Course: Philosophy of Education (8609) Semester: Autumn, 2022
ASSIGNMENT No. 2
Q.1 Discuss Plato’s claim that different sections of society should be given different types of education.
Plato’s Theory of Education
Education for Plato was one of the great things of life. Education was an attempt to touch the evil at its source, and reform the wrong ways of living as well as one’s outlook towards life. According to Barker, education is an attempt to cure a mental illness by a medicine.
The object of education is to turn the soul towards light. Plato once stated that the main function of education is not to put knowledge into the soul, but to bring out the latent talents in the soul by directing it towards the right objects. This explanation of Plato on education highlights his object of education and guides the readers in proper direction to unfold the ramifications of his theory of education.
Plato was, in fact, the first ancient political philosopher either to establish a university or introduce a higher course or to speak of education as such. This emphasis on education came to the forefront only due to the then prevailing education system in Athens. Plato was against the practice of buying knowledge, which according to him was a heinous crime than buying meat and drink. Plato strongly believed in a state control education system.
These kings were expected to spend most of the time in philosophical pursuits. Thus, after accomplishing perfection, the rulers would exercise power only in the best interests of the state. The ideal state would be realized and its people would be just, honest and happy.
Q.2 Discuss the features of educational curriculum proposed by john Dewey.
John Dewey is credited as founding a philosophical approach to life called ‘pragmatism’, and his approaches to education and learning have been influential internationally and endured over time. He saw the purpose of education to be the cultivation of thoughtful, critically reflective, socially engaged individuals rather than passive recipients of established knowledge. He rejected the rote-learning approach driven by predetermined curriculum which was the standard teaching method at the time. However, importantly, he also rejected child-centred approaches that followed children’s uninformed interests and impulses uncritically. While he used the term ‘progressive education’, this has since been misappropriated to describe, in some cases, a hands-off approach to children’s learning which was not what Dewey proposed. Dewey believed that traditional subject matter was important, but should be integrated with the strengths and interests of the learner.
He developed a concept of inquiry, prompted by a sense of need and followed by intellectual work such as defining problems, testing hypotheses, and finding satisfactory solutions, as the central activity of such an educational approach. This organic cycle of doubt, inquiry, reflection and the reestablishment of sense or understanding contrasted with the ‘reflex arc’ model of learning popular in his time. The reflex arc model thought of learning as a mechanical process, measurable by standardised tests, without reference to the role of emotion or experience in learning. Dewey was critical of the reductionism of educational approaches which assume that all the big questions and ideas are already answered, and need only to be transmitted to students. He believed that all concepts and meanings could be open to reinvention and improvement, and all disciplines could be expanded with new knowledge, concepts and understandings.
The main features of Dewey’s theory of education
Dewey suggested that individuals learn and grow as a result of experiences and interactions with the world. These interactions and experiences lead individuals to continually develop new concepts, ideas, practices and understandings, which, in turn, are refined through and continue to mediate the learner’s life experiences and social interactions. According to Dewey:
Interactions and communications focused on enhancing and deepening shared meanings increase potential for learning and development. When students communicate ideas and meanings within a group, they have the opportunity to consider, take on and work with the perspectives, ideas and experiences of other students.
Shared activities are an important context for learning and development. Dewey valued real-life contexts and problems as educative experiences. If students only passively perceive a problem and do not experience the consequences in a meaningful, emotional and reflective way, then they are unlikely to adapt and revise their habits or construct new habits, or will do so only superficially.
Students learn best when their interests are engaged. It is important to develop ideas, activities and events that stimulate students’ interest and to which teaching can be geared. Teaching and lecturing can be highly appropriate as long as they are geared towards helping students to analyse or develop an intellectual insight into a specific and meaningful situation.
Learning always begins with a student’s emotional response, which spurs further inquiry. Dewey advocated for what he called ‘aesthetic’ experiences: dramatic, compelling, unifying or transforming experiences in which students feel enlivened and absorbed.
Students should be engaged in active learning and inquiry. Rather than teach students to accept any seemingly valid explanations, education ought to give students opportunities to discover information and ideas by their own effort in a teacher-structured environment, and to put knowledge to functional use by defining and solving problems, and determining the validity and worth of ideas and theories. As noted above, this does not preclude explicit instruction where appropriate.
Inquiry involves students in reflecting intelligently on their experiences in order to adapt their habits of action. Experience should involve what Dewey called ‘transaction’: an active phase, in which the student does something, as well as a phase of ‘undergoing’, where the student receives or observes the effect that their action has had. This might be as simple as noticing patterns when adding numbers, or experimenting to determine the correct proportions for papier mâché.
Education is a key way of developing skills for democratic activity. Dewey was positive about the value of recognising and appreciating differences as a vehicle through which students can expand their experiences, and open up to new ways of thinking rather than closing off to their own beliefs and habits.
What empirical evidence is there for this philosophy in practice?
While there is no direct evidence that Dewey’s approach improves student outcomes, Dewey’s theory of students’ learning aligns with current theories of education which emphasise how individuals develop cognitive functioning by participating in sociocultural practices1, and with empirical studies examining the positive impact of interactions with peers and adults2 on students’ learning. Quantative research also underlines a link between heightened engagement and children’s learning outcomes, with strategies such as making meaningful connections to students’ home lives and encouraging student ownership of their learning found to increase student engagement3. A few empirical studies which examined the effectiveness of aesthetic experiences for students confirmed that students experienced those lessons as more meaningful, compelling and connected than a comparison group.4
Dewey’s influence on teaching practice
Dewey’s theory has had an impact on a variety of educational practices including individualised instruction, problem-based and integrated learning, dialogic teaching, and critical inquiry. Dewey’s ideas also resonate with ideas of teaching as inquiry.
Dewey’s ideas about education are evident in approaches where teaching and learning are designed to be responsive to the specific needs, interests, and cultural knowledge of students. Teachers therefore learn about students and their motivating interests and desires in order to find subject matter, events and experiences that appeal to students and that will provoke a need to develop the knowledge, skills and values of the planned curriculum. Students are encouraged to relate learning to their lives and experiences.
Problem-based learning and integrated learning approaches
Dewey’s principles of learning are evident also in problem-based learning and project approaches to learning. These approaches begin with a practical task or problem which is complex, comprehensive, multi-layered, collaborative, and involves inquiry designed to extend students’ knowledge, skills and understandings. Problem-based learning should:
start by supporting students to intellectualise exactly what the problem is
encourage controlled inquiry by helping students to develop logical hypotheses (rather than depending on their habits of thinking to jump to conclusions), for example, by connecting or disconnecting ideas they already have encountered
encourage students to revise their theories and reconstruct their concepts as their inquiry unfolds.
Dewey’s theory has also been extended to the problem of enhancing student engagement. Some strategies that have been found to increase student engagement and that align with Dewey’s concept of aesthetic experiences include:
engaging students in deeper perception – going beyond the simple recognition of objects to look carefully at colours, lines and textures, question perceptions, and use new understandings to perceive things in new ways
building intellectual, sensory, emotional or social connections to a topic, such as connecting to the topic of space travel through intellectual connections to the concepts of speed, power and force, sensory connections to the sounds, fire and vibrations, and emotional or social connections to the feelings of astronauts involved
encouraging risk-taking, such as suggesting a calculation, or experimenting to make papier mâché
encouraging sensory exploration
using a theme or metaphor to illuminate powerful ideas and to produce a sense of wonder, imagination and anticipation, such as ‘rocks have a story to tell’
provoking anticipation with evocative materials or suggestive situations, enabling students to unravel a mystery rather than follow a recipe.
Engagement can be heightened when students have ownership of their learning, for example, by being engaged in curriculum planning and cooperatively build curriculum themes, or by selecting a topic to research rather than being assigned a topic. Students can take responsibility for judging the value, significance and meaning of their experiences as well as next steps.
Dialogic teaching emphasises the importance of open student dialogue and meaning-making for learning, and builds on Dewey’s ideas about the importance of communication and social interaction. In this approach, students are encouraged to form habits of careful listening and thoughtful speaking: for example, they might be discouraged from raising their hand to speak in a lesson, as that action triggers anticipatory thought rather than full attention to the current speaker. Attention is paid to issues of power, privilege and access that may hinder open dialogue.
Dewey’s approach to education is evident in curricula focused on critial thinking skills in which students engage in intellectual reflection and inquiry, critique, test and judge knowledge claims, make connections, apply their understandings in a range of different situations, and go into depth, rather than be given quick answers or rushed through a series of content. Dewey’s philosophy of education highlights the importance of imagination to drive thinking and learning forward, and for teachers to provide opportunities for students to suspend judgement, engage in the playful consideration of possibilities, and explore doubtful possibilities.
Teaching as inquiry
Dewey’s perspective on teaching and learning encourages a teaching as inquiry mindset. His principles for teaching and learning suggest that teachers should cultivate an energetic openness to possibilities alongside a commitment to reflectively learning from experiences, be willing to experience ambiguity and use problems as an opportunity to get deeper into an understanding of self, students, the subject and the context.
Q.3 Describe the teaching method advocated by Al-Farabi.
The aim of this paper is to present the attitudes to education of Abu Nasr al-Farabi within the framework of his philosophical system, an aspect of his work about which little was known, since researchers have been more interested in the logical, metaphysical and political aspects, to the neglect of his educational concepts. However, scholars do know that al-Farabi studied Plato’s Republic and this work, by which he was most certainly influenced, deals mainly with education, as is now accepted by historians of philosophy . It is even more unlikely that al-Farabi could have been unaware of this dimension of Plato’s philosophy since he made a summary of Plato’s Laws, a work which we know expresses his final thoughts on education.
So who is al-Farabi, and what is his contribution to education?
Al-Farabi was born in Wasij, in the province of Farab in Turkestan, in 872 AD (259 AH) of a noble family. His father, of Persian origin, was an army commander at the Turkish court. Al-Farabi moved to Baghdad, where he studied grammar, logic, philosophy, music, mathematics and sciences; he was a pupil of the great translator and interpreter of Greek philosophy, Abu Bishr Matta b. Yunus (d. 942/329) in Baghdad; he then studied under Yuhanna b. Haylan, the Nestorian (d. 941/328), in Harran. Thereby he is affiliated to the Alexandrian school of philosophy which had been located at Harran, Antakya and Merv, before definitively settling in Baghdad. As a result of these years of study, he accumulated such knowledge of philosophy that he earned the name of the ‘Second Teacher’, by reference to Aristotle, the ‘First Teacher’.
He moved to Aleppo in the year 943 (330) and became part of the literary circle in the court of Sayf al-Dawla Hamdani (d. 968/356). Al-Farabi was given to wandering on his own in the countryside to reflect and to write, and it was probably his despair at reforming his society that inclined him towards Sufism. His travels brought him to Egypt and it was in Damascus in 950 (339) that he died at the age of 80 .
Al-Farabi had a great desire to understand the universe and humankind, and to know the latter’s place within the former, so as to reach a comprehensive intellectual picture of the world and of society. He undertook the meticulous study of ancient philosophy, particularly of Plato and Aristotle, absorbing the components of Platonic and neo-Platonic philosophy, which he integrated into his own Islamic-Arabic civilization, whose chief source is, as we all know, the Qur’an and the various sciences derived from it.
Al-Farabi represents a turning-point in the history of Islamic philosophical thought, since he was the true first founder of epistemology which relies upon ‘universal reason’ and the demonstrations he gave. The intellectual, political and social circumstances prevailing in his day no doubt explain his approach since, in fact, he lived in a historical period of great turmoil, during which the central Islamic caliphate was torn apart into independent states and principalities in both the east and west; and sects and schools of thought (madhahib) sprang up undermining the nation’s intellectual and political unity (oumma). Thus al-Farabi’s concern was to restore unity to Islamic thought by confirming the gnoseology based on demonstration.
He established logic within Islamic culture, and this is why he is known as the ‘Second Teacher’, as already mentioned. He was also engaged in restoring unity in politics , making political science the core of his philosophy, basing himself on the system of rules which governs nature and on the Qur’an which emphasized the relationship between gnoseology and values (axiology). He believed the first aim of knowledge was knowledge of God and his attributes, a knowledge which has a profound effect on the human being’s moral conduct and helps him to find the way to the ultimate aim of his existence, while indirectly arousing the intellect so that it should achieve wisdom, which al-Farabi held to be the highest level of intellectual attainment permitted to human beings in this life . Thus the core of his philosophy came to be the unity of society and of the State to be achieved by unity of thought, wisdom and religion, each of these being the foundations of the community’s government, which should be the same as the unity and order found in the universe. Indeed, al-Farabi often compares the order and unity of the city to that of the universe. Philosophy and religion were for him simply two expressions of a single truth, the variance between them being only in the form of expression: philosophy explains religion and provides proof of it; it is neither in conflict nor in contradiction with it. Therefore we find him also bringing together the philosophy of Plato and of Aristotle to explain the unity of intellect; for, in his opinion, there is a general unity of thought between Plato and Aristotle, the disparities being mere details.
It is especially important to note here that al-Farabi described something that was taboo in the Hellenistic era: namely, the logical category called ‘demonstration’ whose social and educational function he illustrated in the formation of the mind and of political awareness.
Q.4 Define Deconstructionism. Write down the qualities of teacher and curriculum supported by Deconstructionists’ philosophy.
deconstruction, form of philosophical and literary analysis, derived mainly from work begun in the 1960s by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, that questions the fundamental conceptual distinctions, or “oppositions,” in Western philosophy through a close examination of the language and logic of philosophical and literary texts. In the 1970s the term was applied to work by Derrida, Paul de Man, J. Hillis Miller, and Barbara Johnson, among other scholars. In the 1980s it designated more loosely a range of radical theoretical enterprises in diverse areas of the humanities and social sciences, including—in addition to philosophy and literature—law, psychoanalysis, architecture, anthropology, theology, feminism, gay and lesbian studies, political theory, historiography, and film theory. In polemical discussions about intellectual trends of the late 20th-century, deconstruction was sometimes used pejoratively to suggest nihilism and frivolous skepticism. In popular usage the term has come to mean a critical dismantling of tradition and traditional modes of thought.
Deconstruction in philosophy
The oppositions challenged by deconstruction, which have been inherent in Western philosophy since the time of the ancient Greeks, are characteristically “binary” and “hierarchical,” involving a pair of terms in which one member of the pair is assumed to be primary or fundamental, the other secondary or derivative. Examples include nature and culture, speech and writing, mind and body, presence and absence, inside and outside, literal and metaphorical, intelligible and sensible, and form and meaning, among many others. To “deconstruct” an opposition is to explore the tensions and contradictions between the hierarchical ordering assumed (and sometimes explicitly asserted) in the text and other aspects of the text’s meaning, especially those that are indirect or implicit or that rely on figurative or performative uses of language. Through this analysis, the opposition is shown to be a product, or “construction,” of the text rather than something given independently of it.
In the writings of the French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, society and culture are described as corrupting and oppressive forces that gradually develop out of an idyllic “state of nature” in which humans exist in self-sufficient and peaceful isolation from one another. For Rousseau, then, nature is prior to culture. Yet there is another sense in which culture is certainly prior to nature: the idea of nature is a product of culture, and what counts as “nature” or “natural” at any given historical moment will vary depending upon the culture of the time. What this fact shows is not that the terms of the nature/culture opposition should be inverted—that culture is really prior to nature—but rather that the relation between the terms is not one-sided and unidirectional, as Rousseau and others had assumed. The point of the deconstructive analysis is to restructure, or “displace,” the opposition, not simply to reverse it.
For Derrida, the most telling and pervasive opposition is the one that treats writing as secondary to or derivative of speech. According to this opposition, speech is a more authentic form of language, because in speech the ideas and intentions of the speaker are immediately “present” (spoken words, in this idealized picture, directly express what the speaker “has in mind”), whereas in writing they are more remote or “absent” from the speaker or author and thus more liable to misunderstanding. As Derrida argues, however, spoken words function as linguistic signs only to the extent that they can be repeated in different contexts, in the absence of the speaker who originally utters them. Speech qualifies as language, in other words, only to the extent that it has characteristics traditionally assigned to writing, such as “absence,” “difference” (from the original context of utterance), and the possibility of misunderstanding. One indication of this fact, according to Derrida, is that descriptions of speech in Western philosophy often rely on examples and metaphors related to writing. In effect, these texts describe speech as a form of writing, even in cases where writing is explicitly claimed to be secondary to speech. As with the opposition between nature and culture, however, the point of the deconstructive analysis is not to show that the terms of the speech/writing opposition should be inverted—that writing is really prior to speech—nor is it to show that there are no differences between speech and writing. Rather, it is to displace the opposition so as to show that neither term is primary. For Derrida, speech and writing are both forms of a more generalized “arche-writing” (archi-écriture), which encompasses not only all of natural language but any system of representation whatsoever.
The “privileging” of speech over writing is based on what Derrida considers a distorted (though very pervasive) picture of meaning in natural language, one that identifies the meanings of words with certain ideas or intentions in the mind of the speaker or author. Derrida’s argument against this picture is an extension of an insight by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. For Saussure, the concepts we associate with linguistic signs (their “meanings”) are only arbitrarily related to reality, in the sense that the ways in which they divide and group the world are not natural or necessary, reflecting objectively existing categories, but variable (in principle) from language to language. Hence, meanings can be adequately understood only with reference to the specific contrasts and differences they display with other, related meanings. For Derrida, similarly, linguistic meaning is determined by the “play” of differences between words—a play that is “limitless,” “infinite,” and “indefinite”—and not by an original idea or intention existing prior to and outside language. Derrida coined the term différance, meaning both a difference and an act of deferring, to characterize the way in which meaning is created through the play of differences between words. Because the meaning of a word is always a function of contrasts with the meanings of other words, and because the meanings of those words are in turn dependent on contrasts with the meanings of still other words (and so on), it follows that the meaning of a word is not something that is fully present to us; it is endlessly deferred in an infinitely long chain of meanings, each of which contains the “traces” of the meanings on which it depends.
Derrida contends that the opposition between speech and writing is a manifestation of the “logocentrism” of Western culture—i.e., the general assumption that there is a realm of “truth” existing prior to and independent of its representation by linguistic signs. Logocentrism encourages us to treat linguistic signs as distinct from and inessential to the phenomena they represent, rather than as inextricably bound up with them. The logocentric conception of truth and reality as existing outside language derives in turn from a deep-seated prejudice in Western philosophy, which Derrida characterizes as the “metaphysics of presence.” This is the tendency to conceive fundamental philosophical concepts such as truth, reality, and being in terms of ideas such as presence, essence, identity, and origin—and in the process to ignore the crucial role of absence and difference.
Q.5 How do, according to Montessori, environment and freedom of a child play a significant role in his education?
Freedom within limits in Montessori Education
Freedom within limits is a core Montessori concept. For parents that are new to Montessori, this concept may seem contradictory. After all, aren’t limits and rules the opposite of freedom? Some parents may also be concerned that the absence of rules will lead to bad behaviour. Because surely, no rules lead to anarchy, right?