The Application of John Dewey's Ideas to an Inner City Alternative High School

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Vol: 20, Issue: 1

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Domina, Meryl; Greer, Janice
article description
The idea for this paper grew out of a comment Laurel N. Tanner made in her book Dewey's Laboratory School: Lessons for Today. Tanner wrote that it isn't enough to read Dewey as his "ideas are not developed fully enough in these major works to serve as guides to practice" (1997, p. xii). She researched the early records of the Laboratory School and brought the workings of Dewey's school to life, showing the "everyday operation" underlying Dewey's principles. In this paper I am going to show how Sullivan House applies Dewey's principles to a contemporary alternative high school serving some of Chicago's most difficult students. I will start with a short rationale for continuing to examine and apply Dewey's educational philosophy to schooling today. I will then discuss the free school Janice Greer began and her application of Dewey's ideas. The final half of the paper will investigate how Sullivan House Alternative High School uses Dewey's ideas today with young people who have a troubled background and a history of school failure. Even though Dewey's experimental Laboratory School was for young children, this paper will show how John Dewey's pedagogy can be applied to meet the needs of adolescents to gain the academic, social, and emotional skills they must obtain to function as productive adults.