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Education and the Role of Philosophy

Education and, the Role of Philosophy In The Journey through American Education “Curriculum as a field of study has been characterized as elusive, fragmentary and confusing” (Ornstein and Hunkins, 2009, p. 1). According to Wikipedia, education is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual and is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another.

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This report will journey through the history of education, its philosophies and the philosophers that helped shape and design it. Originally American schools were defined by religion. The foundation of education was based on religious study. The schools meaning in 1620 was to build a republic of God-fearing citizens. Women taught children to read the bible and to write the scriptures while the men and older boys were out in the fields working.With the women as nurturers teaching themselves to read and write and then assuming that responsibility to nurture their children’s moral through the teachings of the scriptures led to the establishment of women as the backbone of American education which appears to still be the case of present times (History of American Education Primer, p. 27). In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Protestant ideological managers sought to create a moral and God-fearing society and their goals were: 1. Honor, fear, and obey God, 2. Honor, fear, and obey the father in the home and 3. Honor, fear, and obey the government.This philosophy of the Protestants was called Calvinism which is the belief that humans are born in sin and must purge this sin as children grow into adults (p. 10). The Massachusetts Law of 1642 which called for all parents to find someone to teach their children how to read the bible, write out scriptures, follow Protestant theology, and obey the laws of the land along with The Old Deluder Satan Law of 1647 which called for all towns of 50 households or more to appoint a teacher to teach reading and writing and all towns of 100 or more households to build a school and hire a schoolmaster were the first major laws of education (P. 0). As the colonies expanded, different forms of schooling philosophy developed but the Common Schools (schools that sought to bring together white children in a common school to perpetuate the goals of the dominant white culture) were still dominated by Protestant values of a moral, God-fearing society (p. 31). Over time the teaching of children began to include, along with reading, writing and ciphering, social skills such as knowledge, etiquette, and debate. Schools began to include topics to prepare children for employment and if one’s family could afford it, college (p. 16).As time passed, education grew to include many different instructions and philosophies to where we are today. With the extra teachings came many more philosophies. These different philosophies determine with teaching style, instruction, and school curriculum that will be used to include Axiology, Behaviorism, Epistemology, Existentialism, Ontology, Perennialism, Eclectic, Pragmatism and Reconstructionism. According to Pratt and Collins (2001), effective teaching may be classified as transmission, apprenticeship, developmental, nurturing, and social reform. To start, William Kritsonis (2005, p. 1) defines philosophy as the human being’s attempt to think most speculatively, reflectively, and systematically about the universe and the relationship to that universe. He writes that philosophy has no proof and is therefore without theorems and has not questions that can be answered with yes or no. The purpose of educational philosophy is to help develop the educator’s thinking capacity (p. 91). The three branches of philosophy are Metaphysics (Ontology) which deal with ultimate reality, Epistemology which deals with the nature of knowledge and Axiology which is the study of values.The major schools of philosophy are Idealism which are certain universal absolute concepts, Realism where work is governed by various laws, known or unknown, Pragmatism which is primarily an American philosophy of scientific analysis or learning through experience, and Existentialism which believes that students should control much of what goes on (p. 92). Philosophy has many definitions and is hard to define. The word itself comes from the Greek meaning “love of wisdom” and is the belief system that a person develops concerning existence, reality in the world, truth, ethics, honesty, thought processes, aesthetics, and logic (Kritsonis, p. 8). In regards to education, philosophy is a way of examining ideas, proposals, and recommendations for learning and how best to use them in the educational setting and it is therefore, the application of ideas or idea systems to educational problems (p. 97). Educators study philosophy to help them attain a better understanding of the best way to success. Educators use philosophy for the roles in which philosophy stands for which includes: to suggest alternative methods of thinking, to develop sensitivity to the logic and language we use in gathering solutions to problems (p. 97).Philosophy of education is the philosophical study of the purpose, nature, process and ideals of education (Siegel, 2003). As time has progressed so has the understanding of philosophy and its importance on education. The history of philosophy and education would not be complete without its “fore fathers” so to speak and the four primary philosophies of Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism and Existentialism. Idealism was the main philosophy of the thinkers of western civilizations during the last half of the 19th century and its believers believed that external reality must be understood through the medium of the human mind (Kritsonis, p. 03). They believed that when humans came into contact with whatever existed, the human mind functions to grasp the nature of reality and what is real.The three key words of idealism are growth, imitation, and maturity and by imitating a model of behavior, one matures and grows toward an ideal that contains the perfection of virtues (p. 103). It applies to any theory that views the world as being made up of mind, spirit, or reason. They believe that to learn is to distinguish among values because some values are a matter of personal preference while others are absolute regardless of time, place, and circumstance (p. 03). Plato is a major contributor of Idealism and is considered to be the first and foremost Idealist. He believed that proper education comes before law and there would be no need to dictate laws to humans of good breeding, for they will find out for themselves what regulations would be needed (p. 104). He believed that good breeding developed through a sound educational system that produces reasonable humans. The impact that Idealism has on education is that its’ educational philosophy focus on who should be responsible for education, who should be taught, and what should be the curriculum (p. 109).To the Idealist, education is to assist in the development of the mind and self of the pupil and help in attaining the good life of the spirit. The curriculum must be based on the idea of the spiritual nature of humans and must draw on both sources of truth and right opinion for its subject matter. Its prime purpose is to teach student to think and to teach skills that develop conceptual ability (p. 109). The philosophy of Realism involves the act of truth being determined scientifically. It is based on absolute truth. It proclaims that objects of perception are objects and contain real existence outside the mind (Kritsonis, p. 12). Aristotle was a major contributor of Realism and he believed that a proper study of matter could lead to better and more distinct ideas. He felt that education was designed to preserve the stability of the state, to create good citizenship, and to prevent revolutions (p. 115). The impact Realism had on education was to present material to students so they could become acquainted with the subject matter as a pre-established block of material and the idea that successful learning consists of understanding that material (p. 118). The philosophy of Pragmatism is the result of action.Pragmatists believe that ideas become true in order to get into satisfactory relations with other parts of experience (kritsonis, p. 121). John Dewey was a major contributor of pragmatism. He was one of the most influential of all American philosophers and educators and was actively interested in the reform of education (p. 122). His philosophy of education emphasized many things including experiences, experimentation, and freedom. He believed the learner must interact with that which is learned if a productive educational experience was to be achieved (p. 122).Other pragmatic philosophers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Charles Darwin. The impact that pragmatism had on education is that the child’s own instincts and powers provide the material and starting point of all education and the educator’s knowledge of social conditions is necessary to interpret the child’s powers. The philosophy of Existentialism is a revolt against other traditional philosophies. Others attempt to grasp the ultimate nature of the world in abstract systems of thought; existentialists consider what it is like to be an individual human being living in the world (Kritsonis, p. 125).It is concerned with an individual’s willingness truly to commit to something with intensity (p. 127). A major contributor to Existentialism was Soren Kierkegaard who believed that a human’s essential self is developed in three stages: Aesthetic stage, ethical stage, and religious stage. He believed that individuals are confronted with choices in life that they alone can make and for which they must accept complete and full responsibility (p. 127). Existentialism impact on education was to stress unique experiences in the affective and what a student hears in class is more impressive than what the teachers say.The Philosophy of education in the United States has undergone a series of internal struggles over the past 25 years. Some of the struggle with philosophy in these modern times has been the issue of the curriculum of multicultural education. The multicultural movement defines the main purpose of curriculum as social improvement, particularly as it relates to peoples who have been marginalized on the bias of race, ethnicity, language, social class and other identities (English Teaching, page 122).Over time and through history philosophers have had to be adaptable to change and that change in American included a multicultural movement. This movement includes the philosophy of Reconstructionism which involves the attitude toward change and encourages individuals to try to make life better which ultimately means every individual in all cultures (National Outlook, 2006). Philosophers of the future will have to find a way to inculcate mulitculturism into their ideas (Educational Administration Quarterly 1998, p. 236).Multiculturalism is described as focusing on how gender, race, sexual orientation, and class differences are inscribed in political and cultural practices (Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 2000). “Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down” (English Teaching, p. 25). We build our curriculum based off of past philosophers because of the beliefs our present curriculum decision makers may possess. Philosophy is concerned with questions about the analysis of concepts and with questions about the grounds of knowledge, belief, actions and activities. The philosophy of education is then occupied with the analysis of such educational concepts as teaching, child-centeredness, inculcation of belief and curriculum.The main point of contrast between philosophy and education is the role of value judgments; values and ideals are embodied and expressed in the purposes of imparting knowledge, skills and attitudes (Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 2001). In conclusion, the question remains unanswered, “Are our schools headed in the right direction with its curriculum? ” From past philosophers to present we have had a continuous confusion take place which continues to make curriculum hard to define.References Adult Education Quarterly (1977). The Concept of Educational Need: An Analysis of Selected Literature. 16-127 American Education Through the Civil War (Chapter 2). Community College Journal of Research and Practice (2000). Student Experiences With Multicultural and Diversity Education. 531-546 English Teaching: Practice and Critique (2004). Critical Multicultural Curriculum and the Standards Movement. 122-138 Kritsonis, W (2005). Philosophies of Schooling. 82-159 Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research (2001). Some Notes on the Relevance of Philosophy to Education. 341-351 Siegel, H. (1988). Educating Reason: Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education. 369-382 http://en. wikepedia. org