In the beginning, God created man in his own image. God told man to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden except the one in midst of the garden, the Tree of Knowledge, lest man should surely die. The serpent convinced woman that she would not die but rather, that “God knows that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Since the beginning of mankind, man has sought for truth and knowledge. What is good, true, and beautiful? These questions go to the heart of our concern for educating people who posses a knowledge of reality, are ethical in their behavior, and live lives that are balanced and aesthetically harmonious (Gutek, 2005, p. 31). King Solomon, in his Book of Ecclesiastes, explores various avenues for satisfaction-power, possessions, prestige, pleasure-he finds them hollow. God moves him along the path of discovery until he finds no real meaning to life “under heaven,” but only in relationship to God and His eternal purposes (Maxwell, 2007, p. 802).
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Educators confront philosophical issues on a daily basis even though they may not recognize it as such. As a Christian educator, examination of one’s personal assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and values can assist one in shaping instructional methods and effective learning techniques. By understanding one’s self, one’s motivations, and one’s view of mankind, one can better assist others in their personal quest to discover the purpose of self and one’s role as a member of mankind.
I attempt to identify the basis of the philosophical beliefs which contribute to the overall philosophy of education from which I function as an educator by examining the historical and philosophical foundations of education from influential philosophers such as Plato, Jefferson, Eramus, Calvin, Rousseau, and others.
Why are we here? What is our purpose? What is true? How do we know? From the beginning of time man has asked these questions. My personal biblical worldview answers those questions for me based upon Holy scriptures, the laws and words of “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14).
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Knowledge is knowing the facts; knowing how to use those facts is wisdom. All knowledge and wisdom comes from a higher being known as the God of the Hebrews and father of Jesus Christ. All gifts and talents come from God; each person has different abilities to understand, receive and respond to the knowledge that God reveals to him or her. We are told, “We know that the Son of God is come and has given us an understanding that we may know him that is true and we are in him that is true, even in his son Jesus Christ (I John 5:20). I know in whom I have believed.
Our universe is so massive and our God so glorious with our limited understanding we only “â€¦see through a glass darklyâ€¦” (1 Cor. 13:12). Who was there when He laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4)? There exists a spiritual realm beyond our earthly eyes which exists simultaneously with ours. We truly cannot conceive the majesty and splendor that exists beyond our sense of reality. God cannot be put in a box and is far beyond anything we can comprehend. All one can know about Him is what He has outlined in His Word, which is inspired and written by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a certainty and of this I am confident “that He which has begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
A Christian worldview defines my values, my actions, my time, my dreams, my life. We are created beings ; Solomon sums up existence, “Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all (Ecc.12:13).
In Plato’s allegory of the cave, he proposes that there is a true intellectual self within and superior to the material human body. The purpose of life is to strive for knowledge of ultimate and perfect ideas, the form of the good from which all other ideas are derived (Gutek, p. 39). For Plato, an Idealist, reality is non-material or spiritual (Gutek, p.38). Plato understood that man is composed of spirit but without the Creator, his idealism was in vain; all knowledge and wisdom comes from God. God’s omniscience means that he knows all, that all knowledge, truth, wisdom, intelligence and all that there is to know, He knows.
John Calvin had an intense religious conversion experience that illuminated his thought “like a flash of light.” This experience provided Calvin with the revelation knowledge of “Divine Majesty” (Gutek, p. 114). I know that I know because of a similar revelation experience which I term “being zapped”. While deep in prayer, a flash of light consumed my whole being for one millisecond of a second. I know that I know that the Father is, and that Jesus Christ is the light and the Truth. No man can pluck me from His hands.
Pestalozzi and Rousseau believed that the infant is intrinsically good (Gutek, 2005) and opposed the doctrine of innate human depravity. According to the Word of God, Man is born in a depraved state. R.C. Sproul writes, “Because total depravity is so often poorly defined, let me substitute another phrase that means the same thing: radical corruption. We are depraved in the radix or root of our being, and that core depravity influences everything we do. In the fall we became radically depraved, which means that corruption pervades every area of our lives” (as cited by Li, 2007). According to Plato, man can reach the ultimate truth by seeking knowledge. This knowledge may be truly called necessary, necessitating as it clearly does, the use of pure intelligence in the attainment of pure truth (Plato, 360 B.C.). Plato asserted that the truth is within each of us, and is found deeply within the recesses of the human mind or psyche (Gutek, p. 40). For Aristotle, truth is a correspondence between the person’s mind and external reality (Gutek, p. 54). According to Freire’s philosophical inclination to existentialism, reality is subjective and within the individual. Dewey, a Pragmatist, contended that truth is tentative, a warranted assertion, rather than universal, eternal and absolute (Gutek, p.342). He argued that revealed truth does not exist and that anything that can be called truth must be determined experimentally.
When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 8:38,), he was asking, “What is the really real?” Jesus did not reply; the question had already been answered forever. The God of scripture is truth as He tells us in Psalms 119:160, “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting;” and, in the words of Christ himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
Animals and plants, seasons and stars were created by God for man. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-29). He is the first and the last. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities -his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen and can be understood from what has been made, so that man is without excuse (Barker, 2009).
Good is whatever God says is good. Evil is a perversion of the truth. Wicked comes from the word wicker which means “twisted”. The Devil takes the truth, twists and perverts it to corrupt that which God has created for good (Barker, 2009). For Aristotle, the supreme good to which all aspire is happiness (Hummel, 1993). What is good and what is right? His Word lays out the moral foundation for mankind and exists for all people across all time. What is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report…think upon these things (Phil 4:7).
A Christian worldview asserts that the ultimate goal of man is to transform into the image of Jesus. “Do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect , will of God” (Romans12:2). God’s Word is the moral authority on which the universe revolves.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, developed an educational plan based upon civic education and cultural nationalism in order to prepare people to become active and engaged citizens (Gutek, p. 180). Mann believed that “a proper civic education should teach basic principles of government, provide insights into representative institutions, and generally form good citizens (Gutek, p. 226). Calvin’s theology and educational philosophy stressed literacy as a tool of salvation to fulfill both religious and economic objectives (Gutek, p. 118). Calvin set up a relationship between education, religious orthodoxy, civil order, and economic prosperity (Gutek, p.116). “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). When Madelyn O’Hair succeeded in taking prayer out of our public schools in 1964, our nation turned away and today we see the results.
The understanding of the emotional needs of students is an important part in a teacher’s discipline management plan. If we realize that the child comes to school after a night filled with violence and alcohol or drug induced behavior, we can understand why the student may scream or disrupt or refuse to participate. Often the school is the safest structured environment the child sees. Public schools have been forced to be not only the center for academic and skills training but also the basis for establishing secure human relationships for children.
Carey (2007) states “discipline arises through activity”. When students are engaged in hands-on learning, are being successful at meaningful tasks, and receive positive reinforcement, discipline will be minor–a result of kids being kids. No contrived program will eliminate disruptive behavior in the classroom without a moral foundation in the family and in a society without limits and boundaries for individual behavior.
The philosophies of Rousseau and others “If it feels good do it”, has led to a child-centered approach that has had negative implication for classroom control. Children need boundaries in order to develop self discipline. According to Montessori, “obedience is the foundation of society and civilization” (as cited by Carey, 2007). “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrew 12:6). If the Father of spirits corrects those He loves, then teachers, who care about their students as Pestalozzi desired, must discipline those they teach.
Role of the student and teacher in the process of learning
With the influence of educators like Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Dewey the child became the center of learning. Froebel introduced the concept of letting children “grow freely as plants, according to the nature of child” (Gutek, p. 266). This secular humanist child-centered role has replaced Calvinist Christian educational theory which asserts that, “This book of law shall not depart from your mouth, but you meditate in it day and night that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1: 8).
By 1985, from primary grades through college, [teachers] are reluctantly concluding that the principle means by which students may be engaged is entertainment” (Claggett, 2009). Montessori asserted that children possessed an innate drive, called a “divine urge” that stimulates their self-activity to perform actions that promote growth and that they are eager to try and master new skills” (Gutek, p. 369). According to Dewey, the child’s own instincts and powers furnish the material and give the starting point for all education (Dewey, 1897).
Because of the individuality of each student, the student is the driving force behind education and the most important entity in the education continuum (Bartlett, 2007). Research shows that student motivation, relevance, and engagement in the learning process promote learning. Learning is an action and is not, cannot be, ‘fun’ at all times. Learning does not occur by osmosis and students must be willing to expend energy and thought processes to be successful All students can learn, but not all students learn in the same way, at the same time, and at the same intellectual level. Cognitive ability, not politically correctness, plays a major role of what a student can and will learn.
Teachers must establish relevance, provide expertise, establish interest, in aspects of curriculum design and methods of teaching pertinent to establishing relevance and thereby motivating student learning (Kember, et.al., 2008 ). A loyalty to human dignity-and human possibility-is maintained when the teacher is loyal to the knowledge and/or skill being learned (Vandenberg, 2009).
How does learning occur
The brain is the most intricate and complex mechanism God created. Theorists such as Froebel and Rousseau realized that a child was similar to nature, like other things of God’s creation; they pass through various stages of development– from a seed to an oak tree. God created the mind to learn but as a result of genetics (the sins of the fathers are passed on through generations), environment (where, when and how one lives), and physiological impairments, all students cannot learn all things.
The brain is influenced by outside factors; active participation in experiences encourages brain growth; learning, playing, good nutrition contribute to learning; learning is a social activity; chemicals in the brain affect memory and learning; singing and music affect release of positive brain chemicals (Sprenger, 1999).
In order to promote literacy in reading and mathematics, the NCLB act emphasizes teacher professional development based upon scientifically based research methods of instruction. Eramus believed teachers needed to be well-educated individuals and possess a commanding knowledge of their subjects (Gutek, p.103). Mann held that “inadequately prepared teachers had lowered the quality of instruction (Gutek, p. 224).
In the age of technology, brain research is producing new information daily on how the brain works and how it can be applied to the educational settings. Teachers must be exposed to the methods and research based strategies in order to provide the best education possible to each and very student.
In 1867, John Stuart Mill stated, “In every generation, and now more rapidly than ever, the things which it is necessary that somebody should know are more and more multiplied” (Mill, 1867, p.5). Since Mill’s time, knowledge has exploded. Vast amounts of knowledge, beyond Plato’s wildest imaginations, are everywhere and still the questions remain: What should be taught? Who should be taught? When should it be taught? How should it be taught?
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According to Mill, “the vexed question is whether general education should be classical â€¦ or scientific (Mill, p.4). Educational theorists from Plato to Spencer to the U.S. Office of Education have focused on these issues and we still face them today. An effort to restore “disciplinary rigor” to education began after WWII with the scientific systems thinking approach to learning (Rudolph, 2002). The buzzwords today are “rigor and relevance” in the educational circles. Yet thirty years after the analytical systems-based curriculum reform movement, Sykes states, “American schools are in deep trouble, not because they lack men and women who care about children, but because they are dominated by an ideology that does not care much about learning” (Sykes, 1996). According to some, we must develop more programs similar to West Springfield High School to “assist students in applying technology to their needs and in making intelligent judgments about problems associated with technology?” (Alukonis & Setter, 2008).
The Greco-Roman philosophers, Confucius, the Renaissance reformers, and the utilitarian liberalists focused on education as the path to produce the perfect ideal society. Knowledge becomes a means to an end. Who can possess knowledge? Calvinism promoted reading and writing for every one which is the ultimate goal for UNESCO today. How do we teach and what do we teach? Today a liberal arts curriculum is offered to all. According to a recent study, 63% of the work force skills today do not require a college education. What is the purpose of obtaining knowledge? What type of knowledge is needed to create the “greatest good for the greatest number”? Spenser promoted “direct experience” in the real world and individualism. Sykes contends that “American students are unable to effectively compete with the rest of the industrialized world, because our schools teach less, expect less, and settle for less than do those of other countries” (Sykes, p.9).
We are in an age defined by global competition, change, immediate information and communication. The pace of change has become so rapid that the skill set required is not sufficiently being met by the public schools. Basic skills such as reading, writing, and mathematics will still produce individuals who based upon their God-given talents will excel in problem-solving, critical thinking, and inventiveness necessary to sustain personal happiness and societal contribution.
Learning does not occur in isolation. An individual’s ability is influenced by his environment, his background and experiences. To provide the best education possible, a school system must collaborate with parents and community to assure that each child is receiving an education that will provide the best opportunity for him or her to reach his or her highest potential.
Mann, who is considered the father of America’s public education, wrote, “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin is the great equalizer of the conditions of men-the balance wheel of the social machinery” (Gutek, p.225). He believed that the school curriculum should provide the same basic knowledge and skills equally to all its students.
The same basic knowledge of history, literature, science, mathematics and the arts should be provided for every child in the public schools. This basic knowledge should provide knowledge necessary for responsible citizenship, for national prosperity and development, an economic equalizer, and to instill moral and values as Mann states.
. Today the reconstructionist theory screams for the “multicultural” curriculum for minority students who are deprived equal education of the “white elite” controlling class.
Educators must be aware of the hidden agenda of the social reconstructionists who have as an ultimate goal, the destruction of capitalism, nationalism, Christianity and democracy as we know it. Cultural diversity and multiculturalism is a political agenda to destroy the capitalist system of the United States from within using the cries of the oppressed as the bait.
Many people with cultures, languages, and skin colors other than the American mainstream’s are treated as second class citizens in our schools. Christians in education need to fight racism and cultural differences: “there but for the grace of God go I”. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, “as much as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.” Christian educators will embrace all students as children of God, and will provide equity and fairness in a diverse and multicultural classroom.
NCLB ties public school accountability directly to federal funding and has as its goal, literacy in reading and mathematics for all children by 2014. Annual state and school district report cards inform parents and communities about state and school progress (USDE, 2003). Accountability based upon annual testing and standards for reading and math has become a major part of public schools.
Various assessments techniques have been suggested other than traditional testing such as portfolios and performance assessments that focus on the demonstration of mastery of a task. Test scores alone cannot be the measure of a school’s success or of a student’s achievement but basic knowledge and essential skills must be assessed in some manner to provide information on the success of both instruction and student ability.
Teacher and student/ parent relationships
Pestalozzi recognized that the affective side of human nature, emotional growth, was as important as cognitive development (Gutek, p. 162). He maintained that the educational setting must be based upon a climate of emotional security. Classroom circumstances may affect the brain’s chemistry in either a positive or a negative way (Sprenger, 1996). Providing a safe environment for students is the responsibility of both teachers and parents. Before learning can occur, teachers must realize the emotional needs of students affect their behavior and abilities to think cognitively. Communication with parents is the ideal way to assist teachers in creating instructional methods based upon the needs of individual students.
In man’s ego-centered life, he continues to build the Tower of Babel. After 5,000 years of civilization, man has not reach utopia, nirvana, or heaven through Plato’s quest for knowledge, Aristotle’s exercise for rationality; Quintilian’s rhetorical goodness; the merge of Aquinas’s realism and Catholicism; Erasmus’s Christian humanism; Calvin’s Evangelical Protestantism; Comenius’s vision of Pansophism; Rousseau’s, Froebel’s, and Pestalozzi’s child permissiveness; nor the militant rebellious reconstructionist ideas of Dubois and Freire. Man continues to seek beyond the stars, beyond the universe but cannot and will not find the ultimate Truth nor the reason that man exists. Not until the Creator of the vessel determines to reveal the truth to the created, will man reach “knowing”. “The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until nowâ€¦”(Romans 8:19-22).
Aquinas asserted that a person was “called” to teaching in a way that was similar to the priest’s vocation, a call to service (Gutek, p. 88). A child is life, a gift of God. A true teacher has for his or her motivation that which will promote each individual’s ability to become the person according to the perfect will that God has determined. Adequate schooling must prepare young people to act responsibly in all areas of their lives.
We must work to build responsibility whenever we can to promote God’s kingdom being realized as much as possible in the here and now. This is our calling and this is our work as Christians .Christian educator must gently, lovingly, accept every student and work with their differences, needs, hang-ups, foibles, even sins-constantly modeling the high standards of the Christian life and a personal, responsible integration of faith and learning that eventually can be emulated by the student (Holtrop, 1996).
Plato, a founding father of Idealism, asserted that reality is nonmaterial or spiritual. For Plato, the father of Idealism, ideas are the only true reality, the only thing worth knowing. He argues values are universal regardless of place, time, and circumstances (Gutek, p. 39). Plato believed that the search for the truth is an interior search to recall ideas latently present in our minds (Gutek, p. 40). In idealism, the aim of education is to discover and develop each individual’s abilities and full moral excellence in order to better serve society. Based upon a Christian worldview, I agree with the premise of Plato that truth and reality are a spiritual quest, although I assert one can only attain the truth through the Word of God rather than from recalling knowledge from a prior existence. My spiritual convictions and views of absolute truth can be labeled as a Christian Idealist.
For the Perennialist, providing knowledge of eternal truth and preparation for life is education’s most important purpose. Teaching basic subjects such as history, math, science and literature provide knowledge of man’s struggle and achievements. My educational philosophy may be viewed as a theist Perennialist based upon my belief that human nature never changes and ideas and truth are constant based upon Holy Scriptures (Cohen, 1999).
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