Vol.1 No.1 July - December 2013 ISSN: 2321 - 6530

A BRIEF REVIEW OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHER, TEACHING AND LEARNING



Somnath Sinha
Graduate Research Assistant
MU Science Education Center
University of Missouri Columbia, USA


Purposes Of Education

The meaning and purposes of education has been stated differently by various educators and thinkers from time to time. If we go to the origin of this word then it is well known that the word education is derived from the Latin word e-ducere which means “to lead out”. To put in very simple terms we can say that education is a process of gaining knowledge, learning proper way of social living and acquiring vocational competencies to earn bread and butter. The process of education is a lifelong one which starts from our birth and continues till our death. While going to our schools during childhood we never ponder upon the reason behind acquiring knowledge and reason for schooling but as we grow mature then we tend to think about it. The reason and the purpose of education become clear to us when we find its application in our personal and professional lives.

Different thinkers have different views upon the purposes of education. The contextual nature of the purposes of education is also highlighted if we go back to the history of education. Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher and is remembered as one of the founders of western philosophy. He was of the view that the purpose of education is to elicit out what was inside a student. According to (Rud, 1997) Socrates had the attribute to uncover self knowledge of learners and he also encouraged others to do so. Plato was a student and follower of Socrates and was very much influenced by his master and in fact we know Socratic ideas were brought to public by Plato. Plato opined that the function of education should be to produce competent adults to meet the needs of the state. According to (Noddings, 1995) “Plato developed his thought on education in the context of descring the ideal state, and he could have argued as Dewey did later that there is no inherent conflict between the individual and the state”. Jean Jacques Rousseau is said to be as the philosopher of freedom because he believed that children are born free, without any vice and they should be left free in the nature to be nurtured. He was of the view that as plants were grown by cultivation and so men are shaped by education, the purpose of education is to give strength, conscience to be judgmental, to aid us in getting everything with which we were unprovided at the time of our birth. He desired that education should help every individual to maintain their natural innocence and goodness and also make them a responsible citizen of the state (Rousseau, 1965).

John Dewey was a legendary educationist and is known for his wonderful contribution to the field of education. Dr. John Dewey was regarded as one of America’s foremost philosopher of his time and he is also recognized as the father of American Philosophy. “The purpose of education according to Dewey is more education. Education thus functions as both end and means. He does not deny that particular aims are appropriate within education. Indeed he insists that educative activities, by their very nature, must have aims. We (both students and teachers) are trying to accomplish something. But our aims are not fixed, and there is no grand, ultimate aim beyond continued education.” (Noddings, 1995).

The various philosophies of education has also affected the purpose of education from time to time. The four major philosophis which have influenced the education system in the United States are idealism, realism, pragamtism and existentialism. We can view the first two philosophis as traditional and the last two ones as contemporary. All the philosophies ascertain different purposes for the education. Idealism advocates education to bring latent knowledge and ideas implanted within students to cosciousness. It also looks at education to carve out the learners as moral and spiritual leader. The philosophy of realism aims to cultivate rational thinking thorough education. The purpose of education is to encourage logical and abstract thinking to highest degree within the students, to make them moral and spiritual leader and a source of authority. Pragmatism, also refered to as experimentalism is based on change, process and relativity. The purpose of education is to cultivate critical thinking and scientific attitude within the learners. Pragmatism also says that education should implant within the students the method or process of solving problems in an intelligent manner. While pragamtism is an American philosophy, existentialism originated in Europe. Existentialists believe that education should aid in making personal choices and encourage individual self definition. (Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998)

Thus we see that there are a number of purposes of education according to differrent philosophies and to different educators. Since education touches our life from cradle to tomb and so its purposes cannot be limited within some boudry.Some of the purposes of education can be discussed along the following lines. Purpose of education is to make aware of our past and present with the help of fundamental subjects like history, maths, literature and science. It should inculcate the attribute to soundly judge the present situation to make a righteous future decision. It should also develop the physical, aesthitic and motor domain of an individual. Education should make an individual capable to earn his or her living. It should also make an individual aware of himself, his abilities and goals and aid in self-realization and self reflection. One of the other purpose of education is also to make the learners understand human relations and their place in society. It should also implant moral and ethical values and fellow-compassion in the students. The present day need to prepare students for problem solving and criticle thinking should also be met by education(Yero, 2002). Finally, some of the most important purpose of education should be to help the students understand real happiness in life, understand real problems of the society,prepare them as a pragmatic citizen and develop a mind set to address the common problems of the society and country as a whole.

Moral And Ethical Education In School

At the onset of this discussion let us try to understand the meaning of moral and ethics. In simple words moral is concerned with principles of right and wrong or harmonizing to set frames of behavior and character founded on those rules and regulations. Ethics can be described as the rules of code and conduct accepted with respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture or human race as a whole.

“There cannot be two sets of ethical principles, one for life in the school, and the other for life outside of the school. As conduct is one, so also the principles of conduct are one. The tendency to discuss the morals of the school as if the school were an institution by itself is highly unfortunate. The moral responsibility of the school, and of those who conduct it, is to society. The school is fundamentally an institution erected by society to do a certain specific work, -- to exercise a certain specific function in maintain the life and advancing the welfare of society. The educational system which does not recognize that this fact entails upon it an ethical responsibility is a derelict and a defaulter. It is not doing what it was called into existence to do” (Dewey, 1909). Thus we see that John Dewey, the great educational philosopher , spoke about moral and ethical education in the school at the dawn of twentieth century.

It is a known fact that education of a child through schooling is supposed to shape up character and preserve the moral and spiritual values of society. A study conducted by (Bebeau, Rest, & Narvaez, 1999) highlighted the following aspects of moral and ethical education in the schools of U.S.A. If we talk particularly of the American society then we can say that changing concerns and ideological shifts has produced different emphases in the premise of moral education. If we look back then we will see that the first buzz of character education became popular in the 1930s as a reaction to the evolving notion of the time that the society of America is in a state of crisis, there is decay of morality and loss of ethical values among its citizens and there is a drastic decline in the standards of human character. This concern was again seen to rise at the dawn of 1980s and prevailed through the 1990s. The importance of the concern for fundamental socialization of the young generation of America can be very well guessed from President Clinton’s 1997 speech in which he pressed the need for character education and also favored it to be taught in American schools. He also said children should be given training to become good citizens. Many schools all over the country seem to be responding. To give an example, in St.Paul, Minnesota, character education has been mandated by the School Board. It is worth mentioning here that albeit the afore said term has been attributed to many forms of moral education to the extent of even including the education of military professionals, this movement can be viewed as a response to the problems and worries related with the socialization of the young generation of the country.

Kohlberg (1966) , when talking about moral education in school, focused on the part of teacher and his role in this framework. He said that a developmental conception of moral education should not be interpreted as that it would dictate of any curriculum upon the teacher. Kohlberg opined that there is no binding on the part of the teacher to achieve some clarity in his or her own general conceptions of the aims and nature of moral development. Furthermore the teacher should know and be confident on those premises of the attributes of moral development that he is expected to encourage among his learners of a given developmental level. The teacher is also supposed to implant the methods moral communication within the students and it also entails on the part of the teacher that he or she starts to listen carefully to the child in moral communications. Moreover the teacher should be concerned about the moral judgment of the students and the relation of these judgments to the external behavior of them and not about the alignment of the student’s behavior with his or her own.

Although the educators and the heads of the school feel that there is a need of moral and ethical education in the school but the current scenarios do not depict satisfaction and we have a long way to go. It is a condition of pity that educational institutions have reduced themselves to be mere a shopping centers of information and knowledge and their primary purpose of character formation and moral education is being totally ignored. The present social apathy is mainly due to the lackadaisical handling or complete absence of character and value education in its centers of learnings. It should be noted that moral and ethical values are base for the democratic society to grow and develop. As Winston Churchill once said, "The first duty of a university is to teach wisdom, not trade; character, not technicalities." , so schools and colleges should try their best to stress the need and significance of character and virtues in everybody’s life and for this vision to be fulfilled there is an urgency of teachers with character, knowledge and wisdom. Looking at with an all encompassing view Bebeau et al (1999) opines that the current issues related to violence, drugs and pregnancy are not the only matters neeeding attention, instead there are many other concerns with regard to social-personality development. We can pay heed to basic socialization and morality for the time being but keep in the mind that attention shift may occur in near future. It is not advocated to minimize concern over moral decadence among present students or youths but along with that it should be kept in mind that there are problems at all levels of development and education. “To accomplish a broad-based approach to moral education, we suggest that the establishment of systematic research necessitates moving away from the view that the three basic elements to study are moral reasoning, feelings, and moral behavior.” (Bebeau et al 1999).

Politics And Education

In this present world of globalization it is hard to disregard the effect of political decisions in education system, regardless of the country and continent. Sometimes there are long gap between the decisions made and the visible effect but that does not lessen its impact. In order to illustrate how this decisions affect the education system and hence the lives of the people an account of the effect of politics on education system of England is described.“The UK had a reasonably equitable system till the 1970s: It selected bright students at age eleven and sent them to grammar schools where they got good quality education. The result was that till the 2000s, the top positions in various professions were quite democratic; children from both rich and poor families could rise to the top. In the 1970s, the socialists removed the eleven-plus examination on the argument that it was unfair to “late developers”. The consequence was that the middle class and the richer families opted out of government schools and sent their children to private schools – and got them much better education. The result is that, in England, top positions are no longer democratic the way they used to be; children from poorer families have far fewer chances of rising to the top. (Indiresan, 2009).

The above discussed account shows us the importance of political decisions in our education system. This is not an issue of present times because history tells that since the days of Socrates, the educational philosophers have intrigued themselves with concept of justice,equality and equity in education and in the modern times individualistic lideraism has been a matter of concern (Noddings, 1995). Presently we are living in a planet which is changing drastically due to world-changing political, social and economic conditions and this new world order is best described by the conjencture of global neoliberalislm and global resistence particularly after 9/11 (Lipman, 2006). Studies say that on the premises of present global economy various scholars have investigated the affect of social regulation, educational privatization, skill development, marketization (Apple, 2001; Dale, 1989/1990;Molnar, 1996; Saltman, 2000). The effect of these various policies in social aspects and learning have also been delved into (e.g., Ball, 1994; Gillborn & Youdell, 2000; Lipman, 2004; McNeil, 2000; Smyth, 2001; Whitty, Power, & Halpin, 1998). Gandin & Apple (2003) says that the present day educators should take part and contribute in various perspectives in relation to projects which challenge some neoliberal education. The reason for giving reference of the above studies is to try out to highlight that present day reform and social conditions are intricately related to education system and that the educators are looked upon to take part in this reform.

The various political decisions about the education should be made by the persons connected to the education system. All those affected by the school and education must be involved in making a decision in of its nature and purpose. Now, if thought meticulously then every strata of the society is affected education and so representation from all classes and groups should come while considering any aspect of education. It is worth mentioning here that although the teaching learning process affects each and everyone in the society but it is the teachers and the students who are most directly involved. Among the teacher and the student the former is leader and facilitator and the latter is follower and learner and thus it precipitates that the teacher are the most crucial and contributing factor in the education system. Thus, I feel that teachers should play a central role in any political decision to be made with regard to education system. The teacher at the center does not mean an authoritarian form of structure for making judgments on concerns of the school. Since it is democracy which is the base of human welfare so the process of various decision making should also go through this process. Since it is impractical to call upon everyone to discuss over issues from time to time so there should be groups representing teachers, senior students, parents, community members, local politicians. The matters of concerns should be discussed among all the representatives and should reach to a unanimous decision for any further stance. Sometimes policies of national and international importance regarding education arise in the parliaments and then the political leaders play the main role and teachers are not paid any heed. This may be the sole reason for failures of various policies. In these scenarios also before making any decision the body of representative teachers must be call upon and their views should be regarded with utmost significance. In fact it is desired that a body, representative in real sense, of all those related to the process of Education should decide the answer. Government should be a part of it. They should unanimously decide everything in a democratic manner.

Role Of Teacher

Teachers are the foundation upon which the whole education system stands. Teachers are like the skeleton to the body of education. Thus, the role of the teachers cannot be undermined in the present situation when we are talking of educational reform to make this world a better place to live in. The role of teacher is described differently by different educators and philosophies but there are conscience regarding the basic duties of the teachers. The first and foremost duty of the teacher is to provide help to the student in acquisition of knowledge and he or she should act as a facilitator of education. The teacher should coordinate the elicitation of all the three cognitive, affective and psychomotor attributes within a child with equal importance. The teacher should act as a guide and lead the student through ignorance to wisdom. These are some of the common aspects of the teachers upon which every philosophy and educators agree.

Many great men had given their views on the role of teachers. Among them, the image of teacher portrayed by Abraham Lincoln is the most remarkable one. Although Abraham Lincoln is not famous as an educationist but his views on the role of teacher is worth appreciating which generates from the letter he wrote to his son’s teacher.

“He will have to learn, I know
That all men are not just,
all men are not true.
But teach him also that
for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish Politician,
there is a dedicated leader…
Teach him for every enemy there is a friend,
Steer him away from envy,
if you can,
teach him the secret of
quiet laughter
the bullies are the easiest to lick…
Teach him, if you can,
the wonder of books…
But also give him quiet time
to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky,
bees in the sun,
and the flowers on a green hillside
In the school teach him,
it is far honorable to fail
than to cheat…
Teach him to have faith
but teach him also to filter
all he hears on a screen of truth,
and take only the good
that comes through.
Teach him if you can,
how to laugh when he is sad…
Teach him there is no shame in tears,
Teach him to scoff at cynics
and to beware of too much sweetness…
Teach him to sell his brawn
and brain to the highest bidders
but never to put a price-tag
on his heart and soul.
Teach him to close his ears,
to a howling mob
and to stand and fight
if he thinks he’s right.
Treat him gently,
but do not cuddle him,
because only the test
of fire makes fine steel.
Let him have the courage,
o be impatient…
let him have the patience to be brave.
Teach him always
in his own ideas,
even if everyone tells him
they are wrong…
Teach him to be gentle
with gentle people,
and tough with the tough.
Try to give my son,
the strength not to follow the crowd
when everyone is getting on the band
wagon…
Teach him to listen to all men…
to have sublime faith in himself,
because then he will have
sublime faith in mankind.
This is a big order,
but see what you can do…
He is such a fine little fellow,
my son!”


(2006)Abraham Lincoln

After analyzing the letter we skim out some of the following duties of the teacher or the role the teacher is expected to play. The teacher should highlight the real world of individual difference to the student and inform him that there is all kind of human beings, from bad through good ones. He should teach the students not to be jealous. The teacher should also bring out the love for nature within the learners and help them to cherish the natural beauty and serenity. The teacher should also highlight the value of honesty and help them in abiding to it, furnish students with the power of confidence; bring out reasonability in interpersonal dealings. The attributes of a good leader, a good listener and discerned person should be brought out. The students should be taught to be indifferent to sorrow and joy, sell their skills but not their values and caution them against the flatterers. Finally the teacher should also build self confidence, courage and patience within the students and courage and encourage having faith in mankind.


REFERENCES

  • Retrieved December 16, 2009,from http://vnicholas.wordpress.com/2006/12/28/lincolns-letter-to-his-sons-teacher.
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