Autonomy, Democratic Community, and Citizenship in Philosophy for Children: Dewey and Philosophy for Children’s Rejection of the Individual/ Community Dualism


  • Jennifer Bleazby


Autonomy and citizenship have traditionally been conceived of in terms of rugged individualism and in opposition to dependency and community. This has lead to schooling which is individualistic and competitive. Furthermore, because children are considered to be dependent, traditional schooling primarily prepares them for future autonomy and citizenship, by depositing information into their heads. Consequently, as Dewey and Freire argue, traditional education fails to facilitate the development of autonomous individuals because it doesn’t allow students to think for themselves. In contrast, Philosophy for Children incorporates the Deweyian and Vygotskyian notion that in order to think for oneself, one must be a member of a community. However, Dewey’s ideal of community is not the homogenous community, criticized by Iris Marion Young. Rather, it is a democratic community of inquiry, which is inclusive of difference and interacts with other communities. Since P4C rejects the community/individual dualism, it is able to facilitate the development of caring, reasonable, and autonomous individuals who also recognize their interconnectedness with others.