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Education – an instrument of social progress? Julia Suhorutsenko Tartu 01. 01. 2011 I would like to start my essay with the questions: what is the social progress? How can education help promote social progress? The social progress is the higher raise of the standard of living of a certain society. From that point education could provide its individuals a better understanding of how the society functions as a whole and what their roles are in that society, which could lead to economic, security, and material advances.

At any given stage of society, the intelligence and moral character of its individual members limits social organization. It is obvious that the progress in human society depends upon the relation between one generation and its successor. As new life comes into society, it improves the character of the life of the society. Several thinkers propose two possible ways of bringing about such improvement: first, through the selection of the hereditary elements in society, eliminating the unfit and preserving the more fit; but, such a scheme of artificial selection could be too complicated.

The second method is the improvement of the individual character through education and training. Similarly the natural instincts and tendencies of individuals may be greatly modified by training, the habits and hence the character of individuals can be artificial formed and controlled through education. Education is, then, the great means of controlling habit and character in complex social groups, and as such it is the chief means to which society must look for all substantial social progress.

It is the instrument by which human nature may be apparently indefinitely modified, and hence, also, the instrument by which society may be perfected. The task of social regeneration is essentially the task of education. Therefore the main reliance of society in all forward movements must be upon education. So, how the ideal educated person should look like? This is a topic that has been discussed for years. In determining what being educated means we must first explore the definition of education.

The Webster dictionary defines education as “the process of providing schooling for, training by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession. ” An educated person is someone who has grown up under a traditional educational system, in which he has attended school and finally got a degree from the university in which he has applied to his profession. But, who influences our ideas and beliefs and what is the purpose of the education in forming the character of the new individuals in the society? How to decide what knowledge should be passed on to the next generation and how should it be taught?

Aristotle explained, “Every acorn has the potential to be actualised as a giant oak tree, but for a variety of reasons not all acorns fulfil their potential of becoming an oak tree and too few humans attain the ideal of becoming rational contemplative beings. Aristotle believed that nurturing the acorn at the right time in the right way could enhance the acorn’s chances of fulfilling its inherent potential. In comparison an educator, by appropriately exposing human beings to the great minds struggling with the perennial problems of humankind can enhance the human being’s natural desire to know. (Philosophical Documents in Education, pg. 34). Aristotle believed the ultimate goal of education was to support humans in finding their unique role in their society. That is equivalent to teaching people trades and skills. But it does not give individuals a broad understanding of the world they live in. Aristotle’s notion that when engaged in contemplation a person has reached their potential should dispel any notion that a person would be happy for the rest of their life in one skill or trade. Constant contemplation would create a thirst for more knowledge that the training of a skill would not quenched.

Similarly the theorist Rousseau also saw the child early in life as an empty receptacle, waiting to be filled. He was the first to introduce the concept of child centred education and he believed that “by properly educating future generations, a society could be created that resolved the conflict between individual needs and societal demands”. (Philosophical Documents in Education, pg. 73). To Rousseau nature was the key, he believed that “natural, or primitive humankind, has, through the impulses and instincts of nature, the ability to learn about and live within the world they inhabit.

Rather than enhance or support this natural ability, advancement in the art and sciences has tended to deny and thus alienate modern beings from this natural capacity. Rousseau thought we should educate future generations in accordance with the laws or restraints of nature. ” (Philosophical Documents in Education, pg. 75). Dewey was different from other theorist in many ways he is significant because of his thought about informal education. His belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a significant strand in informal education practice.

He went beyond all theorists ideals mentioned earlier. “Dewey defines education as a continual process of reconstruction of experience. At heart, the educated person is a sense maker, that is, one who can wrest as much meaning as possible from her or his experiences. ” (Philosophical Documents in Education, pg. 101) His idea was that children came to school to do things and live in a community that gave them real, guided experiences, which fostered their capacity to contribute to society. “Also, his concern with interaction and environments for learning provides a continuing framework for practice.

Last, his passion for democracy, for educating so that all may share in a common life, provides a strong rationale for practice in the associational settings in which informal educators work. ” (John Dewey: Philosophy of education). At its most basic level of definition, education is nothing more than the teaching of ideas. The early stages of schooling we learn mainly social skills and a basic knowledge, needed to broaden ours social horizons and permit us to do our independent choices in future.

As our age and skill level increases, the learning becomes more based upon our interest, leading to the final formation of the intelligent person with his own opinions, ideas and beliefs, a new citizen of the progressive society. But at the same time the quality of education that we receive depends upon many issues and one of them is the society itself and the ideas that are believed in this society. Sometimes the students are only taught what particular society sees fit to teach them. This ideology has an astound effect when used as controlling propaganda.

The quality of education is not only the skill that is provided, but also the attitude. The skills that are learned are definitely important, but the determination and attitude learned is priceless. The communists came up with the idea of equality for everyone. Every person gets the same schooling and education. This concept cannot possibly work. Every person is different, everyone has a place in society, and work hard physically or mentally all of their lives. Inevitably, a society consists of different classes of people, and each class is essential to the survival of all.

The gap between the classes can never be eliminated, but by educating people maybe it can become smaller. Many philosophies have been adopted by our society and make up our thoughts about what the role of education in the social progress is. Hence, we can see that throughout history renowned philosophers put forward diverse ideas about the concept of education and principles of the modern society, depending on the particular historical epoch and social circumstances. The ability to improve ourselves, is one of the strongest inherited abilities.

Without the consistent development of the human race, life would be nothing more than survival. And in my opinion, education is definitely one of the most important tools that a society possesses. The right implementation of this tool is one of the greatest ways of assuring the quality of life within a society.

Works Cited Philosophical Documents of Education by Tony W. Johnson and Ronald F. Reed John Dewey: Philosophy of education http://www. infed. org/thinkers/et-dewey. htm Prepared by Mark K. Smith© Mark K. Smith 2001 Webster’s Online Dictionary http://www. websters-online-dictionary. org/

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