Thoughts - Thinking in Education (Dewey)

This is the seventh and final post in the series that stem from readings and classroom discussions in the course EDU S105 Philosophy of Education. Here is a link to the first post that also serves as an introduction to the series. Each post contains a link to the next post.

Each text and classroom discussion brought forth many ideas - not always connected and sometimes even at odds with each other! Thus, the posts in this series might lack the comfort of coherence. Think of the points as scattered seeds of thought...

As always, try to make connections between the points and your own experiences. Ask yourself if (or how) you see these points playing out in the world around you today.

The assigned text was Chapter 12 - Thinking in Education from the book Democracy and Education by Dewey. The chapter is freely available online and can be found here.


  • Information severed from thoughtful action is a simulation of knowledge.
  • Thinking is a method of intelligent learning.
  • Students develop a rote short-term memory so as to pass examinations.
  • Dewey condemned rote memorisation - he saw it as cluttering the mind with junk. He believed that it promoted the static, cold storage idea of knowledge.


  • Current school systems and pedagogy present content to children that has already been intellectually dissected by adults. Why is this so? Is it a matter of convenience?
  • Dewey wanted a system where children could experience genuine situations with adults providing them tools and information to test ideas, make observations and draw conclusions.


  • Perhaps there is a flaw in the curriculum when we see that kids ask so many questions outside school but show a reduced (or absence of) curiosity within the walls of the classroom?
  • There is a disconnect between the subject matter children see in school and the subject matter of their practical experiences.
  • Dewey was for diversity of thought and opinion; he believed that too much uniformity could lead to tunnel vision.
  • Education plays two roles: 
    • an educative role to help people understand things (curriculum and teachers)
    • a gatekeeper role that sorts people (assessments)
          These roles pull in opposite directions and cannot be practically divorced from one another.
  • The next logical question that stems from these roles is how to maintain a child's enjoyment and motivation to learn a subject when assessments (especially those with high stakes) are involved?