Education’s Experience in an Age of Anti-Politics
Reading John Dewey in the Third Decade of the 21st Century
Keywords: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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