Philosophy of Education: Essays and Commentaries

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

Educational Philosophy and the Educational Philosopher

George L. Newsome Jr.*

Considerable attention has been given by educators, educational philosophers, and philosophers to a definition of the term "philosophy of education." Writers of texts on the subject, teachers of educational philosophy and related studies, and philosophers have all sought to define philosophy of education, state its peculiar aims, subject matter, scope, and the like, or to advocate in its place some autonomous discipline of education. . . .

Needless to say, various conceptions of educational philosophy which can be found in these many sources show that philosophy and educational philosophy can be, and in fact have been, defined in different ways. Philosophers, who have not yet defined their own discipline except to their own personal satisfaction, nevertheless, do not hesitate to try to define educational philosophy. This situation, however, is probably to be expected and, on the whole, might prove valuable in that it might highlight areas of agreement and disagreement and bring forth new and valuable ideas.

Philosophy of education, no doubt, has something to do with philosophy, since the term "philosophy" is used. Philosophers, as we know, have not yet reached agreement upon a definition of philosophy. Such statements as "philosophy is an attempt to comprehend reality," "philosophy is an attempt to rationalize experience," or "philosophy is an attempt to see reality steadily and see it whole" all depend upon what one means by "reality," "experience," or "wholeness." Similarly, attempts to define philosophy in terms of its subject matter have failed. Philosophers select their own subject matter and treat it as they see fit. Philosophers, it seems, hold different opinions regarding the particular characteristics of philosophy as a branch of knowledge, although they seem generally to agree that it is not a special form of activity apart from human problems. In short, about all that philosophers can agree upon concerning philosophy as a discipline is that it has something to do with the problems of men. Educational philosophers might possibly reach a similar agreement concerning educational philosophy.

Educational philosophy, no doubt, pertains to education. Education, like philosophy, is a term that is difficult to define. It can be defined in many ways, from the narrowness of formal schooling to the generality of life. The indications are that philosophers and educators have not yet come to any very general agreement upon a definition of education.

If definitions of philosophy and of education cannot generally be arrived at, then any attempt to define philosophy of education in terms of them is

____________________
*
Reprinted by permission from Educational Theory, IX ( April, 1959), 97-104.

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