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From the Philosophy of Education

Philosophy of education:

  1. A philosophical study or normative theory of education and its problem fields, including how good learning is brought about, and problems concerning upbringing, teaching, aims, methods, discipline, etc.
  2. One of any educational philosophies that promote a specific type or vision of education;
  3. Examinined definitions, goals and meanings of education.

There is informal and formal education.

  • The part of the educator(s): nurturing, sheltering, raising (upbringing), and teaching skills that are good to know.
  • The part of the educated: Enjoy being fed, sheltered, raised pleasantly, and taught with much skill, blended with concern or love. Or if not enjoying it, to stand one's lot, at best a little stoically. Or if not standing it, refrain from beer, learn better study methods and see what else may be done by a minor or minority to get a better hand while preparing for the school of life and positioning oneself for the long run - or possible long run. Exemplary conduct tends to work well. And, as judged by many results, it could be good and work well to learn and practice TM [◦Effects of TM (Transcendental Meditation)]
  • The big gain of education is what is contained in the ladle (mind, soul, heart) after it has been dipped into the porridge of good, mediocre or bad schooling: Information (knowledge), attitudes and skills. Learning is not just intellectual.

A philosophical study of education and its problems may centre on the philosophy of the process of education or the philosophy of the discipline of education, on educational practices or on the relation between educational theory and practice.

The soaring philosophy of education is concerned with ideas for most part, and not the practice of teaching and learning outcomes.

Philosophy of education can also be understood as a normative educational theory that unifies pedagogy, curriculum, learning theory, the purpose of education and its grand assumptions. These theories are also called educational philosophies.

Some educators

Plato's writings contain some of the following ideas: Elementary education - of music and gymnastics - would be confined to the guardian class till the age of 18, followed by two years of compulsory military training and then by higher education for those who qualified.

Aristotle - Only fragments of Aristotle's treatise On Education still exist. Aristotle considered human nature, habit and reason to be equally important forces to be cultivated in education. He greatly emphased balancing the theoretical and practical aspects of subjects taught. Subjects he explicitly mentions as being important included reading, writing and mathematics; music; physical education; literature and history; and a wide range of sciences. He also mentioned the importance of play.

For Aristotle, education was to produce good and virtuous citizens for the polis.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau paid his respects to Plato's philosophy, yet rejected it as impractical in a decayed state of society. Rousseau held that there was one developmental process common to all humans, an intrinsic, natural process. This differed from Locke's 'tabula rasa' in that it was an active process deriving from the child's nature, which drove the child to learn and adapt to its surroundings.

Rousseau advocated an educational method which consisted of removing the child from society - for example, to a country home.

Rousseau advocated that adults always be truthful with children.

Rousseau divided development into five stages. Education in the first two stages seeks to the senses.

Immanuel Kant believed that education involves thinking, and training does not.

John Locke: "I think I may say that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education."

Locke warns against letting "a foolish maid" convince a child that "goblins and sprites" are associated with the night for "darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other."

Maria Montessori - The Montessori method arose from Dr. Maria Montessori's discovery of "the child's true normal nature" in 1907, when she observed young children given freedom in an environment prepared with materials designed for self-directed learning activity.

Rudolf Steiner founded a holistic educational impulse, now known as Steiner or Waldorf education, his pedagogy emphasises a balanced development of cognitive, affective/artistic, and practical skills (head, heart, and hands). Schools are normally self-administered by faculty; emphasis is placed on giving individual teachers the freedom to develop creative methods.

Steiner's theory of child development divides education into three discrete developmental stages predating but with close similarities to the stages of development described by Piaget. Early childhood education occurs through imitation; teachers provide practical activities and a healthy environment. Steiner believed that young children should meet only goodness. Elementary education is strongly arts-based, centered on the teacher's creative authority; the elementary school-age child should meet beauty. Secondary education seeks to develop the judgment, intellect, and practical idealism; the adolescent should meet lots of truth.

John Dewey - In Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, Dewey stated that education, in its broadest sense, is the means of the "social continuity of life." Dewey was a pragmatist and relentless campaigner for reform of education against coersiveness.

Martin Heidegger - Heidegger's thoughts about education were mainly related to higher education. He believed that teaching and research in the university should be unified and aim towards testing and interrogating the "ontological assumptions presuppositions which implicitly guide research in each domain of knowledge."

Paulo Freire was committed to the cause of educating the impoverished peasants in Brazil against what he termed "oppression."

John Holt - In 1964 Holt published his first book, How Children Fail, asserting that the academic failure of schoolchildren was not despite the efforts of the schools, but actually because of the schools.

Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist known for his epistemological studies, and became a "pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing. Piaget was interested in the process of the qualitative development of knowledge, and as such he walked in the shoes of Rudolf Steiner, the architect (concept-former) of Waldorf Education.

Jerome Bruner has contributed to the inquiry method in education. Bruner would encourage students to discover facts and relationships and steadily build on what they already know.

Schools of thought

Contemplative education focuses on bringing spiritual awareness into the pedagogical process. Contemplative methods may also be used by teachers in their preparation; Waldorf education was one of the pioneers of such an approach, which is essential in Buddhist and Hindu yoga.

Educational essentialism is an educational philosophy whose adherents believe that children should learn the traditional basic subjects and that these should be learned thoroughly and progressively, from less complex skills to more complex ones.

Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centred on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including child directed play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum.

Waldorf education - (also known as Steiner or Steiner-Waldorf education) is a rather humanistic approach to pedagogy.


Philosophy of Education, philosophers of education, a few schools of education, Literature  

Barrow, Robin, and Ronald Woods. An Introduction to Philosophy of Education. 4th ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2006.

Blake, Nigel et al. The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

Collins, John W. II, and Nancy Patricia O'Brien, eds. The Greenwood Dictionary of Education. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2011.

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. Delhi: Aakar, 2004.

Farenga, Stephen J., and Daniel Ness, eds. Encyclopedia of Education and Human Development. Vol 1. London: Sharpe, 2005.

Flanagan, Frank M. The Greatest Educators Ever. New York: Continuum, 2006.

Lawton, Denis, and Peter Gordon. 2005. A History of Western Educational Ideas. London: Woburn Press.

Meyer, Adolphe. Grandmasters of Educational Thought. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.

Miller, John p., et al. 2005. Holistic Learning and Spirituality in Education: Breaking New Ground. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

New, Rebecca S., and Moncrieff Cochran. Early Childhood Education: An International Encyclopedia. Vols 1-4. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

Pirie, Madsen. 101 Great Philosophers. London: Continuum, 2009.

Pring, Richard. 2005. Philosophy of Education: Aims, Theory, Common Sense and Research. Paperback ed. London: Continuum.

Rorty, Amélie O., ed. Philosophers on Education: New Historical Perspectives. London: Taylor and Francis, 2005.

Rusk, Robert R., and James Scotland. Doctrines of the Great Educators. 5th ed. London: MacMillan. London, 1979.

Seeley, Levi. 1904. History of Education. Rev. ed. New York: American Book Company, 1904.

Winch, Christopher, and John Gingell. 2008. Philosophy of Education: The Key Concepts. 2nd ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor and Francis.

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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