Philosophers such as John Dewey, Charles Peirce and William James are the founding fathers of Pragmatism in education. These influential thinkers rejected Idealistic education model and instead conceived of schools as institutions for practical goals. The curriculum is based on performing activities, history and geography, and scientific problem solving. Progressive politics is also taught to students. Students are encouraged to take a pragmatic approach to problem solving. The curriculum is not rigidly set. In contrast only the broad outline is provided within which a variety of course content could be accommodated. The teachers play the role of a mentor to students. There is no standardized evaluation of learning. Moreover, the process involves experimentation and learning through experience rather through concepts. Pragmatism also rejects Metaphysical Absolutes and Metaphysical Dualisms.
Pragmatism: Synthesis & Response
The lack of standard grading system can be problematic for contemporary educators. The ability of a student to handle ad hoc problems as posed by the teacher is loosely evaluated for learning outcomes. It is this aspect of Pragmatism which makes it incompatible with the present mindset of teachers and parents. Today teachers and parents want students to excel in tests, irrespective of understanding how it translates into social and communal adeptness. Though Pragmatism differs from current education system on many aspects, educators should try to include some elements of its philosophy. Otherwise students are unlikely to tap into their full potential. By focusing mostly on grades they may forget the social relevance of their education. One must treat with caution, though, Pragmatism’s outright rejection of other education models such as Realism, Thomism, Idealism, etc. This is so because each system has its own share of positive features.
The relevance of the book by Aseltine et al cannot be overstated. With respect to the state of education in the United States, the book takes a comprehensive survey of the education system. By doing so, it identifies the inherent weaknesses of the system, while also suggesting robust corrective measures. At the heart of the training philosophy promoted by the book, is recognition of the role of teachers in molding students, but also in the reputation of the school as a whole. In the process of reading the book I had noted down my impressions, reactions, criticisms and an overall evaluation of the work. These have synthesized into my thesis statement. Giving due acknowledgement for the positive facets of the book, including its numerous insights and action plans for teacher and school improvement, I will however argue that as a result of its limited focus the book fails to recognize and address larger systemic factors that have undermined the education system.
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