In Chapter 2 of Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective* (InterVarsity Press, 2009), Paul D. Spears and Steven R. Loomis draw attention to the importance of foundational categories and philosophical thinkers for the development of educational theory. Furthermore, they argue modern educational theory, influenced by modern philosophy, has led to some of the pitfalls of our prestigious institutions of higher education (p.71). Spears and Loomis begin Chapter 2 with these comments:
Educators are inundated with myriads of competing educational theories, and these theories dictate the methods and goals that are actualized in the classroom on a daily basis. These educational theories are a product of a commitment to a certain philosophical paradigm. Teachers are overwhelmed, understandably, with the amount of work it takes to properly manage the classroom. … This doesn’t leave a teacher much time (if any at all) to reflect on educational theory — let alone the theories’ underlying philosophical commitments. If teachers are going to be properly equipped for their task of education, they must begin to grapple with the historical development of educational purpose.
Broadly speaking, modern education lacks a unified purpose or goal to direct its curricular and pedagogical commitments. This lack of unity exists because education has many competing allegiances to different educational methodologies, which are driven by a variety of diverse philosophical commitments. Education is no longer understood in terms of training that enable us to pursue a true conception of reality. Formerly, education was conceived as a tool by which we came to properly understand our humanity, ourselves and our right role within society. Education was about pursuing and understanding objective value, as C.S. Lewis points out: “the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and that others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.” Today, education is not so much about truth or morality as it is about tolerance and contributing to the nation’s economic growth. — p.69-70.
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- Do you feel overwhelmed by competing educational theories, whether as a student, researcher, a professor, or an administrator?
- What do you consider the purpose/goal/end of education?
- What training in foundational categories/philosophy is necessary for followers of Christ to work out their faith in the complex market of educational theory/practice?