September 13, 2007

New Dewey center to open in Poland

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Center for Dewey Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is proof the world of ideas transverses national as well as geographic boundaries. This November, the SIUC Center for Dewey Studies welcomes its sixth international sister center.

SIUC Center for Dewey Studies Director Larry A. Hickman will attend a two-day, international conference at Jagiellonian University in Crakow, Poland to mark the opening of that university's Dewey studies center. It is the third center to open this calendar year.

This spring, two more universities followed SIUC's lead with Dewey studies. The University of Szeged in Hungary and the Soka Educational Research Institute, affiliated with Soka University in Tokyo, Japan both opened new Centers for Dewey Studies. These centers join those already operating in Italy, Germany and China.

"It's a transaction," Hickman said. "We put up several thousand of dollars in materials and we expect them to put resources into the center, too. It's a commitment on the part of the university. Some of the center directors say they are not at the biggest universities in their countries, and that is all the more reason for them to have something as unique to offer as a Center for Dewey Studies."

Each center gets from SIUC a full, 37-volume set of the print edition of "The Collected Works of John Dewey," the same thing in a CD library, and the CD version of "The Correspondence of John Dewey." The centers are expected to host conferences, to translate Dewey works into the local language, and to make the resources of the center available to graduate students and other researchers. SIUC co-sponsors conferences with the centers as part of a continuing relationship between the SIUC home center and the satellite centers.

"I'd eventually like to see a center in Korea," Hickman said. "It would be good if we had one in Turkey –– I'd love to see a Dewey Center in Turkey. Maybe also one in Singapore."

Why the push? On the academic side, Hickman and other philosophers want to promote the pragmatist philosophy of John Dewey, who is perhaps best known as an educational reformer though his scholarship was broader than just the single topic of education.

On the practical side, SIUC is in a unique position regarding the study of American philosophy. That means students and scholars come to SIUC from all over the world to use the University's Dewey-related resources. "This is the way you build a reputation as a university," Hickman said.

Hickman said the story of how John Dewey's literary estate ended up at SIUC is inspiring, particularly because SIUC had competition from several highly regarded institutions –– namely Columbia University, the University of Vermont and the Library of Congress –– for the honor of keeping the estate.

"At the time of his death, Dewey's personal effects were in boxes, his papers were being given away or loaned out. How did his literary estate come here? The answer is one word –– vision," Hickman said. Vision and about $125,000 –– 1961 dollars, Hickman reminds. "That's a big investment. Then-University President Delyte W. Morris and Vice President for Instruction Charles D. Tenney realized this would be a major benefit to the University and, if done right, for scholarship."

Hickman credited his predecessor, Jo Ann Boydston, for her role in overcoming other obstacles to the publication of Dewey's complete works. He called her a "pioneering editor" without whom the publication of Dewey's legacy –– and a central work of the SIUC Center for Dewey Studies –– would have been delayed or even halted indefinitely.

The Center for Dewey Studies is at 807 S. Oakland in Carbondale. For more information, log on to