Philosophy of Education

Posted by on Dec 15, 2011 in Blog/Articles | 0 comments

Philosophy of Education

Maria Rey de Souza
            As the popular writer C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Abolition of Man: “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts” (Lewis, pg. 27).  Irrigating deserts seems to be exactly what teachers are called to do in our modern era.  Despite our countless ingenious inventions created to aid in the learning process, there is a void in the minds and hearts of students, a chasm of increasing lack of interest in education in general.   Reading and regurgitating information without the challenge of critical thought is becoming only too common a tragedy for students thirsting for real knowledge.  The fact that many of us would like to eradicate this notion by simply ‘turning a blind eye (as in denial)’ indicates that there is, indeed, a problem with America’s idea of education.
            But where does one begin to “irrigate deserts” as Lewis puts it?  To address this problem, one must first consider what should be the focus of every school: the students.  A large majority of students in public schools today are taught, as noted before, information regurgitation.  Several teachers today focus ample emphasis on what is being taught simply to assure that their students pass standardized tests, at the same time neglecting the potential locked within them by forgoing the encouragement of critical thought.  The way that students learn is seldom considered.  Learner-centered instruction must always be in the forefront of the mind of the educator.  This consideration for every student’s needs, predispositions and characteristics is the basis for understanding the different ways that a student can learn (Ormrod, pg. 3).  The teacher can determine that visual imagery, organization, and productive rehearsal may all be effective learning strategies for 5th grade students (Ormrod, pg. 35).  In the area of Literature, these are certainly never difficult strategies to contrive.  Encouraging the use of verbal reasoning, argument analysis, probabilistic reasoning, and hypothesis testing are all useful ways to evoke critical thought among students (Ormrod, pg. 120).
            Student’s characteristics play a key role in a teacher’s ability to determine student’s needs and, ultimately, promote learner-centered instruction.  Many understand the simple fact that every person is different.  No one of us is alike.  This is one of life’s joys: the individuality of each precious soul.  Educators should strive to apply this simple fact to their students so that they can come to appreciate each student, always striving to identify their good qualities and exceptional talents.  Coming to understand more about a student in a tender and nonjudgmental manner creates opportunities for educators to discover which learning strategies are more palatable for each individual student and possibly premeditate future hindrances for the child which may be easily remedied.
            The best way to teach a student is with a humble and caring heart, and with dignity and respect.  These tools are the best and least promoted by modern society. True humility is an imperative virtue that every educator should strive to grasp, for we are all, teacher and pupil, the students of life, no one greater than the other.  This quest for humility will make room in the mind and heart of the educator for contemplation, encouraging reflective teaching.
The goal of teaching is to instill within the hearts of students the goodness of learning and to infuse its beautiful and sacred qualities in both the mind and spirit of the student, while at the same time, instructing the mind with information that will prove useful later in life.  The key to captivating the mind of a pupil is to challenge it to be better than it can be through encouragement and careful instruction during hardship and academic difficulty, commendation and complementation when milestones are reached, and charitable correction when needed, all in the spirit of unconditional caring and respect for the student.  Irrigating deserts is not as difficult as it may seem, it just takes an educator that truly cares.

Citations:

1.) C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, or Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics  (San Francisco/New York: Harper San Francisco, A division of Harper Collins Publishers, 2002)
2.)  Ormrod, Jeanne.  Essentials of Educational Psychology, Ed. 3.

All written material (exception: citations) © Maria Rey de Souza as of 2011.
(This was a little essay I had to write for psychology in college, but thought the ideas were fascinating.  Education, like our culture today, is definitely something we all really need to re-think!)