Most educational historians consider John Dewey to be America’s most influential philosopher. Dewey was a prolific writer, who produced influential works in the areas of education, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, social philosophy, and political philosophy.

Dewey ( 20 October 1859-2 June 1952) was born in Burlington, Vermont. After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1879, he taught high school for two years in Oil City, Pennsylvania. While teaching high school, he became interested in philosophy and chose to pursue graduate study at Johns Hopkins University. After graduating from Johns Hopkins in 1883 with a Ph.D. in philosophy, Dewey accepted an appointment to teach philosophy at the University of Michigan, where he remained for 10 years. In 1894, he began to teach in the Department of Pedagogy, Psychology, and Philosophy at the University of Chicago. During his 10-year stay in Chicago, Dewey became famous for his revolutionary ideas on pedagogy. His books The Child and the Curriculum and School and Society inspired the progressive education movement, which emphasized child development and the adaptation of curriculum to the interests and needs of students.

In 1904, Dewey left the University of Chicago to teach in the department of philosophy at Columbia University. During his 48 years in New York, Dewey also taught regularly at Teachers College. Dewey was elected to the prestigious Kappa Delta Pi Laureate Chapter as its first member in 1925. His election was an important ingredient in gaining prestige for the Society and for sustaining its growth. His influence is still felt today as the Laureate Chapter remains strong and vital in Kappa Delta Pi. He remained active as a writer and social thinker throughout retirement until his death. During his remarkable 75-year writing career, Dewey produced dozens of books and hundreds of articles. His influence as an educational philosopher has not been matched in the 50 years since his death.

Contributed by Wesley Null, Baylor University

Dykhuizen, G. 1973. The Life and Mind of John Dewey. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Martin, J. 2002. The Education of John Dewey: A Biography. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ryan, A. 1995. John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.

Westbrook, R. B. 1991. John Dewey and American Democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.