Upon reflection, it strikes me that my paper on MY philosophy of education should more closely reflect some understanding of key reference points discussed in class along with subsequent independent study for EDU 211. Education is new to me as a career path but not entirely foreign as I am currently a para-educator with the Special School District in St. Louis at the Neuwoehner School (a school that proudly boasts itself as a National School of Character).
Plowing through Dewey and his Pedagogic Creed I was first struck by what I found to be a sort of pomposity with the frequent use of I believe but I warmed up to his philosophy as I began to understand Dewey’s enormous influence in moving education away from being a unique privilege to a system that needs to understand and address social conditions. Schools are indeed social institutions. Furthermore, I agree with the notion that a child learns best when the teacher understands the dichotomy of psychology and social natures. Our second reading of Dewey finds him a bit more reflective (if not a tad defensive) in his philosophies of education – fair enough given that his leading influence lasted sixty years or more with a great influence on leading thinkers in education today. You can understand his concerns about being misunderstood. (A situation due, I believe, in equal parts to his huge influence and his proclivity to overly explain his positions. He would have benefited from a strong editor/publicist on his team.)
George Counts seems willing to stir the pot among progressives in his remarks that shape arguments that draw on what are uniquely American ideals while generously inserting a Soviet style brand of socialism. He calls for a measure of disruption of the economic order of Capitalism. While Dewey struck me as pompous, Counts seemed positively radical and Communist. As a baby boomer born of the Greatest Generation I am impressed that Counts was able to generate meaningful dialogue about the role education plays in a democracy in spite of his political leanings. My guess is he would have found a less receptive audience in the 1950s-60s.
We further studied Paulo Freier and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed and it isn’t hard to see the huge impact education can have in motivating the meek and persecuted under-classes in modern societies for social reform. I am impressed by this too (but it is not this kind of world view that inspires me to be in the field of education).
Marie Monetssori begins to seem more pragmatic (if at times formulaic) as our study of educational philosophies continued. Her approaches to education provide sound advice to educators to prepare an environment, be prepared as teacher/facilitator, and offer freedom to learn (with appropriate responsibility). This strikes me as abundantly wise, particularly with younger students as they begin their studies.
Nel Noddings is compelling and sensitive. Her ideas of organizing education around themes of care (for self, intimate others, strangers, animals/plants/earth, human-made world, ideas) might be criticized as being feminine, stereotypically assigning education to the wheelhouse of the feminine gender. Not a fair criticism in my view. Noddings is a successful product of the system and part of a huge family. She has a justifiable position if you believe in practicing what you preach. (No surprise she is a prolific author.)
We come to this idea of The Just Community Approach and almost stumble on our teacher as one of the authors of our assigned reading. Doing a Google search on Dr. Shields might have been a distraction. but perhaps not as jarring as the profound sadness of discovering news of Kohlberg’s suicide. (Okay, I admit it this piece of information came from Wikapedia but with sufficient detail to remind us all how short and precious life is. He was only 59 years old.) Since my source is Wikapedia on this factoid I am not going show it in the footnotes). I am mindful, having participated on some athletic teams in my lifetime, of how a Just Community supports a group as all the members take ownership of governance and boundaries. It works.
I will confess that I wrote an earlier paper on My Philosophy of Education. It is more personal. It draws on my experiences as admissions counselor for the University of Miami and as para-educator for the Special School District (SSD) and my audit of a Parkway School District School Board Meeting in August (for this class). Most of the philosophers we have discussed appear to have a much grander view of education than mine. Maybe that is because they earned a bigger audience among the education community. With the remaining space I will outline my general position on education even though I can see it as a philosophical position that will likely evolve further.
I. I have always been a fan of great books, fine art and timeless classics with a healthy interest in how art meets commerce. That makes me more a Perennialist I suppose.
II. I see how Essentialists may feel it necessary to get ahead by preparing students for the world as we (in the U.S.) are arguably falling behind in STEM. (My least favorite subjects are Science and Math. I am baffled by Engineering. And I am not overly confident in my Math skills.) Maybe judging the advocates of Common Core and No Child Left Behind is unfair of me. But there has to be a better answer than creating a culture of Test Takers.
III. I tend to side with Progressivism, since I like the intention of making education available for all, not just the elite and privileged. I like the pragmatism of Montessori for early education. And I see the role of education in a democracy as real.
IV. At the risk of sounding like one picking from a Chinese menu – I see the value of a culture of caring (Noddings) and pragmatic/systematic (Montessori) for early childhood education setting a stage for some practical learning of common core (without the burden of mandated testing) for High School culminating in a rewarding college pursuit of liberal arts with room for the exceptional STEM types to co-exist as it takes a lot of people to make the world go around.
V. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t emphatically support the great need we have as a society to support those human beings with special needs. We are only now beginning to realize the spectrum of Autism, the impact of ADHD, Downs, Mental Illness and a long list of medical obstacles that individuals live with every day. (And by extension, their families, and society as a whole.) The educational systems (public and private) needs to take responsibility as everyone in our society deserves a chance to live a happy, fulfilling and productive life. And each success achieved through our educational systems is a victory for humanity.
 Dewey, John My Pedagogic Creed School Journal vol 54 (January 1987)
 Dewey, John From Experiences and Education (1938)
 Counts, George S. Counts Progressive Education Vol IX April Number 4 Dare Progressive Education be Progressive? (1932)
 Freire, Paulo Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972)
 The Early Years – Lillard, Angeline and Else Quest, Nicole - Evaluating Montessori Education – Science vol 313 2006 and Taming Montessori by Jacobson, Linda Education Week vol 26 Issue 27 (2007)
 Noddings, Nel Teaching Themes of Care
 Power, F Clark; Power, Ann Marie R; Bredemeir, Brenda Light; Shields, David Light – Democratic Education and Children’s Rights