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John Dewey and Tsuensaburo Makiguchi: Confluences of Thought of Action    
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Abstract:

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) was a Japanese educator whose life and thinking contain many parallels to John Dewey. His writings on education contain references to Dewey and he acknowledged an intellectual debt to the pioneering American educator. Makiguchi has been described as the progenitor of an "indigenous Japanese pragmatism." (Bethel 1973, 79) Indeed, his philosophy of education, an experiential mode of learning aimed at equipping children to learn and, in his phrase, to "create value" throughout their lives, resonates deeply with Dewey's ideas.

As contemporaries, Dewey and Makiguchi shared and were shaped by the intellectual milieu of the latter half of the nineteenth century, the legacy of Durkheim, Darwin, Hegel and Kant. In particular, both struggled to come to terms with the influence of the idealism of the neo-Kantian and Hegelian schools, and to develop a philosophy capable of guiding actual life toward optimal experience. For Dewey, this signified continual growth; Makiguchi defined this way of life as one of "value creation."

As the sources of his educational philosophy, Makiguchi cites among others Pestalozzi, Herbart, Fröbel and the Danish educator N. F. S. Grundtvig, who were each also a presence in the American educational landscape. The American educator Francis W. Parker (1837-1902) provides a point of intellectual contact between Dewey and Makiguchi. "Colonel" Parker, who was hailed by Dewey as "the father of progressive education" was the subject of a 1897 essay by Makiguchi in which he expresses his support for the view that the school should function as a bridge between family life and a life of social solidarity. (7:262)

There are important parallels in their attempts to extend the realm of pragmatic thinking; to take it beyond the classroom and the institutions of education to the broader framework of building communities and societies; to look with fresh eyes at the role of religion in propelling that effort. Both Dewey and Makiguchi focused on the growth and development of the student into a fully realized human being actively engaged in society and the world at large.