John Dewey (Image: Library of Congress)



Tom Alexander on John Dewey, Democracy and Education

By Max Eternity


Who was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?  Was he the first African-American to walk on the moon?  Did he give the Gettysburg Address?  Did he recently die from a heart condition at age 93?  Or is he one of the men whose face is carved into the side of Mount Rushmore?  These are some of the questions asked about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as seen in the video below, and it seems some Americans don’t really know.

Well, there’s a lot more about this country that citizens don’t seem to know.  In 2011 when NEWSWEEK magazine gave 1,000 US citizens the nation’s official citizenship test, “29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.”

John Dewey (Image: Library of Congress)
John Dewey (Image: Library of Congress)

An ignorant public is not just a problem for educators to reckon with, it’s a fundamental crisis within our democracy, because according to Tom Alexander “democracy needs education if it’s going to work.”

Since 1985, Alexander has been a member of the Department of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University.  He’s an expert on the philosophic and educational teachings of John Dewey, authoring a book on the subject entitled John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience and Nature: The Horizons of Feeling (SUNY Press, 1987), and he’s the author of The Human Eros: Eco-ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence (Fordham University Press, 2013).  Alexander is also co-director of the Center for Dewey Studies, and is as well a former president of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.

On December 1st, Alexander was interviewed by phone for, where he was first asked why John Dewey is historically significant, and how Dewey’s legacy can inform today:

Alexander was then asked about his book John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience and Nature: The Horizons of Feeling, and about one of one of Dewey’s most famous books Art as Experience, of which Alexander says that in Art as Experience, Dewey was conveying in that “what we cultivate as art…belongs to the whole range of human experience.”  That by separating art from everyday life “we’ve made it a mysterious and not too important thing,” Alexander says:


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