Experience, Democracy, Community - Identifying with John Dewey Through Youth Activism in Scotland

David Wallace* (Corresponding Author), Education in the North

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper seeks to enumerate the theoretical and practical dynamics of young activists’ learning and to elaborate on the efficacy of John Dewey for youth activism in Scotland. The paper reflects on experiences of young people involved in discrete community activities in the West of Scotland.
Though contested, the democratic possibilities in youth work are cultivated through informal education. Social and political action for young people is suggested as a mechanism for civic engagement and empowerment. John Dewey’s significance for informal educators in community education potentially lies in a number of areas therefore.
• his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience
• his exploration of thinking and reflection – and the associated role of practitioners
• his concern with interaction and environments for learning providing a continuing
framework for practice.
• and his passion for democracy, for educating so that all may share in a common life.
These facets of his philosophy have been developed as a critical lense in this article. They assist the process of decoding a record of young activist’s learning obtained in the context of participant appraisal interviews. It is this data that forms the basis of conclusions about the utility of Dewey’s work and consequently about whether it resonates in 21st century Scotland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-52
Number of pages25
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2017


  • Dewey
  • Activism
  • Democracy
  • Youth
  • Community Education


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