A little theory is never enough

Posted by Edward Willatt on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Under: Education

The mire of teacher training in which I am currently submerged brings a number of things into focus.  Whilst psychology dominates in education theory there is some use of philosophy.  The discipline of education or teaching emerged relatively recently and it is made up of elements from other disciplines.  However, the philosophy used is often half-digested and the terms of the debate too limited.  The reason given for this is that we need to be practical and focused upon what applies and works in teaching.  I cannot agree with this.  If we are going to be practical let us be practical, let us go out and teach.  This is surely better than using bits of theory, half-baked theory which is not explored in any depth.  I find that talk of ‘professional values’, for example, is not philosophically interesting or valuable if they are overly abstract and have no relation to how they are embodied in a flourishing life.  They are made up of the clichés of public policy and regulations which does not connect with the things we encounter in living an ethical life.  Such bad philosophy is not something a philosopher should be interested in or contribute to.  This malaise will continue as long as education as a discipline is taught with limited and poorly developed theories under the justification that we cannot be too theoretical if we are to be practical and that we need to have a set of standards in order to ‘verify’ the quality of teaching.  We lose sight of individuals and the genuine values which are not set out in a document but embodied in a life and in the judgements one makes.  All of this moves away from the concrete individual that philosophy is interested in, whether this is the student or the teacher, and the concrete synthesis that includes both student and teacher.  Philosophy is concerned with well-developed theories that are embodied in the practical and draw upon concrete cases as well as ranging across them.  We can then either (i) explore theory and its relations with the practical in depth, (ii) throw ourselves into the practical or (iii) seek to use bits of theory to briefly and inadequately circumscribe and regulate the practical.  The third option can only be a way of ‘going through the motions’ and satisfy the bureaucratic demand for holding individuals to account. 

In : Education 



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A little theory is never enough

Posted by Edward Willatt on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Under: Education

The mire of teacher training in which I am currently submerged brings a number of things into focus.  Whilst psychology dominates in education theory there is some use of philosophy.  The discipline of education or teaching emerged relatively recently and it is made up of elements from other disciplines.  However, the philosophy used is often half-digested and the terms of the debate too limited.  The reason given for this is that we need to be practical and focused upon what applies and works in teaching.  I cannot agree with this.  If we are going to be practical let us be practical, let us go out and teach.  This is surely better than using bits of theory, half-baked theory which is not explored in any depth.  I find that talk of ‘professional values’, for example, is not philosophically interesting or valuable if they are overly abstract and have no relation to how they are embodied in a flourishing life.  They are made up of the clichés of public policy and regulations which does not connect with the things we encounter in living an ethical life.  Such bad philosophy is not something a philosopher should be interested in or contribute to.  This malaise will continue as long as education as a discipline is taught with limited and poorly developed theories under the justification that we cannot be too theoretical if we are to be practical and that we need to have a set of standards in order to ‘verify’ the quality of teaching.  We lose sight of individuals and the genuine values which are not set out in a document but embodied in a life and in the judgements one makes.  All of this moves away from the concrete individual that philosophy is interested in, whether this is the student or the teacher, and the concrete synthesis that includes both student and teacher.  Philosophy is concerned with well-developed theories that are embodied in the practical and draw upon concrete cases as well as ranging across them.  We can then either (i) explore theory and its relations with the practical in depth, (ii) throw ourselves into the practical or (iii) seek to use bits of theory to briefly and inadequately circumscribe and regulate the practical.  The third option can only be a way of ‘going through the motions’ and satisfy the bureaucratic demand for holding individuals to account. 

In : Education 



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