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Chapter Two

Philosophy and Education

The Three Branches of

 Metaphysics:
 What is real?
 Epistemology:
 How do we know?
 Axiology:
 What is valuable?
Metaphysics: What is Real?
 What knowledge do students need to
 What subjects shall we teach our
 The question of metaphysics involves the
curriculum of the school.
Changes in our metaphysical

 Intraditional societies, religion was the

basis of learning.

 Today learning has become more secular.

Epistemology: How do we know?

 How do we learn?
 How shall we teach the subjects that we
see as most important?
Changes in our Epistemological

 In traditional societies, information was

obtained from divine revelation or personal
 Today learning involves hard work, reason
and scientific experimentation.
Axiology: What Values are Most

 What values are the most important?

 How do we teach those values?
Changes in Axiology:

 In traditional societies, values were seen

as absolute and unchanging.
 Today we embrace a more relativistic set
of values that reflect different cultures and
Axiology: How do we Teach
those values?

 Traditionalapproaches to teaching
required students to memorize lists of
values and then recite them to the teacher.
 Today teachers focus on the
understanding of those values.
The Four Modern Western

 Idealism
 Realism
 Pragmatism
 Existentialism

 First articulated by Plato in ancient

 Centered on an unchanging set of ideas
that form the core of our society.
Idealists Believed…

 Classics and the study of the ancient

languages (Greek and Latin) should form
the basis of the curriculum (metaphysics).
 Students learn best through memorization
and recitation (epistemology).
 Values are absolute and unchanging and
best taught through memorization of
specific sets of rules or oaths (axiology).

 Realism developed in the 1600s and

 This theory examined the seeming
paradoxical relationship between religion
and science.
Realists Believed
 Science and mathematics were the most
important subjects (metaphysics).
 An understanding of the natural laws of
our world was the appropriate method of
instruction (epistemology).
 Values are absolute and unchanging and
best taught through memorization

 Developed in the 1800s.

 This theory separated religion from the
worldly activities of humankind.
Pragmatists Believed…
 Students should understand the major
problems facing society (metaphysics).
 The curriculum should move from the
abstract to the concrete, from the
theoretical to the practical – learning by
doing (epistemology).
 Values are relative and rules are
sometimes inadequate in guiding complex
decision-making (axiology).
 Attention is on the individual and the world
of individual relationships.
 This theory represented a change in the
philosophical focus from religion to the
individual. (We are responsible for our own
Existentialists Believed…
 The best way to learn is through personal insight
gained through journaling and autobiography
 The curriculum should address the questions of
human existence, relationships, and an
understanding of success and failure
 Values are not only relative but students also
have a role in choosing them and should explore
individual choices and options (axiology).
Alternative & Non-Western

 Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

 Native American
 Asian
 African American
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
 Each of these religions embrace a number of distinctive
interpretations and sects.
 These range from:
progressive, inclusive denominations
conservative, fundamentalist divisions

 Progressive divisions are open to diversity and the separation of

church and state and embrace a relative understanding of values.

 More conservative, fundamentalist divisions tend to be less open to

diversity of thought, more dogmatic in their understanding of
science, and more oriented towards a belief in absolute values.
Native Americans
 Some groups have philosophies that differ from
western traditions.
 Some emphasize living in harmony with the land
(rather than the Western tradition of development).
 Others stress cooperation with members of the
community (rather than individualism and
 These values may conflict with traditional
instruction in the classroom and require teachers
to include cooperative learning and other forms
of evaluation.
 Some groups have philosophies that differ from
western traditions.
 Some embrace the values of harmony within the
family and community.
 Others emphasize respect for elders and authority.
 Still others place special emphasis on politeness and
devotion to tradition.
 These values may conflict with traditional
instruction in the classroom and require teachers
to include cooperative learning and other forms
of evaluation.
African Americans
 African American culture is diverse as a result of historical

 Some groups have philosophies that differ from western traditions.

 Some value introspective thought and strong family relationships
as crucial ways of learning and understanding.

 Art and music provide an important outlet of expression

and communication for others.

 These values may conflict with traditional instruction in the

classroom and require teachers to include cooperative
learning and other forms of evaluation.
The Danger of Stereotyping
 All people belonging to Native American, Asian
American, and African American ethnic groups
are not the same and cannot be identified by
their heritage alone.
 Sometimes in our attempt to understand cultural
differences among people, we begin to think in
terms of stereotypes. This is dangerous.
 This diversity reminds us of the complexities of
 Teachers must develop a curriculum that both
empowers and takes into account our diverse
Educational Philosophies
 Educators have developed a number of
educational philosophies.
 Some parallel one of the four modern
 Some borrow ideas from these and other
alternative philosophies.
Two Philosophical Schools of

 Authoritarian

 Democratic (non-authoritarian)
The Authoritarian School of
 Rooted in Idealism and Realism
 Derived from writings of John Locke – Blank
 Stressed the products rather than the process of
 Favored a subject-centered curriculum
 Embraced convergent thinking (inside the box)
 Perennialism, Essentialism, Behaviorism and
Authoritarian School:
 Rooted in ideas of idealism and realism.
 Has been the cornerstone of education for
 Characterized by the “Great Books”
 Favors a standardized curriculum.
 Prefers the top down “teacher centered,”
or subject-centered method.
Authoritarian School:
 Essentialists focus on the development of
essential skills for the future – especially
the workplace.
 Emphasizes a core curriculum -- referred
to as basic skills.
 Favors a top down learning environment.
 Embrace the NCLB and EOGs as central
to the learning experience.
Authoritarian School:
 Rooted in psychology, especially William James,
Edward Thorndike, John Watson, and B.F.
 Popular as a method of discipline and computer-
aided instruction.
 Students are essentially blank slates and can be
“manipulated” through a rewards system to
 Emphasizes learning the facts as well as
convergent thinking.
Authoritarian School: Positivism
 Derived from the writings of Auguste
Comte who argued that reality existed only
as observable fact.
 We can “know” only through direct
 Prefers a curriculum based primarily on
science and math with rigorous
assessment of specific knowledge.
 Favors convergent thinking.
The Democratic School of
 Rooted in Pragmatism and Existentialism
 Derived from writings of Jean Jacque Rousseau
 Stressed the Process rather than the Products of
 Favored an experience-centered or student-
centered curriculum
 Embraced Divergent thinking (outside the box)
 Progressivism, Humanism, Constructivism, Post-
Modernism, Reconstructionism
Democratic School:
 Emerged from the writings of pragmatists Charles
Pierce, William James, and John Dewey.
 Embraced realistic solutions to social problems.
 Helped students understand their interconnections with
members of the community in which they lived.
 Favored an “open classroom” environment and
cooperative learning.
 Preferred the problem-solving approach that focuses on
student interests.
 Focused on the learner-centered or student-centered
Democratic School:
 Emerged during the Great Depression and
was influenced by the writings of George
S. Counts.
 Challenged teachers to become
“transformative intellectuals”.
 Provide students with a “Critical
Pedagogy” (Henry Giroux) to become
agents of social change.
Democratic School: Humanism
 Embodies the ideas of Jean Jacque
 Seeks to nurture the individual spirit
without imposing external ideas on the
 Promotes divergent thinking.
 Favors the student-centered approach to
Democratic School:
 Focuses on individual development
through a nurturing approach to teaching.
 Provides students with hands-on activities.
 Favors the understanding of large,
complex ideas rather than the mastery of
 At odds with the current emphasis on
“mastery learning” and accountability as
envisioned by the NCLB.
Democratic School:
 Developed during the upheavals of society in the
1960s and 1970s.
 The goal is to understand power relationships
within society.
 Believes that those in power use the institutions
of government, culture and school to maintain
their positions within society.
 Contends that society has marginalized women,
workers, people of color as well as cultural
Postmodernism (Continued)
 The curriculum should include works of
“marginalized” people in literature, history
and other subjects.
 Students will then appreciate the
contributions of other members of our
diverse society.
 Favors a student-oriented approach and
journal writing.
Axiology and Education

 Moral Education

 Character Education
Moral Education

 Assumes that students are undeveloped

 Focuses on the Development of moral
 Consistent with the Democratic School
 Embraces Progressivism,
Reconstructionism, Humanism and
Character Education
 Students are blank slates
 Favors the transmission of “unambiguous
moral values”
 Consistent with the Authoritarian School
 Embraces Perennialism, Essentialism,
Behaviorism and Positivism