Education and the Role of Philosophy

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Education and, the Role of Philosophy

In The Journey through American Education

“Curriculum as a field of study has been characterized as elusive, fragmentary and confusing” (Ornstein and Hunkins, 2009, p. 1). According to Wikipedia, education is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual and is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another. This report will journey through the history of education, its philosophies and the philosophers that helped shape and design it.

Originally American schools were defined by religion. The foundation of education was based on religious study. The schools meaning in 1620 was to build a republic of God-fearing citizens. Women taught children to read the bible and to write the scriptures while the men and older boys were out in the fields working. With the women as nurturers teaching themselves to read and write and then assuming that responsibility to nurture their children’s moral through the teachings of the scriptures led to the establishment of women as the backbone of American education which appears to still be the case of present times (History of American Education Primer, p. 27).

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Protestant ideological managers sought to create a moral and God-fearing society and their goals were: 1. Honor, fear, and obey God, 2. Honor, fear, and obey the father in the home and 3. Honor, fear, and obey the government. This philosophy of the Protestants was called Calvinism which is the belief that humans are born in sin and must purge this sin as children grow into adults (p. 10).

The Massachusetts Law of 1642 which called for all parents to find someone to teach their children how to read the bible, write out scriptures, follow Protestant theology, and obey the laws of the land along with The Old Deluder Satan Law of 1647 which called for all towns of 50 households or more to appoint a teacher to teach reading and writing and all towns of 100 or more households to build a school and hire a schoolmaster were the first major laws of education (P. 10).

As the colonies expanded, different forms of schooling philosophy developed but the Common Schools (schools that sought to bring together white children in a common school to perpetuate the goals of the dominant white culture) were still dominated by Protestant values of a moral, God-fearing society (p. 31). Over time the teaching of children began to include, along with reading, writing and ciphering, social skills such as knowledge, etiquette, and debate. Schools began to include topics to prepare children for employment and if one’s family could afford it, college (p. 16). As time passed, education grew to include many different instructions and philosophies to where we are today.

With the extra teachings came many more philosophies. These different philosophies determine with teaching style, instruction, and school curriculum that will be used to include Axiology, Behaviorism, Epistemology, Existentialism, Ontology, Perennialism, Eclectic, Pragmatism and Reconstructionism. According to Pratt and Collins (2001), effective teaching may be classified as transmission, apprenticeship, developmental, nurturing, and social reform.

To start, William Kritsonis (2005, p. 91) defines philosophy as the human being’s attempt to think most speculatively, reflectively, and systematically about the universe and the relationship to that universe. He writes that philosophy has no proof and is therefore without theorems and has not questions that can be answered with yes or no. The purpose of educational philosophy is to help develop the educator’s thinking capacity (p. 91). The three branches of philosophy are Metaphysics (Ontology) which deal with ultimate reality, Epistemology which deals with the nature of knowledge and...
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