Tom Alexander on John Dewey, Democracy and Education (Part Four)
By Max Eternity
“You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow”
John Dewey, Philosopher, Moralist and Educator
In the final segment of my interview with Tom Alexander, we continue our discussion about John Dewey, who was one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers and a widely-respected education reformer.
Alexander is the author of John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience and Nature: The Horizons of Feeling (SUNY Press, 1987), and he’s the author of The Human Eros: Eco-ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence (Fordham University Press, 2013). Since 1985, Alexander has been a member of the Department of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University. He’s co-director of the Center for Dewey Studies, and he’s also a former president of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.
Part One of the Alexander interview can be found here, Part Two can be found here, and Part Three is here. Now in the conclusion of our discussion, I start by asking Alexander what he thinks Dewey would be working on today—what might be some of his concerns regarding our society:
Alexander then shares some of his thoughts about the educational shift in schools where the focus is to “quantify performance, rather than to cultivate individuals.” Alexander believes this can be seen in the intensive use of standardized testing, whereby education has become a form of “business production.”
The topic of the interview then turns to the penitentiary and mass incarceration, and how that shapes a society. Alexander also talks about what it means to have a democratic society:
In the final segment of the interview, Alexander and I talked about capitalism’s conflicts, which place commoditization above all else. Alexander says Dewey was not supportive of capitalism, because he believed a democratic society has “interests above and beyond business”: