Tuesday, October 4, 2011

John Dewey - "Conscription of Thought"

Who was John Dewey?
John Dewy (1859 -1952) was a well known American psychologist, philosopher and educator. His philosophies, ideas and teachings have had a great impact on education today. Not only did Dewey make contributions in the fields mentioned but he was also a major inspiration for several movements that shaped the twentieth century. He was a social critic and a political activist who wanted a liberal and progressive democracy.

What is John Dewey's "Conscription of Thought"?
In 1917, John Dewey wrote the article "Conscription of Thought". The article was mainly about the United States and their involvement in World War I. The War began in 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by the Serbs.

The United State had decided to stay neutral and not join the war. One of the events that started changing the mentality of neutrality was the Sinking of the Lusitania which killed 128 Americans and the Zimmerman Telegram. There seemed to be a split in the country. Some which were opposed to war and others that supported our entry into WWI. Dewey mentions in his article that

"There is probably no one in the country who was not aware that many persons among us were pro-German, in their sympathies; that there were others who were opposed to all war, and yet others who whom this war was unpopular, and others who centered their hostility upon the policy of conscription"

In his article he begins to talk about why people should not oppose our involvement in the war. He supported the United States joining not because he wanted to help the Allies win the war but because he felt that

"We shall have missed the greatest contribution which the war has to make to our future national integrity"

He believed if the United remained neutral,
"We shall have taken a step forward in overcoming a physical and territorial isolation from the world, but shall remain as provincially separate as before in thought and interest."

According to him, we managed to keep our self from the war, we managed not to get in debt and keep our men safe but in the end we also managed to make our country look weak. Which means that the "Big Powers" of the world who viewed us at a lower level before the war, will continue to view us as a weak country because we did not help in the effort to help them win the war.

John Dewey knew that World War I would bring about a great change not only in Europe but to the world. He knew that this war would be historic and the only ones missing from this historic moment would be the United States if they decided not to join the war.

It would not be enough for the United States to remain neutral and try to come to a peace agreement with the rest of the world that was fighting Dewey believed that ultimate American participation
"...should consist not in money nor in men, but in the final determination of peace policies which is made possible by the contribution of men and money"

All in all, John Dewey thought that if the United States joined WWI, we would not be helping the war by helping the Allies win but we would be also doing ourselves a favor by being a part of history. Joining the War would be the United States break through performance which will makes us a bigger and better country. We will gain acknowledgement and support from other countries but also will unite our county and most importantly will show the rest of the World that the United States is a force not to be reckon with.

"Above all we shall have missed the great experience of discovering the significance of American national life by seeing it reflected into a remaking of the life of the world. And without this experience we shall miss the contribution which the war has to make to the creation of a United America"

"Conscription of Thought" - First Published in New Republic 12 (1917): 128 -30

John Dewey - Johnson, James Allen. Foundations of American education: perspectives on education in a changing world. 15th ed. New York: Merrill ;, 2010. Print.