Progressive Museum Practice: John Dewey and Democracy

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9781598744811: Progressive Museum Practice: John Dewey and Democracy
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Preeminent museum education theorist George E. Hein explores the work, philosophy, and impact of educational reformer John Dewey and his importance for museums. Hein traces current practice in museum education to Dewey's early 20th-century ideas about education, democracy, and progress toward improving society, and in so doing provides a rare history of museum education as a profession. Giving special attention to the progressive individuals and institutions who followed Dewey in developing the foundations for the experiential learning that is considered best practice today, Hein demonstrates a parallel between contemporary theories about education and socio-political progress and, specifically, the significance of museums for sustaining and advancing a democratic society.

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About the Author:

George E. Hein is Professor Emeritus at Lesley University in the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences and Senior Research Associate with the Program Evaluation and Research Group (PERG), which he co-founded in 1976. During 2006–2007, Hein was president of Technical Education Research Centers (TERC), a non-profit educational research and development organization. He has been Howard Hughes Medical Institute Visiting Scholar, California Institute of Technology; Visiting Faculty Museum Studies Program, Leicester University; Fulbright Research Fellow, King’s College; a Research Associate at the Museum of Science in Boston; and Museum Guest Scholar at the Getty Research Institute. Dr. Hein was the founding director of the first Lesley University PhD program in Educational Studies and has been a major contributor to literature in the fields of visitor research and museum education for three decades, including the seminal books Learning in the Museum and Museums: Places of Learning (with Mary Alexander), articles in periodicals such as Journal of Museum Education, Curator: The Museum Journal, and The Exhibitonist, and chapters in several important edited volumes.

Review:

Infused with Hein's trademark warmth and fair-mindedness, this book will spark rich discussion about John Dewey and our progressive museum education heritage, and is sure to be welcomed across the field.

—Rika Burnham, Head of Education, The Frick Collection



Hein pushes us beyond the pedagogy of progressive education to acknowledge its moral core—Dewey’s commitment to social justice and democracy. Along the way he upends some misconceptions about how novel current thinking actually is. An exhaustive and invaluable contribution to the continuing story of the history, meaning and contributions of museum education.

—Leslie Bedford, Ph.D, Leadership in Museum Education Program, Bank Street College of Education



We can never remind ourselves and each other too often that democracy is and remains a work in progress, never finished, never complete. Democracy is always defined as much by whom and what it excludes as by whom and what it includes. In his new book George Hein reexamines the historical roots and the meaning of the concept of democracy within museums and educational practices. Drawing from a wide range of references from across the world he explores how museums have attempted to be 'in the service of democracy' and 'provide education that leads to better informed, critical citizens for a more egalitarian society.' As the concept of democracy continuously expands into more radical and direct forms in the 21st century, museums correspondingly wrestle with the challenges and obligations of public participations and organisational forms that facilitate them.

—Jette Sandahl, Director, Museum of Copenhagen



Through the examples of far-sighted people like John Dewey, Charles Willson Peale, Anna Billings Gallup and others, Professor Hein shows us how a combination of progressive pedagogical practice and progressive political views can significantly support museums in their role of encouraging democracy and inclusiveness. In doing so it emphasises that the educational role of museums is a primary one, one that is too important to be marginalised by curatorial acquisitiveness.

—Des Griffin, Gerard Krefft Fellow and former Director, The Australian Museum, Sydney

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