Παρασκευή, 9 Νοεμβρίου 2012

Reclaiming democratic culture by revisiting Dewey’s educational philosophy


Παρακάτω δημοσιεύουμε το ενδιαφέρον άρθρο του συναδέλφου Ερμόλαου Ψαριανού, το οποίο έχει παρουσιαστεί στο 9ο Διεθνές Συνέδριο του International Society for Universal Dialogue (ISUD) και του Olympic Center for Philosophy and Culture με θέμα: «Democratic Culture: Historical Reflections and Modern Transformations», τον Ιούνιο του 2012 στην Αρχαία Ολυμπία. Επιπλέον έχει δημοσιευθεί στο Σκέψις περιοδική έκδοση φιλοσοφίας και διεπιστημονικής έρευνας ΧΧΙΙ/i, Olympic and Elian Dialogues, L.C. Bargeliotes, K. Wang, (σελ. 263 – 274).

Reclaiming democratic culture by revisiting Dewey’s educational philosophy
Psarianos Ermolaos
Med, PhD Candidate
University of Macedonia

Introduction
John Dewey, the great philosopher and educator signalled his philosophy of education through the close association of democracy and education, thinking the democracy as a lifestyle, not simply as a means of political governance. Convinced that the mission of education in a democratic society is the cultivation of the individual's capacity for continuous mental development, he argued that the purpose of education lies in the educational process itself 1. Dewey’s views on the indissoluble link between democracy and education emerge at much more significant in times of crisis of values, because the social institutions are unstable and do not favor the development of a democratic climate. The democratic conception regarding education permeates the whole philosophy of Dewey, who treats knowledge as a social good that helps as to eliminate the democratic deficit.
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the interactive relationship between democracy and education in philosophy of Dewey, as a remedy to the crisis of democratic culture. Particularly, this paper presents Dewey’s philosophy as a middle theoretical approach between the theoretical positions of Charles Taylor (as a representative of communitarism) and John Rawls (as representative of liberalism) for the interpretation of modern democratic notion. In other words, this paper claims that Dewey’s philosophy transfers the dualism invoked by Taylor’s and Rawls’ approaches regarding the meaning of citizenship and democracy. Dewey’s democracy composes both the communitarian and the liberal models of democratic education.
  1. The meaning of democracy in Dewey’s philosophy.
John Dewey developed his thoughts and concerns on the issue of democratic education by his work on the relationship between democracy and education, which was fundamental to the further progressive movement of education. Dewey's proposal for an education in the service of democracy is this:  the free communication between people and the unimpeded exchange of experience aimed at the convergence of different social interests will be secured. “Regarded as an idea, democracy is not an alternative to other principles of associated life. It is the idea of community life itself “(Dewey, 1991: 148). Through free communication and mutual experiences the flexible adjustment of the institutions and the continuous progress of society will be achieved. At this point it is necessary to mention that Dewey contrasts the traditional form of education with a more modern approach of the educational process, which includes the experience as the pervasive principle 2.
1.The educational process should be seen as a constant reconstruction within experience [..] the process and the goal of education is the same thing” (Dewey, 1916: 328-331).

The contrast between the two forms of education is strongly emphasized by Dewey, who concludes that there is a close and necessary link between education and experience (Dewey, 1897, Kolb, 1984). Dewey supports the dual aspect, namely the subjective and inter-subjective dimension of the reconstruction of knowledge, highlighting the inherent and continuous interaction between man and his experience with the social environment. According to him, human experience considered as a special type of interaction with the environment in which the one side defines and shapes the other one and simultaneously it is shaped by it, opening up possibilities of new forms of coping with the situations and forming of activities3. In formulating these positions, he attempts to remove the division between the subject and the object, theory and practice, rationalism and empiricism. It defines learning as a process which extracts meaning from experience and argues that the reflection on experience is a key element of the learning process. Dewey dealt extensively in his work with the concept of reflection, which constitutes a concept with a broad content. It is a part of thinking and learning, from which it must be differentiated and separated. Generally, it occurs as a synonym for mental processes of a high level and it is used for the activities (mental and emotional) that a person is involved in, having as ulterior purpose to explore the experiences and to be led to a new understanding and appreciation of the phenomena (Mezirow, 1990). The methodological principle of learning by doing is the essence of the educational thought of Dewey, highlighting the experience as the dominant method of reality’s approach and knowledge of things. According to Dewey (1957), experience transfers the principles connection and organization of information or stuff within itself. For Dewey, the reflection is the starting point for the action and it aims to help the person to get out of the deadlock, resolving problematic situations. He says that reflection is associated with the "evaluation of the justification of a person’s beliefs", that is the process of rational examination of conclusions with which our beliefs have been justified (Dewey, 1933, 1969).
The liberal idea of ​​Dewey regarding the ability of education to adjust and improve the social relations leads to the concept of equal opportunities, the provision, that is, to all students of equal access to cultural goods (with potential parallel aid of the disadvantageous) so as everyone has the possibility of obtaining the means for the realization of their own rational plan of virtuous life (Dewey, 1916, 1938). Dewey’s philosophical thought can be condensed and formulated in the following sentence: "A general application of the methods of science, in every possible area of ​​research is the only adequate means to resolve the problems of an industrial democracy" (Hook, 1939). He believed that democracy is an activity that takes place through learning, a process that anyone can learn and build upon through action, giving particular emphasis on social rather than political dimension of democracy 4. Dewey approached education as part of a larger project that included the exploration of the nature of the experience, knowledge, society and morality. Therefore, he offers us "the perfect bridge from the theories of knowledge to the democratic theory, then with the theory of education» (Kelly, 1995).
2. The father figure of the progressive education movement (Van Till, 1963), as described above, rejected the traditional approach of learning and teaching and formulated a series of new principles for a school open to the democratic society, «initiating a new era in Pedagogy» (Röhrs, 1993).
3. “Experience is primarily an active-passive affair; it is not primarily cognitive, but the measure of the value of an experience lies in the perception of relationships or continuities to which it leads up” (Dewey, 1916: 140).
4. This discussion also needs to be connected to the meaning and the importance we attribute to the concept 'democracy', inevitably, of course, in conjunction with political, ideological positions and attitudes.
A key feature was the concern for "social intelligence". According to him, through the cultivation of human the collective capacity to enlarge the freedom and creating a more desirable form of social life begins to develop (Carr & Hartnett, 1996).
Democracy as a way of life and not merely as a means of governance is based on the human contact and communication of their experiences. This concept highlights the two dominant components of a democratic way of life: the recognition of a layer of common values ​​and ideals and at the same time the emergence of flexible communication forms between people who promote interaction (Alexander, 2004). As a result, they experience jointly and reconstruct their experiences and knowledge, setting common goals and perspectives as well as organizing their action and confronting situations. A democracy of this type has the characteristics of community life. It is open to constant adjustment in order to satisfy new circumstances as they arise. The development of a deep democratic consciousness is necessary for the formation of democratic character. This development is not be reflected in the stereotyped acceptance of democratic principles. On the contrary, it depends on the overall accomplishment of objectives of the educational system.
Regarding the link between democracy and education, Dewey also drew the huge importance of freedom. Dewey emphasized the importance of intellectual freedom over just a temporary physical freedom: “The only freedom that is of enduring importance is freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while “(Dewey, 1938: 61). A prerequisite of education in a democratic society is the free communication between people and the free exchange of views, information, interests and experiences. On the other hand, the existence of democracy in a society is directly dependent on the proper education of citizens and for this reason the concern of the state for the popular education is imperative. Freedom is neither something given to humans nor a static event. It is a mission, a "becoming". For this reason, Horne states that the world of Dewey is becoming, not it is. He has a measure of class, but not a theory about the nature or the origin of this class (Horne, 1931).
Dewey emphasized the changes that are continuously being conduced (progress of democratic ideas, new scientific discoveries) which required a shift of people on issues concerning education. In a democratic society, all citizens should have equal opportunities for education and knowledge. He wanted the knowledge direct and accessible to everyone and not elitism and intellectual authoritarianism, which provides knowledge for the few. Students should have the freedom to think and act. They exercised themselves to in freedom, which can manage well, when in the future they will be the people who will administer the state (Dewey, 1924, 1959). The new school should equip students with interhuman values ​​and the meaning of democracy, basic skills for their later life. A democratic school environment means supplying students with life experiences with which they will develop the democratic ideals of equality, freedom and the community of people. People, who have been nurtured with the universal and timeless values​of personal liberty, dignity, kindness, mutual understanding and dialogue, have a higher quality of experience. Richmond says that "Dewey wanted firstly to humanize and personalize the learning process and then it makes it democratic." According to this approach of Dewey, Kilpatrick emphasizes that the respect for personality means to help everyone to develop, on their own efforts, their best predispositions, to help them especially to decide freely for the best purposes [...]. Such respect for personality is the most sacred thing in human relationships. (Richmond, 1973, Kilpatrick, 1951).
2.  The deweyan conception of citizenship: between Taylor and Rawls.
Starting from a profound belief in democratic ideals, Dewey moves towards a democratic conception of education, linking the concept of democracy with the concept of education, so that one presupposes the other. Democracy requires education, since the ulterior purpose of the educational process in a democratic society is the formation of democratic citizenship. But education involves democracy in the sense that the educational ideal must be in perfect harmony with the democratic ideal (Dewey, 1916). In this way, he rejects the aristocratic - platonic ideal of education, according to which only the few and the elite have the right to learning, and submits the idea that everyone, without exception, can and should have access to knowledge. For this reason, «the highest duty of a democratic state is to provide all citizens with a general education entirely representative of the fundamental social standards and ideals of democracy» (Dewey, 2003: 315) 5.
The philosophical thinking of Dewey transfers the liberal and communitarian conception of Democracy. It is a middle theoretical way, beyond the dualism of two diametrically opposing views about democracy. Liberal democracy is characterized by diversity of identities in the sense that every individual has the right to choose freely what, at their discretion, the virtuous life is. This diversity is now not only a fundamental value in the western world but also a permanent feature of the public culture of a liberal democracy (Tully, 1995, Rawls, 1993). Rawls understands the liberal democratic society as a system of cooperation between citizens who have rights not on the basis of philosophical, religious, moral or other comprehensive doctrines, but on the basis of the principle of equal citizenship. The cooperation of citizens can be achieved on the basis of a political conception of justice, which based on the creation of successive consent. The conception above is translated into commonly accepted political institutions; primarily it is feasible in the Constitution. The political conception of justice requires the moral commitment to institutions that are regarded as fair, through which contradictions can be settled, political decisions can be made and democratic cooperation can be possible (Rawls, 1993).
The political culture which is described by Rawls as a condition of the theoretical model of social justice already exists in American history as  public democratic ethos, as it was analyzed by Tocqueville (1863), for which Rawls himself says that it is compatible with the political theory (Rawls, 2004). In these terms, the political culture of Rawls is equivalent, according to Wellmer (2001) to a 'communitarian' liberalism which is present not only in Tocqueville, but in a more radical version, in Dewey. The difference is that the democratic ethos, described by Tocqueville in the 19th century has been enriched in the 20th century with a universalist understanding of rights, given that the American political culture in the present circumstances - particularly from the 1970 and on- has been adapted to the circumstances of multiculturalism, and along with Australia and Canada are the most tolerant and pluralist democratic systems in the world (Glazer, 1997, Kymlicka, 1995). Moreover, progressively the concept of cultural pluralism has taken a specific position in the education of many Western countries. According to Charles Taylor, this attitude reflects a new development in western liberal notion of political identity, which recognizes the uniqueness of individuality.
5. The above position ascribes both subjective and inter-subjective elements to the concept of citizenship with in a collective conceptual framework and it proposes a dialectical conception of democratic education, a conception that includes both individualist and communitarian elements (Gollnick, 1976).
Taylor suggests a historical reflection and a philosophy of visual examination of the issue of recognition of cultural particularity of all groups (religious, feminist organizations, political and cultural minorities, etc.), which coexist in political community within the framework of a democratic society which ought to treat all its members as equal (Taylor, 1994, 1997). The understanding of the importance and of the role of individual, collective and cultural identity is a prerequisite to understand the diversity, particularly in modern democratic states, which are formed by the impact of new forms of communication and art which bring together nations, people and cultures helping to the achievement of communication between cultures. According to Taylor, the lack of identification or false identification is a form of oppression, which leads to entrapment and to a distorted and impoverished way of being. The projection to the others of an inferior image leads to oppression. The incorrect recognition is not only a matter of formal respect, as it can have serious effects on its victims. This is a real human need, essential to the individual and their perception of life. Paying particular attention to the dialogical and not to the one-way character of the formation of identity highlights the emergence of the issue of recognition6.
The communitarian model of Taylor’s democracy, influenced by Hegelian epistemology, moves essentially moving into the conceptual framework of political nation, which prefers a state neutral to the identities and committed to human rights. Taylor highlights a political nation that promotes a cultural dominant ethnic group, which will be the unifying element of the political community, but will also protect the rights of all citizens. As a consequence a moral equivalence between the dominant ethnic group and individual identities which are differentiated with will be established because without this moral equivalence respect for the rights of minority identities cannot exist. Such equivalence is, of course, difficult to be accepted by the dominant nation, a fact that relays the problem posed at the beginning, this of the institutional racism that has been associated historically with the nation state (Taylor, 1983)7.
However, the essence of political theory is clearly linked to the issue of multiculturalism provided that any national, ethnic or religious group is based on certain ethical doctrines. According to Rawls, everyone has an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties which is compatible with a similar shape of freedom for the others, with a regulatory priority of the individual interests – rights, while the social and economic inequalities are arranged so that they are reasonably expected to benefit everyone (Rawls, 1971). The modern liberal democracy is determined by the principle of social justice, which operates as a regulatory factor in equality among citizens.
The ancient claim "paideuesthe pros tas politias" (be educated so as to take part in the public affairs) is a claim of modern times as well, with the emergence of the modern nation-state
6. This could not be discussed earlier as it is discussed today, because the fact that the concept of recognition is based on social categories that were perceived by all as given. The transition from the value to dignity resulted in the shift in the politics of universality, which yielded an emphasis on equality of all citizens regarding dignity. Here, the basic principle is that all are equal regarding their property to be citizens. Along with the development of the modern conception of identity, the policy of dispute is being created. Based on this, everyone is entitled to recognition because of the uniqueness of their identity.
7. At this point, Rawls is closer to Taylor, because he does not explicitly discuss the problem of multiculturalism and does not distinguish between the nation-state and the multicultural society, but instead he identifies the political community with a unique (single) people who belongs to the same "society and culture» (Kymlicka, 1995).
and modern liberal democracy during the period of Enlightenment in the 18th century and then in the 19th and 20th centuries. The newest "imagined" democratic state 8 based on the principles of liberty, equality, justice and brotherhood. Furthermore, the public education in the modern liberal democratic state / nation needs to take responsibility for the forging of national identity, for the formation of free and responsible citizens and the political, economic and cultural construction of the modern nation-states in general. Building a more democratic and more humane society, passes through knowledge, information, acquisition of appropriate skills and "life skills", the adoption of democratic values ​​and awareness of any problems that confronted the modern man confronts in democratic societies (Korsgaard et al, 2001).
Therefore, the key point of the establishment and consolidation of the representative democracy - the institutional framework of the modern democratic state - is the public education / literacy. The public but simultaneous democratic education and the public democratic school in Dewey, is a sine qua non for the democratization of liberal democracy. The democratic «community school» and democratic learning environment are necessary to promote the "socio-citizen mind» which in turn is a precondition for individual freedom and development. As a consequence, Dewey tries to bring the educational process to a new basis. He is radically opposed to the traditional philosophy of education, based on prefabricated materials courses. This, in his opinion persistence of ready knowledge of the past, does not seem to offer something extra; it is not enough to solve the problems faced by the education system (Dewey, 1916).
The concept of democracy in Dewey’s philosophy is of critical importance, something which affected the views of Rawls and Taylor. The stake of the Republic in times of crises is displayed more opportune than ever, calling to heal the fragmentation and the shattering caused by the lack of democratic values ​​in the proper functioning of the social net. The indissoluble link between democracy and education plays an important role in multicultural societies which are characterized by a crisis of democratic values ​​and ideals. In today's difficult economic, social and political crisis, Dewey’s philosophy appears as a demand of the times and as a response to the successive crackings which the society and the education endure.
Kymlicka (2005) rightly points out that, the emergence of democratic values is directly related to education and should be the primary concern of any educational system, with the active participation of people in the formal legislative functions of democracy. The democratic values are violated; the education system appears lame, without the ability to respond to the contemporary demands. Every day, the democratic culture is undermined, exacerbating the social and educational inequalities. The educational philosophy of Dewey creates a suitable framework for the promotion of democratization, in an environment that respects democratic principles and promotes the pluralism of the democratic spirit. Moreover, it is clear that democracy works in the social relations in multiple ways. It is not only a process of electoral representation, but it carries out social elements as well and components that promote social welfare. It includes principles and values ​​that found the democratic way of life.

8. it was first who Benedict Anderson coined the term “imagined communities” in a brilliant book. He defined a nation as "an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign". An imagined community is different from an actual community because it is not (and cannot be) based on everyday face-to-face interaction between its members (Anderson, 1991).
In each case there must be constant redefinition under the spectrum of constant changes of the present time.
3.      Conclusions
My main conception of this paper is to present Dewey’s philosophy as a middle theoretical approach between Rawl’s and Taylor models about democracy. Dewey combines the models of universalism and recognition in order to give a special meaning about democracy. I have examined that, by highlighting the three components for deweyan concept of democracy: experience, education and freedom. What we could conclude based on the above analysis is that the theoretical model of Rawls, which corresponds to a liberal republicanism, which is more applicable in multicultural societies of immigrants, like the United States and Australia, while for the societies which have constructed a nation-state it is more realistic to promote the model of Taylor, which is closer to the so-called national republicanism, which implies a dominant ethnic group. In fact, both models are based on common principles and values ​​which can be traced both in Rawls and Taylor, as well as in Dewey. Therefore, the characteristic which either one or the other version of a modern democratic society must bear, is a common democratic political culture that respects equally the different identities and the  rights of all,  based on a constitution that will result from the participation in the democratic dialogue. Dewey’s philosophy puts forward the interactive relationship between the individual and the society, distinguishing the democratic education as a process that comprises subjective and inter-subjective elements.

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