Thursday, September 01, 2005

Theories of Education Evaluation

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Joel Swagman
Education 304 C
April 9, 1999

Theories of Education Evaluation

In his article, “Philosophy of Education”, George Knight outlined the four theories of education: progressivism, perennialism, essentialism, and reconstructionism.  Knight leaves it up to the reader to decide what view is best.
I place a high value on human freedom, and equality.  For both of these reasons, I tend to be anti-authoritarian.  I regard authority as a necessary evil.  It is necessary in some cases, but one should always be cautious when creating any authority.  Whenever authority is not absolutely necessary, it should be done away with.  Authority furthermore should be limited as much as possible.
It is for this reason that I find Progressivism most attractive.  The teacher is looked upon not as a moral authority, but as a fellow traveler.  This both satisfies my desire for equality, and lessens the authority present.
Another reason I am attracted to progressivism is its emphasis on independent thought.  I place a high degree of value on people not doing what they are told, but arriving on at their own conclusions.  I believe much of the evil in this world, such as war or prejudice, is a result of people accepting what they are told instead of questioning things for themselves.  I like progressivism because it encourages students to question issues.
My reservations about progressivism concern its practicality.  I am attracted to the ideas, and would like to believe it will work, but I have reservations about it.  I wonder in a pure progressivist system how much students would abuse the freedoms they have been given.  I also realize that progressive ideas would require much change in the educational system.  Much of what would be taught in a progressive education can not be evaluated by tests, so our method of evaluating students would have to change, I can think of no standard method of evaluation to replace it with.
Just as I was drawn to progressivism, I was repulsed by Perennialism.  It was heavily authoritarian and anti-egalitarian.  It puts its emphasis on learning information, instead of fostering independent thought.  However, as a potential teacher, I find the practicality of it somewhat appealing.  It would fit into the existing system very easily, and the Teacher would ensure that none of the students took advantage of it.
The one thing I like about perennialism is the idea of getting ride of the textbook and returning students back to the original great works.  I believe this would help independent thought as well.  Instead of reading in a textbook what Cicero’s ideals were, a student would actually read Cicero by himself or herself, and decided for him or her self what Cicero’s ideals were.  Practicality questions arise here as well.  Obviously, there is not time in a semester for the students to read all the great books, and a textbook does a wonderful job of summarizing.  In addition, most of the great books are hard for students to understand.  However, practicality issues aside, I am attracted to this aspect of perennialism.
Essentialism has many of the same aspects of perennialism and much of what I said about perennialism would apply hear as well.  Some essentialists would like to make school a place of moral education, and I am cautious about this.  As I mentioned in my worldview paper, I believe part of the duty of human beings is to make the world a better place.  Because of this, I find the idea of moral education somewhat appealing.  Teachers would have much more of an opportunity to have a positive impact on the world if moral education is added to the curriculum.  However, I worry about which morals would be taught.  We as a society can agree on so little.  It would seem that some morals are so obvious that no one would disagree with them, such as “thou shall not kill”, or “thou shall not steal”.  However, many people believe in killing under the right circumstances, such as war or the death penalty.  I also find much appealing in Abbie Hoffman’s quote: “To steal from our brothers and sisters is immoral, to steal from the large corporations that run this country is not only our right but our duty”.
If moral education were to be taught in school, I would not want it to be where the teacher tells the students what is right or wrong and the students listen submissively.  I would want the students to decide for themselves what is right or wrong, and the teacher to act as a guide.
I mentioned I believe humans should make the world a better place.  Because of this, I find reconstructionism appealing because it states that schools should be a place where social problems are solved.  Again, my only reservation would be I hope that this would be done in a way that would foster independent thought, not squelch it.

I believe that the four theories of education each have some things that are appealing in them, based on my worldview.

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