Segments in this Video

Newsreel Interview with John Dewey (02:11)


Dewey says going to college is not the same as getting an education. People who do not go to college can get an education from the real world.

Outline of John Dewey: An Introduction to His Life and Work (02:00)

Larry Hickman explains that the series will be organized around Dewey's analysis of human learning, belief in truth as a process, and faith in democracy.

Dewey in Context (02:05)

Influential events of John Dewey's life include the Civil War, two world wars, and profound technological advances. Darwin's work also influenced Dewey.

Dewey's Pragmatism and William James (01:57)

Dewey earned a philosophy PhD. at Johns Hopkins and taught at the University of Michigan. His wife encouraged his interest in social justice, and he developed a pragmatic notion of truth, influenced by William James's doctrine that beliefs are habits.

University of Chicago and Pedagogy (01:26)

In 1894, Dewey became head of the University of Chicago's philosophy department, which oversaw psychology and pedagogy. In 1896, he founded an elementary school to serve as a laboratory for the University's Department of Education.

Adaption and Dewey's Pedagogy (02:53)

Dewey applied to psychology and philosophy Darwin's ideas about adaption. He thought James' mechanical explanation of mental associations and habits failed to explain the richness of learning; Dewey instead looked to our pursuit of equilibrium.

Restoring Equilibrium (02:43)

For Dewey, learning is active rather than passive, and accounts for context; it results from the continuous need to restore balanced equilibrium after disturbance by the unfamiliar.

Dewey's Approach to Education (03:02)

Dewey believes learners are not blank slates, but already have a context. His laboratory school rejected both rote learning and child-centered education for an approach that integrated subject matter with the learner's talents.

Applying Dewey's Methods (02:37)

Dewey thought the whole person, not just the intellect, must learn. Principal Deborah Meier applies Dewey's five-step process of inquiry; we see a class learn to use columns to support structures.

Problem Solving as Preparation (01:38)

Students at Meier's school collect data, discuss ideas and work to apply them their learning. Problem solving prepares students for reasoned inquiry and theoretical physics.

Dewey on Truth (01:38)

Absolutist philosophers believe there are eternal truths, that culture determines truth. Dewey held that truth is neither arbitrary nor absolute, but a product of objective inquiry, whose results depend on situations.

Truth as Regulative Principle (03:13)

Dewey held that moral, physical and mathematical laws are true only as regulative principles, general rules of action subject to exceptions. Experiments produce objective truths, which may change but are validated by the experiment.

Pragmatism (01:03)

For Dewey, truth is not the correspondence between a statement and a state of affairs in the world, but instead lies in an idea's consequences. Truth is constructed as a byproduct of problem-solving.

Political Theory and Studies (01:13)

Dewey applied his pragmatic model of truth to politics. In his travels he studied the relationship between democracy and cultural diversity.

Education and Democracy (02:22)

As many academics embraced rising fascist and communist movements, Dewey saw his educational work as a defense of democracy. Influential educator Louise Rosenblatt talks about Dewey's efforts.

Flexibility, Equality and Democracy (02:00)

To Dewey, democracy requires that social controls cannot be imposed from above; it is an expression of mutual interest. Systems must be flexible. All have right to equal opportunity to fulfill whatever endowments they have.

Education, Arts, and Experience (02:29)

Dewey held that the purpose of education is to allow individuals to continue growing throughout life. Artistic education encourages us to embrace rich experiences and diverse viewpoints.

Personal Life (00:59)

Dewey's wife and two children died and he saw world wars, but he believed all circumstances provide opportunities for meaning. He married his second wife at 87; she was 42, and they adopted two children.

Dewey Revival (00:60)

Dewey's influence waned after his death but his influence has been restored since the mid-1980s.

America's Philosopher (00:60)

In 1949, the New York Times called Dewey America's philosopher. Despite continued resistance, Dewey's educational theory enriches education systems, and his pragmatism and belief in democracy honor human experiences.

Credits: John Dewey: An Introduction to His Life and Work (01:10)

Credits: John Dewey: An Introduction to His Life and Work

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John Dewey: An Introduction to His Life and Work

Part of the Series : Giants of Psychology
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Although John Dewey lived in a markedly different era, many of his concerns are still highly relevant to life today. This program introduces students to his philosophy and his critical studies of education, the arts, and the implications of democracy for the lives of individuals and their communities. Contemporary examples of the influence of his work include film sequences of noted educator Deborah Meier’s Mission Hill School in Roxbury, Massachusetts; commentary by literature authority Louise Rosenblatt on Dewey’s theories of democratic behavior; and philosopher Larry Hickman’s comments on the ways technology changes how one experiences the world. Viewable/printable educational resources are available online. A part of the series Giants of Psychology. (40 minutes)

Length: 42 minutes

Item#: BVL44900

Copyright date: ©2003

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

2002 CINE Golden Eagle Award


“An impressive piece…. Educators will appreciate cameo performance by leaders in the field as Debra Meier and Louise Rosenblatt.... I recommend having your library purchase a copy of this video soon. It does in 41 minutes what I have spent hours trying to do in my classes.”  —Jim Garrison, Ph.D., Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, co-editor of "Constructivism and Education" and author of "Dewey and Eros: Wisdom and Desire in the Art of Teaching

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