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Chapter 7 – Philosophies in Action

This chapter starts with an argument for why an educator must become aware of his/her own
philosophical leanings in regards to educational theory. Scott explains on page 99 that if we as teachers
do not do this, “we may adopt uncritically what our institutions claim is best, or what the current trend
is in educational thought.”
The author goes on to present the five philosophies on education most often adopted by adult
The liberal/perennial educational philosophy contends that learners' minds should be exercised by
being taught absolutes and principles, through the study of great works. They must be trained to learn.
Progressivism takes a different view on how the mind should be trained. It places great value on
problem solving, which is seen as more important than learning the concretes that followers of the
liberal/perennial philosophy believe is so important.
Behaviourism is all about control. Students must respect the role of the teacher as an authority figure so
that their behaviour can be shaped, and they can become better citizens. Students must be trained to
conform, so that they may be better equipped to absorb new knowledge.
Humanism is a philosophy that offers a wholly contradictory viewpoint to that of behaviourism. Instead
of forcing the learner to study what the instructor deems is best, the student is encouraged to find out
what interests them most, and then pursue it. The student is free and in fact encouraged to engage with
the material on a personal level.
The radical orientation, as implied by its name, rejects emphatically the tenets of the more austere
educational philosophies. Scott says on page 102 that the teacher who subscribes to the radical
orientation educates his students politically, focusing on the balance of “power and empowerment”.
This philosophy is centred on bringing students “into the fold” so to speak. The goal is to create a better
society by cultivating a healthy suspicion of the maintenance of the status quo.

The second part of chapter 7 is subtitled, “Philosophical Patterns in the History of Canada”. This
section traces the evolution of adult education in Canada through 3 eras. It starts with empowerment of
new immigrants during the Antigonish movement in the early 20th century. This approach would seem
to follow the radical orientation philosophy on education.
Next was the era following World War 2, when Canada was growing and prospering. This was a time
of great social change, when the progressive philosophy was gaining popularity. This was when the
social safety net was introduced. The humanist philosophy also began to take a foothold in this era.
The author then talks about the present day, and although the essay was written at least 12 years ago,
most of the author's assertions still hold true. She mentions the rise of individualism, which is still
ongoing. She also talks about the isolation that is being born out of our fondness for new technology
and how she believes that we mustn't allow technology to replace face-to-face communication.

The author ends the chapter with an appeal to the reader. She her belief that we as teachers must nail
down our philosophical leanings. She says that the philosophies presented are not concrete and
absolute. If you are primarily a behaviourist, you are not precluded from taking elements from
progressivism. But we should be at least aware of where we stand on the spectrum of educational
philosophy so that we can affect change knowledgeably and responsibly.