Chapter Two
Philosophy and Education
The Three Branches of
 Metaphysics:
What is real?
 Epistemology:
How do we know?
 Axiology:
What is valuable?
Metaphysics: What is Real?
 What
knowledge do students need to
 What subjects shall we teach our
 The question of metaphysics involves the
curriculum of the school.
Changes in our metaphysical
 In
traditional societies, religion was the
basis of learning.
 Today
learning has become more secular.
Epistemology: How do we know?
 How
do we learn?
 How shall we teach the subjects that we
see as most important?
Changes in our Epistemological
 In
traditional societies, information was
obtained from divine revelation or personal
 Today learning involves hard work, reason
and scientific experimentation.
Axiology: What Values are Most
 What
values are the most important?
 How do we teach those values?
Changes in Axiology:
 In
traditional societies, values were seen
as absolute and unchanging.
 Today we embrace a more relativistic set
of values that reflect different cultures and
Axiology: How do we Teach
those values?
 Traditional
approaches to teaching
required students to memorize lists of
values and then recite them to the teacher.
 Today teachers focus on the
understanding of those values.
The Four Modern Western
 Idealism
 Realism
 Pragmatism
 Existentialism
 First
articulated by Plato in ancient
 Centered on an unchanging set of ideas
that form the core of our society.
Idealists Believed…
 Classics
and the study of the ancient
languages (Greek and Latin) should form
the basis of the curriculum (metaphysics).
 Students learn best through memorization
and recitation (epistemology).
 Values are absolute and unchanging and
best taught through memorization of
specific sets of rules or oaths (axiology).
 Realism
developed in the 1600s and
 This theory examined the seeming
paradoxical relationship between religion
and science.
Realists Believed
 Science
and mathematics were the most
important subjects (metaphysics).
 An understanding of the natural laws of
our world was the appropriate method of
instruction (epistemology).
 Values are absolute and unchanging and
best taught through memorization
 Developed
in the 1800s.
 This theory separated religion from the
worldly activities of humankind.
Pragmatists Believed…
 Students
should understand the major
problems facing society (metaphysics).
 The curriculum should move from the
abstract to the concrete, from the
theoretical to the practical – learning by
doing (epistemology).
 Values are relative and rules are
sometimes inadequate in guiding complex
decision-making (axiology).
 Attention
is on the individual and the world
of individual relationships.
 This theory represented a change in the
philosophical focus from religion to the
individual. (We are responsible for our own
Existentialists Believed…
The best way to learn is through personal insight
gained through journaling and autobiography
 The curriculum should address the questions of
human existence, relationships, and an
understanding of success and failure
 Values are not only relative but students also
have a role in choosing them and should explore
individual choices and options (axiology).
Alternative & Non-Western
 Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam
 Native American
 Asian
 African American
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Each of these religions embrace a number of distinctive
interpretations and sects.
These range from:
progressive, inclusive denominations
conservative, fundamentalist divisions
Progressive divisions are open to diversity and the separation of
church and state and embrace a relative understanding of values.
More conservative, fundamentalist divisions tend to be less open to
diversity of thought, more dogmatic in their understanding of
science, and more oriented towards a belief in absolute values.
Native Americans
Some groups have philosophies that differ from
western traditions.
Some emphasize living in harmony with the land
(rather than the Western tradition of development).
Others stress cooperation with members of the
community (rather than individualism and
These values may conflict with traditional
instruction in the classroom and require teachers
to include cooperative learning and other forms
of evaluation.
Some groups have philosophies that differ from
western traditions.
Some embrace the values of harmony within the
family and community.
Others emphasize respect for elders and authority.
Still others place special emphasis on politeness and
devotion to tradition.
These values may conflict with traditional
instruction in the classroom and require teachers
to include cooperative learning and other forms
of evaluation.
African Americans
African American culture is diverse as a result of historical
Some groups have philosophies that differ from western traditions.
Some value introspective thought and strong family relationships
as crucial ways of learning and understanding.
Art and music provide an important outlet of expression
and communication for others.
These values may conflict with traditional instruction in the
classroom and require teachers to include cooperative
learning and other forms of evaluation.
The Danger of Stereotyping
All people belonging to Native American, Asian
American, and African American ethnic groups
are not the same and cannot be identified by
their heritage alone.
 Sometimes in our attempt to understand cultural
differences among people, we begin to think in
terms of stereotypes. This is dangerous.
 This diversity reminds us of the complexities of
 Teachers must develop a curriculum that both
empowers and takes into account our diverse
Educational Philosophies
 Educators
have developed a number of
educational philosophies.
 Some parallel one of the four modern
 Some borrow ideas from these and other
alternative philosophies.
Two Philosophical Schools of
 Authoritarian
 Democratic
The Authoritarian School of
Rooted in Idealism and Realism
Derived from writings of John Locke – Blank
Stressed the products rather than the process of
Favored a subject-centered curriculum
Embraced convergent thinking (inside the box)
Perennialism, Essentialism, Behaviorism and
Authoritarian School:
 Rooted
in ideas of idealism and realism.
 Has been the cornerstone of education for
 Characterized by the “Great Books”
 Favors a standardized curriculum.
 Prefers the top down “teacher centered,”
or subject-centered method.
Authoritarian School:
 Essentialists
focus on the development of
essential skills for the future – especially
the workplace.
 Emphasizes a core curriculum -- referred
to as basic skills.
 Favors a top down learning environment.
 Embrace the NCLB and EOGs as central
to the learning experience.
Authoritarian School:
Rooted in psychology, especially William James,
Edward Thorndike, John Watson, and B.F.
 Popular as a method of discipline and computeraided instruction.
 Students are essentially blank slates and can be
“manipulated” through a rewards system to
 Emphasizes learning the facts as well as
convergent thinking.
Authoritarian School: Positivism
 Derived
from the writings of Auguste
Comte who argued that reality existed only
as observable fact.
 We can “know” only through direct
 Prefers a curriculum based primarily on
science and math with rigorous
assessment of specific knowledge.
 Favors convergent thinking.
The Democratic School of
Rooted in Pragmatism and Existentialism
Derived from writings of Jean Jacque Rousseau
Stressed the Process rather than the Products of
Favored an experience-centered or studentcentered curriculum
Embraced Divergent thinking (outside the box)
Progressivism, Humanism, Constructivism, PostModernism, Reconstructionism
Democratic School:
Emerged from the writings of pragmatists Charles
Pierce, William James, and John Dewey.
 Embraced realistic solutions to social problems.
 Helped students understand their interconnections with
members of the community in which they lived.
 Favored an “open classroom” environment and
cooperative learning.
 Preferred the problem-solving approach that focuses on
student interests.
 Focused on the learner-centered or student-centered
Democratic School:
 Emerged
during the Great Depression and
was influenced by the writings of George
S. Counts.
 Challenged teachers to become
“transformative intellectuals”.
 Provide students with a “Critical
Pedagogy” (Henry Giroux) to become
agents of social change.
Democratic School: Humanism
 Embodies
the ideas of Jean Jacque
 Seeks to nurture the individual spirit
without imposing external ideas on the
 Promotes divergent thinking.
 Favors the student-centered approach to
Democratic School:
 Focuses
on individual development
through a nurturing approach to teaching.
 Provides students with hands-on activities.
 Favors the understanding of large,
complex ideas rather than the mastery of
 At odds with the current emphasis on
“mastery learning” and accountability as
envisioned by the NCLB.
Democratic School:
Developed during the upheavals of society in the
1960s and 1970s.
 The goal is to understand power relationships
within society.
 Believes that those in power use the institutions
of government, culture and school to maintain
their positions within society.
 Contends that society has marginalized women,
workers, people of color as well as cultural
Postmodernism (Continued)
 The
curriculum should include works of
“marginalized” people in literature, history
and other subjects.
 Students will then appreciate the
contributions of other members of our
diverse society.
 Favors a student-oriented approach and
journal writing.
Axiology and Education
 Moral
 Character
Moral Education
 Assumes
that students are undeveloped
 Focuses on the Development of moral
 Consistent with the Democratic School
 Embraces Progressivism,
Reconstructionism, Humanism and
Character Education
 Students
are blank slates
 Favors the transmission of “unambiguous
moral values”
 Consistent with the Authoritarian School
 Embraces Perennialism, Essentialism,
Behaviorism and Positivism

Chapter Two - Homepage