It is noteworthy that the great educators like Plato, Rousseau, Froebel, Spencer, Dewey and Russel have also been great philosophers. Their philosophical views have emerged from their educational schemes or the educational systems of their day.
It appears that their educational ideas have played an important part in the development of the philosophical thought, and at the same time their theory of education, too, appeared to have gained much from their philosophy.
Fitche, in his Sixth Address to the German people says: “The art of education will never attain complete clearness in itself without philosophy.” Dewey maintains that the most penetrating definition of philosophy is that it is the theory of education in its most general phases.
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Philosophy and aims of education:
Philosophy acquaints us with values in life and education tells us how these values can be realized. That is why so much emphasis is placed on value in life while considering the nature of the school curriculum, the method of school discipline, and techniques of instruction and school organization.
These values are nothing but a philosophy of education which, in the ultimate analysis, is a philosophy of life philosophy gives meaning to all that is done in an educational process. Philosophy is the main guide towards we have to look at points of conflicts in the educational endeavor.
We must which aim at education giving direction to various educative efforts. The aim of education is related with the aim of life, and the aim of life is always dependent on the philosophy that the individual has at a particular time. Thus we cannot do without a philosophical foundation of education.
Philosophy and the curriculum:
The dependence of education on philosophy is very well marked in the question of the curriculum. Smith, Stanley and Shores speak of moral authority as one of the chief guides of curriculum building. They say that ‘moral authority is derived from fundamental principles of right and wrong.’ Evidently, the problem is philosophical.
According to Spencer, the building of a curriculum should be based on the main human activities. He fixes the relative value of subjects in order of their importance; e.g., he gives first place to subjects that relate to self preservation.
According to the naturalists, the present experiences, activities and interests should be the guiding factor. To idealists, the child’s present and future activities are not at all important in the curriculum construction.
The experiences of the human race as epitomized in the sciences and humanities should provide the primary consideration in deciding a curriculum the idealist does not emphasize one subject in preference to another.
In fact, he attaches great importance to the quality of personal greatness which some subjects have in abundance, the idealist’s point of view is subjective, as opposed to merely objective values.
The pragmatists emphasize the principle of utility as the main criteria for determining the nature of the curriculum. “All subjects on the curriculum will be used to develop mastery over techniques in order to solve new problems rather than to train memory capable of flawless reproduction of systematic contents.”
The realists think that a bookish, abstract or sophisticated curriculum is useless. They want to concentrate on the realities of life. They emphasize the importance of subjects that fall within the range of natural science.
The above discussion indicates that the problem of curriculum construction is philosophical in terms of the philosophical beliefs held by a group of people. The same is true of text-books as well.
Philosophy and text-books:
The choice of appropriate text-books involves a philosophy. We must have some ideals and standards for guiding us in the selection of text-books. It is the text-book whose contents are to be imparted in conformity with the aim of education.
The working of the chosen curriculum depends on the text-book. “The text-book reflects and establishes standards. It indicates, too frequently perhaps, what the teacher is required to know and what the pupils are supposed to learn it markedly affects methods and reflects the rising standards of scholarship.”
It is true that some modern educational thinkers have revolted against the so-called tyranny of text-books in the forms of their projects or concrete units of work etc but to dispense with the text-book is nothing short of folly, and to continue argument against its use is an educational fallacy.
In fact, a text-book is an institution which cannot be demolished. In order to keep this institution healthy and serviceable there must be a philosophy in order to determine its nature and contents. Hence the need for a philosophical foundation of education cannot be over-emphasized.
Philosophy and methods of teaching:
The choice of methods of teaching depends on a philosophy. Kilpatrick’s use of the term ‘Philosophy of Method’ shows that there is a close relation between educational method and philosophy. Method is a means by which a contact is developed between the student and the subject-matter.
But in the absence of a definite aim of education or an adequate philosophy of life, the method of teaching employed by the teacher may repel the student from the subject Teachers who think that they can do without a philosophy of life render their methods of teaching ineffective, because thereby the students are not able to see a relation between their life ideals and what they read evidently, there is a need of a philosophical foundation of education.
Philosophy and discipline:
The need for a philosophical foundation of education becomes more apparent when we look to the problem of discipline. In fact, the nature of discipline is always governed by the philosophy one holds. Naturalism stands for unhampered freedom for the child.
It emphasizes individual assertion as against social co-operation. Realism wants to discipline the student into objectivity. “The cult of objectivity for its own sake is identical with the essence of discipline; and as long as we have a realistic minded teacher, so long there need be no fear of the decline of the sterner virtues.”
Idealism relies much on the personality of the teacher, for the maintenance of discipline, for the purpose of cultivating subjective power on the part of the student. With the help of such a discipline, idealism advocates the development of a transcendental self which is liberated from the forces of a merely physical reality.
Pragmatism does not believe in the employment of external discipline as a means for the performance of school tasks. It gives complete freedom to the child and stresses the educational value of interest which is of empirical, biological, and social nature in the child.
Thus we see that the problem of discipline is closely related with philosophy, and the concept of discipline as held by a teacher or educational regime will always be influenced by the philosophy believed in.
From the discussion in the preceding pages we may conclude that from different angles of the educational problem, there is a demand for a philosophical foundation of education. We must have a philosophy of life and of education.
Those who speak of having no philosophy of life, in fact, have their own philosophy. In the subsequent chapters of this second part of the book we shall very briefly deal with the different schools of philosophy in education.
These chapters will indicate the indispensability of philosophy to education. Thus our contention that there is need for a philosophical foundation of education will be further supported.
The discussion in the following pages is only intended to show how people interested in education have thought over the various educational problems and issues; and it is in no way devoted to express the likings of the author.
Hence the author does not claim any originality in these pages, except in essaying some critical evaluations at places which, it is hoped, will draw the attention of the readers.