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Life And Contributions Of John Dewey

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Table of contents

  1. Life of John Dewey
  2. John Dewey’s Contributions to the Educational System
  3. John Dewey and Social Justice and Peace
  4. Shortcomings According to Others
  5. Dewey’s Contributions to Today’s Education
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

There are so many legendary people who have contributed to the education process over the past 150 years. However, John Dewey has been a major contributor and tried to change the curriculum to better the students and their adulthood. There will be a few areas that will be discussed in this research paper. The first is will be the background of John Dewey. The second area will be the work that John Dewey contributed to the education system and social progress, and some shortcoming according to other people. Finally, we will see what impact John Dewey’s contribution has had on the educational system today.

Life of John Dewey

John Dewey was born in 1859 in Burlington, Vermont (Ilicia, 2016). Dewey was so smart that he was able to join the University of Vermont when he was just 15 years old. When Dewey was 19 he graduated with his Bachelors's in philosophy. Dewey’s cousin was a principal at a seminary school in Pennsylvania where he had the ability to hire Dewey as a teacher (Total However, Dewey’s cousin resigned as principal and Dewey lost his job too. At 22 years old, Dewey decided to go back to Vermont and he began working as a teacher in a private school. Dewey found himself studying philosophy and psychology a lot and decided that he wanted to go back to school for his doctorate in philosophy at John Hopkins.

When Dewey graduated with his doctorate, he was offered a job as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. Dewey met his wife while working at the University of Michigan and they had six children (Kliebard, 2004). In 1894, Dewey and his wife started an experimental school during the time Dewey was working as the head of the philosophy department at the University of Chicago. Dewey’s wife was fired so Dewy resigned and look for another job Finally, Dewey was offered a job at Columbia University where he became a professor of philosophy. This was Dewey’s dream job since philosophy was what he enjoyed so much. Dewey, his wife started their own school called the University Elementary School while he worked at Columbia in 1896. Dewey retired from Columbia University in 1929 and he passed away in 1952 (Ilicia, 2016). John Dewey wanted to accomplish many things in his lifetime. In Dewey’s lifetime, he ended up being an educator, a philosopher, a progressive theorist, an experimentalist, a socialist, and a pragmatist.

John Dewey’s Contributions to the Educational System

John Dewey worked hard to change the educational and social system. Dewey thought that students learn from human experiences and the students can help change the future depending on what they learn throughout their lifetime (Vaughan, 2018). During all of the different jobs that Dewey had, he always worked on finding a way to implement his theory of learning from human experiences. When Dewey took the job at Columbia University, he had that opportunity. Dewey, his wife and a couple of other colleagues started the University Elementary School, which was also known as the Dewey Laboratory School (Holt, 2020). This school was used to help teach and learn to the highest achievement. Dewey saw that each child is different in their own way. He also noticed that children learn differently. Dewey’s ideas were to find the best way possible for everyone to learn new things each and every day that can help them when they grow up and move into adulthood (Ilicia, 2016).

Dewey believes that the books are just tools that help prove some of the areas that the teachers are already teaching through the knowledge of what they already know. Children need to have some time to become interested in something in order to want to learn about that subject. Giving the students an opportunity to learn through experiences will give them some control over their own learning development. The parents spend a lot of time working with their children at home with different types of real-life experiences. However, the teachers at the schools have to have some control over education, environment, and experiences that these children can have a privilege to learn about. By doing these things, the students will have a richer education through real-life experiments that can be used in their homes and communities someday (Goldman, Heddy, & Laird, 2018). Dewey states, “Knowing is just something we do…” (Stoller, 2018, pg. 453). Unfortunately, the parents began doing less and less at home which caused the teachers to take on a lot more developments in these children’s minds. The teachers spend more time working with the students to learn everyday life concepts that they will need to know when they are no longer living at home. Even though Dewey spent a lot of his life working on his human experience projects in school, he also was an advocate for social justice with different cultures (Vaughan, 2018).

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John Dewey and Social Justice and Peace

Dewey used to think that just one race could do everything that needs to be done in the United States. However, Dewey figured out that it took the combination of all people to have a democratic way of living (Vaughan, 2018). Dewey was one of the biggest advocates for racial justice. Dewey wanted to make sure that all children had the right to have a good education. It was important to Dewey to get everyone to understand the idea that all people should have the ability to have personal growth where they can share their own strategies for having a good life through experiences. Not allowing all people to communicate is impeding the wide variety of knowledge that we all can use (Bolin, 2019). Therefore, Dewey discusses that communication should be considered a necessity in our daily lives just like have to have food, water, and other resources that keep us living.

After World War I, Dewey changed the way he thought about social justice. There has been way too much violence and antisocial behaviors in schools, at homes, in the communities, and around the world (White, 2015). Even though Dewey did not do as much as he could have he worked hard to make the world safer for all Americans (Cohan & Howlett, 2017). In fact, Dewey thought seriously about teaching about world peace to the students at school. Dewey was hoping that he could change the world by getting the younger generation to seek out alternatives to war. However, after working on the concept of peace in the world, Dewey found out that he may not be able to change the way people think about war. This is when Dewey realized that it was important to teach students about History and Geography (Cohan & Howlett, 2017). This way Dewey could teach students that they have to learn to be more tolerable before they choose to go to war instead. Dewey also wanted to make sure that teachers would not take away the fact that the students could be open and discuss how they feel about the war and peace among the different countries.

Shortcomings According to Others

According to White (2015) there are many people who believe that Dewey does not give the teachers the ability to truly teach the students beyond their actual human living experiences. Children can have so much more knowledge than the parents can teach them. The parents should teach their children everyday living and give them knowledge of how the world works, but teachers should have the right to teach the children more than just those things. People also feel like these children are being taught without any discipline or direction that they may have to head in their lives. Children need to have structure and understand how to deal with troubles that may come about in their lives (White, 2015). Unfortunately, these shortcoming has not exactly been proven, but they are accusations that some people have accused Dewey of doing with his form of human living experiences.

Dewey’s Contributions to Today’s Education

One thing that Dewey had done years ago that we all know is still being done today is project-based learning. Being able to give the students the ability to learn from their own experiences by doing labs or project has been influential for many of years (Holt, 2020). Doing labs or projects keep students always wondering what they can find out. Students really enjoy learning through projects because they can experiment until they find what works. Another way that Dewey has contributed to education today is through the use of child-centered teaching. Even though the child-centered or whole child teaching has been expanded on, it is still a big part of education the children in school now. Making sure that the teachers work with the students at their own individual levels, helping students with any type of social problems, and making sure that they are loved in every way are the most important part of whole child teaching (Holt, 2020).


John Dewey was a smart young man that had a big heart when it came to social justice, peace, and children. He wanted to make a difference in each aspect while he was alive. Dewey has been a huge influence on the educational process for over 100 years. The ability to bring about the concept of child-centered education has gone a long ways. Allowing the students to learn through their own curiosities is something that no one else has even though about and it made a big impact on the children in society. Even though some of the concepts have been changed up a little, we all know that it started with John Dewey and his ideas.


  1. Bolin, G. (2019). Social progress and its measures. Media Development, 65(2), 21–24.
  2. Cohan, A., & Howlett, C. F. (2017). Global Conflicts Shattered World Peace: John Dewey’s Influence on Peace Educators and Practitioners. Education & Culture, 33(1), 59–88.
  3. Goldman, J. A., Heddy, B. C., & Laird, S. (2018). An Interdisciplinary Discourse between Dewey and Self-Determination Theory: Motivation in the Wake of Monetizing Education. Education & Culture, 34(2), 89–94.
  4. Holt, L. (2020). John Dewey: A Look at His Contributions to Curriculum. Academicus : International Scientific Journal, 21, 142.
  5. Ilicia, A. (2016). On John Dewey’s Philosophy of Education and Its Impact on Contemporary Education. Journal Plus Education / Educatia Plus, 14(1), 7–13.
  6. Kliebard, H.M. (2004). The Struggle for the American Curriculum: 1893-1958 (3rd. ed.). New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.
  7. Stoller, A. (2018). The Flipped Curriculum: Dewey’s Pragmatic University. Studies in Philosophy & Education, 37(5), 451–465.
  8. Vaughan, K. (2018). Progressive Education and Racial Justice: Examining the Work of John Dewey. Education & Culture, 34(2), 39–68.
  9. White, B. (2015). Scapegoat: John Dewey and the character education crisis. Journal of Moral Education, 44(2), 127–144.
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