dewey’s last written work was the introduction [PDF] for a volume of poems by Jamaican-American writer, Claude McKay, who was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance—I first ask Alexander what he knows of Dewey’s writing on the subject of racial equality:

I then ask Alexander what he thinks Dewey would have to say about Michele Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and about Annette Fuentes book, Lockdown High:  When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse:

Alexander then shares his thoughts on democracy in education, and comments on living in the age of “the post-truth society” and the erosion of “critical intelligence.”  We also talk about civics in education:

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