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Thinking about schools: A philosophical assessment

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  1. Introduction
  2. The need for a new philosophy of education
  3. Theoretical framework
  4. Pragmatism
  5. Reconstructionism
  6. A Proposal to rescue the public schools
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

The writing of this paper has been challenging and refreshing at the same time. Socialized as an African American male in this society, carrying a narrative of a troubled youth in school, and trained as a social worker, I have a rare perspective on education in the United States, which happens to be critical. I see the American educational system as biased, interest driven, and even somewhat harmful. Studying the philosophy of education has broadened my perspective by opening doors for reflection. Thus, writing this paper has been an educational experience as I have wrestled with new, sometimes alien concepts.

Although there are other lenses through which one can study education, such as sociology, anthropology, and psychology, there is a need to deconstruct the present philosophy of education. As Ozmon and Craver (2003) note, ?the philosophical study of education seems imperative today because this is a critical era of transition?

[...] As John Dewey (1960/1980) said: of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the intentional, modes of education? (quoted here from Ozmon & Craver p. 165). References Brameld, T. (1956). Toward a reconstructed philosophy of education. New York: Dryden. Counts, G. S. (1932/1969). Dare the schools build a new social order? New York: Arno Press. Dewey, J. (1916/1980). [...]

[...] From a pragmatic standpoint, to promote democratic citizens schools must themselves be democratic, giving students the widest possible variety in how they address topics. Some students work well independently, others in group settings, and still others in some combination of these (Ozmon & Craver, 2003). For their part, teachers should use a wide variety of means of conveying knowledge, including not only textbooks but also computers, field trips, guest speakers, and group discussions. Some Afrocentric schools and Black Studies programs often dismiss the work of white male theorists, contending that they are unable to understand the experience of marginalization and other cultural biases. [...]

[...] 163?164) Dewey further believed that schools should focus on both the mind and the body, since education is a form of art, not a science: All communication is like art. It may fairly be said, therefore, that any social arrangement that remains vitally social, or vitally shared, is educative to those who participate in it. Only when it becomes cast in a mold and runs in a routine way does it loses its educative power. (Quoted here from Ozmon & Craver p. [...]

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