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John Dewey (1859–1952) was a founder of American pragmatism and a major figure in the progressive education movement, which flourished in the early to mid-20th century. Born in Burlington, Vermont, where he attended public school, Dewey went to the University of Vermont, where he became interested in philosophy. After graduation, he taught briefly in Oil City, Pennsylvania, known (as its name suggests) for its early role in the petroleum industry.

Dewey was born the same year as Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) was published, and one year before the Civil War began. Both events would prove to be landmarks for Dewey’s thought: Darwin because his ideas about evolution permeated Dewey’s philosophy; the Civil War because Dewey inherited and advanced the new understanding of industrial democracy ...

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