Evolution of Personal Philosophy of Education
What is institutional education supposed to do for people in the future? Education is something that happens now and that should happen forever. Institutional education cannot service every need or prepare a person for every life experience. Institutional education happens in the classroom with the material and the teacher. Institutional education also occurs in the everyday experience and interaction with classmates, teachers, other staff. But because institutional education is an institution, the scope of the experience allowed within it is articulated and therefore limited. Education can help assist us in life outside of it, but it is not a substitute for real life. The point of the paper is to scrutinize objectivism and constructivism. Any educators aiming at transforming the ideal educational experience and outcome into the real educational experience and outcome must incorporate both perspectives and practices in their philosophy of education and in their teaching practices.
Because school is an institution, there are rules. When parents enter their children into this institution, because the children have no choice as children and neither do the parents really because it is the law, the children have to agree to abide by some rules. I believe this is the place from where objectivism comes. Objectivism is all about following instructions. In objectivist classroom settings, the teacher is complete in charge and in control. The teacher controls what material is presented, how the material is presented, the application of the material, and the demonstration of the material in the curriculum by the students. The students are relatively passive and more receptive in an objectivist environment. In the extreme practice of objectivism in education, the result is fascism. The children are drones to be programmed and pushed along an assembly line of education. The students are not required to exhibit independent thought, nor is independent thought requested. In this setting, independent thought is not needed. It is not developed. It is not asked for. Independent thought, creativity, curiosity and other demonstrations of spontaneity and humanity are retarded. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” This applies in an extremely objectivist environment in education. It is not to say that objectivism is without use or is unnecessary.
For education to be really effective, the classroom environment cannot be objectivist all the time in the classroom or the children will die on the inside. They will hate school and associate it with the destruction of spirit and individuality. This is a reality in many schools and classrooms around the world right now. For many students, locally and globally, extreme objectivism in education is their reality. Education can be really objectivist for many reasons. On the individual level, a teacher may hate children. There are plenty of teachers who deeply dislike and hate children and are teachers despite of or maybe because of their feelings. There are teachers who are under pressure from their superiors to maintain certain statistics or they will lose their jobs that they really like and/or really need.
On a grand scale, objectivism in education is part of a plan to control and manipulate the masses. School prepares you for life. So if in school one is without control, one will not be so surprised and will be less likely to revolt when in the workforce one has no control or independent thought. Objectivists believe in the existence of reliable knowledge the teaching approach relies on transmission, instructionist approach, which is largely passive, teacher-directed and controlled. As learners the goal is to gain this knowledge as educators transmit. Objectivism further assumes that learners gain the same understanding from what is transmitted. Learning therefore consists of assimilating that objective reality. Over the course of my studies, I came to realize that this is not the ideal atmosphere for a special education classroom. It is not practical because the nature of the students’ disabilities may keep the teacher from maintaining this kind of environment realistically. Furthermore, an excess of this kind of perspective does not equal education to me. It is instruction, but not education. This distinction became clearer for me over the course of my graduate program.
Objectivism in the workplace occurs to the greatest degree in the corporate world, the military, in administration and business, and in the government, from local to federal. These industries constitute a great deal of the workforce world. There are other options. These industries are strong. They are dependable. With evidence of institutional education in the past, it is fairly easy for just about anyone to get a job in these fields. So objectivism in education does have a place in the real world. I learned over the course of my studies that special education may have their issues and disabilities, but it is unwise to underestimate them. It is not wise to lower my expectations to the point where I do not believe in their ability to assimilate to moderate to high degrees within society. This lets them down and this does not push me as a special educational professional. I have learned that teachers must moderate and individuate their expectations for progress and goals for each student. Some of these goals should include that the students learn how to follow some of the normal social practices that their normative peers would experience in school. This perspective on the philosophy of education does prepare folks for the workforce and for life, if one is the type to do what one is told in all areas in one’s life. This control through objectivism makes it easy for advertisers and corporations to dictate tastes, consumption, and life. It makes it easier for companies to take money that earned at a place where one has no thoughts of one’s own.
Objectivism in the extreme is totally bleak. It is necessary though. In order for society to work in general, definitely society on the level that America is functioning on, everybody has to agree and follow rules. Certain levels of obedience are absolutely necessary for society to function. We all have to agree to stop at stop signs. We have to agree to pay for stuff at the store, etc. I am speaking to the extreme because extremes provide stark clarification. Plus, objectivism and constructivism are the extremes on the spectrum of educational practice. If we imagine an epistemological continuum, objectivism and constructivism would represent opposite extremes, occupying the poles in the philosophy of education. Some people speak of various types of constructivism — radical, social, physical, postmodern constructivism, social constructivism, information-processing constructivism. If a teacher exercises an objectivist point-of-view, then that teacher believes that learners passively receive information and give priority in instruction to knowledge transmission. I, on the other hand, believe that learners actively construct knowledge in their attempts to makes sense of their worlds, such that their learning and my teaching emphasizes the development of meaning and comprehension.
Blind, sustained obedience is not the goal of every industry and it does not fully align with American culture. Americans argue. They disagree. They are industrious, resourceful, and independent. We are inventive. We are creative. We are spontaneous and collaborative. We are communal and value individual uniqueness highly. I think this is where constructivism comes from. Constructivism really values the individual. It is a really humanist philosophy. It puts emphasis on creativity, sharing, and the truth of experience. This seemed to be a necessity for the philosophy of education for a special education professional, for without the use of this perspective as part of teaching practice, teachers would experience a great deal more frustration than they need to. I want to enjoy my work, or at the very least, not be infinitely frustrated by it. This is how my preference for constructivism developed as part of my philosophy of education over the course of my graduate degree.
Constructivism makes for the perfect atmosphere for people to bloom naturally and organically. It fosters self-esteem, and self-reliance. It helps people believe in themselves. Constructivism also more fully develops the person as a whole. This philosophy engages and uses both hemispheres of the brain. People taught in this kind of philosophy are more well-rounded. Constructivism also develops all nine different types of intelligence way more effectively than objectivism.
Too much constructivism can have an adverse effect on the individual as well. If a student thinks the world operates the same way the classroom does, the student could become flakey. In excess, the student could become really selfish and think rules do not ever need to be followed. The student could become an anarchist. I am not saying anarchy is bad or is not useful from time to time, but it is completely unrealistic as a constant. It is exhausting and futile and nothing gets done if it goes on forever. I am all for revolution. I do not propagate widespread, unending anarchy. Little bouts or explosions or periodic, sporadic, and temporary anarchy are just fine and are necessary (and predictable) within certain political and social structures. It is also a part of history. The colonists revolted against Britain. How many revolutions has France had/endured? Let us not neglect to mention all the revolutions in Central and South America. So I am not for the eradication of revolution, nor am I advocating for everlasting freedom as anarchy. Too much constructivism can make students airheaded and flighty. In the classroom, too much of it gives the power to the students and not to the teacher. Students should definitely feel empowered during and by education. Too much responsibility and liability is on the teacher for the teacher to not, overall, at the end of the day, be in control.
As a result of completing this program, I have come to fully advocate the use of both philosophies. I am definitely more on the side of constructivism. We are all repressed and limited in our regular lives. I have had a wonderful experience with education. I want my students to feel the same way. We are all told to follow so many rules wherever we go and be judged by impossible standards of beauty, wealth, social skill, and ability. There should be a place where we can be free to express ourselves. Why not in education? Why not have those feelings in a place where we have to go every day for huge portions of our lives? It would make the experience of education and of life easier. We would decrease stress and live longer. I know from practical experience that a constructivist environment dangerous if that is how it is all the time. The kids will run over the teacher. The teacher will not reach statistics goals for the school. The school could lose funding and the quality of the education would go down significantly. Teachers cannot be objectivist all the time. There will be a mutiny, either from the parents, or the students, or the principal, or any combination of those. If the kids are good, reward them with freedom. This builds trust. The teacher can trust the students to obey and listen and give the power over to them. The kids will trust the teacher to allow them to be free and grow as individuals. When there is two way trust, many beautiful, unexpected, and ideal changes can occur. Therefore, my philosophy has evolved to exercise both objectivist and constructivist perspectives and activities wherever I teach. It is because of the experience I have had in education as both a student and an educator that informs my philosophy and my practice.
Hein, G.E. (1991). Constructivist Learning Theory. International Committee of Museum Educators Conference, Israel. Web, Available from: http://www.exploratorium.edu/IFI/resources/constructivistlearning.html. 2012 November 28.
Lewis, D. (2001). Objectivism vs. Constructivism: The Origins of this Debate and the Implications for Instructional Designers. University of South Florida — College of Education, Web, Available from: http://www.coedu.usf.edu/agents/dlewis/publications/Objectivism_vs_Constructivism.htm. 2012 November 28.
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