Philosophical Perspectives on Education

A philosophical approach to education is a valuable tool for improving education systems. For example, philosophers can contribute to the debate by improving compromise theory by offering a whole social philosophy. Philosophers can also propose a whole public philosophy for public school education, stating what dispositions students should be encouraged to develop in both public and private schools. Finally, philosophers can advocate appealing to scientific inquiry and experimentation to improve educational practices.

But how should philosophers approach education?

Philosophical perspectives on education are largely drawn from Western European thinkers. Philosophers have endorsed the idea of an ideal education system and the central role of reason in educational practices. However, their philosophical perspectives vary. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education includes essays on the guiding ideals of education, educational practices, and products. The volume also contains an essay on the importance of authenticity and Socratic teaching. The editors have included a thorough bibliography to complement their book.

Postmodern philosophers of education reflect this tension

Neo-Marxists, feminists, and Foucauldians have all made contributions to the field. In addition to these authors, philosophers of education can learn from neo-Marxists and feminists, who have attempted to avoid stifling language and assuming a position of authority. But philosophers should be careful not to fall into the trap of making generalizations that are not grounded in reality.

Prescriptive philosophers typically refer to the Great Works of philosophy

These philosophers developed systems that encompass epistemological, ethical, and social issues. They rarely viewed philosophy of education as its own area of inquiry. However, they did work out its implications in practice. Adler’s Paideia Proposal is an example of the latter. This philosophy of education advocate has converged with feminist ethic of care advocates, which often imply a radical agenda regarding reforming educational practices.

The philosophers of education have long focused on indoctrination

While indoctrination may seem like a simple process of imparting knowledge, the practice often involves manipulation or misdirection of a person. For this reason, the extant analyses tend to focus on the methods employed, the content and the aim of the indoctrinator. This kind of education inevitably produces a lack of critical capacity and uncritical dispositions to believe.

Rawls’ conception

of justice protects the interests of the people who are less fortunate in the educational competition. For Rawls, equality of liberty is always morally superior to equality of opportunity. Moreover, inequality of income is only acceptable to serve the interests of the least privileged members of society. Thus, a fair and equitable distribution of educational resources does not equate to equality. In short, a fair and just society should be based on the principle of justice and equity.

While Aristotle considered

fostering good judgment to be the highest goal of education, he was more optimistic in terms of the typical student attaining wisdom. Aristotle stressed the importance of moral virtue and character development and insisted that the development of virtues should occur in the context of a community-guided practice. Furthermore, he argued that individual rights should not always outweigh the interests of the community. These views reflect current trends in virtue theory and communitarianism in political philosophy.

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