Education (Philosophy of)

views updated

EDUCATION (PHILOSOPHY OF)

A term popularized by John Dewey (18591952) to signify a study of the fundamental principles of the theory of education, as distinguished from the "science of education," i.e., the empirical study of the educational process, and from the "art of education," i.e., the techniques or methods of educational practice. For Dewey, the philosophy of education dealt principally with the values or goals of education.

The history of educational thought indicates that fundamental questions of a philosophical type have been raised concerning (1) the nature of man as he is capable of being educated, (2) the goal or the character of the truly educated man, (3) the trained abilities that man acquires in achieving this goal, and (4) the agents by which man is educated. In this context the term "education" should not be limited to merely academic training, but rather taken in its widest sense of the development of all facets of human personalityphysical, moral, and intellectualin their individual and social aspects. On the other hand, the term "philosophy of education" is most properly restricted to a study of education in the light of reason, leaving to a theology of education the profounder questions that can be explored only in terms of a divine revelation concerning the nature and destiny of man.

1. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

Every human culture has provided some form of education by which it has transmitted a cultural heritage to its young and by which it has striven to prepare them as members of society. In primitive cultures and in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, etc., this task was conceived primarily as the inculcation of a traditional wisdom and way of life sanctioned by experience and by some divine approval, in contrast with the foolishness of youth or of the wickedness of adulthood. In the great ancient civilizations this came to be embodied in sacred books, which after long development crystallized an accepted way of wisdom. Education then became a process of inculcating these sacred books and expounding their application to the varying circumstances of life. This form of education is not dead but remains at the base of world education. For Christians, the Sacred Scriptures embody the wisdom of a long human past elevated by a prophetic vision of man's ultimate destiny, and they believe that this vision will eventually be the source of cultural unity for the whole world, not destroying other ancient cultures, but integrating them.

With the rise of Greek civilization, however, a more specific conception of a civic or secular education appeared, paralleled, it seems, by something similar in the Confucianist tradition of China. This new view saw education as the preparation of a class of free men who, in societies based on slavery, were prepared to be citizens capable of debating questions of the common good. In such an education the predominant discipline was the art of persuasion, called rhetoric, but this needed to be supported by a broad culture, which made a man conversant with human nature and public affairs. This kind of education was first fostered in Greece by the Sophists and, with the sponsorship of the Stoics, passed to the Roman Empire, where it flourished until the Dark Ages. Renewed in the Carolingian and the 12th-century renaissance, it came to dominate the whole educational tradition of Europe from the full Renaissance of the 15th century until the 19th century in the form of the so-called classical or humanistic education (see carolingian renaissance).

During the 19th and 20th centuries a markedly different type of education came to occupy a position alongside this old literary education, and then rapidly began to supplant it, namely, scientific education with its emphasis on mathematics and experimental techniques and directed not toward citizenship but toward technology, bringing with it an extension of education to the whole population, in order to integrate it into the industrial scheme. The coexistence of these two different types of education has produced the "Two Cultures" made famous by the English writer C. P. Snow. It should not be thought, however, that this second type of education is completely new. It also has a continuous tradition going back through the Renaissance and Middle Ages to Aristotle, Plato and the early Greek physicists.

Pre-Christian Theories. Almost every philosopher in the West has reflected on these practical educational traditions and attempted to criticize and reform them. In each case the philosopher's conception of the nature of man, of human knowledge, human love, and human society, has formed the basis of a theory of human development that can be called his philosophy of education.

Socrates and Plato. The sophistical or rhetorical type of education described above had its first systematic defender in the rhetorician Isocrates (436388 b.c.). It was vigorously opposed by Socrates (469339 b.c.), who believed that education can not be founded on traditional wisdom alone, nor can it prepare man for mere success according to accepted social standards, but that it must rest on a profound insight into the nature of reality. The philosopher plays the role of social educator and critic; he is the "gadfly" of the republic, who by his searching questions awakens men to responsibility and deep reflection.

Following Socrates' lead, Plato (427347 b.c.) became the most influential figure in the whole history of the philosophy of education. In his Gorgias, Protagoras, Phaedrus, and Ion he vigorously criticized an education based on literary and rhetorical studies, and in the Republic and Laws he outlined a system based on the gradual ascent of the mind, by way of mathematical and scientific studies, from traditional and popular opinion to a wisdom based on a vision of eternal principles of truth.

For Plato, man is a spiritual intellect imprisoned in a body, whose education is a revival of an innate knowledge of unchanging reality attained through a critical dialectic, in which one who has attained wisdom guides another who seeks it. Although the goal of this education is the contemplation of the Good, or the One, and is attained perfectly only in a future life, it is directive of this earthly life and results in right social action in the service of the common good.

Education, for Plato, has also a moral aspect, which is inseparably united to its intellectual progress, since the awakening of the soul to truth is accompanied and motivated by a growing love of truth. A man first falls in love with another human being because of physical beauty; then, as he becomes aware of the interior beauty of the other's soul, he comes to love him with a genuine friendship. Led by this friendship he acquires the virtue of temperance as regards sensual pleasure, and then grows to love not only an individual but society. In his love for society he acquires the virtue of fortitude in its defense and of justice in its service. In this way different levels of the soul are brought into harmony and the intellect is set free for its own ascent toward truth. The intellectual curriculum begins with play and with literature and art, in which the student grasps something of truth in images. Here the teacher must exercise a severe censorship lest the impressionable child be injured. From literature (which is a shadow of a shadow) the student passes on to the study of mathematics and astronomy (i.e., the study of a mathematical type of science), in which the mind first awakens to the possibility of genuine and stable truth. From this he goes on to dialectics, or philosophy proper, by which he criticizes all that he knows until with purified mind he awakens to an inner intuition of the Good. Once this ultimate vision is reached, man returns to judge by the light of the first principles all that he has previously learned.

The teacher of highest wisdom, who controls the rest of education, is the philosopher-king, who rules the whole state as a kind of school, arranging its games, its religion, and its laws, not with the purpose of domination but to lead its citizens to a share in his own vision and love. His right to rule is based on his own wisdom, which he has achieved only by the greatest humility and disinterestedness, after the pattern of Socrates. He teaches first by regulation of the environment, then by a mythical propaganda, but ultimately not by indoctrination but by dialectic. Since truth is innate, even in the slave, the teacher can only awaken the student by questioning and by the example of friendship. The teacher has no right to escape the responsibility of public affairs but must be a king or a counselor to kings.

In the 20th century Plato has been criticized as the forerunner of totalitarianism, but to do so is to ignore the fact that totalitarian systems set military and economic power as the goal of society to which men are subjected, while for Plato the goal is contemplation, in which the individual, like Socrates, becomes wholly free of social pressure.

Aristotle. For 20 years Plato's pupil Aristotle accepted this view of education in most of its features, but gave it a different theoretical justification. He denied the theory of innate knowledge on which it rested. For Aristotle all knowledge comes from sense experience since the soul is the form of the body and can know only through the body. Consequently he laid more stress than did Plato on individual differences, going so far as to hold that some men are natural slavesincapable, at least de facto in Greek society, of a liberal education, although capable of a technical education. Furthermore, most free men who can be liberally educated do not attain to anything more than a small share in contemplation since they are too involved in the duties of the active life. It is only the few who by a rigorous scientific education attain to contemplation; and this, even for them, is not a direct vision of ultimate Truth, but only an indirect knowledge of God as He is reflected in the world.

Moral and intellectual education ought to be proportionate, but a man may be morally good and have little learning, and vice versa. Moral education, according to Aristotle, is much more complex than Plato pictured. Since man has to deal with a diversity of objects and situations, each type of which requires a special virtue, and virtues are acquired only by exercise, man must therefore be subject to diversified training. The ultimate source of morality is to be found not in external laws or in a metaphysical vision, but in prudence, which is an intellectual virtue concerned with discovering the right means to an end in highly varying circumstances. Prudence cannot be taughtit is learned by experiencebut it can be assisted by ethical analysis.

Intellectual education is not an ascent toward an ultimate vision; it consists in learning a diversity of arts and sciences, each of which has its own proper method and special purpose. Some people are apt for one discipline, some for another, and it is rare to meet a man who can excel in many. These different disciplines, however, do have a certain order, which the teacher needs to know in order to facilitate learning. Literature and logic come first as necessary tools for further learning. Then comes mathematics, not because it elevates the mind to a higher realm but because it furnishes exercises in exact reasoning concerning simple facts that even the young have experienced. According to Aristotle, next comes the study of natural science, which occupies the central position since all knowledge rests on man's experience of nature and its changes. The ethical or social sciences, which are the proper study of the matured adult citizen, can be only sketched for young students, who lack the experience and objectivity required to deal with such matters. Finally, a learned and experienced man in his 50s is ready for the study of philosophy in the full sense (metaphysics), which attempts to compare and synthesize all kinds of knowledge in order to gain some notion of the ultimate Cause of all things.

The teacher does not arouse innate ideas but seeks to help the student analyze his own experience. He does this by skillful questioning, which helps the student to perceive problems in a given discipline and to apply to them the special principles of that discipline as they are grasped from experience. The art proper to the teacher is logic, which includes literary criticism, rhetoric, and dialectics. The teacher of intellectual disciplines should make no claim to statesmanship. The statesman is a man whose prudence is based on experience of public life. The teacher is a man of wisdom, trained in scientific precision. He is also a man of research, since growth in knowledge can be based only on a more extensive acquaintance with facts. Hence, for Aristotle, moral education is the task of the father of a family and of the statesman, but intellectual education is the work of scholars, who must work together to extend learning. History, he thought, shows progress, but also regress, in knowledge.

Stoics and Early Christian Writers. The Stoics accepted much of this Platonic-Aristotelian scheme, but they insisted that education, far from being a search for truth, means the inculcation of an already achieved dogma, which is the sure guide of life. The goal of life is moral, not contemplative, and is primarily an individual rather than a social accomplishment. The teacher communicates the true doctrine to a pupil, who is thus freed from confusion and disciplined to a set mode of life, which he knows how to defend against all criticism. The early Christian writers, whose ideas were theological rather than philosophical, tended to adopt this same position, as did the Neoplatonic philosophers. The age sought a way of life that was complete and perfect and not subject to further inquiry. This attitude in its neoplatonic form became typical of Byzantine culture and of the Islamic culture derived from it.

In the Latin West, however, more dynamic possibilities eventually opened up. Here Christian writers did not merely juxtapose Greek learning and the study of the Scriptures, but attempted a new synthesis, which resulted in a new conception of education. St. augustine (354430), developing a point of view found already in origen (182?251?), which was rooted in Platonic theory, defended the liberal arts and philosophy as a useful preparation for a profound study of the Scriptures (see platonism). Boethius (475525) added to this some elements of the Aristotelian tradition. Eventually, this resulted in the scholastic system of the high Middle Ages, best expressed in the views of St. Thomas Aquinas, which are detailed below (see scholasticism).

Middle Ages and Renaissance. The educational ideas of the nominalists and the other schools of the 14th century have as yet been little examined by historians. The thinkers of the Renaissance were much concerned with educational theory, since the predominant theme of the period was the idea of human perfectibility. This emphasis was not in itself anti-Christian as is sometimes thought. It was continuous with the medieval view of man as the image of God. The Middle Ages, however, emphasized the notion of God as exemplar, man's fallen condition, and his need for restoration to the divine likeness. The Renaissance, struck with the high degree of human perfection portrayed in pagan literature, and under the leadership of a rising class of educated laymen, wished to emphasize the education of man as a citizen of this world. They found much in Plato and Aristotle to their liking, but drew heavily on Quintillian (35?95), whose views were those of the old sophistic, rhetorical education. The educational philosophers of the period attempted to paint a picture of the ideal aristocratic gentleman. As a result, to the 20th century their educational theory seems rather narrow and idealistic, as it is found in Giovanni Boccacio (131375), Pier Paolo vergerio (13491420), vittorino da feltre (13781446), or Bl. John dominici, OP (13561419), the last representing a clerical reaction to the general trend. In these writers the accent is on "the whole man," with a tendency to emphasize moral, rather than intellectual cultivation. It is also notable that they were concerned more with education of the very young than with the whole range of education portrayed by Plato and Aristotle. Intellectual culture was thought of as primarily literary and rhetorical, and the study of culture itself was moralistic rather than theological, as, e.g., in erasmus (14661536) and Juan vives (14921540). The triumph of this rhetorical approach is to be found in Peter ramus (151572), but Christian humanism of this general type continued in many writers down to François de la Mothe fÉnelon (16511715). Some writers of this tradition, such as John Amos comenius (15921670), emphasized child psychology in learning.

Scientific Education. The new intellectual tendency that was ultimately to range scientific education alongside humanism as a powerful competitor appeared clearly with René descartes (15961650), although its roots go back to Italian universities and to the Oxford of Thomas Bradwardine (c. 12911349). It was characterized by its accent on mathematics as the fundamental educational discipline, after which all others were to be modeled. Descartes did not develop an educational theory as such, but his influence was very powerful, with his stress on clarity of thought and on deductive procedure in teaching, and his tendency to regard man's imaginative and emotional life as a hindrance to thought and therefore to be rigorously controlled. Reinforced by Calvinistic views of human sinfulness, Descartes' ideas greatly influenced jansenism. In England the Cartesian view was not accepted. Rather, the empiricism of Francis bacon (15611626), with its stress on factual information, practical relevance, and the importance of progress in discovery, came to dominate the intellectual scene, but without greatly influencing education. In the Essay Concerning Education of John locke (16321704), the humanistic and moralistic tradition is still present, modified only by Locke's emphasis on utility.

Later Developments. The next strikingly new educational approach, and perhaps the most influential for the whole modern period, is that of Jean Jacques rousseau (171278), who reacted sharply against both narrow Cartesian rationalism and British empiricism.

Naturalism. Rousseau put great emphasis on the nature of the child to be educated. Artificial cultivation imposed on the child results not in true education he maintained, but rather in the corruption of the child, just as civilization has been the corruption of mankind. Reviving themes as old as the Greek Cynics, Rousseau insisted that natural man is good (the doctrine of original sin had already been expelled by the rationalists of the preceding century), and should be given a chance to develop his natural potentialities. What is most important in man are the moral qualities, especially the goodness of heart that is spontaneously humanitarian. Intellectual development is of secondary value since the truths by which man lives are naturally sensed by every good man. For Rousseau, as the general good sense of mankind is ultimately the safest guide in moral and social matters, so the best form of government is democracy. In Rousseau's system, little needed to be said about the curriculum. The teacher is above all a good example and a wise friend who permits the student to develop naturally.

Rousseau's philosophy received support from the critical philosophy of I. kant (17241804), who, without accepting Rousseau's permissiveness, nevertheless stressed the moral character of education, which he based on an autonomous sense of duty rather than on an objective norm. At the same time, Kant accepted the remarkable synthesis of mathematicism and empiricism forged by Isaac Newton. Moral life, however, he believed to rest not on science but on a conviction of the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the moral law, all of which are not subject to metaphysical proof but are simply demanded by the moral needs of the individual and of society. Education seeks above all to confirm these moral convictions. On the intellectual level the way is open to an education that is highly scientific and technical in character.

Psychological and Idealistic Theories. Johann Herbart (17761841) who stressed the view that all new learning must be in the context of what has already been learned by the child from previous experience, devised a practical methodology of teaching based on this principle. Among the practical educators and theorists, Johann Heinrich pestalozzi (17461827) was the most famous. He attempted to reduce this general point of view to practice in elementary education, laying most stress on letting the child learn from his own experience and interests. It has had a permanent effect through the theories of Maria montessori (18701956) and John Dewey, who both stressed the "child-centered" character of education; and it has been greatly reinforced by the rapid advance in child psychology by empirical methods. Although all great modern systems of state education have given lip service to the Rousseauian theory, the pressures of mass education have forced these systems to adhere, in actual practice, to a regimented discipline and curriculum.

The idealistic philosophies of the 19th century and the materialism of Karl Marx (181863) also stemmed from Kant and G. W. F. Hegel but took a different road. Idealistic and Marxist thinkers were primarily concerned with the notion of social history as an educative process. The whole human race is undergoing education, they held, and therefore every educational system must be judged relative to the stage in this process that it occupies. This view, which has Christian roots, received some rather fantastic formulations in such thinkers as Friedrich frÖbel (17821852). It remains of importance today, however, in that most contemporary educational theorists view education in the historical context of progress toward the future.

Nationalism. In such systems the state is usually considered the educator and education is a process of social reform. The child must be saved from an environment that is the product of an outmoded past and developed to play his part in a projected future. Thus, in the Marxist theory, it is stressed that most differences between children are not hereditary but environmental in origin. The goal of education is to produce a citizen of a new communistic society, freed from the oppressive limitations imposed by the class structure of the past. This new man will be, above all, a productive member of his society, fully equipped with the methods of science and advanced technology. The teacher is an instrument of the revolution, who assists this progressive action. (Until recently the family in the Soviet Union has played little part in education.) The teacher should make use of the best methods of modern psychology (i.e., the Pavlovian theory of step-by-step conditioning).

Democratic Education. Like Marx, John Dewey had a Hegelian background. He saw education as a process of social reconstruction. For Dewey, as for Marx, the modern scientific method is the key to control over nature and society. He insists that this method is above all a process of searching, inquiring, and problem solving, a method that does not rest on fixed principles. It is a social process, since this inquiry involves the interplay of many minds engaged in free discussion about common needs. The purpose of education is to develop this type of probing intelligence, which alone will make it possible for man to survive in the evolutionary struggle. This survival will itself be possible only if both society and the school are democratic and if the teacher acts as a guide to help the child to fulfill his potentialities. The child, as a growing organism, product as he is of evolution, naturally seeks this free type of growth. The teacher therefore seeks not to inhibit but to promote growth. The moral aspect of education is found in the development of attitudes and motives reflecting this free intelligence. The child should become open-minded, cooperative, inventive, and self-disciplined. The goal of education is this practical intelligence by which the child is able to enter into an open, progressive society, one that not only seeks concrete goals but, having attained one such goal, seeks others beyond. Vague ideals without practical consequences have no place in education. The curriculum is not something fixed but grows out of the actual practical concerns of the child, who is already beginning to live his life as a citizen of the future.

Dewey's philosophy of education is a synthesis of many themes important in modern thought, particularly in its stress on the value of science, democratic society, and practical control over nature. It has been severely criticized by, among others, Robert Maynard Hutchins (18991977), Mortimer Adler (19022001), and Jacques Maritain (18821973). They see his view as essentially a revival of the old sophistic tradition, with its emphasis on the pragmatic orientation as opposed to the contemplative orientation of the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions. They believe that it constitutes a great narrowing of the cultural heritage of the past, capable of severing the roots of Western civilization. It is also under criticism by the newer existentialist and personalist theories of man, which stress the theme that education must awaken the individual to his responsibility for his own life and to the fundamental importance of relations between persons rather than between persons and things.

Bibliography: h. i. marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity, tr. g. lamb (New York 1956). w. w. jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, tr. g. highet, 3 v. (New York 193944;v.1, 2nd ed. 1945). r. ulich, History of Educational Thought (New York 1945). j. s. brubacher, Modern Philosophies of Education (3rd ed. New York 1962).

[b. m. ashley]

2. MODERN THEORIES

Humanistic thinking during the Renaissance reflected a decided shift in philosophical emphasis from the metaphysical, eternal, and spiritual to the physical, temporal, and material. In short, the focus of concern became man rather than God. In contrast to the worldly southern humanists, Christian humanists continued to regard individual salvation as supremely important although knowledge was to have direct, practical benefit to the whole of society rather than being an end in itself.

Realism in Education. Desiderius erasmus (14661536) wrote that the practical application of knowledge to service of the community was an essential end of education, second only to service of God as man's principal duty. Impatient with deductive arguments based on assumptions of preexisting ideas, the Spanish humanist and student of Erasmus, Juan Luis vives (14921540), stated as the basis of his learning theory that the search for truth began with observations of the external world proceeding through inductive reasoning to its conclusion. Vives was the first to begin with the learner rather than with the subject matter in making proposals concerning the aims and methods of education.

Francis Bacon's (15611626) attempt to "make a small globe of the intellectual world" influenced the educational thought of the 17th-century Moravian bishop, John Amos comenius (15921671). The latter felt that only through an education designed to bring about self-knowledge, self-control, and self-direction to God could man realize his supernatural destiny. He clung to the doctrine of innate ideas and believed that man's germinal capacities must be developed through years of formal schooling, carefully organized to correspond to stages of natural development. Guided by his concept of pansophia universal wisdomComenius developed a detailed methodology by means of which the student might come to acquire a vast array of interrelated factual knowledge.

It remained for John locke (16321704), at the time of the English Restoration, to reject the doctrine of innate ideas. On the contrary, Locke argued that man's mind is a tabula rasa, a blank slate to be filled in through the effects of sensory experience and later reflection. Holding to the Greek ideal of "a sound mind in a sound body," Locke listed virtue, truth, wisdom, breeding, and learning as the desired endowments of a "gentlemen" and violently criticized the schools of his day for imbalancing this order. To Locke, reason and discipline were all important and the disadvantages of formal schooling seemed to outweigh all the advantages.

Naturalism. In developing his own educational thought, Jean Jacques rousseau (171278), the epitome of romantic naturalism, extended Locke's criticism of formal education. Since Rousseau believed that man was inherently good and absolutely free, the task of education was to return him to his state of unfettered innocence. This in turn was to be achieved by rearing the child as far from the stifling influences of corrupt society as possible. The child must learn truth by himself, supplied by sense impressions and illuminated by his "inner light." Rousseau postulated natural stages of development and argued for recognition of the child's right to a life of his own. Like Rousseau, Johann Bernhard Basedow (172390) realized the importance of play in the life of the child and insisted on the fundamental role of the sensory perceptions in the acquisition of knowledge.

Rousseau's work influenced also Heinrich pestalozzi (17461827) and Friedrich frÖbel (17821852), even though these later educators rejected Rousseau's isolationist ideas by proclaiming education a socializing process and shared a conception of man as the child of God. The Swiss educator Pestalozzi hoped for the moral regeneration of mankind through love and goodness, advocated education for all, and urged that the school should be homelike and natural. For Fröbel, a German disciple of Pestalozzi, education was a process of self-realization that aids man in unfolding the divine essence within him. The "Father of the Kindergarten," he recognized not only the socializing aspects of play but also the significance of play in developing self-activity. Insisting on the essential unity and interconnectedness of all things internal and external, the highly mystical Fröbel proposed a system of "gifts and occupations" by means of which the child might develop insight into various aspects of his world, and increased power of controlling them.

Scientism. The thought of Pestalozzi was concretized by Johann Friedrich Herbart (17761841), who began the development of a "science" of education through the systematic application of psychological principles to actual problems of educational practice. However, Herbart broke completely with all those who adhered to the notion of substantive mind. Rejecting the postulates of faculty psychology, he renounced all theories of innate and a priori truths and stressed instead the importance of the sense perceptions, the effects of experience, and the changes of relationships among ideas. Thus, an important task of education is to structure man's "mind" through the systematic formation of associations among ideas within the "apperceptive mass." Yet with all his stress on intellectual attainments, Herbart considered such training subordinate to the development of morality and virtue as an aim of the educational process. Harmonious social relations, self-discipline, and individual liberty attended by respect for the rights of others were more prized by Herbart than was the mere acquisition of factual knowledge.

During the same century in England, Herbert spencer (18201903) also discussed "liberty" and "morality" but with a considerable difference in interpretation. Spencer rejected all ultimate ideas and absolute truths and insisted that philosophy must integrate and interpret known scientific facts. He described life as an evolutionary process of endless "adjustment" of internal to external conditions and declared that morally "good" conduct is that which leads to successful adjustment. Spencer considered the function of education to be preparation for "complete living," that is, successful adaptation to one's environment, and he appraised subjects in the curriculum in terms of the contribution each could make toward self-preservation, social and political well-being, and effective use of leisure.

Another ardent evolutionist was the prominent American psychologist and educator, Granville Stanley Hall (18461924), who postulated the existence of a "folksoul" and depicted the development of the individual by stages that recapitulate or repeat, on a compressed scale, the entire past experience of the race as a whole. Obsessed with the significance of the peculiar characteristics of childhood, Hall strongly opposed the traditional view of the child as a miniature adult and urged increasing awareness of children's needs. He also warned that the schools must make greater provision for individual differences and interests in order to facilitate the natural evolution of both individuals and social institutions.

Nationalism and Communism. The growing scientific interest in eugenics exemplified by Hall was distorted to a perverted extreme during Adolf Hitler's (18891945) National Socialist ("Nazi") regime in 20th-century Germany. Nazi doctrine singled out "Blood and Soil" as the fundamental realities of man's existence in organized society. Specifically, the Nazis sought to ensure the supremacy of the "Aryan race" in a world dominated by the German "folkish state." It was believed that not only physical type but also such individual characteristics as intellect, leadership, and even musical ability were racial traits transmitted genetically according to Mendelian principles. Recognizing the difficulty of preserving Nordic racial purity, the state asserted its priority over the rights of the individual, parents, and other social institutions in education as in other matters.

In the Socialist-Communist state, the child has likewise been considered the property of the state, which has responsibility for educating him. However, whereas the German National Socialist ideal was the cultivation of an Aryan elite, the Socialist or Communist holds as his ideal the creation of a classless society. To the Communist the determining influence on the life of society is "the mode of production of material values," so that the program of the schools is to be oriented around the concept of socially useful labor. Russian communism rests on a foundation provided by Karl Marx's (181883) dialectical materialism, which postulates that conflict caused by internal contradictions inherent in all natural processes is the fundamental means by which change is wrought in the world. All historical development grows out of conflict arising from competition among different socioeconomic classes in society. Translated into action by Vladimir Lenin (18701924), Joseph Stalin (18791953), and their successors, Marxist doctrine makes clear that the liberation of the proletariat with simultaneous formation of the ideal Socialist state can take place only through revolution and not through reform. The school, charged with molding citizens of the Socialist state, with disseminating Marxist-Leninist philosophical doctrine, and with providing vast numbers of technically skilled laborers, is inextricably connected with the political machinery of the state.

Progressivism. In 20th-century America, John Dewey (18591952) and his followers in the progressive movement in education have argued that democracy and not socialism represents the highest development of society and that individual freedom is to be valued over socialistic collectivism. Giving instrumental emphasis to the pragmatism of Charles peirce (18391914) and William james (18521910), Dewey rejected traditional metaphysical problems and focused on probability and change rather than on certainty and fixed principles. Although Dewey wholeheartedly accepted the principles of the theory of evolution, he stressed the importance of control and "reconstruction" of the environment rather than mere passive adjustment to it. Since at any stage of his existence the individual is growing and truly changing and not merely repeating the predetermined cycle of his species, education is a never ending process rather than a stable product. As "the continuous reconstruction of experience" in order to direct future action, education represents the means of continuous growth and not a commodity held passively in storage. In the years following the Depression in the U.S., Dewey and his later interpreters in the progressive movement became the target for increasingly severe criticism from many disparate sources.

Social Reconstruction vs. Tradition. George Counts (18891974) and Theodore Brameld (19041987) warn that drastic social reform rather than minor social adjustments are called for in the present age of crisis; hence their designation as social reconstructionists. In Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order? Counts insists that education must deal with the harsh realities of current social issues. Teachers must seek professional autonomy so that the schools will exert a pervasive influence on national social values and institutions. Stressing the importance of the behavioral sciences in a technological age, Brameld proposes the reformulation of international human goals through the achievement of a "social consensus" in which students would participate through a curriculum that focuses on the evaluation of social problems.

In sharp contrast to these critics, educational traditionalists argue that the school should refrain from involvement in immediate social problems and plans for molding the future, and should look instead to the traditions of the past for guidance in carrying on its work most effectively. Despite differences in philosophical orientation, Herman Horne (18741946), Isaac Kandel (18811965), and Robert Ulich (18901977) generally agree on educational goals. The school as a formal institution should concentrate on intellectual development and its course of study should be dictated by the intellectual traditions of all ages. In fact, such classical humanists as Robert Maynard Hutchins (18991977) and Mortimer Adler (19022001) champion the "Great Books" of the past as the logical foundation of the curriculum. Linguistic and mathematical skills are of basic importance, while specialized physical, social, and vocational training are best left to other agencies.

Existentialism and Analytic Philosophy. Radically different from traditional philosophies in their relationship to education, neither existentialism nor analytic philosophy seeks to develop a formal philosophy of education. Not concerned with questions of essence, existentialists such as Martin heidegger (18891976), Jean Paul sartre (190580), Karl jaspers (18831969), and Gabriel marcel (18891973) emphasize the nature of human existence as man's fundamental concern. Man possesses absolute freedom to choose among possible courses of action but must also assume absolute responsibility for these choices. Life thus becomes a process of self-realization or, to use a favorite existentialist term, of "transcendence." Since individual involvement in life's situations is at the core of human existence, education must be oriented about the unique individual rather than the group. Hence, the existentialist influence in education makes itself felt as an argument for renewed stress on individual self-realization and responsibility in opposition to all utopian schemes involving collective choice and mass consensus.

Analytic philosophy is a movement seeking to clarify man's utterances through logical or linguistic analysis. One school of analytic philosophers, represented by Bertrand Russell (18721970) and his followers, prefers to analyze chains of propositions by means of symbolic logic. A second school, typified by Ludwig wittgenstein (18891951), believes that the clarification of meaning in discourse is the true province of philosophy. Concerned with clarifying problems of logic and of meaning rather than with offering educational prescriptions, both groups attempt to limit themselves to providing methods for the analysis of statements made by educators.

Catholic Philosophy of Education. In close agreement with traditionalist views, Catholic educational commentators, such as Jacques maritain (18821973), William Cunningham, CSC (18851961), and William McGucken, SJ (18891943), emphasize that belief in a personal God is essential to all Catholic thinking on any phase of human activity, including formal education. The general basis of the curriculum remains humanistic and liberal in the traditional sense but with all studies integrated through Christ. In his encyclical letter on Christian education, Pope Pius XI (18571939) stressed that the Divine mission of the Church entitles it to precedence over all other agencies with respect to the right to make final decisions concerning educational means and ends. Unlike totalitarian systems of education, however, Catholic philosophy maintains that the family, the state, and the Church all share in the responsibility for the education of youth. Thus, Catholic educational goals require a constant striving for intellectual excellence, social responsibility, and spiritual perfection.

While sharing many insights and methods with other educational systems, Catholic philosophy rejects any position that sacrifices the eternal and supernatural to the temporal and natural. Man is a spiritual as well as a physical being, and only the stable hierarchy of values provided by religion can serve as the integrating principle that unifies these diverse but inseparable elements. Those who follow St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?74) in believing education to be a lifelong "process of self-activity, self-direction and self-realization" respect the child's personal integrity and freedom while providing for necessary adult guidance. The child is the "principal agent" in the educational process while the teacher is the "essential mover" who brings potentialities to realization by giving extrinsic aid to the natural reason.

The contemplation of truth begins in this life but reaches perfection only in the next. Only when education provides the individual with a vision of the eternal and supernatural as well as an appreciation of the temporal and natural will he understand the purpose of his life on earth and realize his destiny in the life to come. For the Catholic, then, any education that attempts to achieve less than this is incomplete.

Bibliography: t. b. h. brameld, Philosophies of Education in Cultural Perspective (New York 1955). j. s. brubacher, Modern Philosophies of Education (3rd ed. New York 1962). n. g. mccluskey, Catholic Viewpoint on Education (Garden City, N.Y. 1958; rev. ed. Image Bks. 1962). National Society for the Study of Education, Forty-first Yearbook, 1942, pt. 1, Philosophies of Education; Fifty-Fourth Yearbook, 1955, pt. 1, Modern Philosophies and Education. r. h. g. ulich, History of Educational Thought (New York 1945).

[v. p. lannie]

About this article

Education (Philosophy of)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article