The Place for Dewey’s Constructivism of Intelligent Action in the American Meritocracy of Thorndike

  • Brian D. Cox


American educators have been pulled in different directions by two twentieth-century legacies: E. L. Thorndike is often portrayed as a proto-behaviorist who created a top-down technocratic view of modern educational administration. In contrast, John Dewey is seen to be promoting a fundamentally social, discovery-based, hands-on construction of knowledge. Dewey was prescient about the ways in which the hierarchical, corporate nature of educational bureaucracies can deaden the excitement of self-directed growth. Thorndike wanted to reform education in the Progressive era by promoting accountability through science; in so doing, he left a positive modern legacy of educational research. This historical chapter aims to unearth the subtleties in both men’s work that have often been overlooked by casting them in opposition to one another.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian D. Cox
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA

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