John Dewey pp 71-80 | Cite as

Schooled Quandaries

  • John BaldacchinoEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Education book series (BRIEFSEDUCAT)


Education is broadly misconstrued by a fallacy that perceives learning as the production, distribution and consumption of knowledge. A closer look at the outcome of neoliberal models that are now widely adopted across the world on the assumption that they sustain a fair form of meritocracy, reveals that such schools fail to deliver their educational promise and remain intrinsically undemocratic. The discourse and practice of meritocracy could fool no one, even when meritocracy has been uniformly pronounced and supported by politicians from all ideological quarters. Those who closely engage with Dewey’s philosophy will quickly realize that education is like philosophy: it cannot sustain closed and identitarian conclusions. Dewey clearly states that, “action restricted to given and fixed ends may attain great technical efficiency; but efficiency is the only quality to which it can lay claim”. This reflects his radical approach to democracy, which takes place on an ever-expanding horizon of dispositions. This fluid context for a democratic way of living holds an intrinsic value to education and how in the formalized assumptions of learning, schools and societies are bound to each other—for better and for worse, sometimes in concordance with an approach to the transaction of knowing, and sometimes going the opposite way in a transaction that commodifies knowledge. Dewey’s argument distances itself from the extremities of a socialized school on the one hand and that of a schooled society on the other. He argues that, “all that society has accomplished for itself is put, through the agency of the school, at the disposal of its future members.” Does this imply that school and society are each other’s other? Yet the school must make choices that are not simply reflective of society in a mechanistic way. The relationship between the school and society has only one frame of reference in Dewey’s mind, and that is democracy. With democracy as a frame of reference, one gets a clear picture of how society, education and the school, would always need to find a space for interaction and transaction.


Standardization Meritocracy Democracy Schools Society 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DundeeDundeeUK

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