John Dewey: Portrait of a Progressive Thinker: His ideas altered the education of children worldwide

“You can concentrate the history of all mankind into the evolution of flax, cotton, and wool fibers into clothing,” asserted Dewey. He described a class where students handled wool and cotton. As they discovered how hard it was to separate seeds from cotton, they came to understand why their ancestors wore woolen clothing. Working in groups to make models of the spinning jenny and the power loom, they learned cooperation. Together they understood the role of water and steam, analyzed the textile mills of Lowell, and studied the distribution of the finished cloth and its impact on everyday life. They learned science, geography, and physics without textbooks or lectures. Learning by doing replaced learning by listening. —Humanities (NEH)

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