Dewey's and Freire's popular philosophies of education in a capitalist context

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Fred Harris


This article looks at Dewey’s and Freire’s popular philosophies of education in light of their views of the relation between common sense and scientific inquiry. Dewey’s view, unlike that of Freire, requires the data to be radically reorganized so that the inductive data cannot really be considered merely a reorganizing of common-sense experience. Dewey, though, does not apply his own characterization of scientific inquiry to his critique of capitalist relations; his criticism constitutes an external critique of capitalism via his concept of a cultural lag. Freire, too, criticizes capitalist relations not on its own terms but externally, via his humanist ethical condemnation of treating human subjects as objects. Marx, on the other hand, proposes an internal critique of capitalist relations, starting with the contradictory inductive unit of the commodity that parallels Dewey’s concept of scientific induction. Freire, despite his different conception of scientific inquiry, shares Marx’s interest in the working class and provides a complementary educational approach by addressing the working class’ experience of fear, by counteracting the denigration of working-class experience and by arguing against the claim of neutrality in inquiry in a capitalist context. A synthesis of the three philosophies would therefore serve better the educational needs of the working class.


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Part III: Readings of Freire