Dewey’s Democracy and Education, in my opinion, is a very frustrating book to read. Originally published in 1916, Democracy and Education is considered a hallmark in the development of educational philosophy. However, I found Dewey’s writings, which may be more indicative of the era in which it was written than his style, wandering and at times pedantic. There is much repetition and, more to the point, his over all philosophies are not fully developed, which is surprising for a book with such cache among educational historians. What is interesting is the influence this work has had on educational writers … for my purposes, Dewey’s work can easily been seen in Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Having read Freire prior to reading Dewey, I have come to the conclusion that Freire was so influenced by Dewey’s work that Pedagogy of the Oppressed, at times, appears to be nothing more than a culturally specific contemporized draft version of Democracy and Education minus, of course, the citation by Freire. However this does not mean that there is little value in Dewey’s work. Paramount to Dewey’s philosophy is how he views democracy and experience, which are not only still contemporary, but progressive by today’s standards.
To Dewey, democracy did not have the “majority rules” meaning that it has today. In his mind, a democracy meant a society that valued pursuing what he called “shared interests” with those beyond the boundaries that define one’s own experience … this was not a regional or even a national orientation, but a global one, in other words, a society which was not limited to its borders. Truly as progressive a thought in its day as it is today.
Secondly, Dewey felt that, depending on the society’s orientation, the educational system may overlook the value of experience when dealing with its curricula and delivery. Also a contemporary idea, which is especially poignant in the field of Adult and Continuing Education and vested occupational organizations moving toward professionalization.
While this work may not appeal to everyone, it would be safe to say that any study of the literature of educational philosophy must include a reading of Democracy and Education.