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My philosophy of Education

“We consider these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable writes that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This statement is the most well known quote of the Declaration of Independence. That document embraces the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the Enlightenment philosophies of “Tableau Rasa,” in the figurative sense as we now know it is applicable, were borne out of the Renaissance philosophy of Humanism in the sense of human beings being born capable of and inclined toward doing great good and being free from inherent evil. Our Nation’s Founding Fathers did not believe that institutions were necessarily corrupt; they believed that people are inherently good, as do I. Furthermore, I believe that history is progressive, as is humanity; moreover, our founding fathers rejected the notion of “Original Sin,” as do I. The Founding Fathers thought that reason, logic and rational thought along with inquiry, curiosity and experientialism whenever and wherever possible, advanced humanity and human beings in the general scheme of things as do the methods of Skepticism, Scientific Method, empathy, activism, intervention, interaction, cooperation, self control and self discipline, equality, individualism and the liberal arts; I have personally studied the lives of these gentlemen and that era and agree with what they say.

My underlying philosophy of life is somewhat complex due to my varied experiences and my background; I will of course elucidate. I am now 37 years old, and while older than the average teacher early in his career, I was in the United States Navy for a time and spent time living and have spent extensive time working in the non-academic world. In other words, I did not advance to college upon graduating from High School, nor did I enter college directly upon leaving the Navy. I took my time to explore the possibilities after I decided that I needed a degree to escape my disadvantaged situation; thereupon I completed several career and interest inventories courtesy of the local library and decided that I wanted to be a teacher. As I said, my background is also unusual. I am a liberal, which is an unpopular creature to be these days; finally, I am also Jewish which plays an unknown and difficult to qualify role in my life and my philosophy of life and my philosophy of education; therefore I will not discuss it herein. After all, this is on educational philosophy and not religion. Just keep in mind that my Jewish heritage (which is racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious) has been and shall continue to an integral part of my life and me. I n a nutshell, my philosophy of life is Idealism in that I hold myself and my expectations of myself to what some might consider a very high standard and that may be considered some to be idealist. I also value what Ancient, Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment philosophies and texts consider being the best of what humanity should strive for. However, unlike the Perrenialist, the Essentialist and the Positivist, I do not I do not subscribe to the authoritarian mindset or authoritarian teaching methods, and I do think that their often can be and often is more than one correct answer although there can be and often are answers that are incorrect. As for the Behaviorist, I think that such methods as pure Behaviorism are demeaning and perhaps barbaric; additionally, such a believer and practitioner who uses such methods is possibly either naïve or not of completely sound mind. On the other hand, positive reinforcement or rewards can be effective, varied and satisfying for both student and teacher alike, just as negative reinforcement and punishment may be occasionally necessary; they usually are unpleasant for both student and teacher and the results are usually short lived. As concerns curriculum, much like the Essentialist, I think that certain general core subjects should be a part of and pedagogical curriculum (K-12). How much of each subject and when and what books we should use to teach these subjects is variable. Additionally, I do not think that these questions should not be left up to “community standards” or societal norms” because these can be fickle, flaky or whimsical.

My philosophy of education is at least as complex as my philosophy on life. Just like my philosophy of life will continually be reviewed, adapted, changed or altered as seen fit by me, so will my philosophy of education. I am a Progressive in that I have no doubt that our schools should enhance and work with the democratic-republican ideal and principals that we hold dear. I also believe the child’s needs are paramount; this includes and necessitates that teachers should not only teach the seventeenth and eighteenth century ideal of civic virtue, but also that of improvement of the human condition. People do control institutions and resources (unlike Rousseau who says that institutions corrupt human beings); they only have to exercise that control, like voting and getting involved, that control is vested and outlined in this country in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Through exercise of our duly written Constitutional Rights we are actually being responsible for the world in which we live; we can make the world a better place and bring about positive changes such as an International Representative Government that actually works and ensures Freedom for all people in the natural flow of time. I also believe that students should construct their own questions because, as previously stated, there is seldom one correct answer or method; however, as much as I agree with the outcome of existentialism, I must disagree with its underlying philosophy of nothingness. Students should be encouraged, however, to develop their own ideas and philosophies independent of the teacher, school, parent or parents, other classmates and peers and finally free from coercive influences such as society and especially normalcy. Therefore, what is my exact philosophy of education, the non-authoritarian ones?

My preferred method of teaching is to teach by example and modeling. For me, the ideal classroom arrangement is a circle of desks with me seated at a regular desk. That way, the students have to face each other and me; moreover I prefer to teach using lectures; real lectures include student comments, questions, ideas, discussions, and other forms of feedback and interaction as one large group. Whenever we divide into smaller groups, the students would be asked to move their desks so that all members of a particular group are facing each other. I would then circulate among the different groups observing and making myself available for student questions, comments and to clear up any ambiguities or other items that might come up in the course of the assignment. I would always have a clear, set lesson plan and two to three options and alternatives to each; this anticipation would ensure that the students were always progressing. Honestly, however, I prefer to let the students direct the class and the lesson, ask the questions, and find the answers by whatever method they choose. I think that there is nothing wrong with each student coming up with his or her own answer or answers as long as they can support those answers with reasonable, rational explanations and ideas. The subject matter in my class should only be as structured as necessitated by the students and the lesson; in other words, it should be as unstructured as possible. The students will hopefully be motivated to succeed because my class would be interesting, fun and because they enjoy learning and understanding as much as, I do. As for how the subject matter is used, it should be internalized and assimilated into the knowledge bases of the students; therefore, the subject matter should be used cognitively and as authentically as possible. To this end, the subject matter should be presented in such a way to be relevant to each student. Affective or emotional responses are allowable; the students should not be encouraged to let emotion override their reasoning, logic and rational thought; in other words they should be taught through modeling to master (not suppress) their emotions, and thereby remain in control of instead of being controlled by their feelings. Naturally, it goes without say (but I will say it anyway) that the nature of learning should be active whether one is lecturing, discussing, exploring or in citing exploration.

Now, we come to the final additions of my philosophy of teaching, discipline, and evaluation. As concerns discipline, classroom control should be divided almost equally between the students and the teacher; at least this is what the students should believe. The teacher however should remain in control of the situation (of the physical environment of the class and classroom) at all times even if the students have determined the content and direction for the day. I, the teacher, am in control at all times; I planned it to go this way. That is what the students must perceive. Discipline in the classic sense is not put into play unless and until necessary. The level of interaction between the students and between the students and the teacher should remain high to ensure morale. Naturally, rewards such as smiles, verbal praise and even candy or a book (novel or story), or frowning, constructive criticism or other such methods up to referral to the Principal, Assistant, or Vice Principal are acceptable only as necessary. Evaluation is also important and the teacher must constantly provide to parents and administrators evidence of student learning and comprehension (and the state and community as policy dictates). I happen to believe that objective tests are quantitative measurements of qualitative traits. Therefore, a qualitative approach is necessary, and I have found as a student that the best exam measure of knowledge and comprehension are the exams that allow for latitude and explanation and clarification. To that end, I think that oral exams and questions, essay tests and short answer exams, term papers and research papers and project reports, both group and individual and of course group discussions and individual student-teacher discussions (as necessary) and class participation are the best methods with which to gauge and evaluate student progress. While these are imperfect, it is not as flawed as authoritarian assessments and evaluations. Most importantly though, is in keeping with what I have herein described and outlined as my philosophy of education.

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