Chapter 1 John Dewey and Chinese Education

Comparative Perspectives and Contemporary Interpretations

In: John Dewey and Chinese Education
SU Zhixin
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It has been widely claimed that no Western scholar has exerted greater influence on Chinese education than the American education philosopher John Dewey, who visited and lectured in China for more than two years between 1919 and 1921. A comparison of Chinese and American scholars’ evaluations of Dewey’s impact on Chinese education reveals many contradictions and controversies, especially in China during different historical periods. This paper examines the major differences between Chinese and American critics’ views on Dewey’s influence on Chinese education, with a focus on the dramatic changes in Chinese scholars’ perspectives in three distinct stages: from early praise and positive acceptance during the first 30 years after Dewey’s visit to China (1919–1949), to severe criticism and rejection over the next 30 years (1949–1979), and then to new interpretations since China’s opening up to the outside world in 1979. Although Dewey and his education theories were first extolled and then abandoned in China, they have received open and warm reappraisals from Chinese educators in recent decades and have emerged from rejection to renewed appreciation in Chinese education. To fully understand the significance and implications of Dewey’s visit to and lectures in China, both Chinese and American Dewey scholars need to create and sustain continued dialogue on this most fascinating episode in the intellectual histories of China and the US.

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  • Introduction A Centennial Reflection on Dewey’s Visit of China


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