Science and curriculum : early science and scientism in John Dewey’s educational theory and practice (1882-1916)
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This dissertation explores the early influence of science on Dewey's educational theory and practice. Science was, unquestionably, a dominant ideal, concept, subject, and/or method during the late nineteenth century when Dewey entered his academic career. Realizing the significance of science in education, Dewey sought an answer to the questions of why we teach, what we teach, and how we teach, based on science. Dewey's effort to find a scientific basis of education was frequently misunderstood as “scientism,” which means unjustified or excessive reliance on positivistic science. Unlike the supporters of positivistic science in education such as Thorndike, however, Dewey sought a non-scientistic approach in pursuing the theory of educational purposes, substance and practices. Exploring the development of Dewey’s view on science in education, this study provides a detailed explanation on the transformation of his ideas in five stages: formative, developmental, preparation, experimental, and post-experimental. To provide an overview of issues involved in the problem of scientism, Chapter II deals with a conceptual geography of scientism and its influence on early twentieth century American education. The development of Dewey’s view on the science of education is provided in chronological order in Chapters III, IV, and V. Chapter III explores Dewey’s separation from the Neo-Hegelian tradition, an encounter with new science, and re-interpretation of scientific ethics. Chapter IV elaborates Dewey’s conception of scientific curriculum, a preparation for experiment in the Laboratory School, and science subject-matter and scientific method in the school. Chapter V provides a detailed exposition on the role of subject-matter and method in Dewey’s scientific curriculum and a brief explanation on his thought about subject-matter and method after he left the Laboratory School. Conclusions and reflections are offered in Chapter VI.