Philosphy of Education

Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind”-Plato

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”-James Madison

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers” –Jean Piaget

Wonder rather than doubt is at the root of all knowledge.”-Abraham Joshua Heschel

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”-Sir Ken Robinson

Outdated pedagogical practices assume that students enter the classroom with similar life experiences, influences, and educational training. These methods suppose that students are empty vessels which require instructors to “deposit” information into the students’ “memory banks” in order to accumulate knowledge. Thus, the student is education when he or she can demonstrate that they have memorized the requisite mass of information. However, reality reveals that each student enters the classroom with a unique set of life experiences; it is these experiences that define and shape the student’s education.

Students learn best when they engage in their own investigations and when they take it upon themselves to practice critical thinking in their academic experience. Knowledge is only possible when the students attain it themselves; not when information is simply dictated to them. Knowledge is not transmitted through authoritarian relationships in the classroom but through an active participation in learning. Students who take my courses are responsible for participating in their educational experience. With agency in one’s education comes the realization that the student is ultimately accountable for her or his own education.

One of the principle sources of knowledge that students can experience comes in the form of foundational texts, scholarly literature, and primary sources. In all the courses I teach, I stress the role of the leading writers and thinkers of any academic discipline. Building on this approach to the material, the students and I write, discuss, and critically appraise these ideas within our discipline in order to see how these ideas correspond with politics; in the past, present, and in the future. While such an approach inherently excludes some content, and one may describe this choice as an orrery of errors, the exclusion of information in any course is a function of time constraints. My aim is for students to develop a comprehensive understanding and experience with the essentials of a discipline, rather than a tertiary acquaintance with an overly broad realm of ideas.

The questions and problems the students and I engage reflect the higher order cognitive domains found in Bloom’s Taxonomy. For students in the Rhetorical Stage of their education, such high standards allow them the opportunity to hone and improve their foundational and logical skills in a challenging intellectual environment. In practice, this means that students and I are responsible for education in the classroom. Rather than the simple classroom formula-“lecture, discussion, test, repeat”-the courses that the students and I share are differentiated, dynamic spaces where we all can learn.

As the students and I are both subjects in the educational process, it is my responsibility as the instructor to provide the contextual environment in which learning can best occur. It is my responsibility to work with the students through various means of instruction and learning styles, to foster each student’s creative and original thoughts based on their own experiences, and to aid the students in their quest for knowledge and understanding. Through this praxis, education is a process that produces responsible citizens and liberated individuals with the requisite knowledge and tools to effectively contribute to the betterment of themselves and the reparation of their society.

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