EDS 101

Closing Thoughts on Philosophy of Education

Prompt: Write a concluding entry to your eJournal.  Include the highlights of your learning experience in the course, the most significant learning that you will take away with you and will apply in your teaching practice, and the conceptions, attitudes, and behaviors that have changed because of this course.

The first highlight of this course was the opportunity to fully appreciate education as an integral and enduring factor in society. I had never before considered how education is so much more than just a class and their teacher. This course helped me move from a microsomal perspective of education to a much greater understanding of the expansive impact that educational philosophy has on communities across the world. Societies differ in what they consider most important in education, what defines knowledge, and the nature of the learner. These differences create a beautiful diversity in how children are raised to understand the world and their role in it. It was especially interesting to consider the historical context from which the educational philosophies emerged. Educational philosophy translates to a legacy that we try to leave for the younger generation – a blueprint for how to navigate life, live it well, and uphold cultural values.

Another highlight was realizing the connection between the philosophies at large and their educational successors. It was important to have that foundation to understand how different educational philosophies might have framed their practices on the philosophical beliefs and concepts they accepted. Exploring each philosophy and educational philosophy individually helped me work through my own beliefs about the nature of metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, and logic.   This was the first time I paused to consider those concepts in earnest.

The concluding highlight of learning was the acceptance that with all these differing educational philosophies, they all have validity and purpose for someone or some society in some context. It is easy to judge, ‘I like this,’ or ‘I don’t like that.’ But comments and evaluations such as these don’t drive the discussion forward. A better question might be: how can we use what we know about educational philosophies to improve our education systems? And this, I think, could spur a growth in the number of communities and schools adopting an inter-philosophical educational approach.

The most significant learning I had in this course was an understanding of the great variation in education systems across the world. I always kind of subconsciously assumed that other ‘educated’ people had had an educational experience similar to my own. I now have a much broader definition of what it means to be educated because I can appreciate that the standards and content of education are directly influenced by society and its philosophical beliefs. For some, an educated person is one who is competitive in the job market. Others might define someone who is educated as highly intelligent. Another may say an educated person has sufficient knowledge on a variety of subjects. Someone else may say an educated person problem solves logically and possesses higher level thinking skills. An educated person could also be someone who upholds cultural identity and values in accordance with tradition. Educational systems develop in a specific context and applying similar ideals and expectations outside the place of origin is an unfair and unnecessary comparison.

I will come away from this course with greater focus on what it means to be an educator. It is easy to feel overwhelmed or stressed by the little moments that wrinkled up the day in the classroom, but by focusing on the bigger picture of what education means for society and generations to come, the job seems so much more important. In other writings I have mentioned the importance of being flexible and cooperative while working under an educational philosophy that doesn’t quite match your own. I will re-frame my strategies and approaches in the classroom to more nearly reflect my own hopes and goals for my students in the long run but I will also take a closer look at my school’s statement of philosophy and see that I am doing my part to uphold it. Now that I have a basic understanding of major educational philosophies and have explored my own beliefs about what it means to be educated, I can be a better teacher for my community.

EDS 101

Educational Philosophies – Better One or Better All?

While reading about Essentialism, Perennialism, Progressivism, and Reconstructionism in Module 4, I had moments of agreement and contention in each educational philosophy.


Essentialism:

I consider myself to have been educated in an Essentialist school system and agree that its emphasis on a core curriculum of English, science, history and math is valuable. I appreciate the development of diligence, respect for authority, moral character and a sense of citizenship. However, its teacher-centered classroom and conventional instructional methods are dated and out of touch with contemporary goals. I think it is at odds with the diversity of today’s society. Especially in the context of America, citizenship and morality are difficult to define and teach in such a large and multicultural nation.


Perennialism:

Some truths are enduring and I think studying the Great Books can provide an excellent education. The ability to think and reason is valuable in today’s society and a healthy respect for the past is important. I also think the heavy use of lecture, catechism, and books have less impact than those educational philosophies that attempt to create meaningful experiences and learning activities for students. Furthermore, the staunchly Western lens through which the Great Books are selected and discussed is limiting.


Progressivism:

I like the student-centered, experience-based, problem-solving approach of Progressivism. I agree that society is always changing and we must equip the next generation to cope with and influence that change. Learning is inseparable from existence and it is more meaningful to learn how to think than what to think. Curriculum and activities driven by student interest help maintain motivation, drive, and relevance. However, there are basic benchmarks of skills and knowledge that I think should be met. It would be very sad to graduate from high school and not necessarily have appreciated a piece of classic literature or have mastered basic reading and writing skills. The concerns about ‘functionally illiterate’ graduates and meaningless diplomas are valid. (Simon, 2000)


 Reconstructionism:

I love the idea that education can be so instrumental in advancing and improving society. Through experience, discussion, and reflection, students work collaboratively to define and address societal shortcomings. I agree that the subjects and skills of an interdisciplinary curriculum have more meaning and value when they serve a purpose outside the classroom. Modern schools should prepare students to better society. But once again, I think classic literature and basic mastery of core material and skills is a valuable part of an education.


Ultimately, I concluded that it is unnecessary to select one educational philosophy that best represents me as a teacher. Certainly there may be one or two that I identify with more nearly than the others, but my personal approval of any of these educational philosophies is not particularly relevant or important. All of the educational philosophies have strengths and weaknesses, and it would be detrimental to have a world in which everyone was educated in the same manner and to the same standards. The world marketplace of education should be as heterogeneous as possible to best serve the needs of the complex and diverse communities spanning the globe. Each society has unique needs and values and its schools develop in response to the specific context and goals of the community. Some schools rely on taxpayer money and others are run purely profit. A Reconstructionist school in a liberal community could inspire social change and stir a sense of empowerment and direction in its students, while a graduate of an Essentialist school may be a well-rounded, disciplined, and competent citizen for his more traditional community. Students of either school would be considered educated, but would offer different perspectives, values, skills, and knowledge bases that benefit and develop the community in different yet important ways.

The earliest societies recognized the need for varied and distinct roles in society. Plato identified three psyches best suited to social functions of manual labor, police/martial order, and leadership or lawmaking. The various educational philosophies employed by school systems across the world ensure that there is diversity in skills, knowledge, values, and perspectives. Within a nation, I think a similar level of educational diversity is beneficial. It is within the local community that schools may become more similar because of the goals and concerns of citizens.

Interestingly, the educational philosophy I would want to learn under as a student would be the Progressive or Reconstructionist school. As a teacher, I think working in such a school would be significantly more challenging and exhausting. The Essentialist and Perennialist curriculums would be more manageable because the lessons and goals are predetermined and fixed and teachers can focus on modifying and updating previous lessons and assessments for improvement. Progressive and Reconstructionist teachers are responding to student interests in the moment, current issues, social needs, and focusing on process rather than content. Updating schools and faculty to these more modern educational philosophies of Progressivism and Reconstructionism would require a significant overhaul to the working conditions, expectations, and training for teachers.

EDS 101

Historical Relevance of Major Educational Philosophies

The past several weeks we have studied the major philosophies relating to education: Idealism, Realism, Existentialism, and Pragmatism. The learning activities and forum discussions gave several opportunities to consider similarities and differences between these philosophies. I would like to further explore the historical context of these philosophies. When you think about education as a method for passing essential knowledge and skills on to the next generations of citizens, it is easier to understand how the educational philosophies would be justified at historic points in time.

Idealism is an ancient philosophy with its root firmly planted in the writings of Plato during the 5th Century in Athens. This period was known as the “Golden Age’ and Plato’s contemporaries (relatively speaking) included great minds such as Pericles, Socrates, Hippocrates, and coincided with the construction of the Parthenon. As remarkable philosophers, politicians, and writers sought to salvage Athens from widespread ignorance and poverty common of the day, Idealism called for the proliferation of like-minded elite intellectuals who were capable of realizing universal truths of the spiritual world through abstract thought. Idealism also purports that theology and scripture have a place in curriculum, as morality, discipline, and respect for authority are valued. Idealism was a way to drive society forward and beyond the physical parameters of this world to realize the truths of the nonphysical realm.

On the other hand, Realism is attributed to Aristotle (who was one of Plato’s students) and calls for the exploration of this physical world around us. Furthermore, realism rejected the idea that truth could be found through reasoning alone. Instead, one must include perception, observation, and experimentation in the search for truth and knowledge. While Aristotle studied alongside Plato, the student and teacher pair created two opposing fundamental philosophies. It should be noted that both Aristotle and Plato “believed thoughts were superior to the senses. However, whereas Plato believed the senses could fool a person, Aristotle stated that the senses were needed in order to properly determine reality.” (‘Aristotle vs. Plato’).

Existentialism is essentially a fatherless philosophy built in response to the bleak outlook following WWII and the growing societal obsession with objectivity, generalization, and regulation of values. Existentialism focuses on personalizing education to give individuals purpose, choice, and responsibility in character development and self-fulfillment. In a turn away from education for the greater good of society, Existentialism repurposed education to grant individualized and subjective knowledge to students. Existentialist students would use subject matter as a means of developing self-awareness and personal truths and values rather than allowing others to make those decisions for us.

Pragmatism developed in the later 19th century through the work of American philosophers such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and John Dewey. At the time, the United States was experiencing fierce industrialization and cities were wrought with problems including an influx immigrants and their respective cultures, urban gridlock, sanitation and health concerns, and integration of new technologies (e.g. first transcontinental railroad, the telephone). Pragmatism called for a redefinition of truth and knowledge as whatever is applicable in problem solving. Educational principles should be applicable in real-life situations and will therefore evolve and change due to variation in time and context. Learning should involve projects, experience, and activity.

During Module 2, I often found myself attempting to resolve the degree to which I agreed with each philosophy. I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it is irrelevant whether I agree or disagree with Idealism, Realism, Existentialism, or Pragmatism. All of these philosophies are valid in their own right, and the circumstances surrounding their development are reflected in their perspectives on metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, and logic. I think it is more beneficial to reflect on what aspects of each philosophy resonate most strongly over time. As a teacher, your career will have more momentum and your teaching more direction if you know what you philosophical perspectives you value and aim to cultivate in students, the beliefs held by your employer, and whether you can negotiate any differences or conflicts of interest.

Sources

‘An Introduction to Liberal Education (Chap 6).’ (n.d.). [PDF] retrieved from http://www.mu.ac.in/myweb_test/MA%20Education-Philosophy/Chapter-6.pdf

‘Aristotle (384—322 B.C.E.).’ (n.d.) Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophers. [Web] http://www.iep.utm.edu/aristotl/

Diffen.  (n.d.)  ‘Aristotle vs. Plato.’ [Web] http://www.diffen.com/difference/Aristotle_vs_Plato

Ekanem, F. E. (2012). ‘Educational Existentialism’ Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2(2), 22-27. [PDF] retrieved from http://iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol2-issue2/E0222227.pdf

‘Existentialism (Chapter 7).’ (n.d). [PDF] retrieved from http://www.mu.ac.in/myweb_test/MA%20Education-Philosophy/Chapter-7A%20%20Existentialism.pdf

Hicks, Stephen. (2010). ‘Contrasting Realist to Idealist Philosophy, Clip 1-6.’ [Digital video]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8ED24C083DD5FCAA

Hicks, Stephen. (2010).   ‘Idealist Education, Clips 1-7.’ [Digital video] retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8ZPBuNfAZI&list=PL4B8AB62E3120B14F

Hicks, Stephen. (2010, May 25). ‘Pragmatic Education.’ [Digital video] available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcC1XYJTe9E&list=TLbPVH9P5uvsM

Hicks, Stephen. (2010). ‘Realist Curriculum: 3R’s, Foundational Knowledge and Methods.’ [Digital video]. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgPlXXLZpQw&list=PL3ED4A5B0BF91CACD

Hicks, Stephen. (2010). ‘Realist Curriculum: Example 1-3.’ [Digital video]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYiAPEc9EoE&list=PL3ED4A5B0BF91CACD&index=14

Library of Congress. (n.d.) ‘City Life in the Late 19th Century.’ [Web] available at http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/riseind/city/

Mark, Joshua J. (2011, 28 April). ‘Athens.’ Ancient History Encyclopedia. [Web] http://www.ancient.eu/Athens/

Ozmon. (2011). ‘Philosophical Roots of Education,’ (Chapter 1), 19-38. [PDF] retrieved from http://catalogue.pearsoned.co.uk/assets/hip/gb/hip_gb_pearsonhighered/samplechapter/0132540746.pdf

‘Philosophical Roots of Education.’ (n.d.), 388-402. [PDF] retrieved fromhttp://www.wou.edu/~girodm/foundations/philos.pdf

Wikipedia.  (2015).  ‘History of the United States 1865-1918.’  [Web] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_%281865%E2%80%931918%29

EDS 101

The Value of Philosophy in Education

I became interested in teaching in a non-traditional fashion. My first teaching position was at an English school in South Korea, which required a bachelor’s degree in any field. I loved my work as a teacher there, but my main qualifications were that I could speak English and that I had graduated from a four-year university in America. I was a passionate and motivated teacher, but I did not really understand the complexity of my work. Now that I am pursuing teaching as a career, I have greater respect for issues relating to education and how philosophical beliefs influence a school or district’s educational values, curriculum, approach, emphasis areas, and techniques. I had strong reactions to the list of ongoing philosophical issues outlined in ‘Meaning, Scope, & Functions of Philosophy of Education,’ which included:Education as transmission of knowledge vs. fostering of inquiry

In certain subject matters, either approach could be appropriate. Modern education systems claim a greater emphasis on constructivism and inquiry, but are these values reflected in practice?

What knowledge and skills should be included in education [curriculum]?

How much of an understanding of world history is needed to be ‘educated’? Do students need to be taught on desktop computers, or is tablet instruction more appropriate? Should computer coding replace penmanship?

How is learning made possible? What is the meaning of learning?

Is it enough for students to remember skills and knowledge? Why do we learn? What purpose should education serve? Will an educated student find a job or live a more fulfilling life?

Education for personal development or for citizenship? Or both?

Is it possible for a school to have skilled, knowledgeable graduates who also contribute to a better society?

Different content/aims of educational programs for different classes or cultural groups

How does the education program available to a low-income minority (ethnicity/race) student compare to an upper-income majority student in the same community? What should determine differences in education? Geography, income, intelligence, effort? Nothing?

Distinction between educating, teaching, training, and indoctrination

How is quality education defined? Why should students go to school rather than learning at home or through self-study?

Open discourse on these issues is crucial for outlining and directing the future of education on both a local and global scale, but who exactly is having these conversations? My initial reaction is that it must be the various Ministries of Education who discuss and debate how to tailor an education system to meet the present needs and future desires of the community. But is this the case? Whose opinions are heard in such settings? Teachers? Parents? Politicians? I can already imagine 1,000 different schools popping up to meet a thousand different perspectives on how children should be educated. I have never been asked my own personal philosophy regarding education; does my opinion matter as an educator?

Here in Thailand, there are countless schools and programs designed to meet the demands of contemporary parents. In a free market, private schools following a business model compete with public schools receiving government funding. In very few cases are public schools able to compete with the facilities and teacher-student ratios of private schools. Parents who can afford to pay often do send their children to private schools, but many private and public educational institutions are at odds with one another’s philosophies in terms of curriculum, values, and aims. Most international schools seem to harp on about personal development and modern marketable skills, such as ICT, math and sciences, and multilingualism. However, very few private schools are truly addressing education from a social perspective, which might relate more to ideals, character, and values rather than knowledge and skills. Public schools may emphasize citizenship and a sense of nationalism that creates an important bond to one’s community and helps develop a greater sense of character and values, but may not be able to offer students the advanced skills or knowledge that would give a competitive edge in the community.

Should a child’s education be determined by the wealth of his family? How can we ensure that all schools (especially private schools) are capable of shaping the next generation’s knowledge, skills, and values in ways that contribute to both societal and individual growth? Are we cheapening education by ignoring its philosophical underpinnings?

EDS 101

eJournal Introduction

I would like to refer to my earlier reflections about myself as a learner.

For the most part I feel my learning and studying habits are tailored well for my personal preferences. My study skills have been developed and honed over 20 years and are now second nature to me.

I am good at managing my time in terms of studying at optimum times of day, prioritizing, and planning adequate time for note taking, absorption, and assignments. I have a strong understanding of my own needs as a learner, such as the ideal setting (at home where I can spread out comfortably, focus without noisy distractions, as well as control lighting, temperature, and tidiness) and method (hand-written notes). I make an effort to study thoughtfully as I find I can understand and remember new ideas readily when I am fully engaged in and make personal connections to the material. My self-regulation helps me achieve my academic and work goals.

But no matter how successful one is as a learner, there is always room for improvement. I admittedly struggle to seek out help from classmates or teachers unless absolutely necessary. I prefer to learn independently and work through any confusion by conducting my own research. I work harmoniously in groups at work and consider myself a team player, but I don’t like to study with others. I can also improve my engagement while reading textbook materials by deliberately asking myself more questions and pushing myself to work though possible answers before reading. My pledge for this course is to interact with the texts more thoughtfully and critically.

I am willing to adjust my study habits as necessary to complete specific assignments, explore alternative perspectives, and meet academic expectations. However, I am happy with the outcomes achieved by my own study processes. Being self-aware and metacognitive allows me to streamline my learning in a way that is most impactful for me.

Overall, I believe my study skills and abilities of self-regulation and time management are constant. The Study Skills Inventory indicates I need to give more attention to how I am reading and utilizing textbooks and notes.

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However, feedback in the form of teacher comments, peer responses, assignment grades, test scores, and my own sense of confidence and competence reinforce that the study skills I already employ are effective in achieving my academic goals. I enjoy learning and the sense of accomplishment that comes from truly understanding a new idea or mastering a skill. I always look for ways to study that will help me feel successful as a student. This term I will make a greater effort to make predictions and reflect upon the greater meaning of information presented in textbooks. I will also give special attention to summarizing and connection key ideas in my notes.

 

My results for the Inventory of Philosophies of Education are not remarkably varied. My highest score was for Perennialism, followed closely by Essentialism. Progressivism and Social Reconstructionism were tied for third. Existentialism was the philosophy that least represented my own beliefs.

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When I saw my results, I recalled Pratt’s TPI and wondered if my scores will so similar because my understanding of Educational Philosophies is so minimal. I predict that after learning more extensively about these philosophies, my scores will indicate stronger agreement with one or two and disagreement with the others. I would expect that high scores in all or most categories are too idealistic and such diverse aims could not be realistically met by a single school curriculum. Sacrifices would have to be made for some values at the expense of others.

For example, a teacher trying to ‘teach from the classics, because important insights related to many of today’s challenges and concerns are found in these Great Books’ likely would not have sufficient time to ‘identify a new list of Great Books more appropriate for today’s world, and prepare students to create a better society than their ancestors did.’ Personally, I think it would be ideal for students to have a foundation in the great classics that provide insight into common human history as well as discover contemporary works that more nearly relate to current societal and global issues. In practice, however, priorities need to be way and non-vital educational principles must be pruned.

My educational philosophy and values are that students should learn the knowledge and skills to help them be competent and respected members of society. A teacher’s role is to allow students to explore what it means to be one part of a whole and identify key events in human history that have led us to this very moment in time. A proper education should foster not only academics, but also moral, character, social, and creative development. I believe teaching should be holistic and shape quality people, not efficient workers.

I grew up in the U.S. and attended public schools all my life. I was encouraged by my family to study hard and take advantage of education from an early age to get into a good university and ultimately find a well-paying job. The messages and instruction I received in my hometown were uniform from kindergarten up through high school. I attended a large public university where I was encouraged to try new things, explore the world, and develop a greater sense of self and independence.

My understanding of how education differs based on schools, communities, and cultures grew after I spent time teaching in South Korea and Thailand. Nearly anyone can open a school and design a curriculum to shape young minds as they see fit. I have worked at a private school whose founders follow their native national curriculum. Their emphasis on diligence, respect for authority, rules and obedience, and a near-obsession with extra curriculars such as chess, ITC, drama, and speech seem extreme. Despite the school’s intentions, I believe the curriculum is ineffective in shaping students who are internationally minded or hoping to pursue work in the Western world, as is their claim.

I think it is natural to find greater value in education systems that reflect philosophies and values that are similar to the ones I grew up. However, I look forward to learning about the strengths, weaknesses, differences, and similarities of key schools of thought in philosophy and education. It is important to remember that the validity one finds in a philosophy rests heavily upon his vantage point.