“The Dewey Decimal Classification system can’t be fixed because knowledge itself is unfixed. Knowledge is diverse, changing, imbued with the cultural values of the moment. The world is too diverse for any single classification system to work for everyone in culture at every time,” (56-7).

When Dewey created this system to file and find books he based it upon his “19th century American-Christian views according to the chapter, The Geography of Nature. He chose main subjects and numbers, so that nonfiction material would be together in the same area and shelf. How did Dewey determine what was important enough to be a main category?  Once this decision was made how was he able to assign which number(s) would go where and its importance? Dewey wanted make sure there was plenty of room for ideas to grow. His vision was that the floor plan of a library would be a map of ideas. The resulting issue is that by attempting to create a system for categorizing knowledge, libraries and society will always end up with a classification slanted by the cultural and political norms of the day; therefore limiting their usefulness for finding information in the future.

Even though decimals did offer Dewey an unlimited number of subdivisions, they also limited the number of main categories. What happens to the system when a new main idea becomes the focus of society? Knowledge does not shape itself into “ten top-level classes with ten divisions, each with ten divisions” (54). Would this system have the capacity to be upgraded to the current century? The highlighted paragraph states that it can’t be fixed due to the world being too diverse, but that’s not an acceptable answer. New books have to go somewhere. The book gives the example of a book about military music and how it sits on the shelf with military books, but it is filed under “military” and “music in the card catalogue. The catalogue is able to offer some flexibility so why not assign multiple numbers to the spine of the books?

The Dewey Decimal Classification has been through 23 major revisions, and while this may have improved some of the issues within it still doesn’t improve the overall system.  “Knowledge itself is unfixed,” (56). Knowledge will constantly keep expanding in such a way that one day it will not be able to be contained. Dewey did the world and libraries a great service by providing a technique that is universally used, but it’s impossible to account for the changing times. The Library of Congress has its own classification containing 21 main subjects and even this system is not enough.

To tie this in with K-12 education, the grades by which students are separated don’t take into account the changing student. There is the matter of students moving from grade to grade and from middle to high school without being fully prepared. It can be viewed as a stigma if a student is held back, but this can give them the time to develop the skills needed to succeed in the next grade. Should there be a complete overall of grade and school levels? Maybe this could help with the educating of students, instead of passing them through the system without gaining any knowledge. But this is a topic for another day.

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