Aims of Education - Paper

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The Aims of Education
Alfred North Whitehead
(1861-1947)

The essay starts with Whitehead’s idea that authentic learning comes from a blend of expert knowledge and cultural knowledge. Expert knowledge comes from the course contents and cultural knowledge comes from activity of thought – which refers to students generating ideas of their own from their school experience or at least “playing” with the ideas presented to them in all ways possible to maximize learning. This leaves room for the student to discover for themselves what these ideas mean. The acquired understanding will not be complete without cultural knowledge such as the philosophies and arts which will allow the students to apply knowledge to life.

However, he goes on to caution that when too many things are being taught, ideas become disconnected and are rendered inert and useless. This idea I think totally agrees with the principle of Multum non Multa (Not many things, but much) which essentially is the same with the very familiar adage “Less is More”. As a teacher I was reminded that although I have a curriculum to follow, the students should be at the forefront of my priorities. Students must be allowed time to absorb, manipulate and critique knowledge (hands on learning), and reflect on their own conceptions. I believe that this is what he meant by the educational commandment “What you teach, teach thoroughly.” He also mentioned about getting the utmost information from the simplest apparatus. I am both happy to share the same belief that nothing can be too hard to learn if taught properly and sad to be also at a loss in making all complex ideas easier. Here, Whitehead emphasized the sense of style, I take this to mean (in the classroom) as the delivery and the conduct of the lesson so as to minimize, if not eliminate side issues and unnecessary interjections.

Furthermore, he stresses that education is the acquisition of the art of the utilization of knowledge and that the only use...
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