Tag Archive: Philosophyof

Contemplation and mindfulness in education: Between self and other in modernity (Education Papers posted on May 14th, 2014 )

The following work identifies what the author contends are the two primary problems of modern behavior that inhibit the full development of human potential, namely: an over-confidence in reason, and a desire to influence other people for personal gain. These inhibiting behaviors are shown to originate specifically from features of the modern paradigm. To counter these problematic behaviors, the author suggests that contemplation can be an antidote. However, the author stresses that solely thinking of contemplation in its secular or spiritual categories is a limitation to its etymological roots and usage. Thus, the author introduces the term aneutral contemplation to move the reader past these restricting categories. The notion of aneutral contemplation is uniquely equipped to handle both modern behavioral limitations mentioned above, specifically by creating a space amicable to the contexts of silence and solitude. To clarify these contextual characteristics, examples are provided from the authors 44 days spent living and observing the monks of Mepkin Abbey. Finally, the project turns specifically to the process of education. The term transformative education is introduced to indicate a variety of education interested in promoting the contexts of silence and solitude. It is shown that only through the practice of mindfulness can this type of education be actualized. In other words, contemplation acts as the theoretical basis for the practical measures of mindfulness. The following project is meant to be a philosophical examination rather than a project of practical methods. I hope those who read this work will find the motivation to take off where this project concludes.

Generative community as a regulative ideal: The moral assessment of educational aims and of educational policies and practices (Education Papers posted on May 13th, 2014 )

The United States system of education is guided by broad underlying educational aims, whether or not those aims are critically examined or recognized. Contemporary educational discourse, however, has primarily focused on the level of implementation of policies and practices. This is a problem, because the broad underlying educational aims that guide the system of education have profound effects on humans lives and the larger Social structure. The question of what aims ought to guide education is a moral question that requires moral justification. In this dissertation I develop the concept of Generative Community as a regulative ideal and use it to assess the moral value of six educational aims and six educational policies and practices. In conceptualizing Generative Community, I draw on the insights of Deweyan pragmatism. I draw on Deweys work because of the clarity Dewey brings to the concept of education, the notion of an “ideal”, and because of the clarity Dewey brings to the concept of moral value. There are two parts to this dissertation. Part I is titled “Developing a Regulative Ideal for Educational Aims, Policies, and Practices”. In Part I, Chapter 1, I first explicate the concept of education that I employ. Second, I examine the scholarly literature in the field of educational Philosophy on the subject of educational aims. Third, I set out the ethical theory of Deweys reflective morality and critically assess its merits. I conclude that Deweyan reflective morality is a well warranted moral theory and can serve as the means to reach morally justifiable decisions. In Part I, Chapter 2, I first discuss the multidimensional notion of the “Good Life” as an ultimate aim of education. I draw on Deweys notion of “moral happiness” to give definition to the concept of the Good Life, and argue that society is best enabled to approach the Good Life if its decision making processes conform to a Deweyan form of reflective moral reasoning. Given this, a morally good education must provide conditions that are conducive to a) the occurrence of reflective morality and b) the realization of moral happiness and the Good Life. I then develop a conception of a state of affairs that would constitute an ideal, in the Deweyan sense, such an ideal being necessary for the Deweyan process of reflective morality. This is the concept of generative community. This concept is intended to serve as a regulative ideal. Part II of the dissertation is titled “Using Generative Community as a Regulative Ideal to Assess the Moral Value of Educational Aims, Policies, and Practices. In Part II, Chapter III, I select and explicate six educational aims that have figured prominently in the U.S. system of education. I then assess each by reference to generative community as a regulative ideal. These aims are: 1) to disseminate knowledge; 2) to increase economic efficiency; 3) to achieve individual self-realization; 4) to promote cultural assimilation; 5) to promote the growth of democracy; and, 6) to advance Social justice. In Part II, Chapter IV, I select and explicate six prominent and politically important cases of educational policy and practice in the United States. The first three cases of educational policy and practice exemplify features within the current system of education that conflict with generative community. The second three cases exemplify features within the current system of education that align well with generative community. Finally, in the Conclusion, I provide a summary account of the work that has been accomplished.

Echoes and mirrors: Respectful teacher leadership and leadership acceptance among adolescent students (Education Papers posted on May 13th, 2014 )

Teacher leadership has gained some recognition in the context of school improvement and usually pertains to more or less administrative activities. Little inquiry concentrates on the teacher as a leadership figure in the classroom and students’ acceptance of their teachers’ leadership. Adolescent students especially seem more and more reluctant to accept teachers’ leadership in their lives. Although most of them have relatively clear expectations about what they expect from teachers, few teachers seem to fulfill these expectations. Recent leadership studies in the European arena have concentrated on the concept of respect as a crucial part of successful leadership. Critical incident reports and questionnaires yield data, both qualitative and quantitative, to explore adolescent students’ perception of respectful and disrespectful teacher treatments and their effects on students’ acceptance of teacher leadership.

Perceptions of ethical public school leadership among K–12 Indiana school principals (Education Papers posted on March 26th, 2013 )

This research attempted to determine the ethical perceptions of Indiana K–12 public school principals through their ratings of selected ethical preparedness statements. The goal was to determine if significant differences exist among public school principals in the state of Indiana based on level and locale of school, gender, ethnicity, source of ethical development, and years of service related to ethical areas of knowledge, disposition, and performance as derived from the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium: Standards for School Leaders ISLLC) Standard 5. The population for this study consisted of 1,900 public school principals in the state of Indiana. A survey instrument was emailed to the respondents, with a return rate of 62%. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used, with follow up tests comparing each pair of groups) performed with Mann-Whitney tests. Significant differences were found in level and locale of school, years of service, ethnicity and sources of ethical development as they relate to the areas of Knowledge, Dispositions, and Performances of selected ethical preparedness statements derived from ISLLC Standard 5. Further research is recommended to better understand the reasoning behind why more K–5 public school principals respond more often on educational surveys than other principals, why grades 7–12 administrators have a more conservative and ethical outlook, how ethical development plays such a crucial role in professional training, and why gender consistently brings about no significant difference—all referencing the outcome variables of Knowledge, Disposition, and Performance as they pertain to ISLLC Standard 5.

Unpacking racial ideologies in Taiwan: How Han teacher education students view other racial groups in national and global contexts (Education Papers posted on March 26th, 2013 )

This study critically examines Han-Taiwanese teacher education students racial ideologies in both national and global contexts. The current Asian American racial studies only look at Asian immigrants racial views in the U.S. context, and do not take a further step to study their racial views in their home countries. This study adds a further layer to our understanding of race relations and racial ideologies by looking at Asians living in an Asian country. The participants in this study are students in teacher education programs at different universities and currently serve their teaching internship in elementary schools. This study utilized qualitative research methods based on individual interviews, journal writing and focus groups. The analytical framework in this study employed critical race methodology that assists in providing an understanding of how colorblind racial ideology influences these preservice teachers attitudes toward other racial groups in both national and global contexts. The findings reveal that these preservice teachers conform to the white hegemonic discourse and perpetuate racism in both national and global contexts. The internalization of whiteness and influences of colorblind racial ideology make them become racially unaware of their privilege over minority groups. In addition, although racial discussions are not encouraged in Taiwanese society, colorblind racism does occur through Social policies, interracial marriage, housing integration and schooling. Findings in this study suggest that anti-racist curriculum should be employed in teacher education programs in order to assist students in developing critical thinking and awareness of racism and racial issues. The anti-racist curriculum also helps to accentuate the needs of more racially based research done in Taiwan to undress colorblindness of Han Taiwanese in both Taiwan and the global white-dominant racial system.

Governing risky lives: Discourses, practices, and assumptions embodied within school health initiatives (Education Papers posted on March 25th, 2013 )

Foucault’s work on governmentality provides a useful means for understanding the ways in which discourses surrounding school Health initiatives are increasingly mobilized, and interventions that seek to govern the unhealthy lives of youth are rationalized. Through fieldwork involving observations and interviews at one school participating in a state-wide Health program, this research explored the deployment of knowledge and discourses that surrounded the creation of the unhealthy student. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with faculty and staff members involved in creating and implementing the school’s Health initiatives. The constant-comparison method was used to examine interview transcripts and field notes. Discourse analysis also informed the analysis. Poststructuralism provided the theoretical frame that guided this research. This qualitative research is situated within a growing body of knowledge concerned with understanding the connections and resonance between Foucault’s notion of governmentality and the ways in which schools have responded to health promotion activities in general, and more specifically, tenets of the new public health. It is argued that the school’s health initiatives, as a strategy of governmentality, sought to actively shape subjectivities and the conduct of students and faculty in particular ways. By problematizing the current unilateral discourse surrounding health, nutrition, and overweight, this research aimed to expose these discourses for their potential enlightenment, usefulness, and/or harm in the lives of students. This was done in an effort to provoke alternative visions for what might constitute a healthy body and healthy modes of conduct and correspondingly, obligations and responsibilities of schools in light of these.

Dewey, Darwinism, and teaching democracy: The importance of evolutionary thought for citizenship education (Education Papers posted on March 25th, 2013 )

In 1929, John Dewey concluded an address at the University of Edinburgh by asking, “What revisions and surrenders of current beliefs about authoritative ends and values are demanded by the method and conclusions of natural science?” A liberal reading of Dewey reveals that his construction of method, especially as it applied to education, denied the possibility and, indeed, the desirability, of any end or value that might be said to be authoritative. Likewise, although the term “scientific method” is frequently used to convey the notion of authority and rigor in the popular media and in the field of education, developments in the Philosophy of science suggest that there is no such unitary method of science. The works of Feyerabend, Kuhn and Campbell, in particular, point to the role of creativity, reasoning based upon previous like examples, and evolutionary patterns constructed as a process of blind variation followed by selective retention of alternatives) in scientific advancement. In fact, much of recent scholarship affirms Deweys own early view of the vitally important nature of Darwins theory of evolution, not only to the sciences but to every realm of human endeavor. Scholarly opinion in Philosophy of science suggests that scientific methods themselves are, in fact, evolutionary in nature. While this post-positivist formulation of the notion of methods) is broadly considered applicable to areas including human cognition and artificial intelligence, the construction of method in education has thus far remained largely uninformed by these discussions. A reconsideration of Deweys own notions of the nature and role of methods) in education, based in Darwinism, affirms their connection to current theorizing about the methods of science. The addition of this theory base to the Deweyan emphasis on education for the purposes of democracy offers promise to educators generally, especially those concerned with citizenship education, and suggests possibilities for critical educators seeking to move beyond the theory-praxis gap.

“Just reading”: Ethics, aesthetics, and justice in the study of American literature (Education Papers posted on March 25th, 2013 )

This dissertation begins by asking a fundamental, pressing question that especially troubled me during my years of Social work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps: “Why study American literature, or any literature at all?” My first chapter examines the contradictory and politically loaded responses to this question. The debate about whether literature and literary study are in a crisis has split scholars into those who stress the importance of literature’s ethical functions and those who stress its aesthetic qualities. I argue that aesthetics and ethics are not mutually exclusive tools, capable of serving only the left or the right. I propose a theory of reading that values literature for its ability to push our thinking toward new, experimental concepts, an ability that is best understood in the context of Kant’s non-formalist account of the sublime, and its ability to reflect, reveal, and critique the Social construction of reason, an ability that is best understood in the context of Gramscian thought. The aesthetic and the ethical inform both abilities. In subsequent chapters, I support this argument by demonstrating how hegemonic beliefs are undercut by my reading of three American novels from different historical periods: Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . My last chapter uses Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying to re-examine the practice of justice in teaching these novels, and in teaching American literature at universities, high schools and middle schools.

The traveling spark: Alice Yardley and child-centred education. The development of her educational thought, 1913–2002 (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

The British author and educator Alice Yardley 1913–2002) worked in Nottingham City Schools UK) as a teacher and headteacher between 1934 and 1961, and was instrumental in the evolution of the English Infant School for five to seven year olds as a model of progressive theory and practice in action. Between 1970 and 1974 Alice Yardley wrote a series of eight books published as the Young Children Learning Series. Each volume covers a range of topics connected to a particular aspect of the childs life in the modern Infant School, where the teacher-child relationship is one of mutual respect, and an individualized child-centered approach to teaching encourages exploration, experimentation, and the development of aesthetic feeling and self-expression Yardley, 1970, p.7). When first published, these books were widely read in Britain, the US, and Canada, during a period of intense interest in the British Primary School and its American manifestation in the open education movement. Having first read and loved Alice Yardleys books as a beginning teacher, twenty years later I became interested in the question of how the philosophical and pedagogical stance evidenced in her published work evolved in the course of her life as an educator. In 1996 I traveled to England to meet her, and in 1999 began the work of documenting her educational life story. Alice Yardley died in 2002 at the age of eighty-eight. Based on information gathered from interviews with Alice Yardley over a three year period 1999–2002) and incorporating a number of primary sources, including her memoir, notebooks, archival documents and records, visits to places where she lived and taught, and conversations with her colleagues and students, the dissertation draws on historical and interpretive biographical methods, and a feminist oral history structure, in which subject and researcher are active in the construction of the narrative. Setting her work in the Social and historical context of a period of increased interest in following the child, I trace the development of Alice Yardleys educational thought through her experiences in childhood, as a teacher in infant classrooms, during World War II, and as the head of three large inner city schools. The influence of these experiences, and key events—what she called thinking points—on her theory and approach as expressed in her published work is considered, and consistent themes are followed to their mature articulation in the first four books in the Young Children Learning series. A summary of Alice Yardleys educational Philosophy is also included. This work brings into the public domain the figure of Alice Yardley, a seminal woman educator and teacher-writer in the history of child-centered education. It also bears witness to our collaboration over space and time in a joint mission of making the invisible visible, capturing an important story in the history of women in education whose often unseen work contributed to the forward movement of progressive educational practice and theory in the twentieth century.

Activity theory as a lens for considering culture: A descriptive case study of a multinational company developing and supporting training around the world (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

Activity Theory has often been used in the literature as a way to examine human activity, but the bulk of that work has been done in educational settings. Where it has been used in workplace environments, it has typically been used to enhance theoretical understandings of work and the humans who engage in work. It has not typically been used with an eye to advancing the business causes of the companies it has been used with. In addition, it has not been used internationally with multi-national companies. This is a shame, for with its Elements of Activity and its idea of contradiction, Activity Theory does seem to hold much promise for being able to shed light on cultural issues encountered by companies operating across national boundaries. This research presents a descriptive case study of a company using Activity Theory to shed light on the potential cultural conflicts the company faced as it designed and developed training interventions for use in its affiliates around the globe. The research focused on being practical—on creating tools the company could use, and on detailing the methodology sufficiently that other instructional designers could employ Activity Theory in a similar way in other situations which they felt were relevant. Although Activity Theory was not completely internalized by the company, with the assistance of a facilitator coaching them in its use the company was able to use the theory to avoid cultural conflicts, enhance understandings about cultural conflicts which did occur, debrief cross-cultural training interventions, identify improvements for future training interventions, and publicly share internally held cultural knowledge and beliefs.