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  • THIS ESSAY IS BASED on a paper first presented at the annual meeting of the John Dewey Society in 2009, as part of a panel titled “John Dewey and His Pragmatism at 150.” Andrea English would like to thank Mount Saint Vincent University for an internal grant that helped to support this study, and Barbara Stengel wishes to acknowledge the support of the Fulbright Commission and Millersville University Provost's Office and Sabbatical Leave Committee for the time spent in preparation of this study. The authors would also like to thank Nicholas Burbules and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and queries.

ANDREA ENGLISH is Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University, 166 Bedford Highway, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3M 2J6; e-mail: <>. Her primary areas of scholarship include the philosophy of John Dewey, nineteenth and twentieth century Continental philosophies of education, critical theory, the notion of “negative experience” in education, and listening in teaching and learning.

BARBARA STENGEL is Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University, Peabody College Box 330, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203; e-mail:<>. Her primary areas of scholarship include fear as a function of educational experience, “pedagogical responsibility” as a critical concept in understanding teaching and teacher education, and making the moral visible in American schooling.


Fear is not the first feature of educational experience associated with the best-known progressive educational theorists—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey, and Paolo Freire. But each of these important thinkers did, in fact, have something substantive to say about how fear functions in the processes of learning and growth. Andrea English and Barbara Stengel juxtapose the ideas of these thinkers in this essay for three purposes: (1) to demonstrate that there is a progressive tradition that accounts for negative emotion in learning; (2) to explore doubt, discomfort, and difficulty as pedagogically useful, with links to fear as both a prompt for and an impediment to growth; and (3) to suggest that teachers take negative affect into account in their pedagogical practice. In doing so, English and Stengel join with contemporary theorists in and out of education to recognize that affect cannot be left out of social theory and that understanding the play of emotion is an integral part of creating truly educational contexts and experiences. The authors' focus here is on fear in processes of learning.