John Dewey on the Importance of Varied Occupations

What is true of an artist is true of any other special calling. There is doubtless — in general accord with the principle of habit — a tendency for every distinctive vocation to become too dominant, too exclusive and absorbing in its specialized aspect. This means emphasis upon skill or technical method at the expense of meaning. Hence it is not the business of education to foster this tendency, but rather to safeguard against it, so that the scientific inquirer shall not be merely the scientist, the teacher merely the pedagogue, the clergyman merely one who wears the cloth, and so on.

— John Dewey, Democracy and Education (via

The tendency of one particular vocation to dominate a person’s life is, I think, a particular risk for people in the academic world. Coming, as I now am, to the end of my graduate career, I’ve been seriously rethinking my future goals in large part because I have been so singularly focused on one pursuit for so long that I feel like I have lost parts of myself that must be reclaimed before it is too late. As I move forward, it will be (I think) imperative to remember the admonitions of John Dewey and keep my future occupations varied and mutually-enriching.


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