robert maynard hutchins and john dewey - part 2 of 3

Category: Education

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Part 2 of 3. The lives and educational 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 2 of 3


Yale Law School


New Curriculum: The Law and The Social Sciences


Lisa Heldke


“Hutchins emphasized the contents of the education proposed by the Greeks, but largely ignored its context—the fact that this was education for a particularly constituted citizen of a particular kind of democracy, who must be “liberated” from particular forms of intellectual bondage. In contrast, Dewey adopted the most general aims of Greek education—namely, that education ought to liberate students and also prepare them for citizenship. ... ”


“He [Dewey] recognized that, just as the Greeks designed their education for a particular time and place, so too must we. It will not do to adopt the content of Greek education whole cloth, for they and we understand liberation and citizenship in some fundamentally different ways. ”


“You have huge mountains of convention, prejudice, laziness, stupidity, vested interest and economic fear against you. …It comes from all quarters. The science people are prejudiced because of their conventional notions of how science must be taught; the humanities are trying to save their language courses; they are all greedily protecting their private diggings and what gets me sorest is that they are doing so under the false banner of educational theory.”


“John Dewey. He was, again, a kindly gentleman, who lectured very slowly so that I could take his lectures down in longhand. I would go home to my study and type the lecture out. I collected these lectures that I wrote about. And I noticed that what he said on Tuesday was inconsistent with what he said the previous Thursday. So I would write him a letter, and say, “Dear Professor Dewey, last Thursday you said . . . ” and I would quote. “But this Tuesday you said . . . and that does not seem quite consistent to me. Would you please explain? …”


“Well, he came to class and said, ‘A student in class wrote me a letter’. He read the letter and then tried to explain. I wrote the answer down. And the answer didn’t solve the problem. So I wrote him another letter. And this went on for three weeks. And he finally had his assistant come to me, and say, ‘Dr. Dewey wishes you would stop writing him letters’.”


“The problem of time … is insoluble. The administrator should never do anything he does not have to do, because the things he will have to do are so numerous he cannot possibly have time to do them all. …A university administrator has at least five constituencies: the faculty, the trustees, the students, the alumni, and the public. He could profitably spend all his time with any one of the five. What he actually does, of course, is to spend just enough with each of the five to irritate the other four.”


“The most serious element in the University’s situation, and the only disturbing one, is its financial position. We have been able to preserve all the essential characteristics of a great University – academic freedom, excellent research, and competent teaching – in the face of unprecedented hardships.”


“Upon what terms may a political party claim our allegiance? …We demand an honest party. …We demand a party of the people. …We demand a progressive party. …We demand intelligent leadership.”


“You cannot study Henry George without learning how intimately each of these wrongs and evils is bound up with our land system. One of our great national weaknesses is speculation. Everybody recognizes that fact in the stock market orgy of our late boom days. ...”


“Only a few realize the extent to which speculation in land is the source of many troubles of the farmer, the part it has played in loading banks and insurance companies with frozen assets and compelling the closing of thousands of banks, nor how the high rents, the unpayable mortgages and the slums of the cities are connected with speculation in land values. ...”


“All authorities on public works hold that the most fruitful field for them is slum clearance and better housing. Yet only a few seem to realize that with our present situation this improvement will put a bonus in the pockets of landlords, and the land speculator will be the one to profit financially -- for after all, buildings are built on land.”


“[These measures are] the minimum program demanded by the present emergency. In that sense it is truly conservative, for the true conservative is not interested in conserving chaos. If the Democratic party will issue a clear and decisive challenge in such terms as these, it may command the allegiance of the rising generation.”


“In that brief compass he managed to gore most of the sacred cows in the nation’s political pasture, and he brought the Young Democrats to their feet, cheering.”


“We have got to make ourselves clear. The only question that can properly be raised about a professor with the institution to which he belongs is his competence in his field. His private life, his political views, his social attitudes, his economic doctrine – these are not the concern of his university.”


"The remedy is not to have one expert dictating educational methods and subject matter to a body of passive, recipient teachers, but the adoption of intellectual initiative, discussion, and decision throughout the entire school corps. The remedy of the partial evil of democracy, the implication of the school system in municipal politics, is in appeal to a more thorough-going democracy."


“The elementary schools are eight years for no better reason than that Horace Mann when he went to Germany to find a school to imitate imitated the wrong one, and imposed upon this country as a preparatory unit a school that was terminal in its native land. …”


“The high schools are largely dominated by collegiate requirements that have no application to a majority of their students. The junior colleges are frequently two years more of high school or pale imitations of the first two years at the state university. The colleges of liberal arts sometimes seem to duplicate the high school at one end and the university at the other. …”


“The universities are weird mixtures of general education, specialized study, professional training, and college life. If we are ever to alter the public attitude toward education, we must clarify the functions of all these organizations and their relationships to each other.”


“In the preparation of teachers we are involved in a vicious circle. …The teachers are badly educated. They educate their students badly. Some of the badly educated students become badly educated teachers who educate their students badly.” (1935)


“New England invented the horrid machinery composed of course grades, course credits, course examinations, and required residence through which we determined by addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and a logarithm table the intellectual progress of the young. Of course this machinery has nothing to do with education and constitutes, in fact, one of the prime obstacles in its path.”


“Hutchins was unique in advocating a complete scheme for the reorganization of the nation’s educational structure, including a formulation not only of the ends it should be seeking but of the means for achieving them. He was attempting, moreover, with some success, to put his theories into practice at his own institution.”


“An anti-intellectual attitude toward education reduces the curriculum to the exposition of detail. There are no principles. The world is flux of events. We cannot hope to understand it. All we can do is watch it. …A curriculum of current events, without reference to the intellectual and artistic tradition that has come down to us from antiquity, is the only possible course of study which anti-intellectualism affords.”


Metaphysics Logic Reason


“Doubtless much may be said for selecting Aristotle and Saint Thomas as competent promulgators of first truths. But it took the authority of a powerful ecclesiastical organization to secure their wide recognition. …As far as I can see President Hutchins has completely evaded the problem of who is to determine the definite truths that constitute the hierarchy.”


“Mr. Dewey’s dexterous intimation that I am a fascist in result if not intention … suggests the desirability of the education I have proposed. A graduate of my hypothetical university writing for his fellow alumni would know that such observations were rhetoric and would be received as such. As a matter of fact fascism is a consequence of the absence of philosophy. It is possible only in the context of the disorganization of analysis and the disruption of the intellectual tradition through the pressure of immediate practical concerns. …”


“Mr. Dewey has suggested that only a defective education can account for some of my views. I am moved to inquire whether the explanation of some of his may not be that he thinks he is still fighting nineteenth-century German philosophy.”


End of Part Two

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