Methods in Philosophy of Education

By Frieda Heyting; Dieter Lenzen et al. | Go to book overview

6

Philosophy of education as foundational analysis and critique

Conflicting liberal views on the right to an education for autonomy

Ger Snik and Wouter van Haaften


Introduction

One of the key tasks of philosophy of education, in our view, is research into the foundations of education, that is, the systematic analysis and critical assessment of the basic ideas and conceptual models that, often implicitly, guide educational theory and practice. In the first part of this contribution we will explain what we mean by 'foundations' and sketch the main steps in foundations research. In the second part we give an example by analysing the foundations of differing liberal perspectives on the right of children to an education for autonomy.


Foundations

'Foundations' will be our general term for basic ideas and conceptual models underlying educational theories and educational practice. Very often these ideas are implicit in the sense that the theorist or the practitioner have never clearly decided to let these ideas guide their work. Yet they play a role in determining what for the scientist or the practitioner, and for the reference groups they want to measure up to, is to count as quality in their work. They are decisive for what they will consider correct or incorrect approaches in what they are doing, and for what they regard as correct or incorrect reasons for what they are trying to achieve. More fundamentally, these ideas shape the scientists' and the practitioners' tacit ontologies, and thus the way they look at things in the everyday reality of their work. Foundations determine what can be seen as 'the facts'.

The character of foundations may be further clarified by their status as presuppositions. Not all presuppositions in discourse are foundations. In line with Collingwood (1940) we may distinguish relative and absolute or foundational presuppositions. For instance, when a teacher is asked: 'What are you going to do about the sexual harassment in the class room?' a relative, factual implication is that sexual harassment does indeed occur. Moreover, there is a relative, normative implication in this question, namely, that the teacher

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