Philosophic Thought in France and the United States: Essays Representing Major Trends in Contemporary French and American Philosophy

By Marvin Farber | Go to book overview

THE PHILOSOPHY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION

Harold Taylor*


I

A philosophy of education, more directly than any other philosophy, reflects and interprets the history, the culture, and the social condition of the country of its origin. On the other hand, the educational system itself, as it works from day to day, in its school buildings with its teachers and students, expresses a philosophy of national aims, cultural aims, political aims, and, to a degree, the ordinary values and hopes of the people. An examination of the educational system of a country, to detect its physical, spiritual, and social strength, can yield, therefore, an insight into the weakness and strength of a nation, as well as an insight into its philosophy. It is of philosophical importance to note such things as the number of schools in proportion to the population, the number of teachers and students, the cost of going to a university, the number of years the average citizen spends in school as a child, the amount of money spent from the national income, the size of the libraries, the number of books, the salaries of teachers, the size of the athletic plant, the facts and content of the curriculum, the human attitudes the teachers are concerned to develop in children, and the beauty and ugliness of the buildings themselves.

These objective items are the reality in which the national value judgments are fixed, and indicate the scope and quality of education, and thus the quality of culture, in the civilization in which they are found. That reality implies a philosophy and a scale of values, which are distinct from those explicitly stated by educators and philosophers, although in many ways they may coincide. The social system and its proclaimed set

____________________
*
Born in 1914. Ph.D., University of London, 1938. Formerly a member of the Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin. President of Sarah Lawrence College since 1945. Author of numerous contributions to philosophical and educational publications including: "Philosophical Aspects of the Harvard Report," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, December, 1946: "Philosophy and World Order," The Journal of Philosophy, December, 1946; "Philosophy and Education," The Journal of Higher Education, January, 1948; "Education in the Modern World," The Educational Record, January, 1948.

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