Philosophy of Education: Essays and Commentaries

By Hobert W. Burns; Charles J. Brauner | Go to book overview

to that question. And with respect to subordinate recommendations, it must ask similar questions: whether the methods recommended are genuinely valid, and what the reasons are for or against their validity.

The ethics of education may be construed either as the activity of considering the nature of goodness and rightness, the validity of the goal recommendations of education as well as of its subordinate recommendations, and the giving of reasons for or against such recommendations; or as a body of statements which incorporate such considerations.

Two morals are to be drawn from this understanding of the phrase "ethics of education." The first is that ethical writers on education must be quite clear as to the kind of reasons which tell for or against the recommendations of that discipline. It is easily supposed by many that ethical recommendations receive their support in the same way as do other kinds of statement, that reasons for them are premises from which they can be deduced, or inductive evidence which renders them probable. There is not space, here, to show why this view is dubious. We can only note its dubious character, and observe that clarity in ethics of education demands a clear understanding of the relation which makes one thing an ethical reason for another.

The second moral is that, in the beginning at least, there is no such thing as the ethics of education. We have seen that there are several different kinds of ethical theory; and we may now add that within each, there is much variation from one particular theory to another. Each particular ethical theory provides us with its own unique ethics of education; for although there should be one single coherent body of valid educational recommendations--a view which seems inevitable to the writer [but a view which] does not preclude the variation of goal recommendations in time and place, nor a variation of subordinate recommendations--each ethical theory would supplement the statement of those precepts by its unique understanding of the nature of goodness and rightness. In the beginning, at least, the pragmatic ethics of education, for example, is only one among many other such theories. In the end, after careful consideration of the claims of the various theories, one might well offer his allegiance to one as opposed to the rest. To accept one from the outset, however, as many have done, is a dogmatism against which our second moral warns; while to accept one upon reflection, where cognitive superiority manifests itself, is an obligation which philosophy imposes.


CONCLUSION

When we ask, "What is a philosophy of education?" we are asking, "What is an analysis of education, a metaphysics of education, and an ethics of education?" And this complex question is answered by saying that an analysis of education is a clarification of whatever terms are obscure in it, that a metaphysics of education is a theory of existence intended to explain its factual part, and in that way to ground its recommendations; and that an ethics of education is a justification of the two kinds of recommendation it contains, including a consideration of the question as to the nature of goodness and rightness, and

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