The Evolution of Education- Philosophies and History

The reading this week was focused on how Education and Educational Philosophy has evolved and been shaped over time by philosophers and by events and milestones within society. The readings begin to create a picture of the way that Public Education in Canada can be viewed and discussed by understanding the key ideas that historically affected shifts in thinking and reform in policies that lead us to our current views and understandings of what we believe and value as a society in Education today. It is important to note not only in the readings but in all discussion of Education that it is socially constructed– in other words that it is contextual and discussions of Canadian Education and its philosophy and history will be different than those of the U.S. or Europe, although they share common roots. It is important to remember that history includes a time, space and individuals that are contextually specific.

The first thing that really stands out in this week’s reading for me is the idea that Education has existed long before the invention of  standard schools. Often when we look at the philosophies and history of school we go back to the ideas of Plato and Greek philosophers who began to organize Education. In this case organize more as an idea of structuring societal practices in a way that handed down knowledge in a vary transmission based way. For many Greeks it was believed that knowledge was finite and therefore could be shared like a physical object passed from one person to another. Education however existed in North America far before it was ever colonized. Indigenous ways of knowing has been passed on in a similar transmissive way. Indigenous education was integrated into daily life “supported by social practices to transmit core beliefs, values and principals” (Wotherspoon, 57). It is also important to note that residential schools worked to remove this social education/knowledge.

The second thing that stands out to me in this weeks reading is the development of secular public schools as an institution based out of ideas of reform and standardization of the Educational experience for students and teachers. As a shift took place in Post-Colonial North America culturally there was also a shift in the system of Education from traditional Indigenous Knowledge and Ways of Knowing to a particularly Colonial and Religious view of formal Education.  This denominational idea of Education resulted in the “fragmentation of  First Nations Societies” (Wotherspoon, 58). Eventually the idea of Education was separated from the link to Church and Religious beliefs. As views of Education shifted Schools became more standardized and bureaucratic. Public Education removed the family and the church from ideas surrounding Education and created standards and policy that would shape how students were taught. This included an emphasis on what knowledge was deemed important by a democratic society. This change in Educational Philosophy reflected a major separation of Church and State in Post-Colonial and Post War North America. It is important to recognize however that even the ideas of Democracy are still founded in Greek philosophies of Plato.

The third thing that stands out for me in this weeks readings are the evolution of Educational Philosophies within the social context of Post-Colonial North America. From the Idealist philosophies of Plato and the Realist philosophies of Aristotle to the Pragmatic and Existentialist views of philosophers like Dewey and Kierkegaard the way that we understand our philosophies and theories of learning have all been shaped and evolved within contextual responses to those that have come before. Theories such as constructivism and  humanism are directly linked to philosophies such as progressivism and critical theory demonstrate how context and the influences of society have impacted the shaping of educational policy and values. It is interesting to look at how these factors influence our own beliefs about Education.

Two week’s readings connected with me in relation to understanding the historical influences that have shaped some of my own beliefs about what Education is. I think it is interesting to look at how pragmatic and existential philosophy has shaped my views on progressive and constructivist education. I know that my philosophies of education are learner centred and place value on the importance of the individual. I think that it is interesting how humanistic theories of Education seem to be bringing the learner into the centre of focus for Educational philosophy and policy and in an inadvertent way are starting to reemphasize the importance of understanding cultural, in particular Indigenous, Ways of Knowing and their impact on Education. It in some ways feels like we have come full circle.

One question I have this week is based on the standardization of Educational Policy. If we Educational Policy is based on the idea that we provide a standardized level of instruction for all students how do we begin to reshape policy that is based more on the Educational theories surrounding Inquiry based and student centred learning?

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