Jan. 20 (Monday)

< >

Open/Close All

 John  Dewey
Full Name: John Dewey
Born: Oct. 20, 1859 in Burlington, Vermont
Died: June 1, 1952 in New York City, New York

John Dewey was a philosopher, educator and political activist who became a leader of the progressive movement in education in the United States. But what does that mean? A clue is offered by the fact that Dewey is enormously popular among liberals and passionately hated by conservatives.

Dewey believed that complete democracy couldn’t be achieved without a fully formed public opinion, accomplished by effective communication among citizens, experts and politicians, with the latter being accountable for the policies they adopt. Though some of Dewey’s ideas may be hard to understand, politics obviously mattered to him, and I think it’s safe to say that he wanted young people to learn about politics so they could mature into well-informed adults who might in turn create a just society. In fact, the U.S. political system has long been pushing schools in the opposite direction, effectively “dumbing down” students, making it easier for corporate interests to exploit them. Is that why Dewey is so hated by the political right?

Dewey was a socialist who supported the Socialist Party candidate, Horman Thomas, for president. He became a member of the United States section of the International League for Academic Freedom in 1935, along with Albert Einstein and Alvin Johnson. Dewey marched for women’s rights and many other causes and was involved with the organization that evolved into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Dewey also directed the Dewey Commission held in Mexico in 1937, which cleared Leon Trotsky of the charges made against him by Joseph Stalin.