100 Years of John Dewey’s Democracy and Education — Commemorate in DC in April 2016

The Centennial Conference on Democracy and Education (1916-2016)

Take out your calendars and mark these dates: April 7 and 8, 2016.
The John Dewey Society will be celebrating the Centennial of the publication of John Dewey’s magisterial Democracy and Education in Washington DC. We want every one interested in advancing democratic education to participate.

The meeting will take place in the historic Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, DC – in the very rooms in which Marshall and his colleagues developed the legal strategy that resulted in the Brown v. Board decision. It will be free and open to the public, taking place immediately prior to the annual meeting of the Dewey Society and the American Educational Research Association on April 8-12, 2016.

But space is limited: reserve your spot today! (See below for how to reserve your spot!)

Why Celebrate the Centennial of Democracy and Education?

  • Democracy and Education is the most important book on education in American history, and is the bible of democratic education worldwide.
  • Democracy and Education has been translated into more languages than any book in history – except the Holy Bible. It is cited more frequently each year that all other classics of American educational studies – those by G. Stanley Hall, Alfred Binet, Edward Thorndike and others – combined!
  • Democracy and Education has inspired innovations and experiments in democratic education – in public schools and private experimental schools – in the United States and throughout the world – for one hundred years.
  • Democracy and Education is more relevant today than ever. We need to come together to celebrate its centennial, and to renew our commitment to democratic education. Please join us!

Democracy and Education Today
Despite the efforts of thousands of dedicated educators and parents, schools in the United States today are suffering under the domination of top-down standardized education: compulsory curriculum standards, pre-determined learning objectives, and high stakes standardized tests.

This standardization regime is sold as ‘preparing all learners for the global economy.’ In fact, it traps young people in a rat race for high test scores and endless competition for slots in colleges with the highest rejection rates and the best ‘payoffs.’ Children from elite families win; the rest struggle to survive.

The standardization regime compels teachers to abandon their hard-won practical knowledge, ignore the strengths of individual learners, and teach for the tests; It compels learners to give up their own passions and goals to conform to a system where their own interests and aims count for nothing.

Instead of ‘no child left behind,’ this regime should be called ‘no child left alive,’ as it has a deadening effect hostile to individual passions and group aspirations. Instead of moving ahead – growing – young people are all too often trapped in isolation, boredom, frustration, and rigged competition.

The message of Democracy and Education – its challenge to the standardization regime – needs to be re-stated, critically digested, re-interpreted for today’s educational situation, and disseminated for today’s teachers, parents and young people. It’s core message is clear:

  • that education of young people is not preparation for adult life but life itself,
  • that the only aims worth pursuing in education are the aims of the learners themselves, as individuals and as members of groups,
  • that teaching consists primarily in structuring learning environments that engage learners in pursuing their aims – alone or in cooperative groups,
  • that school lessons, however necessary to convey abstract and general relations, are a peripheral, and often dangerously overused component of schooling,
  • that democracy is built through cooperation and communication across racial, ethnic, gender, class, religious, political and philosophical differences as learners work together to achieve practical aims.

Why Participate in the Centennial Event?
Through presentations and workshops, the Democracy and Education Centennial in Washington on April 7-8 2016 will offer you a chance to renew your appreciation of this great work, to think through its message for today, and to renew your commitment to democratic education. We will soon be finalizing our selection of speakers and workshop presenters, and you will hear exciting information about them in the months ahead. Meanwhile, all of your suggestions are welcome.

Please mark your calendar and join us in Washington on April 7-8, 2016.

To reserve a spot, simply send an email to Kyle Greenwalt, JDS Secretary-Treasurer, at greenwlt@msu.edu and put the term ‘reserve’ (without the quotes) in the subject line.

Requesting a space indicates that you have placed the centennial event on your calendar and plan to attend. We want to assure a lively and enthusiastic participation, but space is limited.

Thanks very much,
Leonard J. Waks
President, John Dewey Society

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