Philosophy and the American School: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education

By Van Cleve Morris | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Books on educational philosophy are generally of three types. First, there are the "system" books, which take up one "ism" at a time, developing each system's basic views on how the universe is arranged and then showing how these views, taken together, yield a particular theory of education. Then, second, there are the "topic" books, which build the argument around philosophical and educational issues -- e.g., human nature, morals, mind, culture, social change -- showing how each issue is relevant to the educational task and how the several philosophies deal with it in their educational theories. Finally, there are the "partisan" books, in which an author, after a career of study and reflection, attempts to elaborate his own position as he locates himself somewhere along the philosophic spectrum.

At the risk of impiety, I have decided to break with this tradition and attempt to introduce the newcomer to educational philosophy by another route. This route, to use a shorthand title, might be designated the "philosophy-to-policy-to-practice" approach:

Philosophy. All philosophy deals essentially with three major questions: What is real? What is true? What is good? Sooner or later all philosophical discussion winds up under one of these three categories. In the technical language of the philosopher, these categories are called ontology, epistemology, and axiology, respectively. Before anyone can think intelligently about educational philosophy, he must first acquire a working knowledge of these three questions -- what they involve, how the discipline of philosophy deals with them, and how they relate to educational theory. Accordingly, after a brief introductory Part I, I have devoted the first major portion of this book to these three questions. Part II takes up the question, What is real?; Part III the question, What is true?; and Part IV the question, What is good?

Each of these parts is composed of a triad of chapters. The first chapter in the triad attempts to show what the title question involves, what its philosophical dimensions are. The second chapter in the triad examines how the question is dealt with by five major philosophic schools of thought: Idealism, Realism, Neo-Thomism, Experimentalism, and, a

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