Education’s Experience in an Age of Anti-Politics

Reading John Dewey in the Third Decade of the 21st Century




disposition, instrumentalism, anti-politics, democracy, education, race, the arts


Dewey’s argument for education is predicated on how, as free and intelligent beings, we have the power to develop dispositions. However, in a context where democracy is neutered by anti-politics, reading Dewey now comes with an urgent need to revisit his argument for an experiential and experimental approach towards the world. Revisiting Horkheimer’s critique of Dewey, which reveals two opposed notions of instrumentalism, this article argues that unless Dewey is reassessed from the non-identitarian character of his pragmatism, his philosophy of education risks being lost to an alignment with social constructivism. This exposes the Deweyan approach to what Maxine Greene calls a disjunction in the culture between everydayness and reason, where the “integrations” that Dewey achieved with his concentration on experience vanish. Historically framed, this paper draws on Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin’s discussion of a democracy that is more akin to a “burning house” than an associated form of living.


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Author Biography

John Baldacchino, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States of America

Is Professor of Art & Education in the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to his current position, he held professorial posts at Columbia University in New York and the Universities of Dundee, Falmouth, Robert Gordon and Warwick in Britain. Specialising in art, philosophy and education, he authored many papers, chapters, and articles, and to date he has published fourteen books. These include Education Beyond Education: Self and the Imaginary in Maxine Greene’s Philosophy (2009); Makings of the Sea: Journey Doubt and Nostalgia (2010), Art’s Way Out: Exit Pedagogy and the Cultural Condition (2012), John Dewey: Liberty and the Pedagogy of Disposition (2014), Art as Unlearning: Towards a Mannerist Pedagogy (2018) and Educing Ivan Illich: Reform, Contingency and Disestablishment (2020). He is the editor of Histories and Philosophies. The International Encyclopaedia of Art and Design Education (Wiley, 2019).


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