Philosophy and Education

This post is probably somewhat controversial in the world of education.  I argue that before any meaningful standards, and hence meaningful curricula, can take hold in public education, society needs to collectively decide what the purpose of education is.  There’s a vague notion that education is important to personal success, and the economy as a whole.  This is an inadequate philosophical basis of education.  As a result, many standards are stale and pointless (in Mathematics at least).  The Common Core does a better job than previous standards at emphasizing mathematical practice rather than mathematical formulas and procedures.  However, many standards are still devoid of any underlying, unifying philosophical principles.

I submit that there is no point to laying out standards and curricula without a clear vision about what the purpose of education is.  This is controversial, because the purpose or purposes of education are highly debated by various groups with various interests.  However, just because approaching standards from a philosophical point of view is difficult doesn’t mean that the current system is acceptable.

My own point of view is that education should serve at least three distinct purposes:  To give every member of this world a solid basis in the best current understanding of the world in order to frame the context of modern life and modern problems; to help each person strive towards the personal fulfillment afforded by an education of curiosity and deep consideration (i.e. lifelong learning);  and to foster understanding, tolerance, personal well-being, and healthy social behavior.

I believe standards explicitly aimed to meet these principles would look much different than traditional standards (rather than the current implicit aims).  Moreover, they would provide a greater focus that, upon making their underlying principles known, will motivate children to learn in a much deeper sense than current economic and individualistic/materialistic undertones.  Let me know what you think.


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