Philosophy of education is the field of study that uses philosophical methods to study education. Textbooks and courses in philosophy of education may be organized around the branches of philosophy—for example, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy—or around centers of educational interest such as curriculum, pedagogy, or school structure. An organizational scheme that was popular fifty years ago—stressing broad philosophical schools of thought such as idealism, realism, and pragmatism—is rarely seen today.(Noddings, 2003) In its place, we see some works written from the perspective of critical theory, feminist philosophy, or postmodern philosophy. Philosophers of education in the United States today address questions of standards, accountability, equality, and testing as part of their analysis of school reform, but they also examine perennial issues such as the aims of education, democratic citizenship, and what constitutes the good life.(Kozol, 2001) Philosophy of education has a long history, and it is helpful to know something of that history before tackling contemporary work in the field.
Western philosophy of education begins with Socrates (469-399 BCE), who's ideas come to us through the writings of Plato. Socrates modeled the Socratic dialogue in which the teacher engages a student in a vigorous exploration of an important issue through a sequence of questions. The harms and benefits of the Socratic dialogue as a teaching method are still debated today.(Noddings, 2003)
Socrates also suggested a central place for self-knowledge in education—“Know thyself.” He argued that self-knowledge is essential to critical thinking, and many current writers agree with Socrates on this. But again the debate is ongoing, and some critics confuse education with self-knowledge with therapy or the mere promotion of self-esteem. Philosophers of education try to clear up such misunderstandings.(Kozol, 2001)
Education was a central concern for Plato (427-347 BCE) as he attempted to create an ideal ...