general education _ discussion 1

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Discussion: Week 1 of 5: Write: For this discussion, address the following prompts: • • Provide at least three reasons why every student should be required to take general education courses. Explain your rationale. Support your rationale with evidence from at least one scholarly source. Describe what you have learned from at least three specific courses (e.g., philosophy, history, English, math, psychology, etc.) that has proved its usefulness in your daily life. For instance, what did you learn in history classes beyond just names, dates, and places? In literature courses, what did you learn about life, the university, and everything beyond the literary work itself? Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, which should include a thorough response to each prompt. You are required to provide in-text citations of applicable required reading materials and/or any other outside sources you use to support your claims. Provide full reference information of all sources cited at the end of your response. Please use correct APA format when writing in-text citations and references Required Resources: White, J. (2009). Why general education? Peters, Hirst and history. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 43, 123-141. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9752.2009.00718.x Ashford University Writing Center. (n.d.). APA essay checklist for students. Retrieved from •This website source through Ashford University provides embedded links to various resources that instruct students how to format a paper in APA style. It includes an APA Template and an In-Text Citation Guide. Ashford University Writing Center. (n.d.). APA references list. Retrieved from •This website source through Ashford University provides guidelines on how to write references in APA format. It also provides a PDF document of a list of references with an example of how each type of reference should be written. Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 43, No. S1, 2010 Why General Education? Peters, Hirst and History JOHN WHITE Richard Peters argued for a general education based largely on the study of truth-seeking subjects for its own sake. His arguments have long been acknowledged as problematic. There are also difficulties with Paul Hirst’s arguments for a liberal education, which in part overlap with Peters’. Where justification fails, can historical explanation illuminate? Peters was influenced by the prevailing idea that a secondary education should be based on traditional, largely knowledgeorientated subjects, pursued for intrinsic as well as practical ends. Does history reveal good reasons for this view? The view itself has roots going back to the 16th century and the educational tradition of radical Protestantism. Religious arguments to do with restoring the image of an omniscient God in man made good sense, within their own terms, of an encyclopaedic approach to education. As these faded in prominence after 1800, old curricular patterns persisted in the drive for ‘middle-class schools’, and new, less plausible justifications grew in salience. These were based first on faculty psychology and later on the psychology of individual differences. The essay relates the views of Peters and Hirst to these historical arguments, asking how far their writings show traces of the religious argument mentioned, and how their views on education and the development of mind relate to the psychological arguments. I first met Richard Peters in 1960, as a part-time student enrolled in his recently created Joint Honours BA in Philosophy and Psychology at Birkbeck College, London. I found his classes in philosophy of mind, the history of psychology and the history of ethics quite inspirational. When he left us in 1962 to take up a chair at the Institute of Education, I never imagined that three years later I would be joining him as a colleague—or that Patricia, whom I had just married, would be doing so too. But so it turned out. We were immediately caught up in his all-consuming project of transforming teacher education in England by basing it firmly in the educational disciplines, not least philosophy of education. All this tied in r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Journal of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. 124 J. White with government policy for an all-graduate teaching profession, based not only on the Postgraduate Certificate of Education, but also on the newly introduced four-year Bachelor of Education degree. Philosophy of education became a prominent feature of both courses. This meant that lecturers had to be trained to teach the subject in both university education departments and in the newly established Colleges of Education. In turn, this demanded a massive amount of work for Richard Peters and us, his colleagues. The new Labour government directly supported our work, by funding a one-year, full-time Diploma in Philosophy of Education at the Institute, specifically designed for schoolteachers who wanted to become college lecturers in our subject. It may be hard now to imagine the sense we all had in those optimistic days of radical educational reform—it was also the time when secondary schools were becoming comprehensives—that we were engaged in a vitally important public service. Not that this was in the forefront of our consciousness. Rather, it was part of the taken-for-granted background in which we worked. That it was so was largely due to Richard Peters’ own deeply-felt belief, shared with his colleague Paul Hirst, that philosophy of education should be brought to bear on matters of public importance. They, like others of us under their tutelage, saw our subject as a handmaiden of an educational service at last becoming reorganised on socially just and rational lines. Having been brought up to see all my work—in teaching, scholarship and journalism—as intended to serve public ends, I have continued to see it that way through my career, despite the knocks that our discipline has taken since the 1980s and suggestions from governments and the press that it is at best an irrelevance and at worst a drain on the public purse. Other ways of seeing the subject, on the part of its practitioners, have grown up in the last decades. For some, it is harnessed to religious purposes or other deeply-held commitments; for others, it is a branch of philosophical study in its own right, often centred around exegesis and critique of particular thinkers; for others again—and there are overlaps here—its value lies in opportunities to interact with like-minded scholars of the subject across the world. Those of us who still see philosophy of education in the older way, as a vital contributor to the creation of a decent educational system, do well to cling to our perception of it as a public service. If it is to be supported from public funds, it is hard indeed to see what other rationale there could be for it than this. For me, this is perhaps the greatest legacy of Richard Peters. Many of his specific philosophical arguments have been heavily criticised over the years. The essay that follows this introduction also pulls no punches. But what has endured, and should continue to endure, is the framework within which Richard Peters set philosophy of education, the taken-for-granted framework of its being an indispensable public service in a liberal democracy committed to justice and freedom. The theme of the essay that follows, the proper content of a school curriculum, is one illustration of the public focus that has marked all Richard Peters’ work. r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Journal of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain Why General Education? 125 1. Science, mathematics, history, art, cooking and carpentry feature on the curriculum, not bingo, bridge and billiards. Presumably there must be some reason for this apart from their utilitarian or vocational value (Peters, 1966, p. 144). Peters (1966, 1973) set out to discover this reason. During his enquiry, practical subjects like cooking dropped out of the picture, leaving ‘theoretical enquiries’ concerned with the pursuit of truth, like science, history and literary studies. Peters also collaborated with Paul Hirst, whose ‘forms of knowledge’ theory was published earlier, in 1965. This, too, sought to justify theoretical disciplines on intrinsic grounds. Hirst and Peters (1970) took these forms of knowledge as the basis for the curriculum. With the passing of time, Peters’ project, then so influential, seems hard to make sense of. Why start with academic disciplines and seek justifications of them? Logically, curriculum planning has to start with aims, not with vehicles whereby aims may be realised. Looking back, too, there seems to be more to be said than philosophers thought at the time for Michael Young’s comment in an early work of his that the prevailing view of the curriculum favoured by philosophers of education (including, incidentally, myself), . . . appears to be based on an absolutist conception of a set of distinct forms of knowledge which correspond closely to the traditional areas of the academic curriculum and thus justify, rather than examine, what are no more than the socio-historical products of a particular time (Young, 1971, p. 23). Although Young exaggerates the correspondence he mentions, it is hard not to read the above quotation from Peters as taking the traditional school curriculum as read and assuming there must be good reasons for it. 2. There is another feature of the Peters project that is hard to fathom. Utilitarian reasons for teaching science, mathematics or history are not hard to find. But the reason he favours is intrinsic. Why? This may not seem to raise difficulties. Aren’t teachers justly delighted when a pupil develops a passion for doing science, not out of any instrumental motive, but because it is intrinsically fascinating? I am sure this is right, but it is beside the point. For on Peters’ view, pupils are expected to develop an intrinsic interest not only in an area to which they are passionately committed, but also across the board, that is, in every mode of understanding. r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Journal of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain 126 J. White This demand for comprehensiveness is fully explicit in the recommendation in Hirst and Peters that pupils be: . . . significantly introduced to each of the fundamentally different types of objective experience and knowledge that are open to men . . . It is therefore not surprising that there is a persistent call that general education shall be maintained for all throughout the secondary school stage (Hirst and Peters, 1970, p. 66). The same demand is also apparent when, in 1966, Peters writes: . . . in so far as [a man] can stand back from his life and ask the question ‘Why this rather than that?’ he must already have a serious concern for truth built into his consciousness. For how can a serious practical question be asked unless a man also wants to acquaint himself as well as he can of [sic] the situation out of which the question arises and of the facts of various kinds which provide the framework for possible answers? The various theoretical enquiries are explorations of these different facets of his experience. To ask the question ‘Why do this rather than that?’ seriously is therefore, however embryonically, to be committed to those inquiries which are defined by their serious concern with those aspects of reality which give context to the question which he is asking. In brief the justification of such activities is not purely instrumental because they are involved in asking the question ‘Why do this rather than that?’ as well as in answering it (Peters, 1966, p.164). Peters thus favours initiation into a comprehensive range of theoretical enquiries pursued for intrinsic reasons. This means all students taking an intrinsic interest not only in, say, science, but also in a wide range of other disciplines. Psychologically, this is asking a lot of them. No doubt there are occasional pupils who adore everything they learn. But why expect everyone to develop an intrinsic interest in every mode of understanding? In the light of this, it is not surprising that Peters’ various attempts at justifying his ‘intrinsic’ position are problematic. The most celebrated justification is that quoted above, based on what is presupposed to asking a certain sort of question This is formally similar to Hirst’s justification of the pursuit of the seven forms of knowledge (Hirst, 1965, p. 256). Both arguments claim to show that in asking such a question one is already committed to the intrinsic pursuit of a broad range of kinds of knowledge. It is true that in asking ‘Why do this rather than that?’ or, in Hirst’s case, ‘Why pursue knowledge?’, one wants to know the true, well-founded answer to one’s question. If you like to put it this way, the questioner is committed to the pursuit of knowledge on this very specific point. But this does not mean he or she is committed to the pursuit of science, philosophy, literature etc., as Peters’ (or Hirst’s) position requires (White, 1973, pp.10ff., 78ff.). Peters’ (1973) further wrestlings with the same problem likewise fail to clinch things. In Ray Elliott’s words, Peters here claims that: r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Journal of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain Why General Education? 127 . . . the educational pursuit of truth in disciplines such as science, philosophy, literature and history is in certain fundamental respects the same as the pursuit of truth in everyday life or any other non-educational context, since in any context the pursuit of truth involves virtues such as truthfulness, clarity, non-arbitrariness, impartiality, a sense of relevance, consistency, respect for evidence, etc. (Elliott, 1977, p. 231). And further: The educational study of the disciplines and their objects is justified on the ground that through it the learner acquires the rational virtues which are essential for reflective thought on matters of a different kind, chiefly what the individual is to do or has done, what he believes and feels about the various matters with which he is existentially concerned, what style of life he is to adopt, and whether the style of life he has adopted is a good one (p. 232). As Elliott points out, this is a very different kind of justification from that found earlier in Peters. It makes a practically wise life the main function of education, bypassing the earlier emphasis on pursuing science, philosophy etc. for their own intrinsic features. Turning back for a moment to Hirst’s approach to justification, he writes that ‘the achievement of knowledge is necessarily the development of mind in its most basic sense’ (Hirst, 1965, p. 256). Given this equation, this gives Hirst a way of justifying the pursuit of the seven forms of knowledge that avoids the problem mentioned earlier. Drawing on Greek philosophy, he sees a link between the development of mind and the good life, the latter to be understood in terms of the former (p. 257). The argument is only sketched in. But it is problematic. Our mental life is various: it includes, for instance, emotional experience as well as states connected with knowledge. Hirst says that acquiring knowledge is the development of mind ‘in its most basic sense’, but in what way is it more ‘basic’ than, say, using one’s imagination? Again, why is the good life to be understood in terms of mental development ( 5 the pursuit of knowledge), seeing that others have located it in artistic activity, living for others, a mixed life of all sorts of goods, and so on? I come back to the development of mind in Section 7. Both Peters’ and Hirst’s justifications for the intrinsic pursuit of intellectual enquiry on a broad front are thus radically problematic. 3. Ray Elliott also says that although Hirst and Peters (1970) ‘emphasise that the forms [of knowledge] are historical institutions, which have undergone a long period of evolution’, it is surprising that Peters elsewhere gives such an a priori account of them. r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Journal of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain 128 J. White The aims and procedures of historical institutions . . . will tend to be extremely complex, and to be discoverable only by resolute and sensitive empirical enquiry . . . [Peters] does not anywhere acknowledge that the disciplines stand in need of thoroughgoing interdisciplinary investigation and critique. His attitude seems to be that they are self-correcting and should be trusted absolutely (Elliott 1977, pp. 97–8). In this connexion, look again at the earlier quotation from Peters: ‘Science, mathematics, history, art, cooking and carpentry feature on the curriculum, not bingo, bridge and billiards. Presumably there must be some reason for this apart from their utilitarian or vocational value.’ The kind of ‘reason’ that Peters has in mind concerns justification. But if we want to know why science, mathematics etc. feature on the curriculum, it is more natural to take this as a request for explanation. I turn now to a historical explanation of the traditional school curriculum. This not only draws attention to its contingent character. It also suggests answers, historically located and not timeless answers, to the questions: Why is comprehensive knowledge—getting inside all the forms of knowledge—educationally important? And why is it important to be intrinsically motivated to have this comprehensive knowledge? In saying that ‘Science, mathematics, history, art, cooking and carpentry feature on the curriculum’, Peters was talking about a particular kind of curriculum. In a British context, this was, broadly speaking, the curriculum for so-called ‘middle-class schools’ proposed by the Taunton Commission of the 1860s and made compulsory for the new state secondary grammar schools introduced in 1904. The 19th-century rival of this ‘modern’ curriculum had been the classics-based curriculum. This was seen as appropriate for the top public schools by the 1861-4 Clarendon Commission. The third great commission of that classconscious decade, the Newcastle, proposed a curriculum based on the 3 Rs for the working classes. By the 1960s, when Peters was writing, the victory of the ‘modern’ curriculum over its rivals was well under way. It was sealed by the National Curriculum in 1988, which imposed it not only on every state secondary school but also on every state primary. The ten compulsory subjects of 1988 were almost identical to those in the 1904 Secondary Regulations. How did this ‘modern’ curriculum grow up in the first place? Why, by the 1860s, had it been officially identified with middle-class schooling? Two preliminary points. (i) Its core had always been knowledge in its different forms. Physical education and more purely aesthetic pursuits had been added in the 19th and 20th centuries, English literature having been part of the knowledge-based core since the 18th century, mined for truths about human nature and society. (ii) The curriculum had always been based on a notion of general education. Although all kinds of institutions, from 1600 onwards, have taught individual subjects, from Italian to fencing, the modern r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Journal of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain Why General Education? 129 curriculum that came down to us via Taunton was a compulsory course ...
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School: UC Berkeley




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General education courses are very important in numerous aspects since they ensure that
an individual is well and effectively engaged on different platforms in life rather than specializing
only in one aspect. Being in a position to understand different changes within the environment and
participate in multiple discussion helps in enhancing knowledge of an individual (Hanush...

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