Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017

Journal Title or Book Title

Teaching Social Studies






Publisher's PDF

Publisher's Statement

Permission granted 4/4/2017. Full issue can be found at


Although the election of America’s first African American President offered a glimmer of hope, change, and potential for social justice issues to impact diverse minorities in America, the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement continues to resonate among people of color who believe that the promise of American democracy has yet to be achieved. Over one hundred years ago, the nation’s most famous philosopher, progressive educator, and strongest advocate for the democratic way of life, John Dewey (1916), briefly addressed the matter of race in what many consider his most famous work, Democracy and Education. “An undesirable society”, he wrote, …is one which internally and externally sets up barriers to free intercourse and communication of experience. A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. (p. 99) Dewey elaborated, “[I]f democracy has a moral and ideal meaning, it is that a social return be demanded from all and that opportunity for development of distinctive capacities be afforded all. The separation of the two aims in education is fatal to democracy; the adoption of the narrower meaning of efficiency deprives it of its essential justification” (Dewey, 1916, p. 122). Despite Dewey’s own firmly held beliefs influenced by the time period in which he lived, he was nonetheless conscious of the disconnection between racial prejudice and the true nature of American democracy. How did Dewey come to grips with this social inconsistency and what advice did he give to his readers?

Related Pillar(s)


Included in

Education Commons