Philosophy of Education

Fall 1998

Marist College

Dr. Greg Moses

Course Description

In this course we will explore philosophical challenges faced by education in the world today. We will review recent history and practices in order to gather important features of education, then we will explore philosophical approaches to the emerging issues. After further review of some cultural criticism of contemporary education, we will explore education's role in cultural reconstruction. Finally, we will anticipate personal philosophical approaches to the coming challenges of education.

Required Texts
  • Grant, Gerald. The World We Created at Hamilton High. Harvard, 1988. (0-674-96201-X)

  • Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. Free Press, 1997. (0-684-83631-9)

  • Sadker, Myra and David. Failing at Fairness. Touchstone, 1995. (0-684-80073-X)

  • Miller, Ron. What Are Schools For? Holistic Education Press, 1997. (0-9627232-0-7)

  • Lillard, Paula Polk. Montessori Today. Schocken, 1996. (0-8052-1061-X)

Requirements and Grades

The final grade will be based upon the following assignments, each equally weighted:

  • Preparation and Participation: Daily preparations are completed on time and reflect quality efforts. Students contribute to an interesting class conversation.
  • Paper on the challenges of recent history (see 3 b., below)
  • Paper on a Deweyan approach to the challenges of education (see 6 b., below)
  • Paper on the cultural criticisms of Sadker and Miller (see 12 b., below)
  • A final paper anticipating a philosophy of education for the future


By the end of the course, students should be able to discuss recent historical developments in education in the USA, reflect on these trends with a philosophical vocabulary, discern contours of shared cultural assumptions that pervade our educational environment, and construct a personal philosophy of education in relation to anticipated trends of the future. Periodic papers will assess student development in the above areas.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend all classes. Given the wide range of personal needs that may arise, the instructor is willing to make allowance for two absences (the equivalent of one week.) Any absences beyond this limit must be excused and documented, or they will count against the student's final grade. Documentation will be accepted within two weeks of the absence. More than two unexcused absences will result in a letter grade reduction from the final average. For more than four unexcused absences, the instructor reserves the right to enter a failing grade.

Schedule (Note: Each evening is divided into two sessions, a. & b., preparations are due typed at the beginning of the indicated session.)

1. (Aug. 31 - Sep. 4)

a. Introduction

  • Lecture: Overview; review syllabus; welcome to the "House of Life"; nominations for video presentations.

    b. Organizing Workshops:

    Getting acquainted, preparing for next week (dividing the reading among four chapters).
    Labor Day Weekend (Monday off)

    2. (Sep. 8 - 11)

    a. Four post-war periods in U.S. education

  • Read: Grant, Chapters 1-4.
  • Prepare: Three paragraphs (1) summarizing the historical period of your designated chapter; (2) highlighting the educational issues that arose for this period; (3) gathering your impressions about issues facing education today.
  • Workshops: Share preps.
  • Forum: Reviewing the four periods of post-war education and the issues that arose.

    b. Gathering Issues for Today

  • Forum: What is the period of our own time? What issues arise?
  • Preparing for next time: Divide readings for Chapters 5-8.

    3. (Sep. 14 - 18)

    a. Making a Public School

  • Read: Grant, Chapters 5-8.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs (1) summarizing the lesson of your designated chapter and (2) assessing the validity of the lesson for today.
  • Workshops: Share preps.
  • Forum: Authority, responsibility, and reform. To what extent are Grant's issues still with us?

    b. Stand and Deliver, The Marva Collins Story, or another teacher-hero video.

  • Assignment due next time: Based upon our readings, please summarize (1) what you consider to be the most important lessons from recent history in education and (2) what you consider to be the most interesting challenges facing teachers today. Dedicate two pages to each question (for a total of 4 pages or 1,000 words.) Please do not neglect appropriate habits of citation. Attention to video material is encouraged.
  • Preparing readings for next time: Dewey

    4. (Sep. 21 - 25)

    a. Contemporary Challenges Workshop:

  • Workshops: Sharing results of assignment. Oral summaries. Getting ready for a philosophy of education.

    b. Doing Dewey, Part One:

  • Read: Dewey, Chapters 1-5.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs on your selected chapter (1) summarizing Dewey's lesson and (2) assessing its value for you.
  • Workshops: Share summaries and reflections.
  • Forum: Dewey's organic conception of education. How is education an everyday process? What is the purpose of formal education?

    5. (Sep. 28 - Oct. 2)

    a. Dewey's Democracy

  • Read: Dewey, Chapters 6-9.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs on your selected chapter (1) summarizing Dewey's lesson and (2) assessing its value for you.
  • Workshops: Share summaries and reflections.
  • Forum: The democratic conception in education. What is it? Is this worth pursuing? How close are we?

    b. Dewey's Epistemology

  • Read: Dewey, Chapters 10-13.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs on your selected chapter (1) summarizing Dewey's lesson and (2) assessing its value for you.
  • Workshops: Share summaries and reflections.
  • Forum:Pragmatist epistemology--What is thinking? How do we teach it?

    6. (Oct. 5 - 9)

    a. Values and Attitudes in Dewey

  • Read: Dewey, Chapters 14-18.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs on your selected chapter (1) summarizing Dewey's lesson and (2) assessing its value for you.
  • Workshops: Share summaries and reflections.
  • Forum: Case studies in geography and science--Are there values apart from attitudes? What kinds of attitudes are valued?

    b. Concluding Dewey

  • Read: Dewey, Chapters 19-22.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs on your selected chapter (1) summarizing Dewey's lesson and (2) assessing its value for you.
  • Workshops: Share summaries and reflections.
  • Forum: Deconstructing dualisms--What’s the difference between distinctions and dichotomies?
  • Assignment Due Next Time: Five page paper (midterm take-home). For the first three pages, discuss how Dewey might approach the historical challenges as discussed in your first paper. Please do not neglect appropriate citation of relevant passages from Dewey. In the final two pages, evaluate the relevance of Dewey's philosophy of education from your own point of view. Perhaps one page could be devoted to convergence, another page to divergence.

    7. (Oct. 12 - 15)

    a. Midterm Exam Due (Take Home: see above)

  • Review: Grant, Dewey, and video presentation.
  • Introducing Higher Learning (a video introduction to the "isms" of campus life.)
  • For Next Time: prepare a checklist of ten images from the first hour of the film that represent the ways in which racism or sexism have become routine features of campus habit.
    Midterm Break (Friday off)

    8. (Oct. 19 - 23)

    a. Seeing the Hidden Lessons of Sexism and Racism

  • Read: Sadker, Chapters 1-4.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs (1) describing some ways in which Sadker argues that sexism is habitual and (2) what you think about the case presented in the first four chapters.
  • Workshops: Share preps (commentary on Sadker and checklist from the film). Nominate a reporter to summarize the group discussion.
  • Forum: (1) Reviewing the checklist from the film and (2) discussing Sadker.

    b. Bigotry and Racism: A Discussion of Terms

  • Lecture: Interpersonal intentions and structural habits.
  • Discussion: Democracy revisited. How much trouble is it worth?
  • Preparation for next time: Covering the next four chapters.

    9. (Oct. 26 - 30)

    a. Gender Norms (Racial Norms?)

  • Read: Sadker, Chapters 5-8.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs (1) summarizing the argument from your chapter and (2) evaluating the argument from your point of view.
  • Workshops: Sharing preps, selecting reps.
  • Forum: On norms and standards in gender and race.

    b. Multicultural Education and Anti-Sexist, Anti-Racist Objectives.

  • Discussion: Should teachers aim directly at reducing racism and sexism?

    10. (Nov. 2 - 6)

    a. Concluding Sadker

  • Read: Sadker, Chapters 9 & 10.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs (1) summarizing and (2) commenting on Sadkers' closing arguments.
  • Workshops: Sharing preps, nominating reps.
  • Forum: Sorting the issues.

    b. Beginning Miller

  • Read: Miller, Part One
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs (1) summarizing and (2) commenting on a chapter from Part One.
  • Workshops: Sharing preps, nominating reps.
  • Forum: Miller's review of American educational history and our current predicament. The marketplace and criteria of value in education.
  • Preparing for next time: Everyone read Chapter 4, divide figures from Chapter 5.

    11. (Nov. 9 - 13)

    a. What is Holistic Education?

  • Read: Miller, pp. 71-89.
  • Prepare: Three paragraphs: (1) describing Holistic Education (from Chapter 4), (2) summarizing one example of a holistic figure (from Chapter 5), and (3) evaluating the holistic movement from your point of view.
  • Workshops: Preps & Reps.
  • Forum: Forging a tradition.

    b. Dewey Reconsidered

  • Read: Miller, Chapter 6.
  • Workshops: Evaluating Miller's gloss on Dewey.
  • Forum: What would Dewey do?
  • Preparation for next time: Dividing readings (three imports and four final chapters equals seven sections for prep.)

    12. (Nov. 16 - 20)

    a. Concluding Miller:

  • Read: Miller, Chapters 7-11.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs (1) summarizing and (2) evaluating your section of reading.
  • Workshops: Sharing preps.
  • Forum: Education and American culture.

    b. Integrating Sadker and Miller

  • Review: First two papers on Grant and Dewey; readings in Sadker and Miller.
  • Assignment due after Thanksgiving: We have gathered issues and thought about education from a Deweyan perspective. Sadker and Miller further highlight the difficulty of "culture transmission" models of education. It is time to (1) formulate a Sadker-Miller criticism of contemporary culture in the USA, (2) assess the validity of the criticism, and (3) decide how your results are going to affect your philosophy of education. (3a) Should education get involved in "culture reconstruction"? (3b) If so, in what way and (3c) why? (4) What are the sustainable values that we might work with? Write two pages on each of the above numbered questions (question three asks for at least three distinct paragraphs). Please do not neglect appropriate habits of scholarly citation. (4 questions times 2 pages equals 8 pages total, due after Thanksgiving.)

    13. (Nov. 23 - 25)

    Thanksgiving Break ( Wednesday evening, Thursday, and Friday off)

    14. (Nov. 30 - Dec. 4)

    a. The Case of Montessori

  • Read: Lillard, Chapter 8.
  • Workshops: Share impressions of the reading. Prepare a brief oral report on your response.
  • Forum: The Montessori system.

    b. Rough draft workshop:

    8-page drafts due.

    15. (Dec. 7 - 11)

    a. Montessori Reconsidered

  • Read: Montessori selections (a chapter of your choice).
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs: summarize the most important lesson from the chapter; what do you think?
  • Workshops: Sharing and nominations.
  • Discussion: The Montessori movement today reconsidered. What's it worth?

    b. Final Review:

  • Review: All materials.
  • Final Exam: In your own philosophy of education, (1) what are the guiding terms of value? (2) How do these terms address important challenges facing education today? (3) How can you draw upon material presented in class? (4) In sum, how would you anticipate your own contribution to education? Do not neglect appropriate habits of scholarly citation. (Two pages per question, for a total of eight pages).
    Final Exam Due by Dec. 18, 5 p.m.
    Contact Information

    Telephone extension: 2217.

    Email: jz7r@maristb.marist.edu

    Office: cubicle in Humanities temporary offices, ground floor of Student Center.

    Office hours: TBA.

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