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Old 03-02-2005, 04:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
Location: whereever my portable hard drive takes me
Experiences and Education

I wrote this paper for my first-year "Philosophy - Big Ideas" course here at university. I can understand if you encounter this post and frantically hit the back button as fast as you can, to avoid what lies ahead. However, if you really have nothing better to do, I hope to stimulate some type of discussion into the method of education that I present. Keep in mind, a lot of the work is influenced by John Dewey.

It is safe to assume that every philosopher studied today had some form of education as a child and as a young adult. From this assumption, we can then assume that, perhaps, because of their education, they gained the ability to use their mental capacity to its fullest, and present society with a range of new ideas to ponder. How much truth does this assumption hold? Is there really a point at which education stops, after it has finished its task of preparing someone for their post-academic life and the real world? Is it even fair to use the word “education” in its present context, meaning the immersion in an intellectual microcosm, such as a school or university? How effective is present-day education in developing children into critically-thinking individuals? To answer these questions, one must re-examine the aim of education in a more general sense, and the processes that constitute education. The aim here is to provide a more complete definition of education, perhaps even by re-defining it. At present, education is assumed to begin from birth and end after the completion of a school curriculum, either from high school or as far as a Ph.D. Everything hereafter is merely the application of one’s education: utilizing the skills learned in school to succeed in a career. Unfortunately, this form of education, as it is accepted today, is not adequate or effective in best developing one’s individuality and fully unlocking one’s mental potential. Similarly, the public conception of education must also be re-examined.

Formalized education by definition is not true education. Young children learn the basics of language and numbers, older children are introduced to and educated on different subjects, and young adults apply their existing knowledge into a more focused field of study. This style of formalized education relies heavily on the lecturing of knowledge by a teacher and the memorizing of said knowledge by the student. This method greatly restricts the ability for free thought on the student’s behalf, by encouraging receptivity and docility. For example, if a student does not accept a teacher’s belief or information at face value, as is expected, the student will learn that such opposition is not recommended, after receiving their marks. If, however, new material is presented to the student which encourages probing of its meaning, experimentation of its implications, and its application in real life, the student will think critically and will carry his new knowledge into life outside of the institution. It should, therefore, be the goal of teachers to create an environment which removes the divide between a student’s school life and the rest of his life. If school is focused on the acquisition of knowledge, and life outside school is focused on experience, then the separation of school from life is the separation of knowledge from action.

Education is continuous and is not merely preparation for the future. Formal education as it exists today treats the child’s life as a means to an end. A part of life becomes a means to another, which suppresses what it is to live. Many people believe education is meant to stop once a career starts. From then on, terms like “training” and “instruction” are used more often. The only instance when we hear “education” mentioned again is in “adult education,” literally when an adult decides to return to a school or university. Most of the time, the purpose of “adult education” is not further enlightenment in the self-interest of the adult, but merely as extra preparation for a better job. All of this evidence ties “education” to the means towards the end (such as a set profession). Many schools or institutions advocate the fact that they are doing their best to enrich a child’s mind. Such statements are contradictory to the fact that they are actually preparing these children for a remote future. This is opposed to enriching their present lives, and making the most of a child’s opportunity to learn to become part of a society. Currently, “becoming part of a society” mainly occurs outside the school. Social interactions cause the child to have experiences, and in these experiences the child is able to make the most of their future experiences. Unfortunately, education through life experiences is never emphasized enough for the effect they have on the mental development of the individual. Such “active education” holds many advantages, namely the benefit of a child experiencing the social implications the application of his knowledge. Instead of receiving information and storing it in the recesses of one’s memory, active education seeks to experience the newly obtained knowledge to learn its consequences and effectiveness in society. The current state of the educational system, as mentioned earlier, relies on the former: indoctrination of knowledge set out for the child to simply receive and absorb without much question. Is this the right way to ensure that new generations will be competent thinkers? Being able to contribute something to society from knowledge from past experiences constitutes the success of true education.

The importance of this new way of thinking of education may not be very obvious at first glance. One must notice the possible ways it will change human thinking, and the philosophical implications it brings. Philosophy is the penetration of the self and the world around us: it examines aspects of our human nature and our perception of our own existence. Education is the perfect platform from which to delve into the human mind and develop it. After an effective development of this kind comes a greater understanding of ourselves as individuals. Combine this with the method of blending together knowledge and action, and the child learns about their most effective place in society. If active education was implemented in a civilized society, then there would need to be a dramatic reconstruction of a curriculum, to encourage the teacher to assume a different role. The teacher’s role now is to merely be a messenger; a relayer of information. The teacher’s position must evolve into one that produces stimulus in a child’s mind, to encourage thought and useful application instead of memorization and recitation. Children immersed in this type of education would become more knowledgeable about what it means to be a human: precisely what the study of philosophy seeks.
Go for it, all comments, questions, criticisms welcome!
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Old 03-03-2005, 07:01 AM   #2 (permalink)
Location: France - Switzerland - Germany

I did it !!! i read it to the end and was able not to be lost on the way . English is not my mother tongue so I was not sure to understand it all completly.

My main comment would be that the global idea of developping more individuality and self thinking at school is for sure a good idea and I can't imagine any reasons why it could be contradicted (may be an other post will find some reasons... let's see ).

I heard this ideas a few times already on the radio and on the TV when it's about improving school and learning methods, I m sure that new methods were tested in few places but it always take time to have the first feed back since this concerns a complete cursus...

The only issue with this idea is where to set the limit... since learning at school concerns a group of student it's not possible that on every point the teacher eyplains they contest, express their ideas or want to discuss in details. Otherwise they will graduate a 40.

But no doubt that there is place for improvement regarding the way students can learn how to build their own way of thinking and learn how to have their own opinions and ideas.

Depending on the teachers it is not always too bad , and there is already some opportunity for a student to express himself and defends his ideas. But this is what I keep from my own experience in a private collège in France !
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Last edited by ajji; 03-03-2005 at 07:04 AM..
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Old 03-03-2005, 07:51 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: Washington, DC
Two things that occurs to me given a quick read-through. First of all, you say that you want a more 'active' education, but you never give any details as to exactly what it means. Exactly how is your system of education going to present ideas so that students learn to view them critically?

Secondly, it seems to miss the point of education. Learning critical thinking is only a part of what an education should teach us. It's also important to learn that 2 + 2 = 4, that the USA got its independence through a war with Great Britain, and stuff like that. Critical thinking may be a useful skill, but it's only useful if you also have the knowledge to back it up.

Thirdly, I think you overestimate most people. Most people don't want to think critically at any age, but this is especially true at lower grades. Do you really expect a six-year-old to be able to argue with her teacher? To the contrary, I think that we're best off when earlier grades focus on purely fact-based knowledge (not worrying too much if some of it is an oversimplification), and then later grades starting in high school start to teach children to be view this store of knowledge critically.
"Die Deutschen meinen, daß die Kraft sich in Härte und Grausamkeit offenbaren müsse, sie unterwerfen sich dann gerne und mit Bewunderung:[...]. Daß es Kraft giebt in der Milde und Stille, das glauben sie nicht leicht."

"The Germans believe that power must reveal itself in hardness and cruelty and then submit themselves gladly and with admiration[...]. They do not believe readily that there is power in meekness and calm."

-- Friedrich Nietzsche
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Old 03-03-2005, 11:59 PM   #4 (permalink)
Location: France - Switzerland - Germany
uhm asaris, you seems a bit pesimistics....
But you might be right about the fact that few people prefer being passive and never think and their own
I prefer being optimistic and thinking that if they go the opportunity to be more selfthinking a not not only sheeps which follow the herd they might take it.

About the basis like 2+2=4 and so on, there is no room for arguing, having a critical mind doesn't concerns the knowldege in this case but may be more the way to learn (introducing more life example and making the subject more attractive).
I didn't took the idea the same way as you did, but more in a direction of helping youngs and student to e more involved in what they learn and help them to have their own opinions.

A six year old is not directly concerns when it's time to learn basis of math or grammar rules but regading the way of learning there is different methods that can help being autonome and self thinking even at low age : not only learning by heart but also understanding... when you understand things you can then be interrested into them, if you are concerns with what you learn you want to learn more even on your own and not only for your future job (a six year old doesn't think about that yet )

the exemple of new methos in use in France are mainly in small school (for 6 to 10 year old) there is less student by classroom (10 or 15 maximum) they work the complete week even the saturday morning but the afternoon they got more cultural actvity (also more sport). where they can see the practical things and discuss it.
This is I believe a good step with youg children to help them in being interrested and concerned in what they learn and so being critical. This kind of test schools are only done in a few towns in France and it s probably not possible to adapt it everywhere because of the cost it will require!

In anycase I think it s better being optimistic and believing that people will prefer being more critical and think on their own. And at least offering them this opportunity can't hurt.
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