Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dewey’s Pragmatism vs. Poetic Knowledge

Here's a quote from James S. Taylor's Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education:

"[John] Dewey's so-called pragmatism, as it filtered down to the masses who largely never read a word he wrote, fit neatly into the American view of education for the good life. It was perfect, in its popular versions, for the American oligarchic man, that is, the practical businessman seeking not only to retain, but to increase his property and profits. Ideas were important to these descendants of the European industrial revolutions and the new notions of the wealth of nations, insofar as they worked toward increasing the common wealth of the country and the personal wealth of those practical and clever enough to succeed. The typical American businessman had no time for philosophy--he was smart enough to know it required real leisure--but he loved what he understood of pragmatism. Quite often the oligarchic man was honest, hardworking, and fair; he even might quote a poem or two he had memorized and enjoy reciting a verse on special occasions. But how could he ever see the use in pursuing a life of contemplation and leisure, since there was not "use" in these things anyway? And when the needs of oligarchic America begin to be felt in the schools and colleges, when schools themselves became more and more places where the "product" and "commodity" of education was "produced," then what there was of the poetic mode was assigned to the token English or humanities teacher, so that the students would have a practical sense of literature, history, and philosophy. Then, when schooling was finally over, the student could plunge into the "real world." (p. 102)
That's as far as I am into the book. This is not meant to be a review of the book, but the above quote seemed a great summary of Dewey's initiative and the resulting impact it's had on American education and culture. Here's a link to Matt Bianco's full review of Poetic Knowledge on his blog:
Buy the book here.

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