Dewey, Prof. John

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John Dewey (1859-1952) was an American philosopher, educational reformer, and Dr. Ambedkar's intellectual mentor at Columbia University. In Democracy and Education, Dewey argues that education should be applicable to students' lives and not just an abstract tool. Two Dewey works are referenced in AOC. Excerpts appear below:

"[I]t is the business of the school environment to eliminate, so far as possible, the unworthy features of the existing environment from influence upon mental habitudes. It establishes a purified medium of action. Selection aims not only at simplifying but at weeding out what is undesirable. Every society gets encumbered with what is trivial, with dead wood from the past, and with what is positively perverse. The school has the duty of omitting such things from the environment which it supplies, and thereby doing what it can to counteract their influence in the ordinary social environment. By selecting the best for its exclusive use, it strives to reinforce the power of this best. As a society becomes more enlightened, it realizes that it is responsible not to conserve and transmit the whole of its existing achievements, but only such as to make for a better future society. The school is its chief agency for the accomplishment of this end."

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan, 1922, 24.


"[I]t is part of wisdom to utilize the products of past history so far as they are of help for the future. Since they represent the results of prior experience, their value for future experience may, of course, be indefinitely great. Literatures produced in the past are, so far as men are now in possession and use of them, a part of the present environment of individuals; but there is an enormous difference between availing ourselves of them as present resources and taking them as standards and patterns in their retrospective character....An individual can live only in the present. The present is not just something which comes after the past; much less something produced by it. It is what life is in leaving the past behind it. The study of past products will not help us to understand the present. A knowledge of the past and its heritage is of great significance when it enters into the present, but not otherwise. And the mistake of making the records and remains of the past the main material of education is that it tends to make the past a rival of the present and the present a more or less futile imitation of the past."

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan, 1922, 86, 88.

Professor Dennis Dalton considers the impact of Western intellectual thought on Gandhi and Ambedkar.