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Between the Radical and the Conservative: On the Different Roles of John Dewey during his Chinese Visit

Liu Xing;Shi Ke-can;Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University;  
John Dewey's educational theories were highly attuned to the May Fourth Movement, bringing Dewey a deep affection for China. However, as the movement developed, Dewey was hit by a severe crisis of unpaid salaries, sending his heart into a downward spiral that year. In this situation, Hu Shi solicited funds from a number of social groups, which objectively expanded Dewey's influence. From April 1920 onwards, Dewey adjusted his role and took on a more systematic and academic program at both Beijing and Nanjing Higher Normal Schools. In Beijing, his course on Philosophy of Education lasted for the entire academic year and laid the foundation for the development of Pedagogy in China. But Dewey's change did not coincide with China's increasingly radical social climate at the time, nor with most people's expectations of him. His own weaknesses as a poor speaker and the conservative side of his theory also gradually emerged. Dewey's influence on Chinese education is defined by April 1920: before then, he was a theoretical leader involved in the student movement; afterwards, he clearly shifted to teaching at the academy, focusing on the discipline of Pedagogy. The complementarity of these two contradictory orientations is the key reason for Dewey's lasting influence on Chinese education.
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