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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Eighteen: Maxine Greene, The Dialectic of Freedom (1988)


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Maxine Greene, The Dialectic of Freedom (1988)

Wendy Kohli


The kernel of The Dialectic of Freedom was delivered as the annual John Dewey Lecture in 1988 and developed for publication later that year by Teachers College Press. This “classic” represents one of Maxine Greene’s most coherent philosophical accounts of her stance on democracy, freedom, education, and the social imagination. But the unique strength of the book lies in its interdisciplinarity, drawing on history, literature, the arts, and multiculturalism to embody and contextualize Greene’s philosophical insights.

This chapter will first situate the book in the cultural and political context in which it was written. A retrospective of Greene’s prior work to that point follows, including a review of the philosophical traditions that inform it. Then a brief synopsis of the book will be provided that includes the salient themes and arguments with which she grapples. Finally, a reflection on the book is offered that illuminates its relevance for today.

Situating Maxine Greene: Her Educational, Political, and Cultural Context

The 1980s, when Greene wrote The Dialectic of Freedom, were known as “the Reagan years,” beginning with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in January of 1981. This decade was understood by those on the political left as a conservative era—even reactionary—in that it was characterized by reactions to the more progressive years of the 1960s and 1970s. Those on...

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