Philosophy of Education
Educational Philosophy / Teaching Philosophy
Truth & Reality as the Foundations for Critical Thinking, Reason and Education
Quotes on Teaching Philosophy of Education from Famous Philosophers
Albert Einstein, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Michel de Montaigne, Plato, Aristotle & Confucius
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)
Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? .. But in truth I know nothing about the philosophy of education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them.
(de Montaigne, On teaching Philosophy of Education)
Plants are shaped by cultivation and men by education. .. We are born weak, we need strength; we are born totally unprovided, we need aid; we are born stupid, we need judgment. Everything we do not have at our birth and which we need when we are grown is given us by education.
(Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, On Philosophy of Education)
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career. I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by a educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilised in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society. (Albert Einstein, 1949, On Education)
(Philosophy of Education / Educational Philosophy / Teaching Philosophy)
My dear children: I rejoice to see you before me today, happy youth of a sunny and fortunate land. Bear in mind that the wonderful things that you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labour in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, and add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common. If you always keep that in mind you will find meaning in life and work and acquire the right attitude towards other nations and ages. (Albert Einstein talking to a group of school children. 1934)
This page on Educational Philosophy has some lovely intelligent philosopher’s quotes on both the importance of education, and what is a good education.
As a philosopher it is clear to me that teaching people how to think correctly and to use language carefully (to work out the truth for themselves) is a pretty good start for education (i.e. by teaching philosophy to students from a young age). However, I realise that this is an unfashionable view in our postmodern times of ‘no absolute truths’ – where all knowledge is incomplete, evolving, and relative to some cultural construction – thus teaching philosophy is seen as some abstract and largely useless exercise. If you browse around this website you will quickly realise that I do not support this current paradigm, which I see as being very destructive in both its affects on the individual and our collective society.
There are clearly many problems with our current education / teaching system, an evolutionary philosophy of education has important contributions to make to improving things. Below you will find a short introduction and then an excellent collection of education quotes from many of the greatest minds in human history. And as Aristotle so astutely observed;
“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” (Aristotle)
On Teaching, Educational Philosophy, What is a good education.
To begin, it is useful to briefly summarise my upbringing as this further explains my interest in education.
I believe I learnt more in 14 months of traveling through Europe in a van when I was ten years old, than in any other year at school. (I was most impressed by the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, and the old ruined castles.) I was a rebellious but generally kind student. I failed first Year University Physics, largely due to non-attendance of lectures. I have a Bachelor of Education (majored in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics). I taught Science for 4 years. Both my parents were teachers/lecturers. Probably the most important reason for taking education seriously though comes from my love of philosophy, which clearly realises that Education is the most important factor in the evolution of both the individual and society.
I think there are some good things happening with the new Outcomes based curriculum that is currently being implemented in the West Australian state schools – I was involved with this at Nyindamurra Family School. What this means is that rather than prescribing a curriculum based upon certain content that must be studied, instead we prescribe the outcomes that we want. (e.g. A child can add up numbers in their head, or appreciate the importance of Nature and the interconnected ecology of life.) Now the way to teach these skills is open. You could go down the beach and count seashells by the seashore if you wanted.
And this is how I bring up my children – every day I use daily things around us to educate them to all sorts of different knowledge. For example, we recently built a giant swing – and children can learn a lot by building and playing on swings (pendulums and pendulum clocks are interesting phenomena, a very great philosopher Christiaan Huygens first studied pendulums at the time of Newton and Leibniz in the late 1600s.). They have to be creative – how do you get a rope over a branch ten meters off the ground? – how do you build a tower using materials in the bush around you, such that you have a platform to jump onto your swing from (using gravity to push you!)?
I should add that an outcomes based system also has numerous problems, as it is difficult to ensure a uniform quality of education. The real solution is to consider both the curriculum used, and the outcomes you hope to achieve – combined with intelligent use of the internet so that the best curriculums that show empirically that they work (produce desired outcomes) can be shared / adapted by teachers from all over the world (we do not need to keep re-inventing the wheel).
I certainly do not believe in just sitting in a classroom – which is unnatural, unhealthy, and should be limited. It is obvious we did not evolve to learn by sitting in classrooms, in segregated age groups – but to be active, out and about doing things, talking, watching and learning from other people and other objects around us. (This is what I would call an evolutionary approach to teaching / philosophy of education – and getting kids more active at school would also greatly help to combat the obesity epidemic of the western world.)
I particularly agree with Einstein, that education (and teaching students philosophy from a young age) has two central functions relating to the individual and their society.
i) To educate the individual as a free individual – To understand and use critical thinking skills for determining the Truth for themselves.
ii) To educate the individual as a part of Society – Virtually all our knowledge, our clothes, our food is produced by others in our society, thus we owe Society and have a responsibility to contribute back to Society (that everyone must give as well as take.) This is ultimately why I began to study Physics and Philosophy, and why I have now read most of the great philosophers, because I believe that Nature is being destroyed on this planet, and that the truth is that this is very foolish and dangerous to humanity. That we evolved from Nature, thus we depend upon Nature for survival. This is not just the obvious concern of global warming and climate change, but the very food we eat, the air we breath, the water we need, all these things are produced by Nature and are being forever changed. Of concern is the obvious fact that there are limits to our evolution as to how far we can change our environment before it starts to adversely affect us (we are well past that point now I think.)
I also strongly agree with Einstein that education should be fun rather than forced – that force and punishment play no part in a good education. Thus I detest the attitude of punishing children for not doing their homework!
I think a lot of education problems could be solved by giving everyone 100 great books to read and discuss with their children – from philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, de Montaigne, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume, Tolstoy, Einstein … etc. There are many great minds through human history, and I largely agree with Nietzsche that education is often corrupted by educators – that we should seek the source of great knowledge, not the corrupted interpretations of it from lesser minds. (Read the original works!)
I further agree with Friedrich Nietzsche that:
There is nothing more necessary than truth, and in comparison with it everything else has only secondary value.
This absolute will to truth: what is it? Is it the will to not allow ourselves to be deceived? Is it the will not to deceive?
One does not want to be deceived, under the supposition that it is injurious, dangerous, or fatal to be deceived. (Nietzsche, 1890)
The fundamental principle of education is to understand the truth for oneself. The fundamental principle of philosophy is to realise that all truth comes from reality. Thus educational philosophy must be founded on the truth of what exists. Recent discoveries of the properties of Space and the Wave Structure of Matter shows that we can understand reality in a simple and sensible way.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Philosopher of Science, Metaphysics, Theoretical Physics.
PS – I am currently re-writing all the main philosophy / physics pages. For these education pages I hope to write a short treatise on how we can improve our educational system, founded on one simple principle.
All things in the universe are interconnected and evolving (the dynamic unity of reality).
The central thesis is that education should be founded on truth and reality, and in particular how this relates to the interconnection of Mind (cultural knowledge and truth), Matter(biological knowledge and how our bodies are interconnected with other matter around us) and Space (our environment, society). These three things are clearly interconnected (in physical reality), so you could call this an evolutionary / ecological approach to education, founded on a metaphysics of Space / wave structure of matter.