Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Own Analysis Of My Personal Education Philosophy

After reading and investigating the various philosophies, I have learned how each can be carried out to provide an effective, interesting and intriguing classroom environment.  In my own classroom, my philosophy will be a combination of a teacher-centered approaches and student-centered approaches.  Teacher-centered approaches will enable my students to have disciplined minds thus becoming respectful citizens.  Students who listen thoughtfully and participate respectfully in classroom discussions learn various critical life lessons.  One being, they learn the worth and wisdom of Western culture.  Students will also learn how to appreciate and honor those who brought them this heritage, the guardians of their freedom and culture better known as their educators.  Student-centered approaches will enable my students to embody human dignity as it is learned through my democratic classroom.  Democracy in essence is learned like most things through experience, not necessarily books or curriculum.  All students flourish and thrive in the classroom when they are respected and treated as an equal.  That is a premise I believe all educators should focus on and never lose sight of.  When we motivate, support and believe in our students there is truly no limit as to what they can accomplish or do.  When we disregard or treat our students as beneath us, they are stifled and not motivated when they are told what to do and how to think.  As an educator, why would one ever want to do that?  Isn’t the purpose of teaching to inspire and change the lives of all of our students?  As students in my classroom learn to manage their own learning, they will also master the most important lesson any school or classroom can teach and that is the importance of the individual’s ideas.  When students learn the importance of their individual ideas, they will become confident and competent learners and decision makers in all aspects of their lives not just their education.  All educators can blend their own notions of the five philosophies.  No philosophy is better than the other and each is influenced and shaped by the philosophy of the school as well as the school district.  This notion is important for future educators who are deciding what school they should begin their careers.  It is very important that one agrees, supports and believes in the school’s philosophy and moral because one will be spending the majority of their time and efforts there.  In my own classroom, I will use all three of the student-centered philosophies; progressivism, social reconstructioism, and existentialism.  In progressivism, my role as the educator will be to guide and integrate learning activities so that students can find meaning in their experiences as well as learn to problem solve and become socially aware citizens.  In social reconstructionism, my role as the educator will be to provide authentic learning activities so that my students will become passionate learners. I will also instruct students in all of their academic subjects and aim to improve society while promoting service, meaningful actions and intelligence.  In existentialism, my role as the educator will be to seek out and relate to each and every single one of my students regardless of their academic ability level honestly and genuinely.  I will also be very skilled at creating a free, open and stimulating environment that ignites personal responsibility and accountability in my students as well as the ability to understand and appreciate their own unique individuality.  In my own classroom, I will also dabble in both of the teacher-centered philosophies, essentialism and perennialism.  In essentialism, my role as the educator will be to model academic and moral virtue by being the center of the classroom during some lessons and activities.  I believe we must learn both to listen and learn in order to be truly successful in whatever career path we choose later in life.  My students will become culturally literate individuals and educated model citizens who are not only prepared but leaders in our competitive world and job market.  In perennialism, my role as the educator will correspond with essentialism by serving as a scholarly role model who is philosophically oriented and aids all of my students in seeking out the truth for themselves thus enabling them to increase their own intellectual abilities as well as learn to appreciate learning for themselves.  I am so thrilled, excited, passionate and motivated to teach in my own classroom.  I cannot wait to be a confidant and role model to each and every one of my students.  I also cannot wait to inspire and motivate them to become the best individual they can be in and outside the classroom as well as aid them in pursuing their own dreams.  As the education innovator John Dewey once said, “education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself”.      

Now it is YOUR time!! What do you think your education philosophy is?  Why do you think philosophies are important to our educational system?

The Student-Centered Philosophies

Student-centered philosophies are less authoritarian, less concerned with the past and “training the mind”, and more focus put on individual needs, contemporary relevance and preparing students for a changing future.  Progressivism, social reconstructionism and existentialism all place the individual learner at the center of the education process.  Students and educators work together on determining what should be learned and how it is best to learn it.  School is not seen as an institution that controls and directs youth, or works to preserve and transmit the core culture, but as an institution that works with the youth to improve society or help students realize their individuality. 
Progressivism organizes schools around the concerns, curiosity and real-world experience of students.  The progressive educator facilitates learning by helping students formulate meaningful questions and devise strategies to answer those questions.  Answers are not drawn from lists or even Great Books but rather discovered through real-world experience.  Progressivism is the educational application of a philosophy called pragmatism.  According to pragmatism, the way to determine if an idea has merit is by testing it.  If the idea works in the real world, then it has merit.  When one walks into a progressivist classroom, you will not find an educator standing at the front of the room talking to rows of seated students.  Rather, you will likely see children working in small groups, moving about and talking freely.  Interest centers are filled throughout the room, filled with books, materials, software and projects designed to ignite student interest on a wide array of topics.  Finally, you notice the educator, walking around the room, bending over to talk with individual students and small groups, asking questions and making suggestions.  Progressivists build the curriculum around the experiences, interests and abilities of students and encourage those students to work together cooperatively.  Educators feel no compulsion to focus their students’ attention on one discrete discipline at a time, and students integrate several subjects in their studies. 
Social reconstructionism encourages schools, educators and students to focus their studies and energies on alleviating pervasive social inequities and reconstruct society into a new and more just social order.  Although, social reconstructionism agree with progressivists that schools should concentrate on the needs of students, they split from progressivism in the 1920s after growing impatient with the slow pace of change in schools and society.  Social challenges and problems provide a natural and moral direction for curricular and instructional activities.  Racism, sexism, global warming and environmental pollution, homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, homophobia, AIDS and violence are rooted in misinformation and thrive in ignorance.  Therefore, social reconstructionists believe that school is the ideal place to begin ameliorating social problems.  The educator’s role is to explore social problems, suggest alternative perspectives, and facilitate student analysis of these problems.  A social reconstructionist educator must model democratic principles.  Both students and educators are expected to live and learn in a democratic culture where the students themselves must select educational objectives and social priorities. 
Existentialism is the final student-centered philosophy and places highest priority on students directing their own learning.  Existentialism asserts that the purpose of education is to help children find the meaning and direction in their lives and it rejects the notion that adults should or could direct meaningful learning for children.  Existentialists do not believe that “truth” is objective and applicable to all.  Instead, each of us must look within ourselves to discover our own truth, our own purpose in life.  Teaching students what adults believe they should learn is neither efficient nor effective; in fact, most of this “learning” will be forgotten.  Instead existentialists believe each student should decide what he or she needs to learn, and when to learn it.  This philosophy is considered the most challenging of the philosophies and schools built on this premise might very well seem alien.  However, we are a culture connected to the outside world, and far less connected to our inner voice or as an existentialist might say our essence.  Existentialists believe that schools should focus on thinking about why we are here and finding our purpose in life.  Existentialism in the classroom is a powerful rejection of traditional and particularly essentialist thinking.  In the existentialist classroom, subject matter takes second place to helping the students understand and appreciate themselves as unique individuals.  The educator’s role is to help students define their own essence by exposing them to various paths they may take in life and by creating an environment in which they can freely choose their way.  Existentialism, more than any other educational philosophy, affords students great latitude in their choice of subject matter and activity.  The existentialist curriculum often emphasizes the humanities as a means of providing students with vicarious experiences that will help them unleash their creativity and self-expression.  Existentialist learning is self-paced and self-directed, and includes a great deal of individual contact with the teacher.  Honest interpersonal relationships are emphasized whereas roles and “official” status are de-emphasized.  Although there are elements of existentialism that occasionally appear in public schools, this philosophy has not been widely disseminated.  In the age of high-stakes standardized testing and standards, only a few schools, mostly private, implement existentialist ideals and practices.

After reading both the teacher-centered philosophies and the student-centered philosophies, which one do you feel you will encompass as an educator?  Do you feel as though your philosophy is student-centered or teacher-centered?

The Major Teacher-Centered Philosophies

The major teacher-centered philosophies of education are essentialism and perennialism.  Essentialism strives to teach students the accumulated knowledge of our civilization through core courses in the traditional academic disciplines.  Educators who are essentialists aim to instill students with the “essentials” of academic knowledge, patriotism, and character development.  The back-to-basics or traditional approach is meant to train the mind, promote reasoning, and ensure a common culture among all Americans.  The essentialist classroom urges that traditional disciplines such as math, science, history, foreign language and literature form the foundation of the curriculum also known as the core curriculum.  Essentialists frown upon electives that “water down” academic content.  Only by the mastery of the material are students promoted to the next grade level.  Essentialists maintain that classrooms should be oriented toward the teacher, who should serve as an intellectual and moral role model for their students.  The teachers specifically the administrators decide what is most important for the students to learn and place little emphasis on student interests, particularly when such interests divert time and attention from the academic curriculum.  Essentialist educators rely on achievement test scores to evaluate progress.  They also expect that students will leave school possessing not only basic skills and an extensive body of knowledge but also disciplined, practical minds, capable of applying the curriculum lessons and teachings in the real world.
            Perennialism is stated as being a cousin to essentialism because they both advocate teacher-centered classrooms, both tolerate little flexibility in the curriculum, both implement rigorous standards and both aim to sharpen students’ intellectual powers as well as enhance their moral qualities.  Perennialists organize their schools around books, ideas, and concepts.  They criticize essentialists for the vast amount of factual information they require students to absorb in their push for “cultural literacy”.  Perennial meaning “everlasting” and a perennialist education focuses on enduring themes and questions that span across the ages.  Perennialists recommend that students learn directly from the Great Books also known as the works by history’s finest thinkers and writers that are as meaningful today as they were when they were first written.  Perennialists also believe that the goal of education should be to develop rational thought and to discipline minds to think rigorously.  Their classroom focuses on the mastery of the three “Rs”, reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. They see education as a sorting mechanism, a way to identify and prepare the intellectually gifted for leadership, while providing vocational training for the rest of society.  Those in society that may have received a religious education like myself, may recognize the perennialist philosophy.  Many parochial schools reflect the perennialist tradition with a curriculum focused on analyzing great religious books such as the Bible, the Talmud or the Koran, discerning moral truths and honoring those moral values. 

 What do you think about essentialism and perennialism?  Do you feel these are effective philosophies for the classroom?

Introduction To My Personal Philosophy and The Five Known Educational Philosophies

Since I was in middle school, my dream and chosen career path has been to be an educator and ultimately an administrator in our current educational system.  I strive to make changes in our current educational system to better the effectiveness and quality of the curriculum as well as make it applicable to real life for my future students and staff.   I believe that every educator should have a philosophy of education.  Educators should constantly ponder their own philosophy so they can ensure that they shape their classroom and school life of their students in a way that is practical and relevant.  The root for the word philosophy is made up of two Greek words: philo, meaning “love”, and sophos, meaning “wisdom”.  Educators must take a similar stance to those of the ancient philosophers and question themselves and the educational system so that they can determine what and how their students should be taught.  Every educator differs in the way in which they think, act and believe but we can all share one commonality and that is embodying our own teaching philosophy. 
There are five philosophies of education; essentialism, perennialism, progressivism, social reconstructionism and existentialism.  These five schools of thought do not exhaust the list of possible educational philosophies however they do present strong frameworks for one to constantly redefine their own educational philosophy.  The teacher-centered philosophies emphasize the importance of transferring knowledge, information, and skills from the older and presumably wiser generation to the younger generation.  The educator’s role in these philosophies is to instill respect for authority, perseverance, duty, consideration and practicality.  When students demonstrate through tests and writings that they are competent in academic subjects and traditional skills, and through their actions that they have disciplined minds and adhere to traditional morals and behavior, then both the school and the educator have been successful.