Tag Archives: education

Common Goals for Schools

All schools have different goals and purposes for their being, In this post, we will look at some of the different goals and views schools have for themselves.

Intellectual

People who see the goal of school as intellectual development believe that the growth of the mind and reason is one of the chief aims of schools. Students who are well-rounded mentally are able to function in various challenges in the real world as people who support an intellectual purpose may say.

The development of the mind often happens through the study of the humanities and the “Great Books” of the past. Since the great books provide examples of the sound reasoning that students need, reading these books will help students to develop their own reason and thinking skills. These beliefs are drawn heavily from perennialism and its focus on the past to prepare students for the present and future.

Economic

The economic view sees school as a place to prepare students for the workforce. This means attaining relevant skills and knowledge for employment in the world. As such, students are trained to competency in various areas that they show at least some interests in such as accounting, plumbing, computer science, etc.

With the focus on job skills and the development of the economy, it is clear that the economic view has less tolerance for the study of “Great Books” compared to the intellectual view of the school. Reading irrelevant classics does not benefit industry and is not necessary. However, developing reason and critical thinking is beneficial to industry and should be encouraged in the context of problem-solving of real-life challenges and not intellectual debates. These views are similar to essentialism and its focus on developing practical skills for the application in the real world.

The economic development view of school seems to be the primary mover in education today. Almost everything is focused on the economy and the need for properly trained workers to help the economy grow. Rarely, does industry mourn the ignorance of its workforce in matters relating to the humanities and arts. For people who are not motivated by money and building the national economy, it can be intolerable to study in such a context.

Social/Character

Others view that the purpose of schools is in helping students to conform to the norms of society. This social view believes that a teacher’s job is to help students to find their place in the social structure. What society wants is what the child should become. This echoes the views at least partially of John Dewey.

This belief can lead to a large amount of social stability but a growing undercurrent of resentment from the pressure to conform. For example, the high conformity of the United States in the 1950s was followed by the rebellious 1960s and ’70s.  In addition, this view is seen by many as being oppressive today. Society now is pushing heavily the idea of inclusion of everyone. This means that all people are accepted as they are and the norm taught today is conformity to tolerance which is now the standard.

A social purpose is also related to political activism in a democratic context. Schools should be seen as places to develop skills in democracy in order to participate in civic life after graduation. This is important because democratic participation is critical to the success of the nation in the minds of many.

A related idea to social development is character development. Character development is focused on having certain traits as an individual. Whereas in secular education these ideas are often called social traits in religious education this concept is frequently known as character. The difference being that social traits and skills can vary whereas character in the religious context is thoroughly defined by some religious text.

Multi-Purpose

It would be naive to say that any school only has one purpose. Rather, schools serve multiple views. The views listed above are present at most schools in one combination or another. For example, some schools may emphasize intellectual views while also considering economic views. Since schools have a diverse student population it makes it necessary to have diverse views for schools.

One of the dangers a school may face is having a view that is out of harmony with the local community. If people want their kids to get jobs and want the school to focus on economic purposes it would be detrimental for the school to focus on other aspects of education as if they know better. Schools are there to serve the needs of the community and need to keep this in mind when supporting students.

Conclusion

Schools are a part of a society to provide a service to the families that make up the society. Therefore, it is not surprising that different schools have different goals for themselves. The primary responsibility of a person should be to identify the local vies on education in order to understand how to function in that particular context.

School as a Socializing Agent: Cultural Preservation

Many would agree that education, as found in schools, as an obligation to socialize students to help them fit into society. With this goal in mind, it is logical to conclude that there will be different views on how to socialize students. The two main extreme positions on this continuum of socialization would be

  • Socializing through the preservation of cultural form on generation to the next
  • Socializing through the questioning of prior norms and pushing for social change

As I have already mentioned, these may be the two extremes on a continuum going from complete and total cultural preservation to complete and total anarchy. In this post, we will focus the discussion on schools as agents of cultural preservation.

School as  Cultural Preserver

In the view of the school as a cultural preserver, the responsibility of the school to society is to support the dominant ideas and views of the culture. This is done through teaching and explaining things from a dominant group’s perspective and excluding or censoring other viewpoints to some degree. In other words, American schools should produce Americans who support and live American values, Chinese schools should produce Chinese who support and live Chinese values, etc.

This approach to schooling has been used throughout history to compel people from minority groups to conform to the views of the dominant group. In the US, there were boarding schools for Native Americans to try to “civilize” them. This was also seen in many parts of Asia in which ethnic tribes were sent to government schools, forbidden to use their mother tongue in place of the national language, and pledge devotion and loyalty to the dominant culture. Through the process of weakening local identities, it is believed by many that it will help to strengthen the state or at least maintain the status quo. If you are in a position of dominance either of these would benefit you.

What this view lacks in diversity, due to minority views being absent, it makes up for it through stability. Schools that support cultural preservation show students their place in society and how to interact with those around them. Through the limits of a specific predefined worldview, it lowers but does not reduce internal social strife.

Problems and Pushback

A natural consequence of schools as cultural preservers is a strong sense of pride in those who belong to the culture that is being preserved. This can lead, at times, to a sense of superiority and pride. Of course, if you are not from the dominant culture, it can be suffocating to constantly have other people’s values and beliefs push upon you.

This sense of exclusion can lead to serious challenges from minority groups. There are countless examples of this in the United States where it seems everyone is pushing back against the establish dominant culture. There are those who are pushing for Black, Latino, Asian, feminist, and other worldviews to be a part of the education of the school. This is not inherently a problem, however, if everyone has an equal voice and everyone is talking at the same time this means that nobody is listening. In other words, a voice needs an ear as much as an ear needs a voice.

Conclusion

It is convenient to take an extreme position and say that using school to preserve culture is wrong. The problem with this is that the people who say this want to preserve the belief that using school to preserve culture is wrong. In other words, it is not the preservation of culture that is the problem. The real battle is over what culture is going to be preserved. Whether it is the current dominant view or the view of a challenger.

From Greek to Roman Education

During the transition from the Greek to the Roman Empire, there were several significant changes to education. In particular, we will look at early financial support, the history of the first university, and the influence of the government during this period.

Financial Support

As time progress, it was becoming common for education to be supported by endowments. Several chairs in rhetoric, politic, and philosophy were established. In addition, the fees students paid in the form of a honoraria was the primary source of income for schools and teachers. It was also common for teachers to fight over students. This happened through teachers sending “recruitment” agents to the ports when young people arrived in order for the agent to advertise whatever courses the teacher taught. The more students in a class the higher the honoraria for a teacher.

First University & Changes

Under the Ptolemies in Egypt was founded what is considered the first university by Western standards. Located in Alexandria, the university offered training in medicine, math, grammar. The teaching here in Alexandria was considered to be more practically focused compare to Athens. The purpose was primarily to train people for economic purpose rather than only for intellectual development.

During the height of the Roman Empire under Augustus, Greek and Roman teaching was combined into something that some called the Roman-Hellenic school. However, how this was done varied between the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire. In general, Rome placed an emphasis on practical things such as law and this was combined with Greek philosophy in terms of the education of students. Philosophy became more and more abstract and less and less practical over this time period as well. As philosophy grew in importance it became more and more of an annoyance for the early Christian church.

Growth of Government

Throughout this time period, the influence of the government became stronger and stronger. This was shown through financial support and prestige. For example, the government would provide funding to build buildings. In addition, at one point, teachers were given senatorial rank for their work. All this was done in order to have influence over the education process and prevent teachers from fomenting rebellion it seems that teachers have frequently sparked revolutionary ideas throughout history.

Despite the efforts of the government, one overarching theme of this time was the gradual and steady decline of education. By the end of the fifth century, which aligns with the collapse of the Western Roman  Empire, the majority of the Roman Hellenic schools were no longer in existence. This laid the foundation for the rise of a new system of education that was at first shunned by Christianity,  then influenced by Christianity, and finally controlled by Christianity.

Conclusion

Over time the structure of education became more formalized. It went from individual teachers providing education to the systematic structure of the university. With this new structure came also various costs that were hard to account for. Strangely enough, as the empire collapse so did education in a way that makes one wonder if the collapse of education was because the Roman Empire was collapsing at the same time.

Issues of Early Christian Education

In this post, we will look at two issues that Christian education had to address during the period of AD 300-900. These two concerns are the debate between Christian learning and Greek thought and the teaching capacity of educational leaders.

Faith & Hellenism

With the growth of the Christian church within the Roman Empire was a corresponding tension between Christian thought and Greek philosophy. Church leaders were split over whether Christians should study Greek thought along with church teachings.

This debate continued and perhaps grew when the Christian church had firm control of education within the empire by the fourth century. In general, the divide over the inclusion of Greek thought in the education process was split between those who said avoid Greek thought and those who said embrace it.

For the anti-Greeks, they had a strong example of what happens when a Christian studies Greek teachings in the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (331-363). Julian’s exposure to the classics of Greek thought (and Neo-Platonism) as a student, led him into outright involvement with mystery cults and magic. To further compound matters, Julian attempted to reestablish paganism as the religion of Rome before his untimely demise at the age of 32. Julian was the last emperor to openly oppose Christianity and his actions were all the evidence anti-Greek Christians had that the writings of Plato and Aristotle should be avoided.

For those who supported the study of ancient Greek writers, their argument rested in caution and temperance when reading the classics. One Christian educator warned against hating worldly sciences and that the ideas of these authors should be supplementary to scripture. Julian’s problem was an intemperate and uncritical study of Plato and his peers.

This debate over faith vs Hellenism has continued for the pass 800-900 years. However, there is not as much objection to studying secular thought as there used to be as Christian education has mostly accepted it with the strong exception of several highly controversial ideas (sexual orientation, creation, etc.).

Teaching

As time continued, monks and priests began to educate the young. Unfortunately,  the education that they provided was considered of low quality as they generally focused only on teaching the trivium (Grammar, logic, and rhetoric) in terms of knowledge. Quadrivium was rarely taught if at all.

In addition, the monks and the priest were in need of education themselves. It was common for these men of faith to a lack of a formal education in the position in which they served the church. As such, they were frequently not much ahead of the students in terms of their learning. This led to a push for formal training and education of priests and monks in the 7th and 8th centuries.

In terms of the teaching style, there was a move from the discussion-oriented style of the Greeks to a focus on memorization. This was not done simply to stifle the critical thinking of the students. Rather, the price of parchment rose drastically during this time period, which made it difficult to write things down. The only way to learn now was to memorize large amounts of material because there was no other cheap way to retain knowledge.

Conclusion

There will always be differences and issues that challenge education. The purpose is to examine how others have addressed problems in order to learn from their successes and failures. To this day, Christian leaders struggle with the role of secular thought tin the education of its members. In addition, there are still issues with the qualifications of teachers and the style of teaching tat is employed. As such, a look to the past will simply confirm that problems never change.

Undergrad and Grad Students

In this post,  we will look at a comparison of grad and undergrad students.

Student Quality

Generally, graduate students are of a higher quality academically than undergrad students. Of course, this varies widely from institution to institution. New graduate programs may have a lower quality of student than established undergrad programs. This is because the new program is trying to fill sears initially and quality is often compromised.

Focus

At the graduate level, there is an expectation of a much more focused and rigorous curriculum. This makes sense as the primary purpose of graduate school is usually specialization and not generalization. This requires that the teachers at this level have a deep expert-level mastery of the content.

In comparison to graduate school, undergrad is a generalized experience with some specialization. However, this depends on the country in which the studies take place. Some countries require rather an intense specialization from the beginning with a minimum of general education while others take a more American style approach with a wide exposure to various fields.

Commitment

Graduate students are usually older. This means that they require less institution sponsored social activities and may not socialize at all. In addition, some graduate students are married which adds a whole other level of complexity to their studies. Although they are probably less inclined to be “wild” due to their family they are also going to struggle due to the time commitment of their loved ones.

Assuming that an undergraduate student is a traditional one they will tend to be straight from high school, require some social support, but will also have the free time needed to study. The challenge with these students is the maturity level and self-regulation skills that are often missing for academic success.

For the teacher, graduate students offer higher motivation and commitment generally when compared to undergrads. This is reasonable as people often feel compelled to complete a bachelors but normally do not face the same level of pressure to go to graduate school. This means that undergrad is often compulsory due to external circumstances while grad school is by choice.

Conclusion

Despite the differences but types of students hold in common an experience that is filled with exposure to various ideas and content for several years. Grad students and undergrad students are individuals who are developing skills for the goal of eventually finding a purpose in the world.

Undergrad and Grad Students

In this post,  we will look at a comparison of grad and undergrad students.

Student Quality

Generally, graduate students are of a higher quality academically than undergrad students. Of course, this varies widely from institution to institution. New graduate programs may have a lower quality of student than established undergrad programs. This is because the new program is trying to fill sears initially and quality is often compromised.

Focus

At the graduate level, there is an expectation of a much more focused and rigorous curriculum. This makes sense as the primary purpose of graduate school is usually specialization and not generalization. This requires that the teachers at this level have a deep expert-level mastery of the content.

In comparison to graduate school, undergrad is a generalized experience with some specialization. However, this depends on the country in which the studies take place. Some countries require rather an intense specialization from the beginning with a minimum of general education while others take a more American style approach with a wide exposure to various fields.

Commitment

Graduate students are usually older. This means that they require less institution sponsored social activities and may not socialize at all. In addition, some graduate students are married which adds a whole other level of complexity to their studies. Although they are probably less inclined to be “wild” due to their family they are also going to struggle due to the time commitment of their loved ones.

Assuming that an undergraduate student is a traditional one they will tend to be straight from high school, require some social support, but will also have the free time needed to study. The challenge with these students is the maturity level and self-regulation skills that are often missing for academic success.

For the teacher, graduate students offer higher motivation and commitment generally when compared to undergrads. This is reasonable as people often feel compelled to complete a bachelors but normally do not face the same level of pressure to go to graduate school. This means that undergrad is often compulsory due to external circumstances while grad school is by choice.

Conclusion

Despite the differences but types of students hold in common an experience that is filled with exposure to various ideas and content for several years. Grad students and undergrad students are individuals who are developing skills for the goal of eventually finding a purpose in the world.

Luther and Educational Reform

Martin Luther (1483-1546) is best known for his religious work as one of the main catalysts for the Protestant Reformation. However, Luther was also a powerful influence on education during his lifetime. This post will take a look at Luther’s early life and his contributions to education

Early Life

Luther was born during the late 15th century. His father was a tough miner with a severe disciplinarian streak. You would think that this would be a disaster but rather the harsh discipline gave Luther a toughness that would come in handy when standing alone for his beliefs.

Upon reaching adulthood Luther studied law as his father diseased for him to become a lawyer. However, Luther decided instead to become a monk much to the consternation of his father.

As a monk, Luther was a diligent student and studied for several additional degrees. Eventually, he was given an opportunity to visit Rome which was the headquarters of his church. However, Luther saw things there that troubled him and in many laid the foundation for his doubt in the direction of his church.

Eventually, Luther had a serious issue with several church doctrines. This motivated him to nail his 95 theses onto the door of a church in 1517. This act was a challenge to defend the statements in the theses and was actually a common behavior among the scholarly community at the time.

For the next several years it was a back forth intellectual battle with the church. A common pattern was the church would use some sort of psychological torture such as the eternal damnation of his soul and Luther would ask for biblical evidence which was normally not given. Finally, in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, Luther was forced to flee for his life and the Protestant Reformation had in many was begun.

Views on Education

Luther’s views on education would not be considered radical or innovative today but they were during his lifetime. For our purposes, we will look at three tenets of Luther’s position on education

  • People should be educated so they can read the scriptures
  • Men and women should receive an education
  • Education  should benefit the church and state

People Should be Educated so they Can Read the Scriptures

The thought that everyone should be educated was rather radical. By education, we mean developing literacy skills and not some form of vocational training. Education was primarily for those who needed it which was normally the clergy, merchants, and some of the nobility.

If everyone was able to read it would significantly weaken the churches position to control spiritual ideas and the state’s ability to maintain secular control, which is one reason why widespread literacy was uncommon. Luther’s call for universal education would not truly be repeated until Horace Mann and the common school. movement.

The idea of universal literacy also held with it a sense of personal responsibility. No one could rely on another to understand scripture. Everyone needs to know how to read and interpret scripture for themselves.

Men and Women Should be Educated

The second point is related to the first. Luther said that everyone should be educated he truly meant everyone. This means men and women should learn literacy. The women could not hide behind the man for her spiritual development but needed to read for herself.

Again the idea of women education was controversial at the time. The Greeks believed that educating women was embarrassing although this view was not shared by all in any manner.

WOmen were not only educated for spiritual reasons but also so they could manage the household as well. Therefore, there was a spiritual and a practical purpose to the education of women for Luther

Education Benefits the Church and the State

Although it was mentioned that education had been neglected to maintain the power of the church and state. For Luther, educated citizens would be of a greater benefit to the church and state.

The rationale is that the church would receive ministers, teachers, pastors, etc. and the state would receive future civil servants. Therefore, education would not tear down society but would rather build it up.

Conclusion

Luther was primarily a reformer but also was a powerful force in education. His plea for the development of education in Germany led to the construction of schools all over the Protestant controlled parts of Germany. His work was of such importance that he has been viewed as one of the leading educational reformers of the 16th century.

Education During the Reformation

By the 16th century, Europe was facing some major challenges to the established order of doing things. Some of the causes of the upheaval are less obvious than others.

For example, the invention of gunpowder made knights useless. This was significant because now any common soldier could be more efficient and useful in battle than a knight that took over ten years to train. This weakened the prestige of the nobility at least temporarily while adjustments were made within the second estate and led to a growth in the prestige of the third estate who were adept at using guns.

The church was also facing majors issues. After holding power for almost 1000 years people began to chaff at the religious power of Europe. There was a revival in learning that what aggressively attacked by monks, who attacked the study of biblical languages accusing this as the source of all heresies.

The scholars of the day mock religion as a superstition. Furthermore, the church was accused of corruption and for abusing power. The scholars or humanists called for a return to the Greek and Romans classics, which was the prevailing worldview before the ascension of Catholicism.

Out of the chaos sprang the protestant reformation which rejects the teachings of the medieval church. The Protestants did not only have a different view on religion but also on how to educate as we shall see.

Protestant Views of Education

A major tenet of Protestantism that influenced their view on education was the idea of personal responsibility. What this meant was that people needed to study for themselves and not just listen to the teacher. In a spiritual sense that meant reading the Bible for one’s self. In an educational sense, it meant confirming authority with personal observation and study.

Out of this first principal springs two other principles which are education that matches an individual’s interest and the study of nature. Protestants believed that education should support the natural interest and ablities of a person rather than the interest of the church.

This was and still is a radical idea. Most education today is about the student adjusting themselves to various standards and benchmarks developed by the government. Protestants challenged this view and said education should match the talents of the child. If a child shows interest in woodworking teach this to him. If he shows interest in agriculture teach that to him.

To be fair, attempts have been made in education to “meet the needs” of the child and to differentiate instruction. However, these goals are made in order to take a previously determined curriculum and make it palpable to the student rather than designing something specifically for the individual student. The point is that a child is more than a cog in a machine to be trained as a screwdriver or hammer but rather an individual whose value is priceless.

Protestants also support the study of nature. Be actually observing nature it reduced a great deal of the superstition of the time. At one point, the religious power of Europe forbade the study of human anatomy through the performing autopsies. In addition, Galileo was in serious trouble for denying the geocentric model of the solar system. Such restrictions stalled science for years and were removed through Protestantism.

Conclusion

The destabilization that marks the reformation marks a major break in history. With the decline of the church came the rise of the common man to a position of independent thought and action. These ideas of personal responsibility came from the growing influence of Protestants in the world.