Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I thought this was an interesting and perceptive diagnosis, from St Thomas Aquinas and Education by John Donohue, SJ:

"Philosophy of education, which is an effort to relate a generalized discussion of the aims, curricula, methods and agencies of formal schooling to a philosophy of life and value, flourishes so notably in the United States as almost to seem an American invention like the motel. This may be partly due to the unparalleled size of our educational establishment and to our hopeful faith in what it can accomplish. Our spacious conception of education is, in fact, suggested by the way we use the term. For it is a commonplace among philologists that a people's distinctive use of words points to a distinctive way of seeing the world.

Now Americans have not usually drawn a distinction between "instruction", the chief business of the school, and the wider, if vaguer, concept of "education" thought of primarily as the development of character and personality. This distinction between enseignement and education, between Erziehung and Bildung, is well established elsewhere but has not become an American usage, probably because it has not seemed to Americans that these two aspects should or can be separated.

This view may have its bad effects. Some people think it accounts for the schools' failure, particularly in higher education, to fulfill their specific intellectual function as well as they might because they are confused about their role. However that may be, at least the theorists among us have had their attention directed steadily toward a richer and more stimulating conception of education than that merely of instruction. "

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