Dewey’s and Smith’s Views on Education

Dewey’s and Smith’s Views on Education

The issue of education, whether formal or informal has been a core issue, deeply rooted within the fabrics of most societies since time immemorial. It is through education and learning that an individual masters an art or an idea, which then defines their person in the latter stages of life, when where the learning process is not deliberate or voluntary. John Dewey a philosopher, and Adam Smith, an economist, had breathtaking views on educations with regards to how it would be funded, who would benefit and the use of such training

Democratic Education

John Dewey believed that liberal education was necessary for the propulsion of democracy. Besides, he held that for learning to be successful in its quest for allowing for freedom, it must equally be a democratic process between the tutor and the learner. Dewey, however, holds that there are two types of knowledge, which are mechanical and liberal or intellectual. Mechanical education involves the process of training persons through the proper practical exercises and imparting the knowledge and ability to use .mechanical tools required in developing physical products rendering services whereas Liberal education is devoid of physical attachments but is just necessary for the knowledge of the practitioner, who can then use it as he sees fit. In essence, he loathes mechanical labor since it is one-dimensional and involves learning through the repetition of tasks and processes, implying that such a practitioner is not free (Dewey, 1916).

Economic Education

Adam Smith, on the Other hand, highlights the economic importance of education. By economic, it means that he looks at the importance of education to production and subsequently the general economy of a nation since the produced goods and services are inherently attached to the wellbeing or failure therefore of a nation’s economy. Connecting education to the division of labor, Adam Smith believes that the role of education in the labor market would be to impart specialized knowledge into individuals, who would later hold different parts of the production process increases the efficiency with which such goods or services are offered. However, it is important to note that Smith does not view Education as a commodity, but instead believes that whereas an individual would obtain wisdom, he or she should equally understand the moral sentiments which include virtue and sympathy among others (Evensky, 2015).


A key point of difference between Smith’s point of view and that of John Dewey’s is that whereas Smith views education as part of a capital good and thus investment, Dewey views it as a way to free and liberate an individual albeit through continuous learning. For Smith, the government should set aside funds to help educate the working class who in essence would be beneficial to the manufactures by selling their knowledge for wages and salaries. This, in turn, would result in propelling a nation’s economy forward. On the other hand, however, Dewey views such a form of education as non-liberating and immoral since it holds an individual within the process of production, goods of which do not benefit him but rather be his or her master. For instance, he opines that this form of education does not suffice to help the worker achieve his ends, but instead the terms of his boss.

The two views, education for democracy and training for the betterment of the economy as held by Dewey and Smith respectively seem to clash since one tends to argue against slavery whereas the other, see a necessity in the workforce that would increase a nation’s wealth. However, each fails to offer counterarguments as to how the educated then can be put in a position to practice freely while helping the economy, or where one would help the economy but avoid modern slavery.

Text Annotation

To completely grasp the two authors’ main points and counterpoints, annotating each text while reading through was necessary as it would allow a quick extraction of the points while writing the paper. Firstly, I highlighted the important terms and phrases that held the main points to the author’s points which would later form the basis of my summary as I summed up the paper. However, highlighting the texts for important phrases, it was not enough hence most of the highlighted texts would have a comment box where I broke down the author’s main ideas to simpler forms given that the language used by the authors was quite complex and way different from modern-day authorship.

In the same vein, I wrote keywords and definitions in the margin to enable me to access my information with ease. However, since my materials were electronic, different colors for different purposes would help identify which section to check for definitions, as well as which part to look for points and phrases. For this purpose, I chose yellow for points and pink for terms with definitions according to the author’s perspective.

Finally, since most of the summary needed a view of all points and counterpoints, critical questions that arose from each argument had to be noted down, which was equally done by highlighting a section and putting up a question that the article answered or failed to respond. Upon completion of the annotation, it was then easy to arrange the essay based on the views of each author while efficiently extracting supporting arguments. Equally explaining unanswered questions was easy since the text easily showed which areas where I would obtain my questions.




Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education. London UK: Macmillan Education.

Evensky, J. (2015). Book V: On the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth. In A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (pp. 170-252). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.