Reading R. S. Peters Today: Analysis, Ethics, and the Aims of Education

Reading R. S. Peters Today: Analysis, Ethics, and the Aims of Education

Reading R. S. Peters Today: Analysis, Ethics, and the Aims of Education

Reading R. S. Peters Today: Analysis, Ethics, and the Aims of Education

Synopsis

Reading R. S. Peters Today: Analysis, Ethics and the Aims of Education reassesses British philosopher Richard Stanley Peters' educational writings by examining them against the most recent developments in philosophy and practice.
  • Critically reassesses R. S. Peters, a philosopher who had a profound influence on a generation of educationalists
  • Brings clarity to a number of key educational questions
  • Exposes mainstream, orthodox arguments to sympathetic critical scrutiny

Excerpt

Writing in 1966, in the closing words of his now classic Ethics and Education, R. S. Peters ponders the possibility that we are suffering from a kind of malaise, accentuated by an overburdened economy. And he sees this malaise as manifested in a disillusionment with the institutions of democracy, including the institutions of education: this is a disillusionment that is experienced by traditionalists and progressives alike. Yet, although he acknowledges this reasonable disappointment, he concludes affirmatively with the recognition that the most worthwhile features of political life are in the institutions that we in fact have. For in the end it is the institutions of democracy that constitute the form of government that a rational person can accept.

Writing nearly half a century later, can we hold on to thoughts such as these? That was a time of prosperity, whereas now we face the varying deeps of a recession. That decade was heralded, so it now seems, with the muchquoted quip of the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan that ‘most of our people have never had it so good’. He was in fact speaking in 1957, but the remark was to become celebrated as an expression that supposedly epitomised the time. Hence, the general sense that the 1960s was a time of prosperity may make Peters’ remarks about an overburdened economy now seem somewhat surprising. Compare that time with our current straitened circumstances, and you may wonder why disillusionment had set in. After all, you may be tempted further to think, don’t we now face a situation, around the world, in which the financing of educational institutions is strained, where the institutions that finance them are stained, and where the possibilities of democratic access are progressively, surreptitiously curtailed?

There may be some truth in thoughts such as these, but to indulge such a view is conveniently to ignore the increases in real wealth that have been achieved in the intervening decades, as well as the extension of educational provision in so many ways. It was developments in the 1960s, in the economy and in ideas, surely, that provided the ground in which that expansion of education in many significant respects took root. In fact, Peters himself came into the field at a time when his own thinking about education could flourish, and the thoughts that he then disseminated in his writings and teaching had influence around the world. Moreover, apart from his influence through books and articles, Peters was himself a creator of institutions. Thus, in a very real sense, the pages you are now reading owe their existence to Peters’ initiative, with the establishment of the Philosophy of Education Society of . . .

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