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Philosophy of Education

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❶All this is made clear enough in a passage containing only a thinly-veiled allusion to Plato's famous allegory of the prisoners in the cave whose eyes are turned to the light by education: The method of teaching can be categorized according to major educational goals that influence teaching strategies.

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By providing a quality education to each individual in one's classroom, a teacher equips children with the tools necessary for success in life. In order to accomplish these lofty goals, I think it is important first to establish a mutually respectful, honest rapport with students — a relationship in which communication is of the highest priority.

Through this relationship, a fair, democratic environment based on trust and caring can be established in the classroom, making it possible to interact confidently and safely in an academic setting. Once this foundation is established, the educator has already accomplished a major goal: Demonstrating these ethically correct behaviors in the classroom and expecting students to model them prepares them for adult interaction and survival in the future.

Academic learning must begin with motivation and inspiration. Students deserve an educator's passion for both the subject at hand and learning as a whole. Teaching and learning become a simultaneous journey for both the teacher and students when students' energy is aroused by a teacher's genuine intensity for learning, because everyone is ready and willing to participate in active learning. To achieve active learning, a teacher must demonstrate enthusiasm and express confidence in the students' abilities to learn and be successful.

Employing constructivist methods of teaching in one's classroom forces students to take an active role in their education by making choices and assuming responsibility for intelligent inquiry and discovery. For instance, discussions, projects, and experiments ensure student achievement and allow students and the teacher to discover individual student's preferences and strengths.

This approach facilitates differentiated activities for each student's distinctive ambitions, making the subject more relevant to every student's life. Personal growth is accomplished when a teacher adopts a mentoring role.

Displaying warmth and compassion shows students that teachers love them and are empathic, feeling human beings. One-on-one mentoring involves personal conversations about goals, and taking time to share ideas and experiences. To be a mentor to every student, a teacher must project positivity, exhibit flexibility and confidence, set high expectations for oneself, and demonstrate fairness and consistency. In doing so, students can see appropriate adult behaviors first-hand and begin to emulate them as they mature.

The overall picture that emerges from even a sampling of this collective is not pretty; the field lacks intellectual cohesion, and from the perspective taken in this essay there is a widespread problem concerning the rigor of the work and the depth of scholarship—although undoubtedly there are islands, but not continents, of competent philosophical discussion of difficult and socially important issues of the kind listed earlier.

On the positive side—the obverse of the lack of cohesion—there is, in the field as a whole, a degree of adventurousness in the form of openness to ideas and radical approaches, a trait that is sometimes lacking in other academic fields. Part of the explanation for this diffuse state of affairs is that, quite reasonably, many philosophers of education have the goal reinforced by their institutional affiliation with Schools of Education and their involvement in the initial training of teachers of contributing not to philosophy but to educational policy and practice.

Some individuals work directly on issues of classroom practice, others identify as much with fields such as educational policy analysis, curriculum theory, teacher education, or some particular subject-matter domain such as math or science education, as they do with philosophy of education.

It is still fashionable in some quarters to decry having one's intellectual agenda shaped so strongly as this by concerns emanating from a field of practice; but as Stokes has made clear, many of the great, theoretically fruitful research programs in natural science had their beginnings in such practical concerns—as Pasteur's groundbreaking work illustrates.

It is dangerous to take the theory versus practice dichotomy too seriously. However, there is another consequence of this institutional housing of the vast majority of philosophers of education that is worth noting—one that is not found in a comparable way in philosophers of science, for example, who almost always are located in departments of philosophy—namely, that experience as a teacher, or in some other education-related role, is a qualification to become a philosopher of education that in many cases is valued at least as much as depth of philosophical training.

The issue is not that educational experience is irrelevant—clearly it can be highly pertinent—but it is that in the tradeoff with philosophical training, philosophy often loses. And this is exacerbated by the absence of philosophy of education from the list of courses offered by many philosophy departments and of faculty members claiming it as an area of specialization or competence, so much so that far too many philosophy graduate students are unaware of the basic character of the subject or even that it constitutes a part of the parent discipline's portfolio [Siegel b].

But there are still other factors at work that contribute to the field's diffuseness, that all relate in some way to the nature of the discipline of philosophy itself. In describing the field of philosophy, and in particular the sub-field of philosophy of education, one quickly runs into a difficulty not found to anything like the same degree in other disciplines.

For example, although there are some internal differences in opinion, nevertheless there seems to be quite a high degree of consensus within the domain of quantum physics about which researchers are competent members of the field and which ones are not, and what work is a strong or potential contribution. If this bifurcation presents a problem for adequately delineating the field of philosophy, the difficulties grow tenfold or more with respect to philosophy of education.

It will not take long for a person who consults several of the introductory texts alluded to earlier to encounter a number of different bodies of work that have by one source or another been regarded as part of the domain of philosophy of education; the inclusion of some of these as part of the field is largely responsible for the diffuse topography described earlier.

What follows is an informal and incomplete accounting. While these topics certainly can be, and have been, discussed with due care, often they have been pursued in loose but impressive language where exhortation substitutes for argumentation—and hence sometimes they are mistaken for works of philosophy of education.

In the following discussion this genre shall be passed over in silence. Second, there is a corpus of work somewhat resembling the first, but where the arguments are tighter, and where the authors usually are individuals of some distinction whose insights are thought-provoking—possibly because they have a degree of familiarity with some branch of educational activity, having been teachers, school principals, religious leaders, politicians, journalists, and the like.

While these works frequently touch on philosophical issues, they are not pursued in any philosophical depth and can hardly be considered as contributions to the scholarship of the discipline. Huxley, and the writings on progressive schooling by A. Neill of Summerhill school. Some textbooks even include extracts from the writings or recorded sayings of such figures as Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Jesus of Nazareth for the latter three, in works spanning more than half a century, see Ulich , and Murphy Third, there are a number of educational theorists and researchers whose field of activity is not philosophy but for example human development or learning theory, who in their technical work and sometimes in their non-technical books and reflective essays explicitly raise philosophical issues or adopt philosophical modes of argumentation—and do so in ways worthy of careful study.

Their work might be subjected to scrutiny for being educationally important, but their conceptual or philosophical contributions are rarely focused upon. Philosophers of the physical and biological sciences are far less prone to make this mistake about the meta-level work of reflective scientists in these domains.

The educational theorists and researchers who are relevant as exemplars here are the behaviorist psychologist B. Fourth, and in contrast to the group above, there is a type of work that is traditionally but undeservedly given a prominent place in the annals of philosophy of education, and which thereby generates a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about the field. These are the books and reflective essays on educational topics that were written by mainstream philosophers, a number of whom are counted among the greatest in the history of the discipline.

The catch is this: Even great philosophers do not always write philosophy! The reflections being referred to contain little if any philosophical argumentation, and usually they were not intended to be contributions to the literature on any of the great philosophical questions. In Russell's case the royalties were used to support a progressive school he was running with his then-current wife.

Locke, Kant, and Hegel also are among those who produced work of this genre. It should be noted that Russell also made serious contributions to philosophy of education of the technical sort discussed below.

John Locke is an interesting case in point. He had been requested by a cousin and her husband—possibly in part because of his medical training—to give advice on the upbringing of their son and heir; the youngster seems to have troubled his parents, most likely because he had learning difficulties.

Locke, then in exile in Europe, wrote the parents a series of letters in which alongside sensible advice about such matters as the priorities in the education of a landed gentleman, and about making learning fun for the boy, there were a few strange items such as the advice that the boy should wear leaky shoes in winter so that he would be toughened up! The letters eventually were printed in book form under the title Some Thoughts Concerning Education , and seem to have had enormous influence down the ages upon educational practice; after two centuries the book had run through some 35 English editions and well over thirty foreign editions, and it is still in print and is frequently excerpted in books of readings in philosophy of education.

In stark contrast, several of Locke's major philosophical writings—the Essay Concerning Human Understanding , and the Letter on Toleration —have been overlooked by most educational theorists over the centuries, even though they have enormous relevance for educational philosophy, theory, policy, and practice. It is especially noteworthy that the former of these books was the foundation for an approach to psychology—associationism—that thrived during the nineteenth century.

Fifth, and finally, there is a large body of work that clearly falls within the more technically-defined domain of philosophy of education. Three historical giants of the field are Plato, Rousseau, and Dewey, and there are a dozen or more who would be in competition for inclusion along with them; the short-list of leading authors from the second-half of the 20 th century would include Israel Scheffler, Richard Peters and Paul Hirst, with many jostling for the next places—but the choices become cloudy as we approach the present day, for schisms between philosophical schools have to be negotiated.

It is important to note, too, that there is a sub-category within this domain of literature that is made up of work by philosophers who are not primarily identified as philosophers of education, and who might or might not have had much to say directly about education, but whose philosophical work has been drawn upon by others and applied very fruitfully to educational issues.

A volume edited by Amelie Rorty contains essays on the education-related thought, or relevance, of many historically important philosophers; significantly the essays are written almost entirely by philosophers rather than by members of the philosophy of education community.

This is both their strength and their weakness. We turn next to the difficulty in picturing the topography of the field that is presented by the influence of the last-mentioned category of philosophers. As sketched earlier, the domain of education is vast, the issues it raises are almost overwhelmingly numerous and are of great complexity, and the social significance of the field is second to none.

These features make the phenomena and problems of education of great interest to a wide range of socially-concerned intellectuals, who bring with them their own favored conceptual frameworks—concepts, theories and ideologies, methods of analysis and argumentation, metaphysical and other assumptions, criteria for selecting evidence that has relevance for the problems that they consider central, and the like.

No wonder educational discourse has occasionally been likened to Babel, for the differences in backgrounds and assumptions means that there is much mutual incomprehension. In the midst of the melee sit the philosophers of education. It is no surprise, then, to find that the significant intellectual and social trends of the past few centuries, together with the significant developments in philosophy, all have had an impact on the content and methods of argument in philosophy of education—Marxism, psycho-analysis, existentialism, phenomenology, positivism, post-modernism, pragmatism, neo-liberalism, the several waves of feminism, analytic philosophy in both its ordinary language and more formal guises, are merely the tip of the iceberg.

It is revealing to note some of the names that were heavily-cited in a pair of recent authoritative collections in the field according to the indices of the two volumes, and in alphabetical order: Although this list conveys something of the diversity of the field, it fails to do it complete justice, for the influence of feminist philosophers is not adequately represented.

No one individual can have mastered work done by such a range of figures, representing as they do a number of quite different frameworks or approaches; and relatedly no one person stands as emblematic of the entire field of philosophy of education, and no one type of philosophical writing serves as the norm, either.

At professional meetings, peace often reigns because the adherents of the different schools go their separate ways; but occasionally there are intellectually violent clashes, rivaling the tumult that greeted Derrida's nomination for an honorary degree at Cambridge in Traditionally there has been a time lag for developments in philosophy to migrate over into philosophy of education, but in this respect at least the two fields have been on a par.

Inevitably, however, traces of discord remain, and some groups still feel disenfranchised, but they are not quite the same groups as a few decades ago—for new intellectual paradigms have come into existence, and their adherents struggle to have their voices heard; and clearly it is the case that—reflecting the situation in —many analytically-trained philosophers of education find postmodern writings incomprehensible while scholars in the latter tradition are frequently dismissive if not contemptuous of work done by the former group.

In effect, then, the passage of time has made the field more, not less, diffuse. All this is evident in a volume published in in which the editor attempted to break down borders by initiating dialogue between scholars with different approaches to philosophy of education; her introductory remarks are revealing:.

There is an inward-looking tone to the questions posed here: Philosophy of education should focus upon itself, upon its own contents, methods, and practitioners. And of course there is nothing new about this; for one thing, over forty years ago a collection of readings—with several score of entries—was published under the title What is Philosophy of Education?

It is worth noting, too, that the same attitude is not unknown in philosophy; Simmel is reputed to have said a century or so ago that philosophy is its own first problem. Having described the general topography of the field of philosophy of education, the focus can change to pockets of activity where from the perspective of the present authors interesting philosophical work is being, or has been, done—and sometimes this work has been influential in the worlds of educational policy or practice.

It is appropriate to start with a discussion of the rise and partial decline—but lasting influence of—analytic philosophy of education. Conceptual analysis, careful assessment of arguments, the rooting out of ambiguity, the drawing of clarifying distinctions—which make up at least part of the philosophical analysis package—have been respected activities within philosophy from the dawn of the field.

These overlap and intertwine, of course. Just as analytic techniques gained prominence and for a time hegemonic influence during and after the rise of analytic philosophy early in the 20 th century, they came to dominate philosophy of education in the third quarter of that century Curren, Robertson and Hager The pioneering work in the modern period entirely in an analytic mode was the short monograph by C.

Hardie, Truth and Fallacy in Educational Theory ; reissued in In his Introduction, Hardie who had studied with C. Richards made it clear that he was putting all his eggs into the ordinary-language-analysis basket:.

Then some basic ideas of Herbart and Dewey were subjected to similar treatment. Hardie's hard-nosed approach can be illustrated by the following: About a decade after the end of the Second World War the floodgates opened and a stream of work in the analytic mode appeared; the following is merely a sample.

Israel Scheffler, who became the paramount philosopher of education in North America, produced a number of important works including The Language of Education , that contained clarifying and influential analyses of definitions he distinguished reportive, stipulative, and programmatic types and the logic of slogans often these are literally meaningless, and should be seen as truncated arguments.

Ennis edited the volume Language and Concepts in Education , and R. Archambault edited Philosophical Analysis and Education , consisting of essays by a number of prominent British writers, most notably R.

Among the most influential products of APE was the analysis developed by Hirst and Peters and Peters of the concept of education itself. A criminal who has been reformed has changed for the better, and has developed a commitment to the new mode of life if one or other of these conditions does not hold, a speaker of standard English would not say the criminal has been reformed. Clearly the analogy with reform breaks down with respect to the knowledge and understanding conditions.

The concept of indoctrination was also of great interest to analytic philosophers of education, for, it was argued, getting clear about precisely what constitutes indoctrination also would serve to clarify the border that demarcates it from acceptable educational processes. Unfortunately, ordinary language analysis did not produce unanimity of opinion about where this border was located, and rival analyses were put forward.

Thus, whether or not an instructional episode was a case of indoctrination was determined by the content taught, the intention of the instructor, the methods of instruction that had been used, the outcomes of the instruction, or of course by some combination of these.

After a period of dominance, for a number of important reasons the influence of APE went into decline. First, there were growing criticisms that the work of analytic philosophers of education had become focused upon minutiae and in the main was bereft of practical import. It is worth noting that the article in Time , cited earlier, had put forward the same criticism of mainstream philosophy.

Second, in the early 's radical students in Britain accused the brand of linguistic analysis practiced by R. Third, criticisms of language analysis in mainstream philosophy had been mounting for some time, and finally after a lag of many years were reaching the attention of philosophers of education. There even had been a surprising degree of interest in this arcane topic on the part of the general reading public in the UK as early as , when Gilbert Ryle, editor of the journal Mind , refused to commission a review of Ernest Gellner's Words and Things —a detailed and quite acerbic critique of Wittgenstein's philosophy and its espousal of ordinary language analysis.

Ryle argued that Gellner's book was too insulting, a view that drew Bertrand Russell into the fray on Gellner's side—in the daily press, no less; Russell produced examples of insulting remarks drawn from the work of great philosophers of the past. See Peters , where to the editor's credit the interaction with Dray is reprinted. Fourth, during the decade of the seventies when these various critiques of analytic philosophy were in the process of eroding its luster, a spate of translations from the Continent stimulated some philosophers of education in Britain and North America to set out in new directions and to adopt a new style of writing and argumentation.

The classic works of Heidegger and Husserl also found new admirers, and feminist philosophers of education were finding their voices—Maxine Greene published a number of important pieces in the s and s, including The Dialectic of Freedom ; the influential book by Nel Noddings, Caring: In more recent years all these trends have continued. APE was and is no longer the center of interest. By the s, the rather simple if not simplistic ordinary language analysis practiced most often in philosophy of education was reeling under the attack from the combination of forces sketched above, but the analytic spirit lived on in the form of rigorous work done in other specialist areas of philosophy—work that trickled out and took philosophy of education in rich new directions.

Technically-oriented epistemology, philosophy of science, and metaphysics flourished, as did the interrelated fields of social, political and moral philosophy. John Rawls published A Theory of Justice in , a decade later Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue appeared, and in another decade or so there was a flood of work on individualism, communitarianism, democratic citizenship, inclusion, exclusion, the rights of children versus the rights of parents, and the rights of groups such as the Amish versus the rights of the larger polity.

From the early s philosophers of education have contributed significantly to the debates on these and related topics; indeed, this corpus of work illustrates that good philosophy of education flows seamlessly into work being done in mainstream areas of philosophy. Illustrative examples are Eamonn Callan's Creating Citizens: These works stand shoulder-to-shoulder with semi-classics on the same range of topics by Amy Gutmann , Will Kymlicka , Stephen Macedo , and others. An excerpt from the book by Callan nicely illustrates that the analytic spirit lives on in this body of work; the broader topic being pursued is the status of the aims of education in a pluralistic society where there can be deep fundamental disagreements:.

Callan and White have offered an explanation of why the topics described above have become such a focus of attention. A body of work in philosophy, from the early Rawls on, has systematically examined and critiqued the foundations of liberalism, and philosophy of education has been drawn into the debates. Yoder in which members of the Amish sect were allowed to withdraw their children from public schools after the eighth grade—for, it had been argued, any deeper education would endanger the existence of the group and its culture.

In assessing this decision—as of course philosophers have frequently done see, for example, Kymlicka —a balance has to be achieved between i the interest of civic society in having an informed, well-educated, participatory citizenry; ii the interest of the Amish as a group in preserving their own culture; and iii the interests of the Amish children, who according to some at least have a right to develop into autonomous individuals who can make reflective decisions for themselves about the nature of the life they wish to lead.

These are issues that fall squarely in the domain covered by the works mentioned above. The quantity, variety and quality of work being produced on the complex and interrelated issues just outlined amounts to a veritable cottage industry of post-Rawlsian philosophy of education.

There are, of course, other areas of activity where interesting contributions are being made, and the discussion will next turn to a sampling of these. As was stressed at the outset, the field of education is huge and contains within it a virtually inexhaustible number of issues that are of philosophical interest.

To attempt comprehensive coverage of how philosophers of education have been working within this thicket would be a quixotic task for a large single volume and is out of the question for a solitary encyclopedia entry.

Nevertheless, a valiant attempt to give an overview was made in the recent A Companion to the Philosophy of Education Curren , which contained more than six-hundred pages divided into forty-five chapters each of which surveyed a subfield of work. The following random selection of chapter topics gives a sense of the enormous scope of the field: Sex education, special education, science education, aesthetic education, theories of teaching and learning, religious education, knowledge, truth and learning, cultivating reason, the measurement of learning, multicultural education, education and the politics of identity, education and standards of living, motivation and classroom management, feminism, critical theory, postmodernism, romanticism, the purposes of universities, affirmative action in higher education, and professional education.

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education Siegel a contains a similarly broad range of articles on among other things the epistemic and moral aims of education, liberal education and its imminent demise, thinking and reasoning, fallibilism and fallibility, indoctrination, authenticity, the development of rationality, Socratic teaching, educating the imagination, caring and empathy in moral education, the limits of moral education, the cultivation of character, values education, curriculum and the value of knowledge, education and democracy, art and education, science education and religious toleration, constructivism and scientific methods, multicultural education, prejudice, authority and the interests of children, and on pragmatist, feminist, and postmodernist approaches to philosophy of education.

Given this enormous range, there is no non-arbitrary way to select a small number of topics for further discussion, nor can the topics that are chosen be pursued in great depth. The choice of those below has been made with an eye to filling out and deepening the topographical account of the field that was presented in the preceding sections. The discussion will open with a topic of great moment across the academic educational community, one concerning which adherents of some of the rival schools of philosophy and philosophy of education have had lively exchanges.

The educational research enterprise has been criticized for a century or more by politicians, policymakers, administrators, curriculum developers, teachers, philosophers of education, and by researchers themselves—but the criticisms have been contradictory. For an illuminating account of the historical development of educational research and its tribulations, see Lagemann In essence the issue at stake was epistemological: The most lively contemporary debates about education research, however, were set in motion around the turn of the millennium when the US Federal Government moved in the direction of funding only rigorously scientific educational research—the kind that could establish causal factors which could then guide the development of practically effective policies.

It was held that such a causal knowledge base was available for medical decisionmaking. National Academies of Science—issued a report, influenced by postpostivistic philosophy of science NRC , that argued that this criterion was far too narrow.

Nevertheless, and possibly because it tried to be balanced and supported the use of RFTs in some research contexts, the NRC report has been the subject of symposia in four journals, where it has been supported by a few and attacked from a variety of philosophical fronts: For a more thorough treatment of the philosophical controversies concerning empirical educational research cf. The issue of what should be taught to students at all levels of education—the issue of curriculum content—obviously is a fundamental one, and it is an extraordinarily difficult one with which to grapple.

In tackling it, care needs to be taken to distinguish between education and schooling—for although education can occur in schools, so can mis-education, and many other things can take place there that are educationally orthogonal such as the provision of free or subsidized lunches, or the development of social networks ; and it also must be recognized that education can occur in the home, in libraries and museums, in churches and clubs, in solitary interaction with the public media, and the like.

In developing a curriculum whether in a specific subject area, or more broadly as the whole range of offerings in an educational institution or system , a number of difficult decisions need to be made. Issues such as the proper ordering or sequencing of topics in the chosen subject, the time to be allocated to each topic, the lab work or excursions or projects that are appropriate for particular topics, can all be regarded as technical issues best resolved either by educationists who have a depth of experience with the target age group or by experts in the psychology of learning.

But there are deeper issues, ones concerning the validity of the justifications that have been given for including particular subjects or topics in the offerings of formal educational institutions. Why should evolution be included, or excluded, as a topic within the standard high school subject Biology?

Is the justification that is given for teaching Economics in some schools coherent and convincing? Does the justification for not including the Holocaust or the phenomenon of wartime atrocities in the curriculum in some countries stand up to critical scrutiny?

The different justifications for particular items of curriculum content that have been put forward by philosophers and others since Plato's pioneering efforts all draw, explicitly or implicitly, upon the positions that the respective theorists hold about at least three sets of issues.

Curren, forthcoming These two formulations are related, for it is arguable that our educational institutions should aim to equip individuals to pursue this good life—although this is not obvious, both because it is not clear that there is one conception of the good or flourishing life that is the good or flourishing life for everyone, and it is not clear that this is a question that should be settled in advance rather than determined by students for themselves.

A rival approach, associated with Kant, champions the educational fostering of autonomy not on the basis of its contribution to human flourishing, but rather the obligation to treat students with respect as persons. Brighouse , How students should be helped to become autonomous or develop a conception of the good life and pursue it is of course not immediately obvious, and much philosophical ink has been spilled on the matter.

One influential line of argument was developed by Paul Hirst, who argued that knowledge is essential for developing and then pursuing a conception of the good life, and because logical analysis shows, he argued, that there are seven basic forms of knowledge, the case can be made that the function of the curriculum is to introduce students to each of these forms. Hirst ; for a critique see Phillips , ch.

Second, is it justifiable to treat the curriculum of an educational institution as a vehicle for furthering the socio-political interests and goals of a ruler or ruling class; and relatedly, is it justifiable to design the curriculum so that it serves as a medium of control or of social engineering? In the closing decades of the twentieth century there were numerous discussions of curriculum theory, particularly from Marxist and postmodern perspectives, that offered the sobering analysis that in many educational systems, including those in Western democracies, the curriculum does indeed reflect and serve the interests of the ruling class.

Michael Apple is typical:.


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Philosophy of Education Essay. Philosophy of Education In this paper, I wish to discuss my beliefs for education. These beliefs include my philosophy in a general manner, and the reasons why I want to become an educator. In this paper I will also describe what my furture classroom will look like, and how my classroom will be run. My Educational philosophy is defined in becoming a teacher as a set of ideas and beliefs about education that guide the professional behavior of educators. Also included in educational philosophy are one’s beliefs about teaching and learning, students, knowledge and what is worth knowing. My five.