An Overview of Modern Philosophies of Education

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Philosophy means "love of wisdom." It is made up of two Greek words, philo, meaning love, and sophos, meaning wisdom. Philosophy helps teachers to reflect on key issues and concepts in education, usually through such questions as: What is being educated? What is the good life? What is knowledge? What is the nature of learning? And What is teaching? Philosophers think about the meaning of things and interpretation of that meaning. Even simple statements, such as "What should be learned? Or What is adolescence?" set up raging debates that can have major implications. For example, what happens if an adolescent commits a serious crime? One interpretation may hide another. If such a young person is treated as an adult criminal, what does it say about justice, childhood, and the like? Or if the adolescent is treated as a child, what does it say about society's views on crime? Your educational philosophy is your beliefs about why, what and how you teach, whom you teach, and about the nature of learning. It is a set of principles that guides professional action through the events and issues teachers face daily. Sources for your educational philosophy are your life experiences, your values, the environment in which you live, interactions with others and awareness of philosophical approaches. Learning about the branches of philosophy, philosophical world views, and different educational philosophies and theories will help you to determine and shape your own educational philosophy, combined with these other aspects. When you examine a philosophy different from your own, it helps you to "wrestle" with your own thinking. Sometimes this means you may change your mind. Other times, it may strengthen your viewpoint; or, you may be eclectic, selecting what seems best from different philosophies. But in eclecticism, there is a danger of sloppy and inconsistent thinking, especially if you borrow a bit of one philosophy and stir in some of another. If serious thought has gone into selection of strategies, theories, or philosophies, this is less problematic. For example, you may determine that you have to vary your approach depending on the particular learning needs and styles of a given student. At various time periods, one philosophical framework may become favored over another. For example, the Progressive movement led to quite different approaches in education in the 1930s. But there is always danger in one "best or only" philosophy. In a pluralistic society, a variety of views are needed.


The quality or state of being ideal.
Conception of the ideal; imagery.
The system or theory that denies the existence of material bodies, and teaches that we have no rational grounds to believe in the reality of anything but ideas and their relations.

The practice or habit of giving or attributing ideal form or character to things; treatment of things in art or literature according to ideal standards or patterns; -- opposed to realism.

Idealism is a philosophical approach that has as its central tenet that ideas are the only true reality, the only thing worth knowing. In a search for truth, beauty, and justice that is enduring and everlasting, the focus is on conscious reasoning in the mind. Plato, father of Idealism, espoused this view about 400 years BC, in his famous book, The Republic. Plato believed that there are two worlds. The first is the spiritual or mental world, which is eternal, permanent, orderly, regular, and universal. There is also the world of appearance, the world experienced through sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound, that is changing, imperfect, and disorderly. This division is often referred to as the duality of mind and body. Reacting against what he perceived as too much of a focus on the immediacy of the physical and sensory world, Plato described a utopian society in which "education to body and soul all the beauty and perfection of which they are capable" as an ideal. In his allegory of...
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