My Philosophy Of Education

My Philosophy Of Education

More than 2000 years have passed since my principal instructor Socrates cautioned his students that the unexamined life is not worth living. Such a statement demonstrates a basic tenet of my own philosophy of education: education is a process in which the individual must routinely question the very roots of self-knowledge. The goal of such a process is the creation of a total individual. For the ancient Greeks, such an education was not confined to phenomenal knowledge alone. Instead, the total individual is an amalgam of physical, spiritual and intellectual excellence.

Integral to my philosophy of education is the notion that each student is a unique individual and must be treated with respect. Keeping to the Socratic idiom, students must not be taught this or that bit of knowledge. Rather, the student must be taught how to learn and how to think. Therefore, education is really little more than a process in which the student learns how to learn. Such a process is set in motion if the instructor treats the student as an extension of himself. In this way, the improvement of the student is necessarily the improvement of the instructor. This explains why I teach since I too am a student in search of self-improvement.

The relationship between student and instructor is grounded in mutual trust. The instructor ought not to engage the student for the sole purpose of imparting his knowledge. The instructor must be skillful in pulling knowledge from the student – according to Socrates, the student has knowledge. The role of the instructor is to force the student to reveal that knowledge through a clever dialogue of question and answer. Such a dialogue is predicated on trust and mutual respect. If such a dialogue is not forthcoming, then the process of education may fall victim to the admonition of Cicero: the authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.

The ultimate purpose of education is to produce individuals who strive for excellence for themselves, their peers, and their community. The well-rounded individual, the total individual, is one in whom the higher ideals of life (read virtue or arete) have been instilled. In this way, students enter the rest of their lives with the valuable lesson that they can make a difference. In the final analysis, the student infused with the higher ideals of life will take those ideas into the larger community whereby the improvement of self is translated into the improvement of all.

My philosophy of education also is based on my understanding of man, nature, and the relation between man and nature.

There may be many characteristics that distinguish man from the other animals. One is that man has moral values shared in his community. Another is that he has the capability to understand nature. By nature I mean the world as a whole, including man himself. The process of man’s constant interactions with nature (including interactions with himself since he is part of nature) is the process of his understanding of nature. This process will never come to an end, since nature is ever changing and unlimited. We may call the knowledge shared in his community the community truth. The level of community truth depends on the effort each community member makes to interact with nature.

After a child is born, he has the potential to become a man from both moral and intellectual aspects. The principal aim of education is just to maximize this potential of each child, regardless of his colour, race, or economic and social status of his parents.

Moral education should be concentrated on the moral values shared in the community. The child should know what a qualified community member should do and what he should not, what is valued in the community and what is not, and why. The child’s ability to judge and criticize the evils in the community should also be fostered so that he can get immunized from these “diseases.”

The intellectual education should include the introduction of the established community truth and some possible methods to test the truth and make one’s own inventions. The child should be encouraged to join nature and interact with nature in his learning as much as possible.

Both moral and intellectual education is very important for the child. Failure in intellectual education may result in a parasite for his community; failure in moral education may result in an educated devil, and an educated devil is vastly more formidable and appalling than an uneducated one.

Who should be responsible for the education of the child? My answer is his family, his teacher, and the community. Each part is indispensable to the triple educational network. Failure of the cooperation of any part may affect the work of the other two, and may even result in the total failure of the education of the child.

As a teacher, my role in the education of my students is not a referee who judges which one is right, which one is wrong, or which one is the most competent of a group. The role I should play is a coach who gives instructions and advice with the purpose of maximizing each student’s potential and helps him become a qualified human being. I like the idea of learning community, where students and teachers, in a relaxing environment, help each other and learn from each other. I understand that it is natural for students to make mistakes in their learning. It is often the case that today’s success just resulted from yesterday’s failure.

To create a proper environment for my students to grow is important; to set an example for them is equally important, especially in terms of moral education. Teaching is done not only through words, but also through an example. What a teacher does often means more to his students than what he says.

The children we are teaching today are our future. The task for the preparation of future is heavy but glorious. As teachers, we are not only responsible for our students, but also responsible for our human community. With the purpose of having a bright future, we need to work hard, together with parents and other community members, to maximize each student’s potential and help him become a qualified human being.

Thirdly my philosophy embraces that education should prepare students for effective service in an increasingly postmodern world. Informed citizens need to understand the world as it is, as well as possess a vision for what it can be. While today some individuals question the idea of a stable, objective reality that can be known, and may affirm a relativistic or postmodern world-view, Christians affirm the existence of a transcendent God who has revealed moral absolutes and sustains a stable universe. While life sometimes appears to be meaningless and chaotic, Christians understand that this is due to the presence of sin and evil in the world, the consequence of the fall of all creation–including humanity–as recorded in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Yet, at the same time, Christians can affirm the value of research and rational thought because humanity was initially created in the image of God, also recorded in Genesis. The potential for the acquisition of knowledge, as well as the limitations in this respect, contribute to the need for humility in education and research. Humility is a key virtue of Christianity and it should be reflected in the Christian’s quest for knowledge and understanding. Rational thought and scientific inquiry will always fall short of the perfection that only God possesses, yet because we are made in the image of God, genuine knowledge and truth can–in part–be apprehended in a seemingly chaotic and meaningless world.

Students need a base of knowledge that thoroughly integrates a Christian worldview and valid conclusions based upon trustworthy research and informed personal experience. The learner is to be eclectic in gaining knowledge; carefully integrating revealed Truth with the conclusions of academia in a non-contradictory manner. As a part of their educational experience, my students are expected to synthesize Christian ideas, personal experiences, and perspectives offered by the academic discipline being studied. In this synthesis, the authority and priority of Christian belief, built upon biblical foundations, constitutes an adequate superstructure for academic learning as well as personal faith.

Teaching should include methods and procedures that are maximally effective and practical, thus facilitating the mutual search–by teacher and students–for a distinctively Christian viewpoint. It is not assumed that the teacher has all the answers, but is in a quest for the best possible answer given the limitations of human reason, realizing that only God is perfect.

By modeling and sharing in the quest for a Christian perspective, the teacher is able to encourage students to defer judgment until sufficient evidence is accumulated and analyzed. Because of prior study in the discipline, the professor is also a guide or mentor who helps direct students to central concepts in that area of study, rather than allowing the class to become sidetracked with peripheral or irrelevant matters. The goal is to help students carefully evaluate the tenability of concepts from research and human experience. This is an important component in developing future Christian leaders.

Academic knowledge is important, but knowledge is inadequate without developing and implementing corollary applications. I include a variety of projects in my classes, helping students use what they learn in class in a practical manner. Education in the fullest sense is cognitively understood, affectively experienced, and behaviourally transforming. The whole person is involved.

The social sciences and education, as understood from a distinctively Christian stance, are of great value because they provide alternative views of human interaction and behaviour, and are rudiments of a genuinely holistic perspective of the world. I am convinced that both an understanding of individual behaviour (psychology) and groups (sociology) complement one another, and that either in isolation provides at best a truncated view of human activity, as would any discipline apart from the historical commitments and assumptions implicit in that discipline. I am particularly interested in educational applications framed by the social sciences, partly because these are the areas of my academic preparation, but also because I believe the educational context–at any level of education–can profit from the insights and research conclusions of the social sciences, making it more likely that educators can influence people in a productive manner.