The Aims of Education

The Aims of Education

The Aims of Education

The Aims of Education


Here international philosophers of education explore and question diverse strains of the liberal tradition, discussing not only autonomy but other key issues such as:

  • social justice
  • national identity
  • curriculum
  • critical thinking
  • social practices

The contributors write from a variety of standpoints, offering many interpretations of what liberalism might mean in educational terms.


The Aims of Education is a new collection of essays written by some of the most distinguished philosophers of education in Britain, North America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. There is surprisingly little in book form specifically concerned with the aims of education and it is with the intention of filling this gap that the present collection has been produced. All of the essays are designed to promote wide-ranging discussion of what education should be concerned with as we enter the new millennium.

Only two contributors to this volume were privileged to read essays other than their own. Apart from the editor, John White had the brief of commenting freely on others’ work. He is critical of most, before going on to develop what he considers to be a defensible version of liberalism with its associated value of personal autonomy. Many of the essays in this collection are within the so-called liberal tradition and are concerned with the promotion of autonomy as an educational aim. Sympathetic as White is with such a laudable goal, he remains dissatisfied with the ways in which it is cashed out in this volume.

If autonomy, in its different forms, is the central concern of several essays within this volume, it is not the exclusive preoccupation of all the contributors. Morwenna Griffiths is concerned with, among other things, social justice; Penny Enslin with national identity; David Carr with curriculum; William Hare with critical thinking; Paul Hirst is at pains to explicate what he refers to as social practices, which in many ways represents a repudiation of his earlier attachment to the centrality of forms of knowledge to discussions of educational aims. Kevin Harris asks questions about whose aims should be realised, while Paul Standish considers the possibility of education without aims. My own contribution is critical of White’s earlier work on the aims of education.

The essays in this volume are lively, challenging and varied. It is hoped that they will stimulate debate among all those who, since Plato, have recognised the importance of the relationship between education and the kind of life worth living.

Roger Marples

24 July 1998

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