Monday, October 24, 2011

Philosophy of Education, Part 2

My Foundations of Education class required an essay on my personal philosophy of education. The syllabus listed no page number requirements. When we asked the professor how long it had to be, he simply said, "Explain yourself."

Mine was six pages long and is reproduced here, section by section, for your edification and reading pleasure. Part 1 can be found here.

What does it mean to be an educated person?
                Being educated means having a strong foundation of basic knowledge, as well as passion for and a deep knowledge of at least one subject. For most people, there will be at least a few years in their lives when they will have to be entirely responsible for themselves, with little day-to-day support from their parents. Whether microwaving canned soup in a dorm room or working a three jobs in order to make rent, most people have a few years where they have to feed themselves, get themselves out of bed in the morning, wash their own clothes and dishes, and be held accountable for all of their mistakes.
Everyone should have a basic understanding of insurance (health, home, and auto), banking (savings and checking accounts, loans and interest rates, and investments), and credit (what it means to have good credit and how to get it). Basic life skills and survival information are important for everyone to have.
The argument could be made that in today’s high-tech world, where everyone has a calculator on their cell phones, math is of little use to anyone who doesn’t actually want to be a mathematician. However, the ability to perform simple calculations without the help of technology could be exactly what you need to impress your boss, your college admissions counselor, or your date. Additionally, sometimes technology malfunctions. Nothing is foolproof, so it never hurts to have a backup plan. Every person should be able to do simple mathematics, if only to be able to calculate the tip at a restaurant.
Every person should be able to communicate clearly in written form, if only to be able to write letters or emails to loved ones who live far away. There is no profession in which strong written communication skills will be regarded as a handicap, and very few in which they will not be regarded as a positive asset. With the wide availability of word processing software and web-browsers that come pre-equipped with automatic spell-check, it is easy to think that spelling, and even grammar, no longer need to be formally taught. Again, however, it is risky to rely too heavily on technology with no backup plan. Furthermore, even the best spellcheckers are not perfect. A word spelled correctly but used incorrectly may not be caught. Obvious grammatical errors are usually marked as such, but the more subtle nuances of written communication cannot be programmed into any software. It is important to be able to express yourself without sounding like an idiot, whether you are writing a proposal to your boss or writing a note to your child’s teacher. It is difficult to take someone’s ideas seriously when they are poorly expressed.
Every person should be able to read fluently. Whether entertaining themselves with spoof articles online or perusing serious scholarly journals, reading is the key to every door in life. A person who can read can teach themselves any subject. They can get academic degrees or simply do some light reading about a subject that interests them. Reading opens up whole new worlds of entertainment, information, and achievement. Parents can form bonds with their children by reading with them. Children can find their own academic enrichment online or in a library. And people of all ages can entertain themselves with comic strips in the newspaper, or humorous blogs online, or Shakespeare.
                Finally, in addition to basic self-care and the three R’s, schools should strive to instill passion and a sense of purpose in each child. Whether that passion and purpose lead the child to multiple doctoral degrees or to volunteering at a non-profit organization or collecting garbage, schools should ensure that every person is intellectually, socially, and emotionally prepared to follow their dreams. No child should feel that any dream is above or beneath them. Nor should they feel that intellectual achievement and interest must necessarily lead to higher education. Why can’t an electrician be interested in literature, or a truck driver passionate about physics? Academic subjects can be pursued as hobbies. What matters is not that every student who likes chemistry goes on to win a Nobel Prize. What matters is that every person has interests, passions, and talents outside of their everyday professional work, and that they are encouraged to pursue and develop those interests and talents.

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