I recently started taking the Philosophy of Education course at the Ayn Rand Institute which is based on an earlier presentation by Dr. Leonard Peikoff. When I was first considering the video course I wasn’t sure if it was applicable to me. The course is geared towards identifying a philosophy that is appropriate for teaching children. I am neither a parent or teacher, but have a belief in lifelong learning. Although this is a primary focus, Dr. Peikoff later explains that this course is applicable to anyone who has an interest in optimizing their education and identifying gaps within their education thus far.
At this point I am only a couple of modules into the course but I am finding the course content to be fascinating. There is definitely something here for everyone with an interest in philosophy and their method of learning. Here is an interesting concept that I have picked up thus far. This is based on Dr. Peikoff’s presentation, but I have changed the emphasis from children to that of an individual person as I believe, as Dr. Peikoff states, that this information is universally applicable to the individual regardless of age.
Dr. Peikoff identifies five theories of education:
1. Communicating Knowledge: We have accumulated large amounts of knowledge throughout human history. The purpose here is to organize this information systematically and transmit as much knowledge as possible to the individual. The earlier the better.
2. Socializing: The purpose of education is to train the individual in social adjustment, training them to be useful members of the group, community, and society. The main idea behind this theory is that the essence of life is one’s relationship to other men. In other words, an others orientation. The philosopher most prominently associated with this view is John Dewey.
3. Individuating: The purpose of education is to enable the individual to discover, realize, fulfill his own self. The essence of this theory is that each person is potentially unique, he is potentially an individual, and education should concentrate on bringing out this aspect in him, on stressing or fostering his individuality. There are lesser elements of this theory in Montessori but this theory is also associated with John Dewey.
4. Developing Morality: This theory proposes that the primary purpose of education is to develop morality within a person. In this instance, morality is interchangeable with virtue, conscience, a sense of values, good character, good habits, proper pleasures, right emotions, or mental health. One of the challenges with this theory arises when you attempt to define what exactly constitutes good behavior. Medieval religionists subscribed to this approach but so did Adolf Hitler. They had different ideas of what they wanted to turn out, but they both believed the purpose of education was to bring up a certain kind of character. Today, this theory of education is most often associated with religious based schooling such as education based on the Catholic Church, Moral Majority, or fundamentalists views, to name a few.
5. Methodology: This theory proposes that education is essentially training in methodology, specifically in the methodology of thinking. Specifically in the methods relating to reason and using one’s intelligence. What matters here is the method of interpreting and applying knowledge as opposed to the amount of knowledge. If you don’t have the right method or you use it just sporadically, haphazardly, it’s outside of your control, your knowledge comes down to being just so much memorized dogma, so it’s useless to you anyway. The philosopher associated with this view is John Dewey.
Dr. Peikoff goes on to explain in the course that you cannot have all the theories, at least at the primary, or foundational level. An education must be driven by a primary choice which everything else, to include a whole system of education, is later built upon.