John Dewey and the War of Ideas in American Education

Jon Fennell June 11, 2011

Presented at:
SCL Conference 2011


There is a widespread sense that something is deeply wrong with American public education. In this session, Jon Fennell of Hillsdale College suggests that the quality of public education is a function of the ideas upon which it is built. Therefore, if public education is failing, that is because of the ideas that control it. What are those ideas and what alternatives exist? Many critics of education assert that John Dewey is a primary source of bad ideas that are crippling our schools. To what degree is this allegation accurate and fair?


American Education Public Education


Jon Fennell
Jon M. Fennell is Director of Teacher Education and Dean of Social Sciences at Hillsdale College. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of California, Davis before moving to the University of Illinois where he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy of education. Prior to arriving at Hillsdale in 2005, Dr. Fennell spent four years in the Idaho State Department of Education and more than 20 years in the wholesale distribution, computer hardware, and ERP software industries. His teaching and research reflect a deep interest in philosophy, politics and education and is frequently focused on the domain where the three disciplines overlap. Dr. Fennell has written on educational topics as well as on the thought of seminal thinkers ranging from Rousseau and Dewey to Allan Bloom, Leo Strauss, Harry Jaffa, and Michael Polanyi. He is currently pursuing the intellectual connections between Polanyi and C.S. Lewis.

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