PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
My personal philosophy of education is mainly in the category of humanist tradition and partially in criticality and critical thinking (Arden et el., 2005). In my understanding, the purpose of education is to foster good character and wisdom for the creation of harmonious societies. In discussing my personal philosophy, the aim of education and the role of the teacher and learner will be explored. I will draw on Confucius, Plato, John Locke and Matthew Lipmann, whose philosophies resonate with my personal understanding and discuss the two theorists in contrast to my personal philosophy, Rousseau and Montessori. In addition, a personal connection will be made to Middle Eastern Philosophy, Islam in particular, Nel Noddings and Parker Palmer to reflect my spiritual reality and conceptualise the effect of this on classroom practice. Methods of applying my personal philosophy to the classroom will be suggested.
The ultimate aim of education is to help create a just, balanced and harmonious society. An education system that emphasies the development of good moral character and wisdom will lead to a peaceful and harmonious society. The role of teacher would be to model and expect the moral standards that are idealised by such a society. The teacher would provide a caring environment that fosters wisdom by encouraging self-education through thought provoking curriculum, critical thinking and philosophical inquiry. The role of the learner would be to follow the teacher’s facilitation and guidance, with due respect, and open their mind to reflective thinking, deeper understanding and wisdom. I strongly believe that good individuals create good societies and my personal philosophy resonates with these theorists.
The Eastern humanist philosopher Confucius thought that living a virtuous life would bring people into social harmony, where all would play their part and connect to each other like the rungs of a ladder. He considered moral concepts of benevolence, filial piety, righteousness and moral order in relationships, fundamental to creating a noble person (Gutek, 2011). I agree that these four characteristics create a superior person capable of playing a decisive role in society and form the basis of a harmonious social order.
The role of the teacher would thus be to foster the development of the four moral concepts. The relationship of the teacher to the student, in my understanding, would be like that of a benevolent facilitator, with the student respectful and the teacher graceful in their responsibility to nurture a virtuous student.
The Greek philosopher of humanist tradition Plato believed in the universal principles of goodness, truth and beauty. Plato considered a good education to be one that integrates knowledge and virtue, leads to ethical decisions and a life of general human excellence. Plato too believed in the link between good individuals and virtuous societies and visualised an organic society, ‘The Republic’ (Gutek, 2011). Plato also believed in gaining of knowledge by searching for the truth. Concepts in knowledge differ, as Burrow suggests (Ozman & Carver, 2008) and Plato regarded inquiry into these concepts as critical. In my view, asking contentious questions and creating dialogue to build knowledge, unlearning previously held beliefs and moving to a higher plane of thinking, are a vital personal journey, necessary for the creation of a ‘good’ person and ultimate beauty in self and society.
The role of the teacher in this context would again be as a facilitator, encouraging the journey of self-education, via inquiry into different perspectives. This fosters a philosophical awareness of different ways of thinking, all worthy of respect and nurtures intellectual and peaceful societies. In turn, the students would have to be willing to challenge their way of thinking, to further their wisdom and acquire deeper understanding.
The British educationist and humanist, John Locke believed education to be concerned with virtue based on faith, wisdom and understanding, breeding- the application of social graces and lastly learning. I concur with his view that if virtue, wisdom and breeding were encouraged in a positive environment then “learning will happen at an easy rate by methods that may be thought on” (Johnson & Reed, 2008, p 68).
The role of the teacher would then be to encourage good manners in a nurturing and cherishing environment that weeds out bad habits. The teacher would further encourage the innate natural curiosity of children and gently direct them to arrive at distant places in terms of wisdom.
The contemporary philosopher, Matthew Lipman, considers a vital aim of education to be the development of critical thinking and philosophical thought. Within the realm of critical theory and criticality, he believes in capturing the ability to wonder and develop not only problem solving but also problem finding skills. Lipman considers it critical to develop the ability to reflect and self-correct. This ability strengthens judgment by applying and evaluating learning. Lipman’s ideology is particularly important in the current climate of unprecedented change where we need to equip students with strategic thinking skills for future problems and the ability to find creative solutions to them.
The role of the teacher, in such a context, would be to set up and facilitate communities of inquiry and foster the skill of critical questioning and dialogue, maintaining it as an active social process. The students in turn, need to develop the skills required for critical thinking and to apply them to find problems as well as solve problems.
The two theorists whose views do not resonate with my personal philosophy are Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Maria Montessori. Rousseau’s ideas though well meant, are seeping with derogatory concepts of female subservience, particularly in his book Emile, where Sophie is industrious, but not particularly intelligent and her role is delegated to supporting her male counterparts in society. I find this particularly disturbing as it reeks of Taliban-like ideology and to quote Wollstonecraft, “If I were born only to draw nutrition, propagate and rot, the sooner the end of creation was answered the better, but as women are here allowed to have souls, the soul ought to be attended to” (Gutek, 2001, p 97). Maria Montessori’s empiricist approach to education is contrary to my personal humanist approach. Her scientific approach to education, stemming from her medical background, takes away the unpredictability and creativity of human nature. Though I support her positive ideology to educate the whole child, I find her methods rigid, monotonous and inflexible. The only area where such an approach may have some application is in the special needs education where such methods improve the quality of life. A Montessori website states, “In Montessori programs, children are valued as positive beings whose primary role is the construction of an adult”. I would ask, “what sort of adult?” Are individuals and society not linked? Is education not in a unique position to foster the creation of better societies?
To apply my personal pedagogic creed to the classroom would first require the creation of a caring and respectful environment. Central to this is the idea of Nel Noddings who suggests that love, caring and relations are bound to ethical and moral education. Further more, Parker Palmer suggests that the relationship between the teacher and the student is at the heart of teaching and that “we teach who we are” (Palmer, 1998, p1). Therefore, to understand future classroom practice, I would have to understand who I am. My spiritual reality is based in Middle Eastern philosophy, Islam in particular. My faith stands on two non-dogmatic Quranic concepts, salat, my duty to my self to be a better person and zakat, my duty to positively contribute to others. These concepts are held together by the belief in a compassionate, just and benevolent creator.
With this in mind, the methods of classroom practice would be based on modeling these personal standards, developing good character and wisdom but, within the idea of fallibility. Opportunities for improvement for students and teacher should be utilized and as Palmer suggests, tension should be seen as an opportunity for growth (Johnson & Reed, 2008).
Encouraging the process of “active learning”, where the teacher as Yates the poet suggests, “lights a fire” rather than traditionally filling a bucket, would be a beneficial method as it involves an element vitality, allows personal strengths to flourish and encourages the disposition to think and absorb. Actively building on children’s natural curiosity to learn leads to a strong foundation for life, as Wollstonecraft rightly said “an active mind does all else well” (Gutek, 2001, p101).
Socratic circles, the practice of open forums using questions, builds critical thinking across the curriculum and enhances dialogue through contentious questioning. Lipman encourages teachers to develop “the art and craft of thinking” (Johnson & Reed, 2008, p252). This fosters philosophical thinking, essential to harmonious societies.
Lastly, a designated quiet space and quiet time should be an essential part of the classroom, assisting students to reflect upon what they are taught. Adding feelings to the whole educative process can only enhance it and add that uniquely humanistic element.
In conclusion, I have explored the aim of education within the context of creating a harmonious society. The philosophies of Confucius, Plato, Locke and Lipman resonated with my personal ideas and Rousseau and Montessori did not. My personal philosophy is shaded by Nodding’s moral ideology on care and Palmers suggestion that we bring a bit of ourselves in our teaching, mine being my Quranic faith. I hope for my future class to be a caring and respectful environment, where the students gain wisdom, become better people, reflect effectively and form harmonious societies.
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