robert maynard hutchins and john dewey - part 1 of 3

Category: Education

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Part 1 of 3 on the lives and educatonal ideals of John Dewey and Robert M. Hutchins.


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Education in a Social Democracy: The Careers and Continuing Influence of Robert Maynard Hutchins and John Dewey Part 1 of 3


Written By Edward J. Dodson, M.L.A. Send comments on this presentation by email to


“I was born in the dying century, before the open gas flame was superseded by the Welsbach burner, before the horsecars had disappeared, before the telephone was commonplace, and when the iceman was one of the mainstays of our lives. Although everybody went to school, almost nobody went to college. But everybody went to church.”


“They filled up our half-empty ward with Italians in the recovering stage. …Individually, the Italians are the people I shall avoid most after the war. You have to admire their collective bravery when things are going their way, but as persons they are rotten, that’s all. They have no sense of decency and they will steal your gold teeth in your sleep.”


“War and the existing economic regime … are so fraught with evil consequences that any one who is so disposed can heap up criticisms without end.”


“We went to Yale to become Yale men. Yale men could pass through portals and scale heights which others could not attain. They could do so not because of what they knew, but simply because of where they had been. …The benefits flowing to me from my acquisition of this title have been considerable, and I do not underrate them. My point is that these benefits had nothing to do with my intellectual development.”


“I do not mean to say that I knew then I was getting an education. I am sure the professors did not know they were giving me one. They would have been shocked at such an insinuation. They thought they were teaching me law. They did not teach me any law. But they did something far more important: they introduced me to the liberal arts.”


“If at college we have never tasted what may be called the sweetness and glory of being rational animals, it is because America does not know or highly esteem that sweetness and that glory. …Where shall our country find its leaders if not among that two percent of her population who have been favored by four years of college?”


University of Vermont


Matthew Buckham


“I am taking as a minor subject the theory of state, international law, etc., in the historical department, and am in pretty close contact with the men there. It was the largest, and in the character of its students about the strongest department in the University, but there is no provision to give them the philosophical side of their own subjects. The philosophy of history and of social ethics in its widest sense is untouched, and as long as it remains so, they don’t get more than half the good of their own courses it seems to me.”


George Sylvester Morris


John Dewey with colleagues at the University of Michigan -- 1885


“In conception, at least, democracy approaches most nearly the ideal of all social organizations; that in which the individual and society are organic to each other. For this reason democracy, so far as it is really democracy, is the most stable, not the most insecure, of governments.”


University of Minnesota – early 1880s


“There is nothing so absurd that it cannot be believed as truth if repeated often enough.”


“Dewey tied his pragmatism and idealism together by asserting that the only way the individual can acquire knowledge of Reality, or Truth, is through action and experiment. …Dewey called his point of view ‘experimental idealism’, which accurately states his position.”


“We must conceive of work in wood and metal, of weaving, sewing, and cooking, as methods of living and learning, not as distinct studies. …We must conceive of them in their social significance, as types of the processes by which society keeps itself going, as agencies for bringing home to the child some of the primal necessities of community life, ...”


“… and as ways in which these needs have been met by the growing insight and ingenuity of man; in short, as instrumentalities through which the school itself shall be made a genuine form of active community life, instead of a place set apart in which to learn lessons.”


“… the native and unspoiled attitude of childhood, marked by ardent curiosity, fertile imagination, and love of experimental inquiry, is near, very near, to the attitude of the scientific mind.”


“No question at present under discussion in education is so fraught with consequences for the future of democracy as the question of industrial education. Its right development will do more to make public education truly democratic than any other one agency now under consideration. Its wrong treatment will as surely accentuate all undemocratic tendencies in our present situation, by fostering and strengthening class divisions in school and out.”


“The need of training is too evident; the pressure to accomplish a change in their attitude and habits is too urgent to leave these consequences wholly out of account. Since our chief business with them is to enable them to share in a common life we cannot help considering whether or not we are forming the powers which will secure this ability.”


“In the school I taught in, I did not dare try to educate my charges. It would have confused their minds.”


Connecticut Hall Yale University


Yale Law School


“Those who grow apprehensive about atheism and bolshevism in the colleges merely betray their ignorance, for the most conservative places in America today, as faculty members know, are the universities.”


“It seemed to me that the only way you could sensibly go after criminal law was to go into the whole system, to go into criminology, go into corrections, and for these purposes try to draw on what I assumed to be the vast knowledge of psychologists and psychiatrists, who were then a budding profession in this country, ...”


“… and anybody else who could shed light on what the actual role of the criminal law was, and how it could be made to work to reduce crime and to do justice, rather than to increase crime and increase injustice.”


End of Part One

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