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Biography of John Dewey

Parun Pereira May 10, 2019
John Dewey was known for his exceptional work in the field of education. An American educational reformer and philosopher, he is known the world over for his influential thoughts and ideas. This post is a biography of John Dewey, one of the founders of the philosophical movement of pragmatism.
John Dewey's knowledge and writings on various subjects such as ethics, logic, democracy, art, and nature, have revolutionized the field of education. His views on these subjects have been instrumental in shaping a road less traveled.

Early Years

Born in Burlington, Vermont, John Dewey was a bright individual who graduated from the University of Vermont in 1879. He spent three years as a teacher in high school in Pennsylvania, after which, he realized that he was not suited for the role of an educator in the field of primary and secondary education.
Under the guidance of G. Stanley Hall, Dewey spent a year working in the first American laboratory of Psychology, and in 1884, he did his Ph.D from John Hopkins University. He was a part of the faculty at the University of Michigan, with some help from George Sylvester Morris. After a few years, he joined the University of Chicago in 1894.


At the University of Chicago, he shaped his thoughts, and this resulted in the four essays which were collectively called Thoughts and Its Subject-matter, which were published along with the works of his colleagues in Chicago under the title Studies in Logical Theory.
At that time, when he worked on his essays, he founded the University of Chicago Schools, where he conceptualized, visualized, and researched for the material on his book on education, titled The School and Society. Disagreements with the administration forced him to resign from the university.
After becoming president of the American Psychological Association in 1889, he became a professor at the Columbia University and Teachers College.
Along with Charles Sanders Pierce and William James, Dewey is considered an important figure in American pragmatism. His book 'Psychology', which he released when he was a faculty member at the University of Michigan, expressed his views on idealism, and explored the prospects of experimental science.
At the University of Chicago, along with James Hayden Tufts, he wrote the book Ethics, and later invited George Herbert Mead and James Rowland Angell to form a core group called the Chicago Group of Psychology. In the latter years, their approach towards psychology was termed as functional psychology.
Dewey's article on the 'reflex arc' concept, which is seen in the scientific journal Psychological Review in 1896, is considered to be one of the most important phases of American functional psychology.
Dewey's theories on education are articulated in books The Child Curriculum and Democracy and Education. His theories on psychology and education influenced researchers and thinkers in various fields of experimental learning. His thoughts on journalism are revolutionary, stress on the theory, an effective means of communication results in a great community.

Personal Accounts

Dewey, immersed with books on various subjects, was married twice. He had six children with his first wife Alice Chipman, and later was married to Roberta Lowitz Grant. He died in New York City on June 1, 1952. His contribution towards various subjects in different fields has been exemplary, and serves as a reminder that there are no short cuts to success.

Theory of Pragmatism and Instrumentalism

Dewey's theory was more known as instrumentalism than pragmatism. William James, a psychologist and a physician, expounded it to global acclaim. James, on religion, propounded through his experimentation on scales of social, cultural, technological, and philosophical, fashioned the relativity to the truth which people felt as an obligation to believe.
Dewey traversed on a more scientifically evaluated observation of science being the absolution to man's progress and his belief.