I would like to respond to a recent column written by Thomas Sowell entitled "Educators' Role in Our Society." Early in the article, Mr. Sowell states that Chinese educators were a factor in "the rise of the Communists to power in China." Then he states: "I see our own educators playing a similar role in creating a mindset that undermines American society." To this end he blames Professor John Dewey's conception of education because he claims Dewey "saw the role of the teacher, not as a transmitter of a society's culture, but as one strategically placed, with an opportunity to condition students to want a different kind of society."
Sowell's simplistic depiction of Dewey's educational philosophy is disingenuous to say the least. Dewey was a prolific writer whose publications ranged from curriculum development to the preservation of American democracy. Space does not allow for a thorough exploration of his thoughts. However, suffice it to say that Dewey favored the idea of students being active rather than passive learners. He wanted students to think critically as they learned, which he referred to as "reflective thinking," rather than to be rote learners. Today this is a major goal of American education, and it is supported by most stakeholders, including the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), sometimes referred to as "The Nation's Report Card," is designed to assess students' reasoning skills in various curriculum areas.
Given the recent heroic deeds enacted by educators in Newtown, Conn., and also in California, I find it unseemly that Sowell would choose to write an article questioning the patriotism of our educators. You would think that he would have better things to write about.