Philosophy of education can refer to either the academic field of applied philosophy or to one of any educational philosophies that promote a specific type or vision of education, and/or which examine the definition, goals and meaning of education.
As an academic field, philosophy of education is “the philosophical study of education and its problems…its central subject matter is education, and its methods are those of philosophy”. “The philosophy of education may be either the philosophy of the process of education or the philosophy of the discipline of education. That is, it may be part of the discipline in the sense of being concerned with the aims, forms, methods, or results of the process of educating or being educated; or it may be metadisciplinary in the sense of being concerned with the concepts, aims, and methods of the discipline.” As such, it is both part of the field of education and a field of applied philosophy, drawing from fields of metaphysics, epistemology, axiology and the philosophical approaches (speculative, prescriptive, and/or analytic) to address questions in and about pedagogy, education policy, and curriculum, as well as the process of learning, to name a few. For example, it might study what constitutes upbringing and education, the values and norms revealed through upbringing and educational practices, the limits and legitimization of education as an academic discipline, and the relation between educational theory and practice.
Instead of being taught in philosophy departments, philosophy of education is usually housed in departments or colleges of education, similar to how philosophy of law is generally taught in law schools. The multiple ways of conceiving education coupled with the multiple fields and approaches of philosophy make philosophy of education not only a very diverse field but also one that is not easily defined. Although there is overlap, philosophy of education should not be conflated with educational theory, which is not defined specifically by the application of philosophy to questions in education. Philosophy of education also should not be confused with philosopy education, the practice of teaching and learning the subject of philosophy.
An educational philosophy is a normative theory of education that unifies pedagogy, curriculum, learning theory, and the purpose of education and is grounded in specific metaphysical, epistemological, and axiological assumptions.
Philosophy of Education
1. Plato (424/423 BC – 348/347 BC)
Plato’s educational philosophy was grounded in his vision of the ideal Republic, wherein the individual was best served by being subordinated to a just society. He advocated removing children from their mothers’ care and raising them as wards of the state, with great care being taken to differentiate children suitable to the various castes, the highest receiving the most education, so that they could act as guardians of the city and care for the less able. Education would be holistic, including facts, skills, physical discipline, and music and art, which he considered the highest form of endeavor.
Plato believed that talent was distributed non-genetically and thus must be found in children born in any social class. He builds on this by insisting that those suitably gifted are to be trained by the state so that they may be qualified to assume the role of a ruling class. What this establishes is essentially a system of selective public education premised on the assumption that an educated minority of the population are, by virtue of their education (and inborn educability), sufficient for healthy governance.
Plato’s writings contain some of the following ideas: Elementary education 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. While elementary education made the soul responsive to the environment, higher education helped the soul to search for truth which illuminated it. Both boys and girls got the same kind of education. Elementary education consisted of music and gymnastics, designed to train and blend gentle and fierce qualities in the individual and create a harmonious person.
At the age of 20, a selection was made. The best one would take an advanced course in mathematics, geometry, astronomy and harmonics. The first course in the scheme of higher education would last for ten years. It would be for those who had a flair for science. At the age of 30 there would be another selection; those who qualified would study dialectics and metaphysics, logic and philosophy for the next five years. They would study the idea of good and first principles of being. After accepting junior positions in the army for 15 years, a man would have completed his theoretical and practical education by the age of 50.
2. Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)
Immanuel Kant believed that education differs from training in that the latter involves thinking whereas the former does not. In addition to educating reason, of central importance to him was the development of character and teaching of moral maxims. Kant was a proponent of public education and of learning by doing.
3. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 – 1831)
1. Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)
Only fragments of Aristotle’s treatise On Education are still in existence. We thus know of his philosophy of education primarily through brief passages in other works. Aristotle considered human nature, habit and reason to be equally important forces to be cultivated in education. Thus, for example, he considered repetition to be a key tool to develop good habits. The teacher was to lead the student systematically; this differs, for example, from Socrates’ emphasis on questioning his listeners to bring out their own ideas (though the comparison is perhaps incongruous since Socrates was dealing with adults).
Aristotle placed great emphasis on 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.
One of education’s primary missions for Aristotle, perhaps its most important, was to produce good and virtuous citizens for the polis. All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.
2. Avicenna (980 AD – 1037 AD)
In the medievel Islamic world, an elementary schoolwas known as a maktab, which dates back to at least the 10th century. Like madrasahs (which referred to higher education), a maktab was often attached to a mosque. In the 11th century, Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in the West), wrote a chapter dealing with the maktab entitled “The Role of the Teacher in the Training and Upbringing of Children”, as a guide to teachers working at maktab schools. He wrote that children can learn better if taught in classes instead of individual tuition from private tutors, and he gave a number of reasons for why this is the case, citing the value of competition and emulation among pupils as well as the usefulness of group discussions and debates. Ibn Sina described the curriculum of a maktab school in some detail, describing the curricula for two stages of education in a maktab school.
Ibn Sina wrote that children should be sent to a maktab school from the age of 6 and be taught primary education until they reach the age of 14. During which time, he wrote that they should be taught the Qur’an, Islamic metaphysics, language, literature, Islamic ethics, and manual skills (which could refer to a variety of practical skills).
Ibn Sina refers to the secondary education stage of maktab schooling as the period of specialization, when pupils should begin to acquire manual skills, regardless of their social status. He writes that children after the age of 14 should be given a choice to choose and specialize in subjects they have an interest in, whether it was reading, manual skills, literature, preaching, medicine, geometry, trade and commerce, craftsmanship, or any other subject or profession they would be interested in pursuing for a future career. He wrote that this was a transitional stage and that there needs to be flexibility regarding the age in which pupils graduate, as the student’s emotional development and chosen subjects need to be taken into account.
The empiricisttheory of ‘tabula rasa’ was also developed by Ibn Sina. He argued that the “human intellectat birth is rather like a tabula rasa, a pure potentiality that is actualized through education and comes to know” and that knowledge is attained through “empirical familiarity with objects in this world from which one abstracts universal concepts” which is developed through a “syllogistic method of reasoning; observations lead to prepositional statements, which when compounded lead to further abstract concepts.” He further argued that the intellect itself “possesses levels of development from the material intellect (al-‘aql al-hayulani), that potentiality that can acquire knowledge to the active intellect (al-‘aql al-fa‘il), the state of the human intellect in conjunction with the perfect source of knowledge.”
3. Ibn Tufail (1105 – 1185)
In the 12th century, the Andalusian-Arabian philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail (known as “Abubacer” or “Ebn Tophail” in the West) demonstrated the empiricist theory of ‘tabula rasa’ as a thought experiment through his Arabic philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, in which he depicted the development of the mind of a feral child “from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society” on a desert island, through experience alone. The Latin translation of his philosophical novel, Philosophus Autodidactus, published by Edward Pococke the Younger in 1671, had an influence on John Locke’s formulation of tabula rasa in “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”
4. John Locke (1632-1704)
Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education is an outline on how to educate this mind: he expresses the belief that education maketh the man, or, more fundamentally, that the mind is an “empty cabinet”, with the statement, “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 also wrote that “the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences.” He argued that the “associations of ideas” that one makes when young are more important than those made later because they are the foundation of the self: they are, put differently, what first mark the tabula rasa. In his Essay, in which is introduced both of these concepts, Locke warns against, for example, 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.”
“Associationism”, as this theory would come to be called, exerted a powerful influence over eighteenth-century thought, particularly educational theory, as nearly every educational writer warned parents not to allow their children to develop negative associations. It also led to the development of psychology and other new disciplines with David Hartley’s attempt to discover a biological mechanism for associationism in his Observations on Man (1749).
5. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Rousseau, though he paid his respects to Plato’s philosophy, rejected it as impractical due to the decayed state of society. Rousseau also had a different theory of human development; where Plato held that people are born with skills appropriate to different castes (though he did not regard these skills as being inherited), Rousseau held that there was one developmental process common to all humans. This was an intrinsic, natural process, of which the primary behavioral manifestation was curiosity. 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 wrote in his book Emile that all children are perfectly designed organisms, ready to learn from their surroundings so as to grow into virtuous adults, but due to the malign influence of corrupt society, they often fail to do so. Rousseau advocated an educational method which consisted of removing the child from society—for example, to a country home—and alternately conditioning him through changes to environment and setting traps and puzzles for him to solve or overcome.
Rousseau was unusual in that he recognized and addressed the potential of a problem of legitimation for teaching. He advocated that adults always be truthful with children, and in particular that they never hide the fact that the basis for their authority in teaching was purely one of physical coercion: “I’m bigger than you.” Once children reached the age of reason, at about 12, they would be engaged as free individuals in the ongoing process of their own.
He once said that a child should grow up without adult interference and that the child must be guided to suffer from the experience of the natural consequences of his own acts or behaviour. When he experiences the consequences of his own acts, he advises himself.
6. Mortimer Jerome Adler (1902-2001)
Mortimer Jerome Adler was an American philosopher, educator, and popular author. As a philosopher he worked within the Aristotelian and Thomistic traditions. He lived for the longest stretches in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Mateo, California. He worked for Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, and Adler’s own Institute for Philosophical Research. Adler was married twice and had four children. Adler was a proponent of educational perennialism.
7. Harry S. Broudy (1905-1998)
Broudy’s philosophical views were based on the tradition of classical realism, dealing with truth, goodness, and beauty. However he was also influenced by the modern philosophy existentialism and instrumentalism. In his textbook Building a Philosophy of Education he has two major ideas that are the main points to his philosophical outlook: The first is truth and the second is universal structures to be found in humanity’s struggle for education and the good life. Broudy also studied issues on society’s demands on school. He thought education would be a link to unify the diverse society and urged the society to put more trust and a commitment to the schools and a good education.
1. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274)
In the nineteenth century, John Henry Newman presented a detailed defense of educational perennialism in The Idea of a University. Discourse 5 of that work, Knowledge its Own End, is still relevant as a clear statement of a Christian educational perennialism.
2. John Milton (1608-1674)
The objective of medieval education was an overtly religious one, primarily concerned with uncovering transcendental truths that would lead a person back to God through a life of moral and religious choice (Kreeft 15). The vehicle by which these truths were uncovered was dialectic:
To the medieval mind, debate was a fine art, a serious science, and a fascinating entertainment, much more than it is to the modern mind, because the medievals believed, like Socrates, that dialectic could uncover truth. Thus a ‘scholastic disputation’ was not a personal contest in cleverness, nor was it ‘sharing opinions’; it was a shared journey of discovery (Kreeft 14-15).
1. John Dewey (1859-1952)
In Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, Dewey stated that in its broadest sense education is the means of the “social continuity of life” given the “primary ineluctable facts of the birth and death of each one of the constituent members in a social group”. Education is therefore a necessity, for “the life of the group goes on.”Dewey was a proponent of Educational Progressivism and was a relentless campaigner for reform of education, pointing out that the authoritarian, strict, pre-ordained knowledge approach of modern traditional education was too concerned with delivering knowledge, and not enough with understanding students’ actual experiences.
2. William James (1842 – 1910)
3. William Heard Kilpatrick (1871-1965)
William Heard Kilpatrick was a US American philosopher of education and a colleague and a successor of John Dewey. He was a major figure in the progressive education movement of the early 20th century. Kilpatrick developed the Project Method for early childhood education, which was a form of Progressive Education organized curriculum and classroom activities around a subject’s central theme. He believed that the role of a teacher should be that of a “guide” as opposed to an authoritarian figure. Kilpatrick believed that children should direct their own learning according to their interests and should be allowed to explore their environment, experiencing their learning through the natural senses. Proponents of Progressive Education and the Project Method reject traditional schooling that focuses on memorization, rote learning, strictly organized classrooms (desks in rows; students always seated), and typical forms of assessment.
4. Nel Noddings
Noddings’ first sole-authored book Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984) followed close on the 1982 publication of Carol Gilligan’s ground-breaking work in the ethics of care In a Different Voice. While her work on ethics continued, with the publication of Women and Evil (1989) and later works on moral education, most of her later publications have been on the philosophy of education and educational theory. Her most significant works in these areas have been Educating for Intelligent Belief or Unbelief (1993) and Philosophy of Education (1995).
5. Richard Rorty (1931 – 2007)
E. Analytic Philosophy
1. Richard Stanley Peters
Peters was born 1919 in India. He spent his childhood with his grandmother in England. From 1933-1938 he was a student at Sidcot School in Winscombe. In the Second World War he served in the ambulance service with friends. From his marriage (1942) there were one son and two daughters.
Peters studied at Queen’s college University of Oxford and received in 1942 Bachelor of Arts. Starting from 1944 he taught at the Sidcot Grammar School in Somerset. He was a part-time lecturer at Birkbeck college University of London, where he also studied philosophy and psychology. There he received his PhD in 1949. From 1949 to 1958 he was employed there as a full time lecturer. Afterwards until 1962 he was a reader in philosophy. In 1961 he had a one-year guest professorship for education at Harvard University. In following the year he moved on to Australian National University. From 1962 until his retirement in 1983, Peters was professor of the philosophy of education at the Institute of Education (founded 1947) University of London. In 1971 he was dean of the institute. Under his guidance the institute grew fast and considerably influenced the development of the philosophy of the education in England. At the institute Peters collaborated with Paul H. Hirst, who later became professor for education at King’s college in London and then professor at University of Cambridge. Other famous university graduates of this time at institute were R. K. Elliott, David Cooper, John White, Patricia White and the late Robert Dearden.
Peters is known particularly for his work in the philosophy of the education. However his early writings were occupied with psychology, more exactly with a philosophical view of psychological issues. Thus his research was in the areas motivation, emotions, personality as well as social behavior and the relationship between reason and longing.Perhaps the most important work by Peters is “Ethics and Education”. With this and his subsequent publications he significantly influenced the development of the philosophy of education in Great Britain and world-wide. The influence was a result of his examination of the concept of education in the sense of analytic philosophy. Central tools thereby are term analysis. Peters explores two substantial aspects of the philosophy of education: the normative and the cognitive.
2. Paul H. Hirst
1. Karl Jaspers (1883-1969)
Jaspers was born in Oldenburg in 1883 to a mother from a local farming community, and a jurist father. He showed an early interest in philosophy, but his father’s experience with the legal system undoubtedly influenced his decision to study law at university. It soon became clear that Jaspers did not particularly enjoy law, and he switched to studying medicine in 1902 with a thesis about criminology.
Jaspers graduated from medical school in 1909 and began work at a psychiatric hospital in Heidelberg where Emil Kraepelin had worked some years earlier. Jaspers became dissatisfied with the way the medical community of the time approached the study of mental illness and set himself the task of improving the psychiatric approach. In 1913 Jaspers gained a temporary post as a psychology teacher at Heidelberg University. The post later became permanent, and Jaspers never returned to clinical practice. During this time Jaspers was a close friend of the Weber family (Max Weber also having held a professorship at Heidelberg).
At the age of 40 Jaspers turned from psychology to philosophy, expanding on themes he had developed in his psychiatric works. He became a renowned philosopher, well respected in Germany and Europe.
After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Jaspers was considered to have a “Jewish taint” (jüdische Versippung, in the jargon of the time) due to his Jewish wife, and was forced to retire from teaching in 1937. In 1938 he fell under a publication ban as well. Many of his long-time friends stood by him, however, and he was able to continue his studies and research without being totally isolated. But he and his wife were under constant threat of removal to a concentration camp until March 30, 1945, when Heidelberg was liberated by American troops.
In 1948 Jaspers moved to the University of Basel in Switzerland. He remained prominent in the philosophical community until his death in Basel in 1969.
Most commentators associate Jaspers with the philosophy of existentialism, in part because he draws largely upon the existentialist roots of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and in part because the theme of individual freedom permeates his work.
In Philosophy (3 vols, 1932), Jaspers gave his view of the history of philosophy and introduced his major themes. Beginning with modern science and empiricism, Jaspers points out that as we question reality, we confront borders that an empirical (or scientific) method simply cannot transcend. At this point, the individual faces a choice: sink into despair and resignation, or take a leap of faith toward what Jaspers calls Transcendence. In making this leap, individuals confront their own limitless freedom, which Jaspers calls Existenz, and can finally experience authentic existence.
Transcendence (paired with the term The Encompassing in later works) is, for Jaspers, that which exists beyond the world of time and space. Jaspers’ formulation of Transcendence as ultimate non-objectivity (or no-thing-ness) has led many philosophers to argue that ultimately, Jaspers became a monist, though Jaspers himself continually stressed the necessity of recognizing the validity of the concepts both of subjectivity and of objectivity.
Although he rejected explicit religious doctrines, including the notion of a personal God, Jaspers influenced contemporary theology through his philosophy of transcendence and the limits of human experience. Mystic Christian traditions influenced Jaspers himself tremendously, particularly those of Meister Eckhart and of Nicholas of Cusa. He also took an active interest in Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhism, and developed the theory of an Axial Age, a period of substantial philosophical and religious development. Jaspers also entered public debates with Rudolf Bultmann, wherein Jaspers roundly criticized Bultmann’s “demythologizing” of Christianity.
Jaspers also wrote extensively on the threat to human freedom posed by modern science and modern economic and political institutions. During World War II, he had to abandon his teaching post because his wife was Jewish. After the war he resumed his teaching position, and in his work The Question of German Guilt he unabashedly examined the culpability of Germany as a whole in the atrocities of Hitler’s Third Reich. The below quote of Jasper’s about the Second World War and it’s atrocities was used at the end of the sixth episode of the BBC documentary series ‘The Nazis: A Warning from History’.
“That which has happened is a warning. To forget it is guilt. It must be continually remembered. It was possible for this to happen, and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute. Only in knowledge can it be prevented.”
Jaspers’s major works, lengthy and detailed, can seem daunting in their complexity. His last great attempt at a systematic philosophy of Existenz — Von Der Wahrheit (On Truth) — has not yet appeared in English. However, he also wrote accessible and entertaining shorter works, most notably Philosophy is for Everyman.
Commentators often compare Jaspers’ philosophy to that of his contemporary, Martin Heidegger. Indeed, both sought to explore the meaning of Sein (being) and existence. While the two did maintain a brief friendship, their relationship deteriorated – due in part to Heidegger’s affiliation with the Nazi party, but also due to the philosophical differences between the two.
The two major proponents of phenomenological hermeneutics, namely Paul Ricoeur (a student of Jaspers) and Hans-Georg Gadamer (Jaspers’s successor at Heidelberg), both display Jaspers’s influence in their works.
Other important work appeared in Philosophy and Existence (1938). For Jaspers, the term “existence” (Existenz) designates the indefinable experience of freedom and possibility; an experience which constitutes the authentic being of individuals who become aware of “the encompassing” by confronting suffering, conflict, guilt, chance, and death.
2. Martin Buber (1878-1965)
Martin Buber (Hebrew: מרטין בובר; February 8, 1878 – June 13, 1965) was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a form of religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship. Born in Vienna, Buber came from a family of observant Jews, but broke with Jewish custom to pursue secular studies in philosophy. In 1902, Buber became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement, although he later withdrew from organizational work in Zionism. In 1923 Buber wrote his famous essay on existence, Ich und Du (later translated into English as I and Thou), and in 1925 he began translating the Hebrew Bible into the German language.
In 1930 Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main, and resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbade Jews to attend public education. In 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem, in the British Mandate for Palestine, receiving a professorship at Hebrew University and lecturing in anthropology and introductory sociology.
Buber’s wife Paula died in 1958, and he died at his home in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem on June 13, 1965.
3. Maxine Greene
Maxine Greene (born December 23, 1917) is an American educational philosopher, author, social activist, and teacher.
American educational philosopher, author, social activist and teacher who values experiential learning in its “entirety”, Maxine Greene has influenced thousands of educators to bring the vitality of the arts to teachers and children.For Greene, art provided a conduit to mean-making, a way of making sense of the world. For more than 30 years she has been Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) philosopher-in-residence.
Greene earned her PhD. (1955) and M.A. (1949) from New York University and a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University (1938). She taught at New York University, Montclair State College and Brooklyn College. In 1965, she joined the faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University.
As Philosopher-in-Residence of Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education since 1976, Greene conducts workshops (especially in literature as art) and lectures at LCI’s summer sessions.
In 2003, she founded the Maxine Greene Foundation for Social Imagination, the Arts, and Education. The foundation supports the creation and appreciation of works that embody fresh social visions. Its goal is “to generate inquiry, imagination and the creation of art works by diverse people.” Grants of up to $10,000 are awarded to educators and artists.
In 2005, she inspired the creation for the High School of Arts, Imagination and Inquiry in association with LCI and New Visions for Public Schools.The school encourages students to expand their imaginative capacities in the arts and other subject areas.
Greene is past President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Philosophy of Education Society, American Educational Studies Association (AESA), and the Middle Atlantic States Philosophy of Education Society.
G. Critical Theory
1. Paulo Freire (1921-1997)
A Brazilian committed to the cause of educating the impoverished peasants of his nation and collaborating with them in the pursuit of their liberation from what he regarded as “oppression,” Freire is best-known for his attack on what he called the “banking concept of education,” in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher. Freire also suggests that a deep reciprocity be inserted into our notions of teacher and student; he comes close to suggesting that the teacher-student dichotomy be completely abolished, instead promoting the roles of the participants in the classroom as the teacher-student (a teacher who learns) and the student-teacher (a learner who teaches). In its early, strong form this kind of classroom has sometimes been criticized on the grounds that it can mask rather than overcome the teacher’s authority.
Aspects of the Freirian philosophy have been highly influential in academic debates over “participatory development” and development more generally. Freire’s emphasis on what he describes as “emancipation” through interactive participation has been used as a rationale for the participatory focus of development, as it is held that ‘participation’ in any form can lead to empowerment of poor or marginalised groups. Freire was a proponent of critical pedagogy.
1. Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
Heidegger’s philosophizing about education was primarily 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.”
2. Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002)
Hans-Georg Gadamer (German pronunciation: [ˈɡaːdamɐ]; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German philosopher of the continental tradition, best known for his 1960 magnum opus, Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode).
3. Jean-François Lyotard (1924-1998)
He was born in 1924 in Versailles, France to Jean-Pierre Lyotard, a sales representative, and Madeleine Cavalli. He went to primary school at the Paris Lycées Buffon and Louis-le-Grand and later began studying philosophy at the Sorbonne. His master’s thesis, Indifference as an Ethical Concept, analyzed forms of indifference and detachment in Zen Buddhism, Stoicism, Taoism, and Epicureanism. After graduation, in 1950, he took up a position teaching philosophy in Constantine in French East Algeria. Lyotard earned a Ph.D in literature with his dissertation, Discours, figure (published 1971). He married twice: in 1948 to Andrée May, with whom he had two children, Corinne and Laurence, and for a second time in 1993 to Dolores Djidzek, the mother of his son David (born in 1986).
In the early 1970s Lyotard began teaching at the University of Paris VIII, Vincennes until 1987 when he became Professor Emeritus. During the next two decades he lectured outside of France, notably as a Professor of Critical Theory at the University of California, Irvine and as visiting professor at universities around the world including Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, Yale and the University of California, San Diego in the U.S., the Université de Montréal in Quebec (Canada), and the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He was also a founding director and council member of the Collège International de Philosophie, Paris. Before his death, he split his time between Paris and Atlanta, where he taught at Emory University as the Woodruff Professor of Philosophy and French.
Lyotard repeatedly returned to the notion of the Postmodern in essays gathered in English as The Postmodern Explained to Children, Toward the Postmodern, and Postmodern Fables. In 1998, while preparing for a conference on Postmodernism and Media Theory, he died unexpectedly from a case of leukemia that had advanced rapidly. His work-in-progress, Augustine’s Confession, was published posthumously in the same year. He is buried in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
4. Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
Michel Foucault (French pronunciation: [miʃɛl fuko]), born Paul-Michel Foucault (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984), was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title “History of Systems of Thought,” and lectured at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.
Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences and the prison system, as well as for his work on the history of human sexuality. His writings on power, knowledge, and discourse have been widely influential in academic circles. In the 1960s Foucault was associated with structuralism, a movement from which he distanced himself. Foucault also rejected the poststructuralist and postmodernist labels later attributed to him, preferring to classify his thought as a critical history of modernity rooted in Kant. Foucault’s project was particularly influenced by Nietzsche, his “genealogy of knowledge” being a direct allusion to Nietzsche’s “genealogy of morality”. In a late interview he definitively stated: “I am a Nietzschean.”
Foucault was listed as the most cited scholar in the humanities in 2007 by the ISI Web of Science.
I. Normative Educational Philosophies
“Normative philosophies or theories of education may make use of the results of [philosophical thought] and of factual inquiries about human beings and the psychology of learning, but in any case they propound views about what education should be, what dispositions it should cultivate, why it ought to cultivate them, how and in whom it should do so, and what forms it should take. In a full-fledged philosophical normative theory of education, besides analysis of the sorts described, there will normally be propositions of the following kinds: 1. Basic normative premises about what is good or right; 2. Basic factual premises about humanity and the world; 3. Conclusions, based on these two kinds of premises, about the dispositions education should foster; 4. Further factual premises about such things as the psychology of learning and methods of teaching; and 5. Further conclusions about such things as the methods that education should use.”
Perennialists believe that one should teach the things that one deems to be of everlasting importance to all people everywhere. They believe that the most important topics develop a person. Since details of fact change constantly, these cannot be the most important. Therefore, one should teach principles, not facts. Since people are human, one should teach first about humans, not machines or techniques. Since people are people first, and workers second if at all, one should teach liberal topics first, not vocational topics. The focus is primarily on teaching reasoning and wisdom rather than facts, the liberal arts rather than vocational training.
Educational progressivism is the belief that education must be based on the principle that humans are social animals who learn best in real-life activities with other people. Progressivists, like proponents of most educational theories, claim to rely on the best available scientific theories of learning. Most progressive educators believe that children learn as if they were scientists, following a process similar to John Dewey’s model of learning: 1) Become aware of the problem. 2) Define the problem. 3) Propose hypotheses to solve it. 4) Evaluate the consequences of the hypotheses from one’s past experience. 5) Test the likeliest solution.
1. Jean Piaget (1896-1980)
Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist known for his epistemological studies with children. His theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called “genetic epistemology”. Piaget placed great importance on the education of children. As the Director of the International Bureau of Education, he declared in 1934 that “only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual.” Piaget created the International Centre for Genetic Epistemology in Geneva in 1955 and directed it until 1980. According to Ernst von Glasersfeld, Jean Piaget is “the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing.”
Jean Piaget defined himself as an epistemologist, interested in the process of the qualitative development of knowledge. As he says in the introduction of his book “Genetic Epistemology” (ISBN 978-0-393-00596-7): “What the genetic epistemology proposes is discovering the roots of the different varieties of knowledge, since its elementary forms, following to the next levels, including also the scientific knowledge.“
2. Jerome Bruner
Another important contributor to the inquiry method in education is Bruner. His books The Process of Education and Toward a Theory of Instruction are landmarks in conceptualizing learning and curriculum development. He argued that any subject can be taught in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development. This notion was an underpinning for his concept of the spiral curriculum which posited the idea that a curriculum should revisit basic ideas, building on them until the student had grasped the full formal concept. He emphasized intuition as a neglected but essential feature of productive thinking. He felt that interest in the material being learned was the best stimulus for learning rather than external motivation such as grades. Bruner developed the concept of discovery learning which promoted learning as a process of constructing new ideas based on current or past knowledge. Students are encouraged to discover facts and relationships and continually build on what they already know.
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 rigorously. An essentialist program normally teaches children progressively, from less complex skills to more complex.
1. William Chandler Bagley (1874-1946)
William Chandler Bagley taught in elementary schools before becoming a professor of education at the University of Illinois, where he served as the Director of the School of Education from 1908 until 1917. He was a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia, from 1917 to 1940. An opponent of pragmatism and progressive education, Bagley insisted on the value of knowledge for its own sake, not merely as an instrument, and he criticized his colleagues for their failure to emphasize systematic study of academic subjects. Bagley was a proponent of educational essentialism.
M. Social Reconstructionism and Critical Pedagogy
Critical pedagogy is an “educational movement, guided by passion and principle, to help students develop consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, and connect knowledge to power and the ability to take constructive action.” Based in Marxist theory, critical pedagogy draws on radical democracy, anarchism, feminism, and other movements for social justice.
The Montessori method is an approach to educating children based on the research and experiences of Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952). It arose essentially from Dr. Montessori’s discovery of what she referred to as “the child’s true normal nature” in 1907, which happened in the process of her experimental observation of young children given freedom in an environment prepared with materials designed for their self-directed learning activity. The method itself aims to duplicate this experimental observation of children to bring about, sustain and support their true natural way of being.
2. Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, philosopher, humanitarian and devout Catholic; she is best known for her philosophy and the Montessori method of education of children from birth to adolescence. Her educational method is in use today in a number of public as well as private schools throughout the world.
Waldorf education (also known as Steiner or Steiner-Waldorf education) is a humanistic approach to pedagogy based upon the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. Learning is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements. The approach emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component. The educational philosophy’s overarching goals are to provide young people the basis on which to develop into free, morally responsible and integrated individuals, and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny, the existence of which anthroposophy posits. Schools and teachers are given considerable freedom to define curricula within collegial structures.
4. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)
Steiner founded a holistic educational impulse on the basis of his spiritual philosophy (anthroposophy). Now known as Steiner or Waldorf education, his pedagogy emphasizes a balanced development of cognitive, affective/artistic, and practical skills (head, heart, and hands). Schools are normally self-administered by faculty; emphasis is placed upon 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 truth.
N. Democratic Education
Democratic education is a theory of learning and school governance in which students and staff participate freely and equally in a school democracy. In a democratic school, there is typically shared decision-making among students and staff on matters concerning living, working, and learning together.
1. A. S. Neill (1883-1973)
Neill founded Summerhill School, the oldest existing democratic school in Suffolk, England in 1921. He wrote a number of books that now define much of contemporary democratic education philosophy. Neill believed that the happiness of the child should be the paramount consideration in decisions about the child’s upbringing, and that this happiness grew from a sense of personal freedom. He felt that deprivation of this sense of freedom during childhood, and the consequent unhappiness experienced by the repressed child, was responsible for many of the psychological disorders of adulthood.
Strongly influenced by the contemporary work of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich, Neill was opposed to sexual repression and the imposition of the strict Victorian values of his childhood era. He stated clearly that to be anti-sex was to be anti-life. Naturally, these views made him unpopular with many establishment figures of the time.
O. Classical Education
The Classical education movement advocates a form of education based in the traditions of Western culture, with a particular focus on education as understood and taught in the Middle Ages. The term “classical education” has been used in English for several centuries, with each era modifying the definition and adding its own selection of topics. By the end of the 18th century, in addition to the trivium and quadrivium of the Middle Ages, the definition of a classical education embraced study of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, art, and languages. In the 20th and 21st centuries it is used to refer to a broad-based study of the liberal arts and sciences, as opposed to a practical or pre-professional program. Classical Education can be described as rigorous and systematic, separating children and their learning into three rigid categories, Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.
1. Charlotte Mason (1842-1923)
Mason was a British educator who invested her life in improving the quality of children’s education. Her ideas led to a method used by some homeschoolers. Mason’s philosophy of education is probably best summarized by the principles given at the beginning of each of her books. Two key mottos taken from those principles are “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” and “Education is the science of relations.” She believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such; they should also be taught the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason. Her motto for students was “I am, I can, I ought, I will.” Charlotte Mason believed that children should be introduced to subjects through living books, not through the use of “compendiums, abstracts, or selections.” She used abridged books only when the content was deemed inappropriate for children. She preferred that parents or teachers read aloud those texts (such as Plutarch and the Old Testament), making omissions only where necessary.
Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered 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. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities led by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.
1. 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. Not surprisingly, How Children Fail ignited a firestorm of controversy. Holt was catapulted into the American national consciousness to the extent that he made appearances on major TV talk shows, wrote book reviews for Life magazine, and was a guest on the To Tell The Truth TV game show. In his follow-up work, How Children Learn, published in 1967, Holt tried to elucidate the learning process of children and why he believed school short circuits that process.