Plato believed that the man who explores the wider world can experience a more fulfilling life; his allegory on the Cave providing an educational philosophy striving for justice and the creation of a just world. The concept of dialogical teaching, disrupting a pupil’s grasp of a subject to show them how to engage in agonistic debate. This idea that knowledge is an absolute form to work toward and that everyone should be taught subjects that engage them in the World. The world in which Plato lived was a far cry from today’s, yet the sentiment rings true. Children’s learning should always be ongoing, becoming.
In a few of our recent lectures we have touched on the importance of societal changes on education. Indeed many philosophers such as Dewey, Greene and Gramsci all lived through or were impacted by the shattering of the norm. So these forward thinking people created educational philosophies based on the need for revolution. After atrocities such as the First World War, when people realised that other human beings can act in ways that will make us question our own morality.
The growth of capitalism in Gramsci’s time drove him to create a philosophy where teaching techniques would be impacted by the issues that impacted the community. Gramsci was very aware that people created their own forms of oppression; we are manipulated by the media we are a part of. This is so relevant in today’s society, relevant to our children and the instant world they are a part of. We need to know what informs the learning environment if we are to impact upon techniques.
Philosopher Friere elevated the concept of gaining knowledge through disruption (aporia) to praxis; believing that dialogue was not enough and critical reflection on action was needed to better the world. These philosophers slowly introduced student autonomy. Even though we are still not there, I believe that acquisition of knowledge begins with questioning the world. We start as babies, making noises and reacting to what is going on around us. The adults in our world respond as they see fit. When we start to ask questions it is then that all effort should be made by those around us to engage and nurture inquiry and action. I know myself, as a mother of a truly inquisitive three year old, that there are only so many “why’s??” I can answer. I genuinely believe that I don’t always have to give a sensible answer, I can sometimes answer with a question or lead the line of question to a tangent and watch her find out by herself. It’s beautiful to watch.
If children are encouraged to inquire into their own education and they are given the tools to transcend certain contexts to reach a rewarding outcome, then the world would be a more harmonious place. Maybe harmonious is the wrong word, maybe as educator’s we would know those we guide would be able to lead and to follow, delve into agonistic debate and act upon emotions in a discerning manner. International Baccalaureate Schools (IB) are a progressive education system based on the theorist Boyer. Boyer’s theory (very concisely) was the school as a community, a curriculum with coherence, a climate for learning and a commitment to character. These are all implemented within the schools to provide a portable education. From what I have read, there seems to be similarities with our own Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), however it is more hands on and the subjects more aesthetic. It may be that the CfE is still being discovered. I wonder if it will take more universal change to implement a way of learning that is as conceptually based as the IB. I am definitely looking forward to learning more about this approach and to infuse this concious approach in my own teaching.