Think Of The Homeless

There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Are We Really in the Dawn of a New Age? Pt. 2

Are We Really in
the Dawn of a New Age? Pt. 2

As I said in our last installment, the “new ideas” of the new century found their way into the educational system of America. How did this happen? Well, there are many in causes, of course, but the single most prominent one came on the scene in a then current day educator named John Dewey. He, more than anyone, was responsible for major transformations in the way education was done and the attitudes toward it.

Known as “America’s foremost philosopher and educator”, he was responsible for refashioning the educational system here in America and moving it past the static perceptions of the past (his past anyway) and he redefined everything. The nature of truth, the responsibilities of a teacher and also the capacities of the human personality, were all changed forever. His pervasive influence changed the future of America and then also effected the way students were taught in most other countries as well.

A “genius” of his day, his ideas lasted through a fifty year period where he performed his capacities as a seminal thinker, voluminous writer and OCD type organizer. He became a leader in the world of “new thought”. The idea “the way the world thinks” can be ascribed solely to this man, John Dewey, for he more than anyone made education what it is today.

In the overall scope of things, his life was relatively unexciting, for he wasn’t a war hero or a great leader of a nation, nor was he the inventor of some life changing item or miracle drug. No, he was just one of the many who lived an ordinary life in his day, but he did do one thing. He won a war that happened behind the scenes, one of ideas and thoughts, and introduced these ideas to the youngest of the up and coming generations for the majority of his fifty year span of influence. He won a battle for the mind of mankind.

Indeed, for Joseph Stalin said it best: “Get them when they are young.” In this respect, Dewey did exactly what is needed when waging a war for the world itself, he won over the way mankind thinks. The struggle for tomorrow is not going to be one of tanks and submarines and legions of armies, for those battles are merely the result of earlier battles waged within the minds of the men who ordered them in an attack or in defense of some closely ascribed to thought that had existed previously. Millions throughout history have found their final resting place far out at sea, or on some desert dune, or in a deep Asian jungle simply because someone else, someone in a far more powerful position than they, failed at intellectual or moral persuasion.

Remember this when the coming Antichrist hits the world scene in the not too distant future, the opening salvos of any war are the public announcement that the earlier spiritual, intellectual and mental battles have all been lost. John Dewey was a chief contender in history in the battle for the mind. But unfortunately, he too, was on the wrong side of the battle.

Born in 1859 in Burlington, Vermont, he was a shy and bookish young man. In 1875 he attended the University of Vermont and soon became enamoured with philosophy and social thought. He didn’t see philosophy though, from a classical point of view. As a rule, philosophy addresses certain questions and points of view on life and then directs answers to those questions according to specific schools of thought. Dewey didn’t see things as being so parochial in their application, instead he saw philosophy as a sort of swirling maelstrom of ideas, issues and concerns that was ever changing. For him there was no thought or idea that could be foundational, nothing could ever be settled. There was NO one truth.

While in University, Dewey was greatly influenced by Hegel. Initially influencing Dewey in the area of idealism, Hegel was also a major influence on other well known historical figures such as, Karl Marx, and Kierkegaard and others who would become influential in a later age. Therefore, Hegel can indeed be counted as one of the major influences of today’s western thought.

Dewey received from Hegel a sense of the ideal and the concept that reality was not a fixed and hard rule. For him reality was an emergence, a development and not a fixed thing that is unalterable. As a result, reading anything by Dewey can be an exhausting exercise as his many ideas are often fluid and hard to pin down. He would often deny a given proposition and then also refuse to admit the opposite of the same proposition. For Dewey, reality and answers were something in between the two extremes, but also something NOT between the two extremes. As a result, truth for him was not a static proposition, but a result of measured social fulfillment.

As Aristotle spun in his grave over this sort of thing, his then contemporary followers found Dewey somewhat hard to categorize. Although a philosopher, he was not the father of any school of thought, although one might argue for the school of confusion. He was an educator, but not one who taught any kind of static truth. He was an administrator who was more concerned with outcomes rather than mechanics. Therefore, terms such as provisional, experiment and unpredictable were linchpins of his thinking and methods. Most of his written material could be quoted for both sides of any argument, for he found the grey areas to be what the whole was really about and all things were adaptable to whatever reinterpretation was appropriate for the day or the hour.

Surprisingly, Dewey made his education by being involved with specifics, as he taught science and algebra on the high school level before attending John Hopkins University. Graduating in 1884, with a doctorate, he presented his thesis and dissertation on Immanuel Kant. Kant, a proponent of moral relativism, as you may recall, was famously quoted on his view of life as: “Eventually, we all die.”

Dewey became increasingly dissatisfied with philosophy and its inherent unpractical use for the every day man. He attempted to make it relevant to every day life and as a result, his views on economics, politics, and social views became more and more radical.

Ten years later in 1894, he became chairman of the Department of Education, Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Chicago. There he took great part in social welfare activities, becoming a benefactor for Jane Addams’ Hull Hose. There he involved himself in the economic and social problems of a major urban area, and cemented his conviction that philosophy must be practical. He then founded the Dewey School, and wrote important books on education, the likes of The School and Society and also, The Child and Curriculum.

Graduating, as it were, from his work in Chicago, he was offered a chair at Columbia University in New York. Once in this influential position, he gained prominent influence for his positions in education and philosophy until he retired in 1930. The Columbia Teacher’s College soon became a training center for teachers from around the world. This resulted in Dewey’s ideas being spread all around the earth.

New York was then as it is now, the journalistic and media center of the nation. This gave Dewey the opportunity to write volumes of columns that put forth his political and social views in magazines and newspapers that came from an important media nerve center. He also traveled the world, lecturing in places such as Tokyo, Peking, Turkey, Russia and Mexico, where he would find education centers to spread his radical ideas which were considered at the time a radical ethos.

Dewey accomplished so much, that a published bibliography was over 150 pages long. So diverse were his writings, that his influence made an impact in every field of intellectual inquiry. Dewey’s writings were not so much indefatigable as literary pieces as they were, much like the speeches of Adolph Hitler, a call to the deep inner aspirations of his fellow man.

Therefore, as a cheerleader presenter and speaker that could capture the zeitgeist of his audience, Dewey became thought of as a man of all knowledge. He was considered a supreme intellect who could provide all the answers relevant to the modern world. For many years Dewey was considered the prime educator of the world, a concept he kept in motion through his many writings that flooded the world of the intellectual reader.

So, having outlined all this, what shall we say are the ideas that we today hold to be infallible truths and ways of education and thought which can be followed directly back to the influence of John Dewey, influences we take today for granted that actually had their birth in the mind of one lone man?

More on this in our next installment.

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