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To celebrate its 40th year, TERC hosted a symposium entitled “Science Education for a Thriving Democracy.” Our work includes more than science education, of course, but TERC researchers all share a commitment to educational work that supports and encourages teachers and learners to be whole-hearted, creative, and reflective participants in democratic society. Though we draw on the ideas and designs of a variety of thinkers, many of us at TERC find the work of John Dewey to be a rich source of ideas, challenge, and inspiration.

John Dewey (1865-1952) thought and wrote in an era of wars, mass immigration, social unrest, and globalization. He had a deep commitment to democracy as a process of daily life, and to philosophy as a tool for understanding and improving social, as well as individual, growth. An early leader in experimental psychology, Dewey brought his project of radical reconstruction to every branch of philosophy— ethics, logic, aesthetics, social psychology, and more. He put his principles on the line by engaging with organizations working for peace and for social and economic justice. Though people sometimes think about him as primarily a philosopher of education, it might be better to say that he saw education as a key concern of philosophy; it shows up in most of his works, one way or the other, and occasionally takes center stage, as in the classic Democracy and Education (1916).

Since 2003, a group of TERC researchers has been meeting roughly once a month to read Dewey. We often share chocolate (and an occasional celebratory glass of wine), check in on each other's lives, argue, joke, and think together. This long-running symposium, or philosophical feast, has changed its participants—and perhaps through us, changed TERC a little bit as well. Fifteen years on, four core members of the group share about the Dewey group, and how this long-running conversation has affected their work and outlook.

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