EDU 6120 – Week 5 “Key Idea Identification”

As I read through this week’s readings I find myself reflecting on what kind of teacher I would like to be. In Arthur Ellis’ Philosophical Perspectives paper he outlines the different schools of philosophy and educational philosophy. As he mentions, the philosophies are not cut in stone and sometimes are mixed when applicable. I agree with that idea because no one philosophy struck me as my ultimate goal. That being said, I related well with the Progressivism philosophy of education in many ways. Ellis states “Dewey saw no need to focus upon a fixed body of knowledge as did the perennialists and essentialists. Progressivism, instead, places emphasis upon how to think rather than what to think” (p. 7). While I am drawn to philosophies that think along the latter it is the former that troubles me a bit. I like the thought of teaching critical thinking skills, but I also think there is a valid argument for a solid foundation of knowledge. Such as stated by Petrarch in Dr. Sheuerman’s paper “EDU 6918: Foundations Session 5: Christian Humanism through Renaissance and Reformation” in where he states, “virtue and mature knowledge comes through an understanding of three central literary studies: history, philosophy, and poetry” (p. 2). In some ways I think the scholars agree with parts of the Progressivisim philosophy, or that some thoughts transcend different philosophies such as mentioned by Comenius in our excerpt of The Great Didactic, “The Beginning and End of our Didactic will be to seek and find a method by which the teachers teach less and the learners learn more” (p. 7). In other ways there is a definite contrast in philosophy such as when in the same text Comenius states, “Education, which is preparation for life, should be finished before adulthood” (p. 8). Where I as a lifetime learner agree with Ellis’ tenant of Progressivism “Education should be life itself, not a preparation for living” (p. 7).

Finally when thinking of how I will teach, I find I’m more certain of who I will teach. While my future may bring me to different kinds of classrooms my first venture will most likely be in Special Education (inclusive or ILC), and philosophies are hotly debated in that field as well. Once again I am drawn to the words of Comenius from The Great Didactic where he states, “all obstacles ought to be removed from the pupil” (p. 9), which reminds me of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA states that all children regardless of disabilities will have the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), which many educators feel is full inclusion into the general education classroom regardless of disabilities, but I’m not always sure that the GE classroom is the LRE for every student. Maybe Comenius wasn’t thinking about students with disabilities with that statement, but he has given me food for thought.

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3 Responses to EDU 6120 – Week 5 “Key Idea Identification”

  1. aaronclaar says:

    James, I like the distinction drawn between the philosophy of Comenius and that of Ellis. I still want to see more of that context because I find it hard to believe that any educator would believe that education ends after graduation. Your balance of philosophies also seems correct to me. It seems the traditional philosophies want to make a large pile of bricks to build with and the progressives want to educate the students how to build but give them little for material. To get the job done, in my opinion, a student needs foundational knowledge and also learn to apply it. Blending the philosophies brings an appropriate balance.

  2. rutledgej says:

    Hi James,
    Thanks for the post. I always appreciate when people find a way to relate the materials we are reading to special education. I doubt that many of the great thinkers we have been discussing thought much about the education of students with disabilities (Ellis aside), but it’s worthwhile to think about the way we can apply some of their ideas to special education. I thought about this while reading Ellis’ paper on philosophy. Is it okay to have a different philosophical approach when teaching students with disabilities? Or should our approach be consistent? When it comes to special education, I fall pretty heavily into the existentialist camp because I believe our role really should be to promote personal fulfillment to the greatest extent possible. Although I feel mostly the same way when it comes to non-disabled students, I place a lot of value on the reconstructionist belief that our students are our best hope of creating real change in society. Am I doing a disservice to my students with disabilities by treating them differently? Or does teaching special education require a different philosophical approach? Your post helped me raise some of these questions. Now I just need to figure out the answers…
    -John Rutledge

  3. Joe Smith says:

    I think we are all agreed that some fundamental knowledge is required for educational progression. One must be able to read before one can write. However, one may know what one wishes to write before one can read. To my mind special education is essentially about the creation (within the student) of systems and techniques which allow the student to best make use of their abilities, construction of the minds infra- structure if you will. The more profound the students disability is the closer to the minds substructure the educator must get. Empirical data (the bricks referred to earlier) form a superstructure. One grows upon the other and both must expand in tandem for the mind to develop.
    Controversy arises not so much from the model of development (structure then knowledge, then further structure.) but the control exerted by the educator on the direction of that development. After all the educator controls and mediates the students access to knowledge.
    I heard a comment by the physicist George Johnson a while ago; he postulated that we (as a species) are fast approaching the limits of the knowable. Generally new discoveries are reliant on the absorption and understanding of prior discoveries. It may be that we are reaching a point at which the body of knowledge required for progression is simply too complex for a human mind to hold. What then?

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