Type of Document Dissertation Author Zhang, Huajun URN etd-04132009-050329 Title Unique but Inclusive Individuality: A Dialogue with John Dewey and Liang Shuming Toward Educational Reform in China Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Jeffrey Ayala Milligan Committee Chair Peter Easton Committee Member Shouping Hu Committee Member Tom Anderson Outside Committee Member Keywords
- John Dewey
- Liang Shuming
Date of Defense 2009-02-24 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis dissertation is written in the context of the radically changing Chinese society, in which the individual easily gets separated from the meaning of life and follows the dualistic social conventions for success. This problem is consistent with the situation of the present educational practice in schools. Education does not respond students’ disconnection from the radically changing society and thus cannot provide a meaningful resource for cultivating individuals’ self-identity. Thus, this dissertation suggests a philosophy of education which highlights the cultivation of students’ unique but inclusive individuality so that the individual learns how to nurture one’s own mind in this radically changing context rather than getting lost and feeling empty. This conception of individuality is inspired by the American pragmatist John Dewey and the Chinese Confucian scholar Liang Shuming, a contemporary of Dewey.
I use a methodology of comparative philosophy of education to discuss my proposal on individuality and education. I am not trying to write Dewey and Liang’s thought in a “right” way; neither am I trying to compare Dewey and Liang’s thought for judgment. It is more about dialogue and communication, to learn from different but related thoughts for solving the problem in the present. I am using a pragmatic approach to launch a philosophical discussion. Because my concern is shared by Dewey and Liang in their respective projects, this dialogue can be meaningful for my question.
After discussing Dewey’s and Liang’s thoughts, I propose a new idea of education: to cultivate a unique but inclusive individuality by going through inner struggles and gaining self-enlightenment.
Finally, the dissertation proposes story-telling as a teaching approach to create new space for students and teachers in school. Story-telling is a method that the individual can interpret life experience in multiple ways to explore different alternatives and possibilities she may have and to find the consistent meaning to connect the past to the present. It is also a method of self-expression when the individual goes through inner struggle and finds connection with the world outside. In this effort, the individual is developing a mind of her own. Narrative is thus a method worth trying in the current educational practice to formulate a new philosophy of education which emphasizes the development of unique and inclusive individuality as one goal of education.
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