St. Louis Hegelians & Institutionalization of Education


Feb. 4, 2021, 3pm to 4pm

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Although the Hegelian roots of American educational thought, especially that of John Dewey, have recently found more recognition, we argue for a more complete consideration of Hegel’s impact on post-Civil War educational thought in the United States.  As Johnston suggests, “To reread Dewey as significantly Hegelian… demands for a more complete consideration of the role of Hegel in late nineteenth-century American educational thought.”  Hegelianism in America after the war exceeded its Prussian source in focusing on the question of how to provide for the citizens’ freedom in the new democracy, and by arguing that the solution to this question needs to be implemented by means of institutions, in particular public educational institutions. William Torrey-Harris and the St. Louis Hegelians created an educational system for St. Louis that would serve as a model for the whole nation, from Kindergarten all the way to the teachers’ colleges, and they passed an understanding of Hegel on to Dewey that differed substantially from the neo-theological readings that were widespread in the British academy at the time. By focusing on the commonalities between Harris and Dewey, we also make a preliminary case that Dewey’s thought did not constitute as much of a radical break with his Hegelian predecessors, as is commonly claimed.

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UNLV Faculty Center