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Realism & Education
Transcript of Realism & Education
This thesis holds that reality, knowledge, and value exist independently of the human mind. In other words, realism rejects the ideal-ist notion that only ideas are real Plato believed that matter has no lasting reality and that we should concern ourselves with ideas. Aristotle, developed the view that although ideas might be important in themselves, a proper study of matter could lead to better and more distinct ideas. According to Aristotle, ideas ( or forms), such as the idea of God or the idea of a tree, can exist without matter, but no matter can exist without form. Aristotle thought one could get to form by studying material things, and Plato thought form could be reached only through some kind of reasoning, such as the dialectic. Aristotle was a scientist and a philosopher, and he believed that although sci-ence and philosophy can be separated artificially, a relationship exists between them in which the study of one aids in the study of the other. Aristotle believed: Each thing has a purpose or function. Design and order are present in the universe, for things happen in an orderly way. Person who follows a true purpose leads a rational life of moderation, avoiding extremes. The proper perspective is the Golden Mean, a path between extremes. Good education helps achieve the Golden Mean and thereby promotes the harmony and balance of soul and body. Relationship between form and matter is illustrated further by Aristotles conception of the Four Causes:
1. The Material Cause: The matter from which something is made.
2. The Formal Cause: The design that shapes the material object.
3. The Efficient Cause: The agent that produces the object.
4. The Final Cause: The direction toward which the object is tending. Humans are rational creatures fulfilling their purpose when they think, and thinking is their highest characteristic. He developed logical method called syllogism, which is a method for testing the truth of statements.
All men are mortal.
David is a man
therefore, David is mortal. The chief good for Aristotle is happiness; however, happiness depends on a vir-tuous and well- ordered soul. This can come about only as we develop habits of virtue that are shaped through the proper kind of education. The Aristotelian influence has been immensely important and includes such things as:
Recognizing the need to study nature systematically, using logical processes in examining the external world
Deriving general truths through a rigorous study of particulars, organizing things into hierarchies
Emphasizing the rational aspects of human nature. Thomas Aquinas ( 1225 1274) Attempted to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy with Christian concepts. Spent much of his intellectual life showing that the word of God as represented by revelation is consistent with the thinking of Aristotle. God is pure reason, the universe is reason, and by using our reason, as Aristotle suggested, we could know the truth of things. Roman Catholicism considers the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas ( Thomism) to be its leading philosophy. Truth was passed from God to humans by divine revelation, but God also had endowed humans with the reasoning ability to seek out truth. Aquinas epitomized the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages, an approach that emphasized the humans eternal soul and salvation. Scholastics integrated Aristotles philosophy with the teachings of the Church, and Aquinas fulfilled an important role in this task by working out the relationship between reason and faith. Central to the thought of Aquinas was the Judeo- Christian belief that each person is born with an immortal soul. The major goal of education, as Aquinas saw it, was the perfection of the human being and the ultimate reunion of the soul with God. Aquinas' views on education are consistent with his philosophical position.
Knowledge can be gained from sense data, and it can lead one to God, provided the learner views it in the proper perspective. In essence, he believed that one should proceed from the study of matter to the study of form. In the view of Aquinas, the primary agencies of education are the family and the church; the state or organized society runs a poor third Francis Bacon ( 1561 1626) Bacon attacked the Aristotelians for contributing to the lethargic development of science by their adoption of theological methods of thought. The problem with the-ology was that it started with dogmatisms and a priori assumptions and then deduced conclusions. Because the scientific or inductive approach uncovered many errors in propo-sitions that were taken for granted originally, Bacon urged that people should reex-amine all previously accepted knowledge. Induction is the logic of arriving at generalizations on the basis of systematic observations of particulars. Induction involves the collection of data about particulars, but it is not merely a cataloging and enumeration of data. The data must be examined, and where contradictions are found, some ideas must be discarded. People should attempt to rid their minds of various idols before which they bow down and that cloud their thinking. Bacon described four such idols:
1. Idol of the Den: People believe things because of their own limited experiences.
If, for example, a woman had several bad experiences with men with mus-taches, she might conclude that all mustached men are bad, a clear case of faulty generalization. 2. Idol of the Tribe: People tend to believe things because most people believe them. Numerous studies show that many people change their opinions to match those of the majority.
3. Idol of the Marketplace: This idol deals with language because Bacon believed that words often are used in ways that prevent understanding. For instance, such words as liberal and conservative might have little meaning when applied to people because a person could be liberal on one issue and conservative on another.
4. Idol of the Theatre: This is the idol of our religions and philosophies, which might prevent us from seeing the world objectively. Bacon called for a house-keeping of the mind, in which we should break away from the dead ideas of the past and begin again by using the method of induction. John Locke ( 1632 1704) Following Bacons lead, John Locke sought to explain how we develop knowledge. He attempted a rather modest philosophical task: to clear the ground of some of the rubbish that hindered peoples gaining knowledge. At birth, the mind is like a blank sheet of paper, a tabula rasa, on which ideas are imprinted. Thus, all knowledge is acquired from sources independent of the mind or as a result of reflection on data from independent sources. Locke was an empiricist. He respected the concrete and practical but distrusted abstract idealisms; consequently, what we know is what we experience. His major contribution to philosophy was the development of an acute awareness of experience. Rather than speculation about innate ideas or essences or an inde-pendent material reality, his field of investigation was human experience and human knowledge. Lockes views on education, as expressed in Some Thoughts Concerning Education, are not as theoretical as his speculations on epistemology.
They are practical ideas about conduct, laziness, rewards and punishments, and other generalities in the educational process. Lockes ideas led to the kind of gentlemanly education for which English education is noted. REALISM AS A PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION Plato rejected matter as an object of study or as a real entity, Aristotle used matter as an object of study to reach something further. For the religious realist, matter is not important in itself unless it leads to some-thing beyond itself. This process is illustrated by contemporary scientific efforts to study the moon. Specimens brought back by the astronauts are studied intensively.
Scientists and thinkers of various disciplines are also interested in discovering knowledge about the very origins of our universe. Religious realists, such as Aquinas, would say that this is our prime purpose: God created the world to provide a vehicle through which people could come to know Him, Secular realists, in contrast, emphasize the sensory material world and its processes and patterns, rather than the transcendent spiritual world to which sen-sory data might lead. Their approach is basically scientific.
The scientific movement beginning with Bacon ushered in an era of thought that stressed not only an understanding of the material world but control of it as well. Aristotle pointed out the order and regularity of the material world; by this same process, scientists came to talk about the laws of nature. Secular realism maintains that essential ideas and facts can best be learned only by a study of the material world. It places great stress on the study of basic facts for the purpose of survival and for the advancement of technology and science.
One could say that technical schools, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are realist in their approach to education.