This paper considers the contribution of philosophy to education. First, a case is made that the fundamental goal of education is to cultivate human agency in the sense of being able to enact one’s freedom (as opposed to conditioned and habituated patterns of thinking, perception, and action) grounded in personal knowledge and ethics. This agency is named as ‘autonomy’ in this paper. Secondly, philosophy is conceived as an “art of living,” which has ancient roots in both the East and West. An argument is made that identifying philosophical activity as predominantly discursive and theoretical activity entrenches us in the “addiction” to conceptualization and blinds us to seeing that a map is not the territory. Human beings encompass the discursive as well as the non-discursive, theoretical as well as practical dimensions. Hence philosophy as an art of living must address all the dimensions. As an illustration, a number of exemplary philosophic arts pertaining to these practices are explored, including world-making through dialogue (Socratic); autobiographical experiment through philosophical writing (Nietzschean); human-making and self-transformation (Confucian); and mindfulness practice (Buddhist). The case is made that these practices combine to illustrate and demonstrate that philosophy is a practice devoted to the cultivation of fundamental human agency, namely autonomy.
In considering philosophy of education now and in the future, this paper explores the issue from an Australasian perspective. While philosophy of education in this part of the world has strong international links there is an absence of indigenous influences. A number of philosophical strands have developed including naturalism and postmodernism which have informed thinking about education policy and practice. The institutional side of philosophy of education has witnessed both the promotion of philosophers to professorial positions and the slow decline in numbers as departing staff are not replaced. How philosophy of education will fare in the future will depend on the survival of an academic community, the opportunity to teach papers in the subject to undergraduate and postgraduate students (and so replace ourselves) and convincing teachers and policy makers that philosophy of education makes an indispensable contribution to improving policy and the educational experiences of students.
I argue that philosophy has a dual role in teacher education: first, it prompts teachers to take individual responsibility for and become more reflective about the values expressed by their teaching practices so as to enable them to teach with greater authenticity; second, it provides teachers with a disciplinary technique that is useful in the facilitation of student reflection and dialogue so as to enable students to think and live more authentically. In this paper, I focus on the former and suggest that because teaching practices are expressions of values, teachers need to become more aware of competing conception of the human good(s)—including their own—and how these inform their relationship to disciplinary expertise, educational institutions, and teaching. I argue that authentic teaching necessitates: a conviction that individuals are improved, as human beings, by what it is they study; a deepening engagement with what this conviction means; and a commitment to its truth by way of how one engages with one’s discipline and students. It is in this regard that I explore Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, in particular, the example of Socrates, his conversations with Callicles, as well as his distinction between sophistry/pandering and educating/healing. In the final part of the paper, I argue that, assuming I am correct about the necessity and value of teaching authentically, philosophy—conceived of as honest, rigorous, ongoing, open-ended and dialogical engagement with our convictions—should be an integral part of any good teacher education program.
In this paper I describe a research project designed to address the general question “What are we doing when we are doing philosophy of education?” I also describe how the research results are intended to inform three initiatives: (a) designing philosophy of education courses for Bachelor of Education programs; (b) designing graduate programs in philosophy of education; and (c) maintaining courses and programs in philosophy of education by communicating our relevance to people, academics and otherwise, outside our professional circles. The overall objective of the proposed research is to develop and illustrate a defensible account of the nature and role of philosophy in general and philosophy of education in particular, focusing on the potential role of philosophy of education in promoting consensus on norms and priorities for public education by collaborating in the emergence of a new world view through moral inquiry and discourse.
Where a pedagogy is to be understood not simply in its weak sense as a range of classroom techniques but rather in its strong sense as embodying some conception of the ends of education such techniques subserve, coherence derives from the theoretical basis to which that pedagogy appeals. Where, however, such a theoretical basis is indistinguishable from that it purports to supplant or where it is inherently self-contradictory, the resulting pedagogy is incoherent. It is maintained here that “trivial constructivism” fails in the first respect and “radical constructivism” in the second and that any pedagogies based upon them are therefore incoherent.
This paper maintains that the concept of responsibility must be extended to beliefs and emotions. It argues that beliefs and emotions have their crucial link through the element of judgment. Judgment refers to relationships in contexts of ambiguity and uncertainty; developing good judgment in children involves the question of similarities and differences in varying situations and contexts. Both beliefs and emotions are crucial to this process. Educators interested in helping develop better judgment must look at the relevant beliefs and emotions associated with the judgments we make. Just as children must be made aware of their responsibility for behaviour, so must they understand that they are responsible for their beliefs and emotions.
In this paper I will show how Socrates dominated Thrasymachus by failing to create a relationship with Thrasymachus in which meaningful learning could occur. Although this is a negative example of how a teacher did not help a student learn, from it I believe that we can learn the importance of creating relationships with our students to help them learn and thereby modeling for them how to create such relationships with their students. Listening to, respecting, and responding to our students as they are, to their questions, and to their motivations to learn or not to learn are essential ways for us to help them learn what they and we believe is important for living fulfilling lives. This is justice in teaching.