Saturday, September 12, 2015

educational realism and pragmatism

Froebel Blocks in Norway, 2014
I ran across the term "educational realism" in a book about Froebel, used in association with Comenius and Samuel Hartlib. For certainly, what we teach kids should be based on their observations of reality, and the best use of a teacher's intellect is not to stand before a class of bored students, demonstrating his self-inflated egotism, and command of "facts', but to launch students into a process of investigation from which they learn for themselves. And what better way can there be to observe the nature of material reality than by shaping it through the use of common tools in woodshop? The following is from H. Courthope Bowen's book, Froebel and Education through Self-Activity, 1897.
The term "manual training" is not a very happy one; for though the hand is the chief instrument we employ, and though the aim is partly to make hand-work aid the pupil in his acquisition and assimilation of knowledge, we nevertheless endeavor to train much more than the hand. The term should be taken to mean training through the use of the hand, or exercise in expressing the mind by means of the concrete; and the New Jersey Council of Education summed up the matter excellently when (in 1889) it stated that "Manual training is training in thought-expression by other means than gesture and verbal language, in such a carefully graded course of study as shall also provide adequate training for the judgment and the executive faculty." Stated in this way, it will be seen that manual training is a direct outcome of the kindergarten exercises, and is in fact the necessary intermediate stage between those exercises and technical instruction; though it need not advance as far as that instruction. As a further development of part of the kindergarten activity and creativeness, it has its place as a necessary part of general education, and should be treated as such; otherwise it has no right to be in the school at all. If technical instruction is to follow — not unless — a gradual movement in the direction of specialization may be made in the later school stages; but this should not proceed to the extent of isolating the manual exercises. The nature of the change is easy enough to see. The aim of the school, besides the production of knowledge and of skill in the use of knowledge, should be the production of the power to think. We produce the power to think by thinking; and one of the chief means which we employ for this is the expressing of thought. Manual training will begin in this way, as hand-work for the sake of head-work, which will gradually tend to become head-work for the sake of handwork — in other words, knowledge will be more and more brought in and applied for the sake of skilled results, and accuracy will be more and more insisted upon; while all through we shall carefully abstain from trying to force into the manual work what the thought itself, of which it is the expression, does not possess. For instance, we shall not begin with a pedantic and tiresome insistence on accuracy (which is not a characteristic of the young mind), but endeavor steadily to lead up to it—to grow it—producing at the same time an ever-increasing appreciation of its value.
The following is from a site that discusses and defines four philosophies of education, idealism, realism, pragmatism, and existentialism
"Pragmatism is derived from the teaching of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), who believed that thought must produce action, rather than linger in the mind and lead to indecisiveness.

John Dewey (1859-1952) applied pragmatist philosophy in his progressive approaches. He believed that learners must adapt to each other and to their environment. Schools should emphasize the subject matter of social experience. All learning is dependent on the context of place, time, and circumstance. Different cultural and ethnic groups learn to work cooperatively and contribute to a democratic society. The ultimate purpose is the creation of a new social order. Character development is based on making group decisions in light of consequences.

For Pragmatists, teaching methods focus on hands-on problem solving, experimenting, and projects, often having students work in groups. Curriculum should bring the disciplines together to focus on solving problems in an interdisciplinary way. Rather than passing down organized bodies of knowledge to new learners, Pragmatists believe that learners should apply their knowledge to real situations through experimental inquiry. This prepares students for citizenship, daily living, and future careers."
Make, fix, create, and empower others to do likewise.

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