Towards a critical materialist pedagogy, Marx and Dewey

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Harris, Fred
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This thesis analyses Karl Marx's theory with that of John Dewey in order to justify the proposition that a synthesis of the two theories could form the ground for a critical materialist pedagogy. The common materialist base of their theories is described. A look at the curriculum designed by Dewey for the Chicago laboratory school verifies the basic consistency of the two theories at the methodological level of the unity of the logical and historical methods and at the substantive level in terms of the importance of the material dependence of human beings on nature in addressing the character of human life and human problems. It is concluded that Dewey's curriculum forms a rich basis for developing a materialist curriculum that goes beyond Marx's writings. At the same time, the divergences between Marx and Dewey become evident because of Dewey's emphasis only on technological development whereas Marx linked technological development to the development of the capacities of some individuals at the expense of others. It is concluded that Marx, via his dual theory of labour, developed a critique of capital which forms a rich basis for developing a critical curriculum that goes beyond Dewey's writings. A synthesis of the two theories is briefly provided in the context of developing a critical materialist pedagogy.