Category Archives: Philosophy of Education

Some references

I have been reading “Independent Thinking” by Ian Gilbert and got a little annoyed by one bit of his otherwise interesting book. My review is here.

Anyways, here are two references to other books from his book.

And two quotes from the books.

1, “The highest goal of education is to teach people to ‘read and write the word’ so they can come to ‘re-read and re-write the world’.”
P Freire “Pedagogy of hope” 

This resonates. In an earlier post I was asking what the purpose of teaching was. Gilbert quoted the above as the summation of his philosophy of teaching. At the moment it works for me too. I will come back to it and expand on this.

2. “Before you build a boat you have to need a boat”
Zoe Elder “Full on learning: involve me and I’ll understand”

This is appropriate to me. I started a website to learn how to make websites. I started blogs for the same reason. I have never written a computer program because I have never had to to achieve something with a computer that I could not do with somebody else’s program. I have tinkered with other people’s scripts and I have made some basic “hello world” programs as part of a class room exercise, but I have never thought of myself as a programmer.

 

What is education for?

I am beginning to read about education theories, education policy and chalk-face teaching stories.

Yes, I am preparing myself to train as a teacher. Hopefully I will be starting a course in September 2015, training to teach 11-18 year old children, specialising in Computer Science.

I am picking up lots of swipes about educational “fads”: e.g. “learning styles”, or “growth mindsets”.

And I was reminded of something David Hume nearly said: most arguments are about the definitions of the concepts used.* Once the concepts, the words, and their underlying ambiguities have been exposed, the debate can then agree on what they mean and don’t mean and the proceed to talk about what the real issue is.

I was reminded of that when I read this in the comments section of a blog post – The Growth Mindset.

“I believe the purpose of the education system should be to prepare all children for a life as independent adults, and to offer academic or vocational opportunities which suit their interests and abilities.”


So before getting involved in an argument about whether this research demonstrates this or that, we should always have in front of us an agreed principle of what education is for. And no doubt we will have a lot of definitions.

And this is where I come up short. I mostly agree with the statement above, but worry that in practice education is about work: getting qualifications that will get jobs, or at least the first step on the rung of the career ladder. After that we all know it’s about hard knocks.

And this is where I get flumoxed. There is yet a bigger issue, an assumption, behind the definition above. What traits, what qualifications, what skills, what experience leads to success and what is success anyway?

I ought to lie down.

My way of coping with this is to come back to this question about what is education for. For in that definition are the crooked timbers I can use as cudgels against the sea of fads.

I hope.


….
* What Hume said was “the chief obstacle … to our improvement in the moral or metaphysical sciences is the obscurity of the ideas, and ambiguity of the terms.” (EHU 7.1.2/61)