Teaching Philosophy

The Blended Philosophy

What’s the elevator pitch on my educational philosophy?  It’s simple to state, however, more complex to execute.  As educators, we should take ambidextrous with our core philosophy, how we teach our students should be just as dynamic as the students that we face.  There is no perfect solution or philosophy to learning, so why adopt just one?  Ways of learning, people and lifestyles are hardly ever black or white issues, there is only case by case, ever-changing solutions/strategies and understandings of humanity and how to progress.  Simply put, my educational philosophy is taking the aspects of essentialism, perennial-ism, progressivism, social reconstruction-ism and existentialism and blending them into the education system.  Simple to state, complex to execute. 

Some of these philosophies alternate in the level of importance as a child moves through grade school and into higher education.  To adopt just one or even two seems restrictive to not only my capabilities as a teacher but also to our students.  Different aspects of each philosophy should be implemented as a student moves through the academic system.  In the beginning, I would see essentialism approach being very important.  However, there also needs to be aspects of progressivism and existentialism that are present as well.  By using aspects of essentialism, progressivism, and existentialism in a child’s learning we can equip them with successful tools in crucial subjects to learning while encouraging their motivation to learn and exercising their growth as an individual.

While I recognize many of these philosophies contradict others, I still believe all of them have an important role in educating our youth.  Let me explain.  I am a big believer in a blended mix between perennial-ism and progressivism.  I know this comes as an oxymoron, however, in order to build an analytical mind that can face real-world problems, as a teacher, we must also give them a platform of what individuals in our past have done.  After all, isn’t that the point of documenting history?  To observe what those before us have done, to make fewer mistakes and a more educated decision on how to handle the present and the future. 

My grandmother was the head teacher at a schoolhouse in the late 40s through the 60s and she was very much a perennialist.  She forced her students to memorize Edgar Allan Poe poems, which seems ridiculous in the world of education today.  However, since retirement she has received multiple phone calls from her students, telling her how they hated it back then, but as they grew into adulthood, those poems carried a lot of meaning in their lives.  One even mentioned that repeating he memorized in middle school, carried him through a very difficult time in his life.  This is a simple example as to why the “Great Books” are still relevant in the classrooms today.  I still believe we should expose our students to these texts, while openly discuss their meanings, given their cultural context and timing.  These are writings, although very Eurocentric, are our past, and taking their philosophies, with a grain of salt, is an important part of helping young minds sculpt their own understandings of the world and how to analyze and resolve experiences they face.  The main point is that these “Great Books” are taken with a grain of salt though, they are not an absolute truth, but they are the building blocks of the foundation of which we came.

The struggle with the Perennial philosophy is that it does not support or represent how beautifully diverse our world or our American classrooms are.  These “Great Books” were constructed in a world that gave little regard/respect to diverse cultures, genders or ethnicities.  Thus only giving one perspective on how our world evolved.  It is just one perspective that should be balanced out with many other literary works in the classroom.  As an educator, it is crucial to expose our students to various ways or tools they can use to formulate meaning and create their own strategies for understanding the real world around them.

According to John Dewey, students learn best through social interaction in the real world.  He believed that the school system should resemble a democratic structure, where students are can build their curriculum around “experiences, interests, and abilities of students”.   This is all well and good, and I resonate with this line of thought more then most educational philosophies, however, there is an age and time in the classroom where this is the main focus.  We are dealing with diverse individuals, ages, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs.  As educators, we need to know when to be an essentialist educator, when to focus on progressivism and when to challenge young minds on the social dilemmas of this world.