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Philosophy of Education Final Paper

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May 15, 1999

Philosophy of Education Paper

My worldview is very important to the way I view the world, and to the way I interact with other people.  It also helps me make sense of what I encounter and how I deal with things.
I believe that the purpose of human beings is to help make the world a better place for others.  Each human being, by virtue of simply existing, uses up resources.  They must justify the use of these resources as best they can by giving back to the world.  (Also, humans should try and live as simply as possible, using up no more than they need).  As creatures created by God, furthermore, we have a responsibility to help other human beings out who are in need or trouble.  God created us to be loving creatures.
I agree with Karl Marx when he claims,
Nature has assigned to the animal the sphere of its activity, and the animal acts within it, not striving beyond, not even surmising that there is another.  To man, too, the deity gave a general goal, to improve mankind and himself, but he left it up to him to seek the means by which he can attain this goal, left it up to him to choose the position in society which is most appropriate and from which he can best evaluate himself and society.  This choice is a great privilege over other creatures, but at the same time an act which can control man’s entire life, defeat all his plans, and make him unhappy.  Hence, a youth who is beginning a career and who does not wish to leave his most important concerns to chance certainly sees his foremost duty in considering this choice seriously.  Everyone has a goal which appears to be great, at least to himself, and is great when deepest conviction, the innermost voice of the hear, pronounces it great; for the Deity never leaves man entirely without a guide; the Deity speaks softly, but with certainty (Marx
35-36).


I believe that the universe in which we live is ultimately under the control of God.  This should be a comfort.  When we are in trouble, we know that God will ultimately prevail.  As Jesus said,
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6: 25-26).


However, God allows evil to happen.  Therefore, the world we live in is plagued by evil.  However, we must remember that God is in control and the world and the creatures in it are essentially good.
The main problem that keeps humans from attaining fulfillment is sin.  More specifically, greed and selfishness.  These two evils cause people to try and obtain all they can, and ultimately leaves them unfulfilled.  People must realize that happiness does not lie in material possessions, and struggle to overcome our instinctive urge to obtain more.  People likewise must realize that a life, which they spend, trying to please only themselves is going to end in misery.  We were created to care about more than just ourselves.
Humans must realize that Fulfillment and true happiness can only come from God, and a life spent serving him.  People can serve God I many different ways or from many different beliefs.  I do not believe that Christianity is the only way to God, but many religions offer access to a part of God.
Related to my worldview are my philosophical assumptions.  These are my views on epistemology (the nature of knowledge), ontology (the nature of reality), and anthropology (the nature of human beings).
Knowledge is something that is difficult to define.  Almost everyone knows what knowledge is, but when asked to put it into words they stumble and many people come up with many different explanations.  Knowledge is what someone knows – but what is knowing? Knowledge can be described as the accumulation of facts, but this makes gives the impression that knowledge is something that can only be obtained from books.  Knowledge can be obtained through life experiences.  In fact, knowledge obtained through life is remembered better and is often more certain than book knowledge.
There are many different types of knowledge, and an attempt to categorize knowledge would probably prove useless.  The two main types of knowledge are knowledge that is obtained through books.  In the same category would probably be knowledge that is obtained through lectures and movies, and any type of knowledge that is removed from the one knowing it.  Another way to define it is anything that can be taught.
The other type of knowledge is knowledge gained from experience.  This knowledge can not be taught, or in some cases can only be partially taught.  For instance, someone can be taught how to shoot a basketball, but until they learn to shoot a basketball by themselves, it can not truthfully be said of them that they know how to shoot a basketball.
This type of knowledge may include skills, such as knowledge of how to play a guitar, or how to drive a car, or how to play well in a soccer game.  Another type of experience knowledge is social knowledge, knowing how to interact with people, how to read faces, how to get people to do what they would not otherwise ordinarily do.  Social knowledge is arguably the most valuable of any kind of knowledge.
The difference between knowledge and opinion should be carefully noted.  Something that can be proved objectively is knowledge, but something that is subjective is opinion.  Also, many people have false notions that they claim as knowledge.  For instance, one thousand years ago the idea that the world is flat was considered knowledge.  Today we know that the world is round, so people who lived long ago really did not have the knowledge they thought they did.
The nature of reality (ontology) is another interesting philosophical assumption.  As mentioned in my worldview section, I believe in a reality in which God is ultimately in control of the world.  This is because I am a Christian and believe what the Bible tells me about how God created the world and is in control.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  However, as a friend of mine once said, “The I.Q. of a conversation goes down drastically once the Bible enters it.”  A little harsh perhaps, but I believe she has a good point.  In order for me to intelligently defend my ontological assumptions, I must look for other evidence, rather than just blindly believing in the Bible.
As a history major, I can point to plenty of evidence that would show God is not in control.  History can be somewhat depressing, as it is continually a story of the powerful triumphing over the weak, and all too often the greedy triumphing over the idealistic.  Nature also points to a world where one creature survives by destroying another.  The traditional Christian explanation for both of these is to ascribe them to the fall, but this is based again mostly on the Bible, and I am still defending my ontological assumption by blind faith.
I believe in God because I have seen him work in my own life.  I can offer no universal proof for his existence, or that he is in control of the world, but I know he is in control of my life.  I realize that this makes my defense for my ontological view shallow, but I think in terms of universal proofs there is far more evidence for universe that is not under God’s control than one that is.  I will have to leave my defense a personal one.
My anthropology is connected to my ontology.  I believe humans, in spite of all the evil they do, are basically good.  They are fallen, as the Bible tells us, but God created them good and remain so.  People can be incredibly stupid, but most people can not live with themselves if they do not believe their actions are good.  Most people are deceived into thinking that much of the evil they do is good, but they have good intentions.  Very few people intentionally set out to be on the side of evil.
I also believe each human being is a dynamic individual, and needs to be treated as such.  Every human being has needs, and these can not be ignored.  Each human being also has dreams and ambitions, and will react negatively if someone attempts to regulate him or her to the sidelines.  As Karl Marx said, every human has a goal which appears to be great, if only to himself (see earlier quote).
There is much in my philosophical assumptions that applies to my teaching.  I would want to make my students an integral part of the classroom.  I would not want to regulate them to the sidelines of the class, because I believe this would be counter-productive.  Students should be given a center place in the classroom.
Of course, Palmer has a good point when he says that the classroom should not be teacher centered, but neither should it be completely student centered.  Palmer argues that the classroom should be subject centered.  Palmer is somewhat vague though in expressing just exactly what he means by having a subject centered classroom.  It is very nice sounded rhetoric and the classroom should never, as Palmer points out, be teacher or student centered to the point of encouraging narcissism.  However, the mode of instruction must invariably be more centered on either the teacher imparting knowledge, or the students discovering knowledge for themselves.  A combination of the two is possible and perhaps desirable, but I can think of no alternative means of instruction than these two.
Since I believe in the importance of each individual human being, I believe a large part of learning must empower the individual.  The more the students are in control of their own learning the better.
Rousseau once said, “I hate books.  They only teach us to talk about what we do not know”.  Rousseau is being extreme obviously.  As Ringo Starr put it, “You can learn a lot from books.”  However, Rousseau has a good point in that the best kind of knowledge, the first hand kind of knowledge, is impossible to get from a book.  A book may allow us to talk like we know what it was like standing on the barricades during the French Revolution, or in the trenches during World War 1, but we can never truly know what either of these two events were like, unless someone invents a time machine.  To Rousseau, learning involves knowing something first hand.
It would be impossible to teach without textbooks.  However, as a teacher I would not want to rely simply on book knowledge.  I would want my students to learn things from activities as well.  I could never recreate historical events, but I could try and give my students some idea of what history was like.  I also want my students to learn from each other, not just me.  This would not only get the students more involved in the learning process, but also give them more than just one perspective on things.
To this end, I would be very much in favor of group work.  It would help students learn from each other, and see others perspective on things.  As Paulo Freire notes, you can not liberate people by alienating them (Freire in Cahn).  I believe people become alienated when they are forced to work individually on a task, instead of corporately, where they are united with other people struggling toward the same goal.
Part of my worldview is that I believe humans have a responsibility to make the world a better place.  This transfers into education.
The aim of education is ultimately to contribute to society.  Under this aim, many different priorities can be placed.  For instance since a good environment contributes to society, educating care of the environment falls under this category.
However, within this broad category of society, I believe the aim of Education should be primarily to help the disadvantaged of society.  I believe the purpose of education ideally would be to put everyone on equal footing.  Those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds would receive the same level of education as everyone else, and ideally be able to compete on the same level as those who grew up in privileged circumstances.  Of course, this ideal is far from reality, with suburban schools receiving much more funding and generally having a higher quality of education than inner-city schools.  However ideally, this would be the way education would function.
In this manner, education would also be able to serve the society since it would help to eliminate the underclass.  Of course, a good education is not a sure ticket out of poverty, but it will at least give the poor a chance.
If the poor are educated, they will also be able to better organize themselves, and stand up for themselves as a class.  Stopping the elite from taking advantage of the poor will then help society.
In addition, our society will be stronger if we give the poor a personal stake in it, instead of regulating them to the margins of society, giving them no cause to support it.  Of course, we should not be so na├»ve to believe that it is solely ignorance that keeps the poor in their place.  Oppression and privilege play a large part of it.  However, if the poor were educated, they would stand a much better chance at standing up for themselves then if they were not educated.  As a potential history teacher, I am aware of many instances in history in which the poor were able to organize themselves against the elites.  The history of the Communist party, for instance, or the history of Unions in the United States, are both examples of this.  If people are made aware of these stories, they can serve as inspirations to them.
I am also very attracted to a number of Palmer's ideas.  He talks a lot about how the individual method a teacher not so important.  What is important is that the teacher lets him or her self shine through the method, and influence people.  Speaking from my many years as a student, I have known enough teachers to agree with this statement.  I have seen many teachers use many different methods.  Until I read Palmer, I would always waiver on what the best way to teach was.  After having a really good lecturer as a teacher, I would conclude lecture is the best way of teaching.  After having a teacher was able to get the class energized in a class discussion, I would conclude that this was the best way to teach.  However, after reading Palmer, I see things differently.
From my own experience in High School, I can think of teachers who were notorious for being strict, yet had students frequently act up in their class.  I can also think of teachers who were famous for being lax, and who had little discipline.  As a High School student, I quickly concluded that authority breeds rebellion, and the more a teacher tries to tighten his or her grip on a class, the more problematic that class becomes.  However, looking back I remember strict teachers who had no discipline problem, and not so strict teachers who were walked over by the class.  Perhaps a large part of it has to do with other factors, such as how well the teacher can entertain the class, or how successful the teacher’s activities are at occupying the class.  I think a large part of it though, perhaps most of it, is how well the class saw the teacher as a person.
The teacher’s who were successful knew how to interact with the class.  They would share personal stories, and invite the class to do the same.  They would talk to students outside of class, find out what the student’s interests were and talk to the students about these interests.  They would often talk to the students as equals, in class as well as outside of class.  Even though nobody was deceived as to who had the classroom authority, the teacher would not let that stand it the way of interacting with students on a personal basis.  They would often show the students that they had a sense of humor, and appreciate student responses.
By contrast, teachers who had many discipline problems would exhibit none of these characteristics.  They would not talk to the class about anything except the subject at hand.  They seemed as if they never knew anything besides fractions and multiplication, or whatever the subject was.  It was difficult, almost impossible, to imagine that they had once been young, or that they had friends outside of the workplace.
As a teacher, therefore, I will try and make myself shine through the teaching method, and be evident to the class.
My worldview, Philosophical assumptions, and theory of education are all inter-related, and all equally important.  They will help to determine in what ways I teach, and what methods I will use.
Bibliography
Cahn, Steven J. (1997).  Classic and Contemporary Readings in the Philosopy of Education.  New York:  MaGraw-Hill.


Marx, Karl.  Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society.  Anchor Books.  New York.   1967.


Palmer, Parker J. (1998).  The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life.  San Francisco.  Ca: Jossey-Bass.


**********************************************Other Version****************

Joel Swagman
Education 304
Joldersma
May 15, 1999


Philosophy of Education Paper


My worldview is very important to they way I view the world, and to the way I interact with other people.  It also helps me make sense of what I encounter and how I deal with things.
I believe that the purpose of human beings is to help make the world a better place for others.  Each human being, by virtue of simply existing, uses up resources.  They must justify the use of these resources as best they can by giving back to the world.  (Also, humans should try and live as simply as possible, using up no more than they need).  As creatures created by God, furthermore, we have a responsibility to help other human beings out who are in need or trouble.  God created us to be loving creatures.
I believe that the universe in which we live is ultimately under the control of God.  This should be a comfort.  When we are in trouble, we know that God will ultimately prevail.  However, God allows evil to happen.  Therefore, the world we live in is plagued by evil.  However, we must remember that God is in control and the world and the creatures in it are essentially good.
The main problem that keeps humans from attaining fulfillment is sin.  More specifically, greed and selfishness.  These two evils cause people to try and obtain all they can, and ultimately leaves them unfulfilled.  People must realize that happiness does not lie in material possessions, and struggle to overcome our instinctive urge to obtain more.  People likewise must realize that a life, which they spend, trying to please only themselves is going to end in misery.  We were created to care about more than just ourselves.
Humans must realize that Fulfillment and true happiness can only come from God, and a life spent serving him.  People can serve God I many different ways or from many different beliefs.  I do not believe that Christianity is the only way to God, but many religions offer access to a part of God.
Related to my worldview are my philosophical assumptions.  These are my views on ontology (the nature of reality), anthropology (the nature of human beings) and epistemology (the nature of knowledge).
Knowledge is something that is difficult to define.  Almost everyone knows what knowledge is, but when asked to put it into words they stumble and many people come up with many different explanations.  Knowledge is what someone knows – but what is knowing? Knowledge can be described as the accumulation of facts, but this makes gives the impression that knowledge is something that can only be obtained from books.  Knowledge can be obtained through life experiences.  In fact, knowledge obtained through life is remembered better and is often more certain than book knowledge.
There are many different types of knowledge, and an attempt to categorize knowledge would probably prove useless.  The two main types of knowledge are knowledge that is obtained through books.  In the same category would probably be knowledge that is obtained through lectures and movies, and any type of knowledge that is removed from the one knowing it.  Another way to define it is anything that can be taught.
The other type of knowledge is knowledge gained from experience.  This knowledge can not be taught, or in some cases can only be partially taught.  For instance, someone can be taught how to shoot a basketball, but until they learn to shoot a basketball by themselves, it can not truthfully be said of them that they know how to shoot a basketball.
This type of knowledge may include skills, such as knowledge of how to play a guitar, or how to drive a car, or how to play well in a soccer game.  Another type of experience knowledge is social knowledge, knowing how to interact with people, how to read faces, how to get people to do what they would not otherwise ordinarily do.  Social knowledge is arguably the most valuable of any kind of knowledge.
The difference between knowledge and opinion should be carefully noted.  Something that can be proved objectively is knowledge, but something that is subjective is opinion.  Also, many people have false notions that they claim as knowledge.  For instance, one thousand years ago the idea that the world is flat was considered knowledge.  Today we know that the world is round, so people who lived long ago really did not have the knowledge they thought they did.
The nature of reality (ontology) is another interesting philosophical assumption.  As mentioned in my worldview section, I believe in a reality in which God is ultimately in control of the world.  This is because I am a Christian and believe what the Bible tells me about how God created the world and is in control.  However, as a friend of mine once said, “The I.Q. of a conversation goes down drastically once the Bible enters it.”  A little harsh perhaps, but I believe she has a good point.  In order for me to intelligently defend my ontological assumptions, I must look for other evidence, rather than just blindly believing in the Bible.
As a history major, I can point to plenty of evidence that would show God is not in control.  History can be somewhat depressing, as it is continually a story of the powerful truimphing over the weak, and all too often the greedy triumphing over the idealistic.  Nature also points to a world where one creature survives by destroying another.  The traditional Christian explanation for both of these is to ascribe them to the fall, but this is based again mostly on the Bible, and I am still defending my ontological assumption by blind faith.
I believe in God because I have seen him work in my own life.  I can offer no universal proof for his existance, or that he is in control of the world, but I know he is in control of my life.  I realize that this makes my defense for my ontological view shallow, but I think in terms of universal proofs there is far more evidence for universe that is not under God’s control than one that is.  I will have to leave my defense a personal one.
My anthropology is connected to my ontology.  I believe humans, in spite of all the evil they do, are basically good.  They are fallen, as the Bible tells us, but they were created good by God and remain so.  People can be incredibly stupid, but most people can not live with themselves if they do not believe their actions are good.  Most people are decieved into thinking that much of the evil they do is good, but they have good intentions.  Very few people  intentionally set out to be on the side of evil.
I also believe each human being is a dynamic individual, and needs to be treated as such.  Every human beng has needs, and these can not be ignored.  Each human being also has dreams and ambitions, and will react negatively if someone attempts to regulate him or her to the sidelines.
There is much in my philosophical assumptions that applies to my teaching.  I would want to make my students an integral part of the classroom.  I would not want to regulate them to the sidelines of the class, because I believe this would be counter-productive.  Students should be given a center place in the classroom.
Of course, Palmer has a good point when he says that the classroom should not be teacher centered, but neither should it be completely student centered.  Palmer argues that the classroom should be subject centered.  Palmer is somewhat vague though in expressing just exactly what he means by having a subject centered classroom.  It is very nice sounded rhetoric and the classroom should never, as Palmer points out, be teacher or student centered to the point of encouraging narcissism.  However, the mode of instruction must invariably be more centered on either the teacher imparting knowledge, or the students discovering knowledge for themselves.  A combination of the two is possible and perhaps desirable, but I can think of no alternative means of instruction than these two.

Since I believe in the importance of each individual human being, I believe a large part of learning must empower the individual.  The more the students are in control of their own learning the better.  

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