Focus On John Dewey’s Democracy And Education Free Sample

The Three Foundations of an Enlightened Society

One of the major themes that comes up throughout John Dewey’s classic book on the philosophy of education is that the survival of an alive and vibrant democracy depends upon the educational development of its people. As Abraham Lincoln called it in his Gettysburg speech, democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

For Dewey, though, it is more than a form of government; democracy is (or should be) interwoven into the whole complex social fabric that is needed to sustain progress and civilization. In short, democracy is a way of living. But people can rule themselves and guide the next generation on the path of progress only when they possess a mature degree of intelligence, which in turn can only be shaped by means of right education.

Education, of course, is not to be associated with merely the formal academic part of education. Education implies continuous growth and mental development throughout one’s life, both before and after the normal school and university phase. “The object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth,” asserts John Dewey.

Now this idea cannot be applied to all the members of a society except… where there is adequate provision for the reconstruction of social habits and institutions by means of wide stimulation arising from equitably distributed interests. And this means a democratic society. (Dewey, 1916, p.129)

The ideal form of social system that can be envisaged in the cause of education is of course a full-fledged democracy, in the true sense of the word. Education promotes higher human values, and the freedom engendered by democracy safeguards the continued existence of such enlightened values. Life in a truly democratic society would therefore be fully conducive to the optimal expression of the potential and the possibilities of people that constitute such society.

For Dewey, democracy cannot be taken as an empty word, as it is today in some Third World countries; and philosophy cannot be empty talk, as it has been down the ages. Philosophy should take up the challenge and the responsibility to help us deal with the major issues and problems of contemporary social life.

The search for meaning that philosophy is, becomes the means to the realization of the of social progress. Educational institutions should foster “love of wisdom” in the children from an early age on. Authentic philosophical quest cannot to be equated with passion for any subject area in particular, rather it translates into a proclivity for broad, deep and free thinking in general, which also encourages discussion and debate among people.

Education and Growth

According to Dewey, “the dominant vocation of all human beings at all times is,” meaning, should be, “living-intellectual and moral growth (p.364).”  It is through the concept of growth that Dewey links the meaning and purpose of both education and democracy. In order that all people may be provided enough scope to work on their innate capacities for growth they would have to live in a democratic community, again implying democracy in the ideal sense of the word.

Democracy is the only type of society in which individuals are able to grow unhampered in a manner that can facilitate the realization of their unique interests and gifts. Democracy in the society is a necessary albeit not a sufficient condition to drive the evolutionary goal of mankind. And the key to democracy is education that promotes critical thinking and constant growth. For a democracy to flourish, it requires individuals who maximize their potential within the context of cooperative and meaningful activity with others. Dewey’s vision of education is thus directly connected with the question of preparing people in as great numbers as possible for active citizenship in a participatory democracy.

Life is a never-ending process of growth, at both individual and collective levels, and democracy is most suitable conduit to channel such a growth to proper ends. In this context, an education that helps children love learning and change is essential to a democratic society.

Since growth is the characteristic of life, education is all one with growing; it has no end beyond itself. The criterion of the value of school education is the extent in which it creates a desire for continued growth and supplies means for making the desire effective in fact (p.76).

Education is not to be viewed as something like filling a vessel with water, which is what unfortunately happens most of the time even today. A teacher’s sole purpose seems to be stuffing children’s brains with knowledge, just as a programmer feeds computer with data. Dewey’s vision radically departs from this mechanical approach, and inclines towards a more holistic and organic one.

The process of true education is more akin to the blossoming of a flower. A teacher should regard a child as a gardener regards a young tree, as something with an intrinsic nature that can one day grow into a magnificent entity, given proper soil and air and light. Education, within the framework of democracy, shall provide the right circumstances in which the natural creative patterns of growing children shall flourish.

Democratic Values and Education

Dewey sought a conceptualization of democracy in its broadest sense, as it applies to all walks of life. Democracy is but a vehicle of propagating freedom, freedom being the supreme value of democracy, as well as of life. Dewey attaches a very positive and active meaning to the notion of freedom. It signifies much more than the ability to move or act as one pleases.

Freedom means essentially the part played by thinking —which is personal—in learning:—it means intellectual initiative, independence in observation, judicious invention, foresight of consequences, and ingenuity of adaptation to them (p.354).

That is to say, for a human being, freedom essentially means freedom to think for oneself. At the same time, freedom also entails the participation in group activities. Moreover, humans can learn many capacities can only in a group environment. Dewey favors free social and intellectual interaction amongst people as a means to dissolve the artificial social barriers of race and class.

Dewey strives to expand upon the earlier democratic educational philosophies of Rousseau and Plato. Rousseau, in his Emile, overemphasized the individual and Plato, in his Republic, overemphasized the society; Dewey takes a more balanced view. He points out that an individual can lead a meaningful life only in his or her capacity as an inextricable part of the society, and the society has no meaning apart from its realization in the lives of its individual members. In order to promote a strong democratic character in students which can lead to the advancement of self and society, there is a need for a revolution in education — a transformation that puts stress on thought, experience, and activity factors.

Educational Values

In the field of pedagogy, Dewey wanted to minimize the role of memorization, inflexible standardized curricula, and norm-based tests as primary pedagogical tools. He argued that the stimulus to learning is not external to the student, but an organic state of the student in his or her lived context. Dewey also emphasized on the need to transcend the strictly utilitarian scope of education, which has the sole aim of making students productive citizens of the society. Beauty is not a concept that is limited to arts and literature, students should learn to appreciate the true beauty of every subject they learn:

We must not, however, divide the studies of the curriculum into the appreciative, those concerned with intrinsic value, and the instrumental, concerned with those which are of value or ends beyond themselves. …every subject at some phase of its development should possess, what is for the individual concerned with it, an aesthetic quality (p.296).

Further, Dewey rejected the 19th-century idea (an idea that is unfortunately still widely held) that the sole or primary function of a school is to serve as a conduit for the transmission of traditions or received values. The new men and women of the twentieth century would need to be educated in schools that were also laboratories: their schools would need to be places where received ideas were taught, to be sure.

But they would also need to be places where such ideas were examined for continuing relevance and where new ideas were tested by means of their application to real-life situations. In its goal to bring people closer together, education has to do more than to encourage people to adopt the common values of their past. Education must also be able to provide an answer to why and for what we live together.

Philosophy and Education

Dewey combines his philosophical pragmatism with his progressive pedagogical ideas. Like Aristotle, Rousseau and others, Dewey too stresses that concepts learnt in education are ideas that strive to make a difference in conduct. A theory of education may be taken as a theory of conduct; philosophy, Dewey argues, is the theory of education as a deliberately conducted practice.

Dewey strives to demonstrate the shortcomings of the practice of separating philosophy from education, stating that philosophic problems arise in contexts in which educational questions are pursued. Further, Dewey makes a deep connection between the need for open-minded thinking with an inquiring outlook and the need for a practically-minded philosophy,  a connection which results in philosophical enquiry becoming an active ingredient of everyday life.

Philosophy is “an explicit formulation of the problems of the formation of right mental and moral habitudes in respect to the difficulties of contemporary social life.” It is the business of education to promote development of such positive mental and moral attitudes. Herein lies the deep interconnection between these two:

The most penetrating definition of philosophy which can be given is, then, that it is the theory of education in its most general phases. The reconstruction of philosophy, of education, and of social ideals and methods thus go hand in hand (p.387).

John Dewey’s philosophy itself as outlined in his “Democracy and Education” is anything but a mere philosophy. It is an impassioned call to action to improve the lot of human kind and further the cause of progress through education.


  1. Dewey, J.  (1916).   Democracy and education: an introduction to the philosophy of education.   New York: The Macmillan Company.


Focus On Ethos And Pathos

            The simplicity of John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine” stands in direct contrast to his complex and volatile life. Starting out as a working class kid, swept into the mayhem and stardom of the Beatles throughout the 1960’s, and plunged into the center of controversy and self-abuse throughout the 1970’s, his short but brilliant life was ended by an assassin bullets. Fortunately, for he world, Lennon left behind and incredible musical legacy: one which may have reached a more universal articulation, lyrically, in his solo-work than in his Beatles-era song-writing.

            Unlike many of Lennon’s Beatle-era songs which are steeped in psychedlia and in many cases verbal obscurity, such as: “I Am the Walrus” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” or “Nowhere Man,” the song “Imagine” reaches a simplistic and universal articulation of Lennon’s much-touted themes of global peace and brotherhood.

            The mood and theme of the lyrics are suggested in the recorded version of “Imagine” before any words are actually sung. The spare, lovely piano melody forwards a feeling of inclusiveness, as though it is a sing-along, and the piano, itself, feels like a centerpiece for a group gathering, recalling by-gone days when people gathered around pianos and sang. There is also a choir-like, religious feel to the song’s tempo and tone, which helps lend the song a solemnity and this solemnity encourages the listener to pay special attention to the lyrics.

            The listeners’ attention is greatly rewarded by the ensuing lyrical themes and statements. The very first line “Imagine there’s no heaven” is sure to grab and hold attention, presenting the mind with a paradox of sorts – because we are so used to imaging there is a heaven (having to imagine what we can’t see of know). Lennon’s vision is asserting itself already, particularly through the use of the word “Imagine” as a refrain. This word immediately unlocks in the listener, an ability to accept the following lines and words, appealing to their sense of imagination, rather than political beliefs, moral beliefs, or religious beliefs. It is though Lennon in studying the religions and moral systems of the world concluded that they were all based on a universal component, not “objective” truth, but on imagination. He then cleverly utilized an appeal to this universal sense in his lyrics to promote a vision which is, at root, quite politically and ethically driven. The refrain “Imagine” allows the listener to interject their own subjective response and thereby mitigates any anthemic or dogmatic inference the lyrics’ theme might have well engendered.

            The emotional massage of the song is one of universal inclusiveness: the piano, the melody, the refrain, the hymn-like repetition are all meant to stress the unity of humanity and this , along with the lyrics’ brave and thoughtful appeal for human rights and economic parity, comprise, in mt mind, Lennon’s highest achievement as a pop-lyricist.

            Another pop-rock song (from roughly the same era) which utilizes a piano arrangement and simple, universally inclusive lyrics is Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).” The lyrics to this song were written by Bernie Taupin, who was John’s principle lyricist for many decades. These lyrics are among my favorite of the era because of their direct appeal to the “rock and roll” attitude, or soul, that resides in all of us. The song is also interesting, like Lennon’s “Imagine” for its scarcely concealed sympathy for the working classes. Although “Imagine” is a song meant to appeal to a global audience, “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” delivers a more Anglicized message, being particularly concerned with British working-class youth.

            This song has always fascinated me because of Taupin’s ability to generate so many characters in such a short lyric. Told from a 1st person point-of-view, the lyrics manage to sketch the family, work, school, and night life of an “average” working class kid in Britain circa-1970’s. A slight but persistent sense of aggravation and malaise drives the lyric, along with a sense of irony and social dissonance. However, Taupin’s socially conscious lyric has no chance of being shunted off as lecturing or boring because of his incredible gift for meter and alliteration, plus the driving, blaring simple piano melody which helps elevate what is essentially an introspective character study into a pop anthem.

            Both “Imagine” and “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” demonstrate the synthesis of pop-sensibilities and socially conscious observation and criticism. Both of the songs attain a sound marriage of lyric and melody and both have outlived the era in which they were composed, remaining as staples of radio airplay and factoring into the consciousness of subsequent generations.

  Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)

It’s getting late have you seen my mates

Ma tell me when the boys get here

It’s seven o’clock and I want to rock

Want to get a belly full of beer

My old man’s drunker than a barrel full of monkeys

And my old lady she don’t care

My sister looks cute in her braces and boots

A handful of grease in her hair

Don’t give us none of your aggravation

We had it with your discipline

Saturday night’s alright for fighting

Get a little action in

Get about as oiled as a diesel train

Gonna set this dance alight

`Cause Saturday night’s the night I like

Saturday night’s alright alright alright

Well they’re packed pretty tight in here tonight

I’m looking for a dolly who’ll see me right

I may use a little muscle to get what I need

I may sink a little drink and shout out “She’s with me!”

A couple of the sound that I really like

Are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike

I’m a juvenile product of the working class

Whose best friend floats in the bottom of a glass


The Art Of Foley Sound

            The expression that says, “There is no business like show business”, speaks volumes about the impact of entertainment in people’s lives all over the world. What makes this possible is the utilization of various multimedia in order to deliver shows and movies to people everywhere. Thus there is no one exempted from the far reaching influence of the various forms of multi-media. The effects can be seen in the last fifty years as a force that can even transform society. This is just unbelievable.

            With regards to multimedia, leading the pack of course are television and movies. These are the major means of communication not only because of its reach but due to their capabilities of which other forms of media could not offer. With the TV and movies, visuals and sounds could be experienced in one package. Contrast this to radio which only carries sounds and no visuals. The same is true with print where one can only see visuals but could not experience sound. This is the reason why TV and movies are so influential and can really create an impact in the lives of individuals. But this is not an overnight success.

            It all began from the invention of projectors that can show moving pictures. This in turn fools the eye into thinking that images are moving and appear life-like. But what was seen was jerking movements that one wonders if they only know how to shoot comedy during those days. But it was a start. Then improvements were made, technology was used to the hilt. It used to be that movies were associated with funny movements, and then afterwards the producers were able to achieve a degree of realism. This was made possible when technicians were able to control the speed of the moving pictures into an optimum 24 frames per second.

The Sound of Music and Others

            Creating realism in human movements was not the only technological breakthrough that made movies such a box-office hit. In addition to creating life-like movements on screen, movie makers were also able to improve the quality of the sound. But it was not an easy task. As usual technology brings with it the roses as well as the thorns. Tomlinson Holman in his book, “Sound for Film and Television”, made a case regarding the difficulty in integrating sound in films – a feature taken for granted in the 21st century – and he wrote:

The coming of sound (to silent films) had brought distribution headaches to an industry that enjoyed simple means for foreign distribution. All that had to be done to prepare a foreign-language version was to cut in new title cards translated into the target language. The coming of dialog spoiled that universality. (182)

But the industry was able to solve this problem and moved on to more complicated goals. In the modern age of movie making technology has brought the industry to unprecedented highs that producers in the bygone era of silent films would have just considered as daydreaming. A sample of advancements in the audio aspect of film production was given by Branston:

            The sound designer attempts to create a “sound image”, which means that every person who speaks and every significant sound (a footstep, a phone ringing etc.) is heard clearly,      but also in the context of a believable background – a city street, a busy office etc. (328-        329)

Jack Foley

            Today, putting in sound effects to movies – that helps make it so believable – is routine practice. This is in large part due to one man’s tireless effort. The person responsible for ushering a new era in film production – with respect to audio – is Jack Foley. Mr. Foley was instrumental in the transition period between silent films to films with sound. His genius led to the development of a distinct method of creating sound effect that is aptly called “Foley Sound”.

            An example of Jack Foley’s pioneering effort was seen in his work with Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus. In this film classic Kubrick wanted to re-shoot a scene because he was not satisfied with the ambient sounds they picked up while shooting. According to Punter it is at this crucial moment when Foley demonstrated his uncanny ability to produce sound that is just perfect for a particular sequence and she wrote, “Foley ran out to his car and retrieved a large ring of keys, which he then jangled in sync to the march step, creating the rhythmic “ching” of the armor and saving production the expense of a two-day shoot with soldier extras” (par. 4).

            This technique was described more succinctly by Gary Anderson in his book about video editing and post production:

Foley is the process by which sync sound effects are replaced or added during audio post-            production […] requires the use of a synchronizer, an audio-tape recorder, and a VCR to             play back portions of a scene to people on a sound effects stage (called foley walkers). The sound effects concerned cold be actual effects that sound false on the production tracks (gunshots are a good example), effects that may have been lost because of improper use of production microphones or location noise…(155)

In the Beginning

            The birthplace of Foley sound is in the Universal Studios where Jack Foley worked for 33 years as a pioneer in sound design (Punter, par. 1). The discovery of his gift came about when the studio experienced serious difficulty with the advent of “talkies”. So in order to market films to foreign countries the studio had to employ groups of actors specific to a foreign language. This has become so tedious according to Holman that finally foreign-language dubbing was invented (182).

Then another level of difficulty surfaced as movie makers and audiences are becoming more sophisticated, Holman described the problems as follows:

The difficulty with these foreign-language dubs was that they lacked all the low-level    sounds of the actors moving around the set, sitting down, pouring a glass of water, etc. […] the stage was set for the invention of Foley recording. The idea was that many sounds        could be recorded “to fit” the time that they appear on the screen by simply performing the action in sync… (182)

Success and More Breakthroughs

            According to historian Paul Monaco, Jack Foley began experimenting and mastering this “highly specialized skill” in the 1940s but found limited use of it even at the end of the 1950s (106). But all of these began to change following a radical change in film production’s standard operating procedure that slowly transformed this art form; here is another commentary of that era in the history of sound design, “At the beginning of the 1960’s […] there were only six Foley artists working regularly in Hollywood. That situation changed radically as filming moved away from controlled environments of Hollywood studios and backlots. By increasingly going on location […] feature filmmakers fueled the need for Foley artists to create sound in post production…”(Monaco, 106).

            Ben Long and Sonja Schenk in the Digital Filmmaking Handbook gave an up to date definition of Foley’s technique as, “… the process of recording special ambient effects in real-time while watching your picture. Door slams, footsteps […] and all sorts of ‘everyday sounds’ that might not have been recorded during your shoot can be added by a Foley artist” (348).

            So, not only do Foley techniques help in significantly lowering down production costs, it also contributed in creating much desired improvements that added to viewing pleasure.

The Foley Stage and the Foley Artists

            The success of this method is also due in part to the invention of ground-breaking equipment and the specialized skills of the artists or crew that was trained by Jack Foley. An example of a primary tool in the creation of Foley sound is a specially built structure called “Foley Stage.” Here is a description from Ashley Shepherd:

            Foley stages are usually larger rooms with a very low noise floor and low reverberation   times to allow uncolored recording with medium distance miking (3-6 feet). There can be          pits in the floor that are filled with different materials, such as dirt, concrete, tile, woods,            glass […] The Foley artist can walk, jump, and throw things into the pits in order to create       all kinds of sounds. (116)

            The more modern way of doing things was described by Holman as likely to involve, “…a multitrack recorder or workstation so that different record passes can be used to add layers of different effects building up to a complete whole. (And this is done) by people involved in producing a Foley track: 1) The Foley artist; 2) The Foley editor; and 3) The Foley recordist” (182).


            Now that the facts are out, there is now no denying that Jack Foley was truly an unsung hero in the filmmaking business. It may be too late now to give him the sort of posthumous awards given during Oscar’s night. It may be better to give him credit in some other way. And this honor is long overdue because without his work, there could have been no classics such as the Godfather, Star Wars, Saving Private Ryan to name a few that relied on this specialized technique. Without Foley sound there is no way to make this film believable. The bullets and the laser could not be audibly heard. The other movements and other actions would not be emphasized and the emotional thrill that is brought about by a heightened degree of realism would be non-existent. And the movie industry would probably not have grown in the way it has in the past 50 years.


Punter, Jennie. “Film’s Unsung Hero.” 8 May 2005 Toronto, Canada 7 September

            2006 ;;.

Holman, Tomlinson. Sound for Film and Television. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Publishing, 2002.

Monaco, Paul. The Sixties, 1960-1969: History of the American Cinema. CA: University of

            California Press, 2001.

Shepherd, Ashley. Pro Tools for Video, Film and Multimedia. Boston, MA: Muska ; Lipman

            Publishing, 2003.

Branston, Gill. The Media Student’s Book. (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge, 2003.

Anderson, Gary. Video Edition and Post-Production: A Professional Guide. Woburn, MA:

            Butterworth-Heinemann Publishing, 1999.

Long, Ben and Sonja Schenk. The Digital Filmmaking Handbook. (2nd ed.). Hingham, MA:

            Charles River Media, Inc., 2002.

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