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Idealism and the Aims of Education

Idealism
Introduction
Idealism is the metaphysical and epistemological doctrine that ideas or thoughts make up
fundamental reality. Essentially it is any philosophy which argues that the only thing actually
knowable is consciousness whereas we never can be sure that matter or anything in the outside
world really exists thus the only the real things are mental entities not physical things which exist
only in the sense that they are perceived. A broad definition of idealism could include many
religious viewpoints although an idealistic viewpoint need not necessarily include God,
supernatural beings or existences after death. In general parlance, idealism is also used to
describe a persons high ideals (principles or values actively pursued as a goal) the word ideal
is also commonly used as an adjective to designate qualities of perfection, desirability and
excellence.

Definition:
Idealistic philosophy takes many and varied forms but the postulate underlying all this is that
mind or spirit is the essential world stuff, that the rule reality is a material character.

Idealism in education:

Idealism pervades all the creation and it is an underlying, unlimited and ultimate force which
regions supreme overall mind and matter. They all advocate its great importance in education and
lay more emphasis on aims and principles of education than on models, aids and devices.

Idealism and Aims of Education:


The following are the aims of education according to the philosophy of idealism:

Self-realization or Exhalation of Personality:


According to the idealism man is the most creation of God. Self- realization involves full of
knowledge of the self and it is the first aim of education The aim of education especially
associated with idealism is the exhalation of personality or self-realization it is the making actual
or real personalities of the self.

To Ensure Spiritual Development:


Idealistic give greater importance to spiritual values in comparison with material attainments.
The second aim of education is to develop the child mentally, morally and above all spiritually.
Education must enable mankind through its culture to enter more and more fully into the
spiritual realm.

Development of Intelligences and Rationality:


In all things their regions an external law this all pervading energetic, self conscious and hence
eternal law this all pervading energetic. This unity is God. Education should lead and guide man
to face with nature and to unity and God.

Idealism and Curriculum


Idealists give more importance to thoughts, feelings ideals and values than to the child and his
activities. They firmly hold that curriculum should be concerned with the whole humanity and its
experience.

Views of Plato about curriculum


According to Plato the aim of life is to realize God. Which is possible only by pursing high
ideals namely Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Three types of activities namely intellectual,
aesthetic and moral cancan attain these high ideals.

Views of Herbart Curriculum


According to Herbart the idealistic aim of education is the promotion of moral values. He gave
prime importance to subjects like Literature, History, Art, Music, and Poetry together with other
humanities and secondary place to scientific subjects.

History of Idealism
Plato is one of the first philosophers to discuss what might be termed idealism. Usually Plato
referred to as Platonic Realism. This is because of his doctrine describes forms or universals.
(Which are certainly non-material ideals in a broad sense). Plato maintained that these forms
had their own independent existence. Plato believed that full reality it is achieved only through
thought and could be describe as a non-subjective transcendental idealist. The term
metaphysics literally means beyond the physical This area of Philosophy a focuses on the
nature of reality. Metaphysics attempts to find unity across the domains of experiences thought.
At the time metaphysical level there are four broad philosophical schools of thought that apply to
education today. They are idealism, realism, pragmatism (sometimes called experientialism and
existentialism). Plato was an idealist philosopher who founded the first school of philosophy in
Athens. His work forms the foundation of western philosophy. His presentation of philosophical

works in the form of Dialogues gave the world of philosophy the dialectic. Plato took
Socrates maxim virtue is knowledge and extrapolated it into an elaborate theory of knowledge
which envisaged a level of reality beyond that immediately available to the senses but accessible
to reason and intellect. The students of Platos academy the first school of philosophy in Athens,
were to go beyond the concrete world of perception and come to understand the universal
ideas or forms which represented a higher level of reality. Platos idealism extended to the
concept of an ideal state as outlined in his Republic. This was a state ruled by an intellectual
elite of philosopher kings.

Methodological realism accepts the axiological view that truth is one of the essential
aims of science. Following Popper and Levi, truthlikeness as the aim of science,
combines the goals of truth and information. This chapter discusses the relations
between truthlikeness and other epistemic utilities like explanatory power (Hempel),
problemsolving capacity (Laudan), and simplicity (Reichenbach). While rationality
in science can be defined relative to the goals accepted within scientific
communities at different times, a critical realist defines scientific progress in terms
of increasing truthlikeness. It is argued that progress in this sense can be assessed,
relative to empirical evidence, by the notion of expected verisimilitude. An
abductive argument is formulated to defend realism as the best (and even the only)
explanation of the empirical and practical success of sciehilosophy of Realism in
Education

1. 1. THE PHILOSOPHY OF REALISM By: Ann Sheryn L. Vitug PHILOSOPHY OF


EDUCATION
2. 2. I. QUOTE II. WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY OF REALISM? III. FAMOUS
PHILOSOPHERS IV. FOUR FORMS OF REALISM a) SCHOLASTIC REALISM b)
HUMANISTIC REALISM c) SOCIAL REALISM d) SENSE-REALISM V.
IMPLICATIONS OF REALISM IN EDUCATION VI. PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY VII.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

3. 3. QUOTE Knowing ones self is the beginning of all wisdom. At the center of your
being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
Lao Tzu Aristotle
4. 4. WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY OF REALISM? Dictionary: the doctrine that
universals have a real objective existence represents the theory that particular things
exist independently of our perception Books: It is an attitude of mind, a mode of thinking
and an attempt to explain the nature of things (Dhiman. 2008) Matter has its own
existence independently of our mind. A doctrine that the objects of our senses exist
independently of their being known or perceived
5. 5. FAMOUS PHILOSOPHERS Aristotle (384-322 BCE) First prominent Realist
philosopher Father of Realism A pupil of Plato
6. 6. ARISTOTLE 1. Design and order are present in the universe. 2. Ideas or forms such as
the idea of God or idea of a tree can exist without matter, but no matter can exist without
form. 3. Each thing has a purpose or function. 4. Humans are rational creatures fulfilling
their purpose when they think. Thinking is their highest characteristic.
7. 7. ARISTOTLE 5. Person who follows a true purpose leads a rational life of moderation
avoiding extremes. Golden Mean a path between extremes 6. Chief good is happiness.
Happiness: harmony and balance of soul and body, which is through education. Our
highest good comes through thinking.
8. 8. ARISTOTLE 7. The knowledge of a thing, beyond its classification and description,
requires an explanation of causality (why it is) or Four Causes: MATERIAL CAUSE
(THE SUBSTANCE OF WHICH THE THING IS MADE) FORMAL CAUSE (ITS
DESIGN THAT SHAPES THE MATERIAL OBJECT) EFFICIENT CAUSE (ITS
MAKER OR BUILDER) FINAL CAUSE (ITS PURPOSE OR FUNCTION) -- wood,
bricks, and nails -- the sketch or blueprint -- the carpenter who builds it -- is that it is a
place in which to live: House
9. 9. ARISTOTLE 8. Developed a method for testing the truth of statements, which he
called the syllogism. Example: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man Therefore, Socrates
is mortal. *Deductive logic
10. 10. FAMOUS PHILOSOPHERS ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274) Italian priest
Thomism Roman Catholic Reconciled Aristotelian philosophy with Christian
concepts Word of God (faith) = thinking of Aristotle Reason and faith = harmonious
realms
11. 11. THOMAS AQUINAS 5 WAYS TO PROVE GODS EXISTENCE (SUMMA
THEOLOGICA) : l) The Proof from Motion - The First Mover 2) The Proof from
Efficient Cause - The First Maker 3) The Proof from Contingency - The Necessary Being
4) The Proof from Degrees of Perfection - The Most Perfect Being 5) The Proof from
Design - The Designer/ Creator

12. 12. THOMAS AQUINAS God made it possible to acquire true knowledge so that we
may know Him better. Because we are children of God, our best thinking should agree
with Christian tenets. Each person is born with an immortal soul. Aquinas epitomized
the scholasticism of the Middle Ages. Scholasticism is an approach that emphasized the
humans eternal soul and salvation.
13. 13. FAMOUS PHILOSOPHERS Francis Bacon (1561-1626) Father of modern
sKcineonwcleedge is Power. John Locke (1632-1704) Medical researcher & followed
the work of Francis Bacon
14. 14. FRANCIS BACON Challenged the Aristotelian logic and use of theological
methods for examining scientific principles Focused on scientificor inductive
method uncovered errors in assumptions previously taken for granted Science is a tool
for creating new knowledge. Human knowledge is divided into 3: History, Poetry,
Philosophy
15. 15. FRANCIS BACON He believed we should analyze all previously accepted
knowledge and we should rid ourselves of the four idols that we 'bow down' before: Idol
of the Den/Cave (beliefs due to limited experience) Idol of the Tribe (believing because
most people believe) Idol of the Marketplace (beliefs due to misuse of words) Idol of the
Theatre (subjective beliefs colored by religion and personal philosophy)
16. 16. JOHN LOCKE Ordered sense data and reflected on them No such things as innate
ideasmind at birth is a tabula rasa (young mind not affected by experience). As an
empiricist, he believed we gain knowledge from what we experience. Educational
views: children should be taught as emerging adults because they are rational creatures.
A sound mind in a sound body" is a short but full description of a happy state in this
world.
17. 17. THE PHILOSOPHICAL POSITION OF REALISM HOLDS THAT: External world
is the reality. Man will discover reality with the use of science and common sense
through education or learning. Mind is functioning & is geared towards creativity.
Reality can be proved by observation, experience, experiment and scientific reasoning.
Values must be studied to be applied in the actual setting.
18. 18. ARISTOTLE (384-322 BCE) FATHER OF REALISM FORMS OF REALISM 1)
SCHOLASTIC REALISM A demand for truth or reality rather than beauties of Roman
days arose 2) HUMANISTIC REALISM A reaction against emphasis on form & style of
old classical literature 3) SOCIAL REALISM A reaction against production of scholars &
professional men & neglect of practice 4) SENSE-REALISM A reaction against realities
found in the classics or everyday human activities ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274)
MIDDLE AGES E X P O N E N T S O F R E A L I S M FRANOIS RABELAIS (14831553) JOHN MILTON (1608-1741) MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE (1533-1592) FRANCIS
BACON (1561-1626) JOHANN AMOS COMENIUS (1592-1670) JOHN LOCKE
(1632-1704)

19. 19. 1. SCHOLASTIC REALISM It started when medieval thinkers wanted to bring
together a relation between faith (Christian theology) and reason (Classical Philosophy).
St. Thomas Aquinas who wrote Summa Theologica used philosophy to help explain the
doctrine and mysteries of the church. Characteristics: Relied on authorities from the
past; Synthesizing of knowledge; Deductive approach to reasoning; Use of syllogistic
logic Scholastic schools had two methods of teaching: 1."lectio" (the simple reading of
a text by a teacher/ no questions were permitted); 2. "disputatio" (where question to be
disputed was announced beforehand) Education is the process by which he lifts himself
up to the eternal.
20. 20. 2. HUMANISTIC REALISM Reaction against the emphasis on form and style of
the old classical literature. Humanist realist emphasized content and ideas. Aim: To
acquire meaning & spirit of the classics Purpose: to master his own environing life,
natural & social thru knowledge of broader life of ancients The study of old literature
(Literature of the Greeks & Roman) is a means to understand the practical life.
Humanists believed that classical literature should be studied for the information and the
knowledge of the facts of the pasts so that such knowledge could be used for the
preparation for practical living (answer to any problem that man might need). Basic
concerns in education: Physical, moral and social development
21. 21. 3. SOCIAL REALISM Reaction against a type of education that produces scholars
and professional men to the neglect of the man of practice Aim: To train a gentleman
for active participation in social life and social judgment and to prepare the practical man
of the world Social realists follow the method of travel of journey method. Direct
contact with things, people & social conditions thru travel rather than books. Study of
gymnastics, sports, riding, modern languages, customs of other countries Study of ones
self but also others Social realism explains that education should equip learners for a
happy and successful life as a man of the world.
22. 22. 4 . SENSE-REALISM Emphasizes the training of the senses: Senses = gateways of
knowledge; Learning takes place = operation of the senses. Amalgam of humanistic &
social realism Sense-realism attached more importance to the study of natural sciences
and contemporary social life. Aim: To develop a natural society by working in accord
with the laws of nature Purpose: Happiness with God Thru education, man can still
know laws of nature and thereby control nature. 2 characteristics of representatives:
formulation of basic assumptions formulation of new curriculum based on natural
sciences & contemporary life
23. 23. 4 . SENSE-REALISM The sense-realists emphasized the 3 things: a. Application of
inductive method (Bacon) in order to organize and simplify the instructional process b.
To replace instruction in Latin by the instruction in Vernacular c. To substitute new
scientific and social studies in place of the studies in language and literature As
Innovators, their goal is discovery and utilization of the secrets of nature for the real and
practical benefits they could bring to man

24. 24. IMPLICATIONS OF REALISM IN EDUCATION AIMS CURRICULUM


METHODS OF TEACHING TEACHER SCHOOL
25. 25. AIMS OF REALIST EDUCATION Understanding the material world through
inquiry A study of science and the scientific method A need to know the world in order
to ensure survival and good life Basic, essential knowledge with a no-nonsense
approach Transmit culture and develop human nature
26. 26. THE REALIST CURRICULUM Problem-centered (subject-centered) Practical
and useful Highly organized and systematic Physical activity has educational value
(Locke) Extensive use of pictures (Comenius) Attention to the complete person
(Locke) Use of objects in education (Maria Montessori) Highly organized, separate
and systematically arranged (Science, Social Sciences and Mathematics)
27. 27. REALIST METHODS OF TEACHING: Emphasis on critical reasoning through
observation Supports accountability and performance-based teaching Scientific
research and development Mastery of facts: Recitation, experimentation, demonstration,
drills, exercises Education should proceed from simple to complex and from concrete to
abstract. Enhanced learning thru direct or indirect experiences: Field trips, lectures,
films, TV, audio-visual aids, computer technology & library. Learning is based on facts
analysis questioning. Vernacular to be the medium of instruction. Precision and
order: ringing bells, time periods, daily lesson plans, pre-packaged curriculum materials
Children should be given positive rewards
28. 28. REALISM AND THE TEACHER A teacher should be educated and well versed
with the customs of belief and rights and duties of people, and the trends. He must have
full mastery of the knowledge of present life. He must be able to expose and guide the
student towards the hard realities of life. (neither pessimist, nor optimist) He must be
able to co-relate between utility in daily life and education. He should define simple
rules. He should teach subjects in proper order. He needs to find out the interest of the
child and to teach accordingly.
29. 29. SCHOOL ORGANIZATION INFLUENCED BY REALISM 1) School organization
would be based on the real needs of society. (not due to politics) 2) The opening of
science classes in every school is a must. 3) Co-education is a natural happening so it
cannot be rejected. 4) School is the mirror of the society. It is a miniature form of society
and it presents the real picture of the society.
30. 30. REALISM Reality (ontology) A world of things Truth or knowledge (epistemology)
Correspondence and sensation (as we see it) Goodness (axiology) Laws of nature
Teaching reality doctrine Subjects of physical world: math, science, social studies
Teaching truth Teaching for mastery of information: demonstrate, recite Teaching
goodness Training in rules of conduct Why schools exist To reveal the order of the world
and universe What should be taught Laws of physical reality Role of the teacher
Displays, imparts knowledge Role of the student Manipulates, passive participation
School's attitude towards Always coming toward perfection, change orderly change

31. 31. PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY Question: Am I a Realist?


32. 32. BIBLIOGRAPHY Bauzon, Prisciliano T. Fundamental Philosophies of Education
2004. National Book Store Brennen, Annick M. Coursework booklet: Philosophy of
Education. Northern Caribbean University. 1999 Cordasco, Francesco. A Brief History of
Education. Reprinted in USA 1987 Dhiman, O.P. Foundations of Education. APH
Publishing, New Delhi. 2008 Forkner, Carl B. The Influence of Realism on Modern
Education: A Historical Review. Global Education Journal, 2013(1), Mar 2013 Garder,
Jostein, Sophies World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy. New York: Farrar,
Straus & Giroux, 2007. Hopson, Teresa. http://www.slideshare.net/writemind/realismand-its-role-in-education. Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. 2007 Realism',
Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/realism?s=t. Realism
http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
nce. hat is a philosophy of education, and why should it be important to you?

Behind every school and every teacher is a set of related beliefs--a philosophy of education-that influences what and how students are taught. A philosophy of education represents answers
to questions about the purpose of schooling, a teacher's role, and what should be taught and by
what methods.

How do teacher-centered philosophies of education differ from student-centered


philosophies of education?
Teacher-centered philosophies tend to be more authoritarian and conservative, and emphasize
the values and knowledge that have survived through time. The major teacher-centered
philosophies of education are essentialism and perennialism.
Student-centered philosophies are more focused on individual needs, contemporary
relevance, and preparing students for a changing future. School is seen as an institution that
works with youth to improve society or help students realize their individuality. Progressivism,
social reconstructionism, and existentialism place the learner at the center of the educational
process: Students and teachers work together on determining what should be learned and how
best to learn it.
What are some major philosophies of education in the United States today?
Essentialism focuses on teaching the essential elements of academic and moral knowledge.
Essentialists urge that schools get back to the basics; they believe in a strong core curriculum and
high academic standards.
Perennialism focuses on the universal truths that have withstood the test of time.
Perennialists urge that students read the Great Books and develop their understanding of the
philosophical concepts that underlie human knowledge.
Progressivism is based largely on the belief that lessons must be relevant to the students in
order for them to learn. The curriculum of a progressivist school is built around the personal
experiences, interests, and needs of the students.

Social reconstructionists separated from progressivism because they desired more direct and
immediate attention to societal ills. They are interested in combining study and social action, and
believe that education can and should go hand in hand with ameliorating social problems.
Existentialism is derived from a powerful belief in human free will, and the need for
individuals to shape their own futures. Students in existentialist classrooms control their own
education. Students are encouraged to understand and appreciate their uniqueness and to assume
responsibility for their actions.

How are these philosophies reflected in school practices?


Essentialism and perennialism give teachers the power to choose the curriculum, organize the
school day, and construct classroom activities. The curriculum reinforces a predominantly
Western heritage while viewing the students as vessels to be filled and disciplined in the proven
strategies of the past. Essentialists focus on cultural literacy, while perennialists work from the
Great Books.
Progressivism, social reconstructionism, and existentialism view the learner as the central
focus of classroom activities. Working with student interests and needs, teachers serve as guides
and facilitators in assisting students to reach their goals. The emphasis is on the future, and on
preparing students to be independent-thinking adults. Progressivists strive for relevant, hands-on
learning. Social reconstructionists want students to actively work to improve society.
Existentialists give students complete freedom, and complete responsibility, with regard to their
education.

What are some of the psychological and cultural factors influencing education?
Constructivism has its roots in cognitive psychology, and is based on the idea that people
construct their understanding of the world. Constructivist teachers gauge a student's prior
knowledge, then carefully orchestrate cues, classroom activities, and penetrating questions to
push students to higher levels of understanding.
B. F. Skinner advocated behaviorism as an effective teaching strategy. According to Skinner,
rewards motivate students to learn material even if they do not fully understand why it will have
value in their futures. Behavior modification is a system of gradually lessening extrinsic rewards.
The practices and beliefs of peoples in other parts of the world, such as informal and oral
education, offer useful insights for enhancing our own educational practices, but they are insights
too rarely considered, much less implemented.

What were the contributions of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to Western philosophy, and
how are their legacies reflected in education today?
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the three most legendary ancient Greek philosophers.
Socrates is hailed today as the personification of wisdom and the philosophical life. He gave rise
to what is now called the Socratic method, in which the teacher repeatedly questions students to
help them clarify their own deepest thoughts.

Plato, Socrates's pupil, crafted eloquent dialogues that present different philosophical
positions on a number of profound questions. Plato believed that a realm of externally
existing"ideas," or"forms," underlies the physical world.
Aristotle, Plato's pupil, was remarkable for the breadth as well as the depth of his knowledge.
He provided a synthesis of Plato's belief in the universal, spiritual forms and a scientist's belief in
the physical world we observe through our senses. He taught that the virtuous life consists of
controlling desires by reason and by choosing the moderate path between extremes.

How do metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and logic factor
into a philosophy of education?
Metaphysics deals with the nature of reality, its origin, and its structure. Metaphysical beliefs
are reflected in curricular choices: Should we study the natural world, or focus on spiritual or
ideal forms?
Epistemology examines the nature and origin of human knowledge. Epistemological beliefs
influence teaching methods."How we know" is closely related to how we learn and therefore,
how we should teach.
Ethics is the study of what is"good" or"bad" in human behavior, thoughts, and feelings. What
should we teach about"good" and"bad," and should we teach that directly, or by modeling?
Political philosophy analyzes how past and present societies are arranged and governed and
proposes ways to create better societies in the future. How will a classroom be organized, and
what will that say about who wields power? How will social institutions and national
governments be analyzed?
Aesthetics is concerned with the nature of beauty. What is of worth? What works are deemed

Section III Philosophical Perspectives in


Education Part 3
of value to be studied or emulated?

Educational Philosophies
Within the epistemological frame that focuses on the nature of knowledge and how we come to
know, there are four major educational philosophies, each related to one or more of the general
or world philosophies just discussed. These educational philosophical approaches are currently
used in classrooms the world over. They are Perennialism, Essentialism, Progressivism, and
Reconstructionism. These educational philosophies focus heavily on WHAT we should teach, the
curriculum aspect.
Perennialism
For Perennialists, the aim of education is to ensure that students acquire understandings about the
great ideas of Western civilization. These ideas have the potential for solving problems in any
era. The focus is to teach ideas that are everlasting, to seek enduring truths which are constant,

not changing, as the natural and human worlds at their most essential level, do not change.
Teaching these unchanging principles is critical. Humans are rational beings, and their minds
need to be developed. Thus, cultivation of the intellect is the highest priority in a worthwhile
education. The demanding curriculum focuses on attaining cultural literacy, stressing students'
growth in enduring disciplines. The loftiest accomplishments of humankind are emphasized the
great works of literature and art, the laws or principles of science. Advocates of this educational
philosophy are Robert Maynard Hutchins who developed a Great Books program in 1963 and
Mortimer Adler, who further developed this curriculum based on 100 great books of western
civilization.
Essentialism
Essentialists believe that there is a common core of knowledge that needs to be transmitted to
students in a systematic, disciplined way. The emphasis in this conservative perspective is on
intellectual and moral standards that schools should teach. The core of the curriculum is essential
knowledge and skills and academic rigor. Although this educational philosophy is similar in
some ways to Perennialism, Essentialists accept the idea that this core curriculum may change.
Schooling should be practical, preparing students to become valuable members of society. It
should focus on facts-the objective reality out there--and "the basics," training students to read,
write, speak, and compute clearly and logically. Schools should not try to set or influence
policies. Students should be taught hard work, respect for authority, and discipline. Teachers are
to help students keep their non-productive instincts in check, such as aggression or mindlessness.
This approach was in reaction to progressivist approaches prevalent in the 1920s and 30s.
William Bagley, took progressivist approaches to task in the journal he formed in 1934. Other
proponents of Essentialism are: James D. Koerner (1959), H. G. Rickover (1959), Paul
Copperman (1978), and Theodore Sizer (1985).
Progressivism
Progressivists believe that education should focus on the whole child, rather than on the content
or the teacher. This educational philosophy stresses that students should test ideas by active
experimentation. Learning is rooted in the questions of learners that arise through experiencing
the world. It is active, not passive. The learner is a problem solver and thinker who makes
meaning through his or her individual experience in the physical and cultural context. Effective
teachers provide experiences so that students can learn by doing. Curriculum content is derived
from student interests and questions. The scientific method is used by progressivist educators so
that students can study matter and events systematically and first hand. The emphasis is on
process-how one comes to know. The Progressive education philosophy was established in
America from the mid 1920s through the mid 1950s. John Dewey was its foremost proponent.
One of his tenets was that the school should improve the way of life of our citizens through
experiencing freedom and democracy in schools. Shared decision making, planning of teachers
with students, student-selected topics are all aspects. Books are tools, rather than authority.
Reconstructionism/Critical Theory
Social reconstructionism is a philosophy that emphasizes the addressing of social questions and a
quest to create a better society and worldwide democracy. Reconstructionist educators focus on a
curriculum that highlights social reform as the aim of education. Theodore Brameld (1904-1987)
was the founder of social reconstructionism, in reaction against the realities of World War II. He

recognized the potential for either human annihilation through technology and human cruelty or
the capacity to create a beneficent society using technology and human compassion. George
Counts (1889-1974) recognized that education was the means of preparing people for creating
this new social order.
Critical theorists, like social reconstructionists, believe that systems must be changed to
overcome oppression and improve human conditions. Paulo Freire (1921-1997) was a Brazilian
whose experiences living in poverty led him to champion education and literacy as the vehicle
for social change. In his view, humans must learn to resist oppression and not become its victims,
nor oppress others. To do so requires dialog and critical consciousness, the development of
awareness to overcome domination and oppression. Rather than "teaching as banking," in which
the educator deposits information into students' heads, Freire saw teaching and learning as a
process of inquiry in which the child must invent and reinvent the world.
For social reconstructionists and critical theorists, curriculum focuses on student experience and
taking social action on real problems, such as violence, hunger, international terrorism, inflation,
and inequality. Strategies for dealing with controversial issues (particularly in social studies and
literature), inquiry, dialogue, and multiple perspectives are the focus. Community-based learning
and bringing the world into the classroom are also strategies.
Behaviorism
Behaviorist theorists believe that behavior is shaped deliberately by forces in the environment
and that the type of person and actions desired can be the product of design. In other words,
behavior is determined by others, rather than by our own free will. By carefully shaping
desirable behavior, morality and information is learned. Learners will acquire and remember
responses that lead to satisfying aftereffects. Repetition of a meaningful connection results in
learning. If the student is ready for the connection, learning is enhanced; if not, learning is
inhibited. Motivation to learn is the satisfying aftereffect, or reinforcement.
Behaviorism is linked with empiricism, which stresses scientific information and observation,
rather than subjective or metaphysical realities. Behaviorists search for laws that govern human
behavior, like scientists who look for pattern sin empirical events. Change in behavior must be
observable; internal thought processes are not considered.
Ivan Pavlov's research on using the reinforcement of a bell sound when food was presented to a
dog and finding the sound alone would make a dog salivate after several presentations of the
conditioned stimulus, was the beginning of behaviorist approaches. Learning occurs as a result of
responses to stimuli in the environment that are reinforced by adults and others, as well as from
feedback from actions on objects. The teacher can help students learn by conditioning them
through identifying the desired behaviors in measurable, observable terms, recording these
behaviors and their frequencies, identifying appropriate reinforcers for each desired behavior,
and providing the reinforcer as soon as the student displays the behavior. For example, if
children are supposed to raise hands to get called on, we might reinforce a child who raises his

hand by using praise, "Thank you for raising your hand." Other influential behaviorists include
B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) and James B. Watson (1878-1958).
Humanism
The roots of humanism are found in the thinking of Erasmus (1466-1536), who attacked the
religious teaching and thought prevalent in his time to focus on free inquiry and rediscovery of
the classical roots from Greece and Rome. Erasmus believed in the essential goodness of
children, that humans have free will, moral conscience, the ability to reason, aesthetic sensibility,
and religious instinct. He advocated that the young should be treated kindly and that learning
should not be forced or rushed, as it proceeds in stages. Humanism was developed as an
educational philosophy by Rousseau (1712-1778) and Pestalozzi, who emphasized nature and the
basic goodness of humans, understanding through the senses, and education as a gradual and
unhurried process in which the development of human character follows the unfolding of nature.
Humanists believe that the learner should be in control of his or her own destiny. Since the
learner should become a fully autonomous person, personal freedom, choice, and responsibility
are the focus. The learner is self-motivated to achieve towards the highest level possible.
Motivation to learn is intrinsic in humanism.
Recent applications of humanist philosophy focus on the social and emotional well-being of the
child, as well as the cognitive. Development of a healthy self-concept, awareness of the
psychological needs, helping students to strive to be all that they can are important concepts,
espoused in theories of Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Alfred Adler that are found in
classrooms today. Teachers emphasize freedom from threat, emotional well-being, learning
processes, and self-fulfillment.
*Some theorists call Rousseau's philosophy naturalism and consider this to be a world or
metaphysical level philosophy (e.g. Gutek)