117 Best John Dewey Quotes from the Famous Philosopher

John Dewey known as the ‘father of progressive education’ and ‘America’s greatest philosopher’ made big strides in the field of philosophy and education.

After studying at the University of Vermont and Johns Hopkins University, Dewey realized his aptitude wasn’t for primary or secondary education.

However, his contributions to philosophy and pedagogical beliefs began while teaching at the University of Chicago (1894–99).

His philosophies found further enhancement during his tenure at Columbia University (1904-1930).


His comprehensive writing spans psychology, ethics, politics, society and religion, but his extensive work on education garnered wide readership, cementing his reputation.

With more than 700 articles across 140 journals and roughly 40 books, Dewey’s philosophy has fostered diverse interpretations, prompting continuous scholarly discussions.

Related: Arthur Schopenhauer Quotes from the German Philosopher and Judith Butler Quotes from the American Philosopher

His philosophical insights continue to be revisited, re-examined and inspire new literature, proving his enduring influence in progressive education and philosophy.

I have shortlisted the best quotes by John Dewey to inspire you.

Best John Dewey Quotes


If we learn not humility, we learn nothing. ~ John Dewey.

Mind is a verb not a noun. ~ John Dewey.

The goal of education is to enable individuals to continue their education. ~ John Dewey.

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. ~ John Dewey.

Inference is always an invasion of the unknown, a leap from the known. ~ John Dewey.

Hunger not to have, but to be. ~ John Dewey.

The origin of thinking is some perplexity, confusion or doubt. ~ John Dewey.

The material of thinking is not thoughts, but actions, facts, events, and the relations of things. ~ John Dewey.

Balance is balancing. ~ John Dewey.

Perhaps the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular thing he is studying at the time. ~ John Dewey.

A genuine enthusiasm is an attitude that operates as an intellectual force. ~ John Dewey.

Every experience is a moving force. Its value can be judged only on the ground of what it moves toward and into. ~ John Dewey.

Schools should take part in the great work of construction and organization that will have to be done. ~ John Dewey.

Just as a flower which seems beautiful and has color but no perfume, so are the fruitless words of the man who speaks them but does them not. ~ John Dewey.

Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. ~ John Dewey.

Famous John Dewey Quotes

It is a familiar and significant saying that a problem well put is half-solved. ~ John Dewey.

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results. ~ John Dewey.

There’s all the difference in the world between having something to say, and having to say something. ~ John Dewey.

Independent self-reliant people would be a counterproductive anachronism in the collective society of the future where people will be defined by their associations. ~ John Dewey.

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow. ~ John Dewey.

Education is life itself. ~ John Dewey.

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey.


The interaction of knowledge and skills with experience is key to learning. ~ John Dewey.

To possess all the world of knowledge and lose one’s own self is as awful a fate in education as in religion. ~ John Dewey.

We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience. ~ John Dewey.

I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. ~ John Dewey.

Schools should take an active part in directing social change, and share in the construction of a new social order. ~ John Dewey.

One can think effectively only when one is willing to endure suspense and to undergo the trouble of searching. ~ John Dewey.

Ultimate John Dewey Quotes

Everything which bars freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into sets and cliques, into antagonistic sects and factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life. ~ John Dewey.

It requires troublesome work to undertake the alteration of old beliefs. ~ John Dewey.

No system has ever as yet existed which did not in some form involve the exploitation of some human beings for the advantage of others. ~ John Dewey.
Such happiness as life is capable of comes from the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situations of experience its own full and unique meaning. ~ John Dewey.

Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. ~ John Dewey.

Education, in its broadest sense, is the means of this social continuity of life. ~ John Dewey.

There is no god and there is no soul. Hence, there is no need for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is dead and buried. There is no room for fixed and natural law or permanent moral absolutes. ~ John Dewey.

Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. ~ John Dewey.

A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. ~ John Dewey.

Creative thinking will improve as we relate the new fact to the old and all facts to each other. ~ John Dewey.

A society with too few independent thinkers is vulnerable to control by disturbed and opportunistic leaders. A society which wants to create and maintain a free and democratic social system must create responsible independence of thought among its young. ~ John Dewey.

The aim of education is growth: the aim of growth is more growth. ~ John Dewey.

The real process of education should be the process of learning to think through the application of real problems. ~ John Dewey.

Change as change is mere flux and lapse; it insults intelligence. Genuinely to know is to grasp a permanent end that realizes itself through changes. ~ John Dewey.

Any education given by a group tends to socialize its members, but the quality and the value of the socialization depends upon the habits and aims of the group. Hence, once more, the need of a measure for the worth of any given mode of social life. ~ John Dewey.

The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to feel important. ~ John Dewey.

One might as well say he has sold when no one has bought as to say he has taught when no one has learned. ~ John Dewey.

Art is the most effective mode of communication that exists. ~ John Dewey.

Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim of living. ~ John Dewey.

As long as art is the beauty parlor of civilization, neither art nor civilization is secure. ~ John Dewey.

The school must be a genuine form of active community life, instead of a place set apart in which to learn lessons. ~ John Dewey.

Top John Dewey Quotes

All learning begins when our comfortable ideas turn out to be inadequate. ~ John Dewey.

Purposeful action is thus the goal of all that is truly educative. ~ John Dewey.

Language exists only when it is listened to as well as spoken. The hearer is an indispensable partner. ~ John Dewey.

No man’s credit is as good as his money. ~ John Dewey.

We only think when confronted with a problem. ~ John Dewey.

Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife. ~ John Dewey.

You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow. ~ John Dewey.

To feel the meaning of what one is doing, and to rejoice in that meaning; to unite in one concurrent fact the unfolding of the inner life and the ordered development of material conditions – that is art. ~ John Dewey.

To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. ~ John Dewey.


To me faith means not worrying. ~ John Dewey.

I believe that the school must represent present life – life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the play-ground. ~ John Dewey.

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another. ~ John Dewey.

Skepticism: the mark and even the pose of the educated mind. ~ John Dewey.

Inspiring John Dewey Quotes

Since there is no single set of abilities running throughout human nature, there is no single curriculum which all should undergo. Rather, the schools should teach everything that anyone is interested in learning. ~ John Dewey.

Education as growth or maturity should be an ever-present process. ~ John Dewey.

Intellectual responsibility secures integrity; that is to say, consistency and harmony in belief. ~ John Dewey.

Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth. In this way, the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer-in of the true Kingdom of God. ~ John Dewey.

Teachers are the agents through which knowledge and skills are communicated and rules of conduct enforced. ~ John Dewey.

Science is a systematic means of gaining reliable knowledge. ~ John Dewey.

The good man is the man who, no matter how morally unworthy he has been, is moving to become better. ~ John Dewey.

Schools have ignored the value of experience and chosen to teach by pouring in. ~ John Dewey.

The plea for the predominance of learning to read in early school life because of the great importance attaching to literature seems to be a perversion. ~ John Dewey.

The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. ~ John Dewey.

Great John Dewey Quotes

Confidence is directness and courage in meeting the facts of life. ~ John Dewey.

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes. ~ John Dewey.

If all meanings could be adequately expressed by words, the arts of painting and music would not exist. ~ John Dewey.

When a person is absorbed, the subject carries him on. ~ John Dewey.

Time and memory are true artists; they remold reality nearer to the heart’s desire. ~ John Dewey.

Complete adaptation to environment means death. The essential point in all response is the desire to control environment. ~ John Dewey.

The conception of education as a social process and function has no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind. ~ John Dewey.

The struggle for democracy has to be maintained on as many fronts as culture has aspects: political, economic, international, educational, scientific and artistic, religious. ~ John Dewey.

Always make the other person feel important. ~ John Dewey.

We all jump to conclusions; we all fail to examine and test our ideas because of our personal attitudes. ~ John Dewey.

Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business. ~ John Dewey.

Wise John Dewey Quotes

The spontaneous power of the child, his demand for self-expression, can not by any possibility be suppressed. ~ John Dewey.

Everything depends on the quality of the experience which is had. ~ John Dewey.

Human nature exists and operates in an environment. And it is not ‘in’ that environment as coins are in a box, but as a plant is in the sunlight and soil. ~ John Dewey.

Of all affairs, communication is the most wonderful. ~ John Dewey.

Every teacher should realize the dignity of his calling. ~ John Dewey.

Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society. ~ John Dewey.

A problem well-defined is a problem half solved. ~ John Dewey.

Things gain meaning by being used in a shared experience or joint action. ~ John Dewey.

The teacher loses the position of external boss or dictator but takes on that of leader of group activities. ~ John Dewey.

The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. ~ John Dewey.

Knowledge falters when imagination clips its wings or fears to use them. ~ John Dewey.

Any doctrine that weakens personal responsibility for judgment and for action helps create the attitudes that welcome and support the totalitarian state. ~ John Dewey.

We can have facts without thinking but we cannot have thinking without facts. ~ John Dewey.

Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make it the full meaning of the present life. ~ John Dewey.

We only think when we are confronted with problems. ~ John Dewey.

Education is not an affair of ‘telling’ and being told, but an active and constructive process. ~ John Dewey.

Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active and elaborate technique of inquiry. ~ John Dewey.

Unique John Dewey Quotes

To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness. ~ John Dewey.

Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life but is life itself. ~ John Dewey.

Anyone who has begun to think, places some portion of the world in jeopardy. ~ John Dewey.

Teaching may be compared to selling commodities. No one can sell unless somebody buys. ~ John Dewey.

The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative. ~ John Dewey.

He is lucky who does not find that in order to make progress, in order to go ahead intellectually, he does not have to unlearn much of what he learned in school. ~ John Dewey.

Without some goals and some efforts to reach it, no man can live. ~ John Dewey.

As a child lives today, he will live tomorrow. ~ John Dewey.

The most notable distinction between living and inanimate beings is that the former maintain themselves by renewal. ~ John Dewey.


All genuine learning comes through experience. ~ John Dewey.

The source of whatever is dead, mechanical, and formal in schools is found precisely in the subordination of the life and experience of the child to the curriculum. ~ John Dewey.

Nature is the mother and the habitat of man, even if sometimes a stepmother and an unfriendly home. ~ John Dewey.

The quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth. ~ John Dewey.

Familiarity breeds contempt, but it also breeds something like affection. We get used to the chains we wear, and we miss them when removed. ~ John Dewey.

One lives with so many bad deeds on one’s conscience and some good intentions in one’s heart. ~ John Dewey.

An intelligent home differs from an unintelligent one chiefly in that the habits of life and intercourse which prevail are chosen, or at least colored, by the thought of their bearing upon the development of children. ~ John Dewey.

Man lives in a world of surmise, of mystery, of uncertainties. ~ John Dewey.

So these were the 117 top John Dewey quotes on education, teachers, democracy, learning, reflection, schools and society.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on George Washington quotes and Sitting Bull quotes.

Short Biography of John Dewey

John Dewey was a notable American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, deeply committed to democracy in all societal facets.

john dewey

He championed the idea that democracy extends beyond voting, emphasizing the need for a well-informed public opinion and active communication.

As a leading figure in pragmatism and functional psychology, Dewey introduced groundbreaking concepts in psychology and education, advocating for progressive education and a learning-by-doing approach.

Born into a modest Vermont family, he rose to prominence through his academic and teaching career, significantly influencing 20th-century thought and education.

Full name John Dewey
Born 20 October 1859, Burlington, Vermont, United States
Died 1 June 1952 (age 92 years), New York, New York, United States
Education Johns Hopkins University (1884), University of Vermont (1879), Burlington High School
Institutions University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Laboratory Schools, Columbia University, The New School, American Association of University Professors
Influenced by William James, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, MORE
Influenced Paulo Freire, Carl Rogers, Émile Durkheim, MORE
Children 6, including Jane and Evelyn Dewey
Grandchild Alice Dewey
Doctoral students Hu Shih, Tao Xingzhi, Feng Youlan, Jiang Menglin, Lin Mosei
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy

Dewey’s works spanned various domains, including education, psychology, and social reform, reflecting his holistic view of democracy and education’s role in societal improvement.

His global lectures, particularly in China and Japan, highlighted his international impact, advocating for educational and social reforms tailored to local contexts.

His contributions to public discourse marked Dewey’s personal life, his engagement with contemporary intellectuals, and a profound influence that extended beyond his passing in 1952.

Quick Facts about John Dewey

  • John Dewey was born in Burlington, Vermont on October 20, 1859.
  • He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1879.
  • Dewey is considered the father of pragmatism, focusing on the practical impact of ideas.
  • His key works include “Democracy and Education” and “Experience and Education.”
  • In 1896, Dewey founded the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.
  • He promoted education that encouraged social progress and democratic participation.
  • Dewey’s instrumentalism suggests knowledge should be judged by its practical outcomes.
  • He valued individuality, creativity, and critical thinking in education.
  • His ideas laid the groundwork for the progressive education movement.
  • Dewey co-founded the New School for Social Research in 1919 in New York City.
  • His educational reforms have influenced policies and practices worldwide.
  • Dewey’s work spanned ethics, aesthetics, logic, and political philosophy.
  • He believed education was crucial for sustaining democracy.
  • Dewey advocated for experimental and inquiry-based learning.
  • His educational philosophies continue to influence modern education.
  • Dewey received international acclaim and numerous honorary degrees.
  • Some criticized his approach for devaluing traditional academic subjects.
  • His principles still inform teacher education programs.
  • Dewey was also active in social and political causes.
  • His impact on education and philosophy endures globally.
  • Dewey emphasized hands-on learning and real-world experiences.
  • He supported the development of critical thinking skills through education.
  • Dewey’s ideas fostered educational environments that nurture the whole person.
  • His teachings encourage dynamic and interactive classroom settings.
  • Dewey’s legacy is recognized in educational reforms and institutions.
  • He was a pivotal figure in the development of modern educational theories.
  • Dewey’s philosophy underscores the link between education and society.
  • His contributions extend beyond education to broader philosophical discussions.
  • Dewey’s belief in education’s role in shaping society remains influential.
  • His work continues to inspire educators and learners around the world.

Top Questions about John Dewey

Q: Who is John Dewey?

A: John Dewey was an influential American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, known for his significant contributions to the development of progressive education and his role in founding the philosophical movement of pragmatism.

Q: What are some key concepts of John Dewey’s philosophy?

A: Dewey emphasized experiential learning, where students engage actively with their environment, integrating knowledge with real-life applications. He also promoted democratic values in education, encouraging participation, collaboration, and critical thinking.

Q: What impact did John Dewey have on education?

A: Dewey’s ideas revolutionized educational practices, emphasizing experiential learning, progressive education, and the cultivation of critical thinking skills, profoundly shaping modern educational systems.

Q: How did Dewey influence fields beyond education?

A: Beyond education, Dewey’s principles of inquiry, reflection, and pragmatism have impacted psychology, sociology, and political science, contributing to our understanding of human behavior, social dynamics, and decision-making.

Q: Where can more information about John Dewey be found?

A: For deeper insights into Dewey’s life and work, explore his notable books such as “Democracy and Education” and “Experience and Education,” along with academic journals and educational psychology literature.

Q: What made John Dewey famous?

A: Dewey is renowned for being a pioneer in functional psychology, a leader in the progressive educational movement in the U.S., and a key figure in developing the philosophical movement of pragmatism.

Q: What is the essence of John Dewey’s educational theory?

A: Dewey’s educational theory posits that learning occurs in a social context, with knowledge being constructed through experiences that connect prior experiences with new knowledge.

Q: How did John Dewey view education?

A: Dewey believed education should link children’s past experiences with current knowledge, emphasizing the importance of providing ample learning opportunities for practical application.

Q: What is a famous quote by John Dewey?

A: One of Dewey’s notable quotes is: “The good man is the man who, no matter how morally unworthy he has been, is moving to become better.”

Q: Is John Dewey considered the father of modern education?

A: Yes, Dewey is often hailed as the father of progressive education, advocating for social learning and the integration of technology in classrooms to enhance student engagement.

Q: Who were John Dewey’s mentors?

A: Dewey studied under G. Stanley Hall at Johns Hopkins University and was influenced by the idealism of his teacher and colleague George S. Morris.

Q: What motto is associated with John Dewey’s educational philosophy?

A: Dewey’s motto was “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself,” highlighting the integral role of education in personal development.

Q: What did John Dewey argue about curriculum relevance?

A: Dewey contended that curricula should be relevant to students’ lives, emphasizing the importance of practical skills and learning by doing, despite concerns about the potential neglect of basic academic skills.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar