"This article examines the implications of John Dewey's democratic philosophy for contemporary education for global understanding. Its special focus is on his idea of
mutual learning through difference.... When John Dewey paid a visit to
China and Japan in the late 1910s and the early 1920s, he called for mutual
understanding between the East and the West for the cause of democracy. ...
"Dewey's idea of mutual learning based on friendship invites teachers and students to be engaged in translating different ways of language and thinking in the classroom in
search of common ground. This approach to education struggles to cultivate open-mindedness toward radical otherness.... By confronting and surmounting difference in ways of thinking, value
systems, and habits of mind in other countries, Dewey proposed that such contact
with another nation become 'a real means of education, a means of insight and
"Dewey’s cross-cultural experience reflects his own democratic philosophy based on the
pluralistic vision of the global community. He claims a need for
education for global understanding that is supported by the notion of
unity in diversity, a solidarity among human beings that is made
possible only through interaction between different perspectives....
"A major challenge for education is to empower students (and teachers...) to start with the genuine difficulty of establishing common ground. In dealing with this challenge, a critical dialogue with Dewey is needed to prevent his concept of mutual learning from turning into an easy and overly optimistic set of assumptions about common understanding or assimilation into the whole....
"Friendship and intimate affection
are not the result of information about another person even though knowledge may further their formation. But it does so only as it becomes an integral part of
sympathy through the imagination. It is when the desires and aims, the interests and modes of response of another
become an expansion of our own being that we understand him. We learn to see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and their results give true instruction....
"We must unsettle ourselves and leave home to find home again. This is a
shaking of one’s own frame of mind, of one’s unflagging faith, and familiar ways of thinking,
in an encounter with different others. This encounter does not mean, however, to trivialize one’s own culture and traditions; rather it aims
at enriching it by leaving it. To familiarize oneself with the unfamiliar, to open oneself to the different, one must exercise the courage to leave the familiar and to throw oneself into the unknown.
Such openness can be acquired by holding onto one’s faith while releasing it beyond one’s self to receive the other in all its ambiguity, unfamiliarity, and unknowability -
by acknowledging the imperfectibility of one’s own existing knowledge and with an enduring sense of an inevitable gap. As Dewey puts it,
‘Detachment’ is a negative name for something extremely positive.'"
permanent social change
Dissatisfaction (a crisis) for social transformation