Pragmatism And Education Essay Introduction
MEANING AND DEFINITION
The term pragmatism is derived from the Greek word pragma which means action, from which words like practice and practical have been derived. It can be easily understood through this that pragmatism is basically the greater impact of practical due to which pragmatism is often translated as practicalism (Agarwal, Bansal & Maheshwari, 2010).
Charles Pierce introduced this word in philosophy, in 1878 when he wrote an essay in the “Popular Science Monthly” on “How to make our ideas clear”in which he gave the idea of pragmatism when he said that any idea can only be understood if it is examined in terms of consequences to which it leads to. Pragmatism gives emphasis upon what is practical, efficient, fruitful and satisfying. It does not think of the world as readymade, perfect, beautiful, something to be enjoyed, contemplated or worshipped (Agarwal et al, 2010).
MAIN PHILOSOPHICAL IDEAS OF PRAGMATISM
The main philosophical ideas that pragmatism represents (Singh, 2007) include:
According to pragmatists, there are as many worlds as human beings. The ultimate reality is not one but many. Everyone searches truth and aims according to his will and experiences or circumstances can change the truth.
The world is a process, a constant flux. Truth is always in the making. The world is ever progressing and evolving and everything in the world keeps on changing.
Pragmatists are utilitarianists, utility is the test of all truth and reality. A useful principle is that which is true. The result or consequence of an action decides that worth of something as good or bad. Good results show the truth and validity of any principle or idea whereas bad results conclude to bad principles. Circumstances determine the beliefs and theories to be good or evil.
The world serves as a laboratory for the development of aims and values. Changing aims and values are with time and clime and thus aims cannot be accepted as they are. Everyone should seek aims and values according to ones tendencies and abilities.
Pragmatists are individualists. Maximum premium upon human freedom in life is provided which goes with equality and fraternity. Everyone has the right to adjust to ones environment with ease and in conformity with ones rights and individuality.
Since man is a social animal, one needs social circumstances to develop and acquire success in the society. Man’s aims and values make him successful in developing his personal as well as social personality.
Pragmatists give more importance to actions than ideas. Activity is the means to attain the end of knowledge. Therefore, one should learn by experimentation which is required in every field of life. As John Dewey says, “When we experience something, we act upon it; then we suffer or undergo the consequences. We do something to the thing and the thing does something in return.” (Agarwal et al, 2010)
To pragmatists, intelligence itself is nothing abstract, it is merely a quality of thinking whose purpose is to efficiently solve problems of living. It is to use the method of reflective thinking in our daily life.
PRAGMATISM AND EDUCATION
The man who introduced Pragmatism in Education is John Dewey. According to him, the real value of a thing lies in its utility for human development and welfare. Thus even education is useless if it does not promote human welfare and so the system of education should be changed so that it becomes both desirable and beneficial. Education should provide real life experiences to the learners so as to make them dynamic, resourceful efficient and enterprising. John Dewey characterizes education mainly as growth, as life, as continuous reconstruction of experiences, as a social process (Singh, 2007). His philosophical implications made pragmatism also be known as instrumentalism or experimentalism (Agarwal et al, 2010). Some of the educational ideas presented by John Dewey in his most famous writing in 1916, Democracy and Education are:
PRAGMATIC AIMS OF EDUCATION
Pragmatists believe that the aims are always determined by individual not by any organization or any structure. Perhaps the best statement of what might be called the pragmatists educational aims can be found in the writing of John Dewey. The aim for education is to teach children to be comfortable in their learning environment to an extent that children are living their life. Dewey believed in this type of environment that is not considered a preparation for life, but life itself. He believed that educators should know the ideas and materials that motivate and interest children and plan accordingly. Dewey believed that aims should grow out of existing conditions, be tentative, and have an end view. In Democracy and education, he wrote that education is “that reconstruction or reorganization of experience which adds to the meaning of experience, and which increases ability to direct the course of subsequent experience” (Agarwal et al, 2010). The aim that might be derived from the foregoing definition of education would include the helping of the child to develop in such a way as to contribute to his continued growth (Agarwal et al, 2010).
Some of the aims of education outlined by John Dewey (as cited in Khalid, 2005) are:
Education must develop the power of effective experiencing. The pupil must be enabled to cope with the indeterminacies of life.
Even the specific objectives should be focused, clear, concrete, practicable and oriented towards human welfare.
Natural development should be taken to notice. This refers to the development of bodily organs and the maintenance of health and vigor. It also includes the development of physical skills that would be useful in games and play and other such activities. Individual differences should also be entertained during this training.
Social efficiency is another aim of education. Its function is to habituate an individual to social control, to develop a willingness to subordinate his natural urges to social desires.
PRAGMATISM AND CURRICULUM
The universe is the subject matter for the pragmatist. Any educative experience is the subject matter of the curriculum, any experience contributing to growth. The subject matter exists ready to be explored, but the real concern must always be for the interaction of the pupil with the subject matter of his current needs, capacities, and concerns (Agarwal et al, 2010). 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 (Agarwal et al, 2010). A study of social, economic and political problems, natural resources and their maintenance and other such studies should form the curriculum. Subjects include Mathematics, History, Geography, Hygiene, Physical Learning and more. Thus all the content that prepares the child for individual as well as social adjustment can be included in the curriculum (Singh, 2007).
PRAGMATISM AND INSTRUCTIONAL METHODOLOGY
Instead of the book, the teacher, the subject matter or the child in nature (as in naturalism), pragmatists emphasize on the child’s upbringing in a social world. As, learning always occurs as a result of movement and activity, the teacher has to capitalize upon the activities of children to direct their teaching-learning processes (Dash, 2004).
The classroom would be a functional atmosphere with the interest of the children at hand. Problem solving, themes, experiments are all parts of the pragmatic philosophy. The curriculum for the pragmatic philosophy supports a connection between knowledge and experience. It is important for children to connect the two so learning can become meaningful. According to Dewey, children must be interested in the subject matter to gain meaning. Subjects that are difficult and cause children to struggle should be organized and designed to build motivation about the topics. Children should enjoy learning and leave with a sense of accomplishment (Agarwal et al, 2010).
John Dewey feels that method of teaching should develop reflective thinking among students. “Why” should be asked and not “How”. The method and matter of study go side by side. Specifically, Project method in classroom facilitates learning and experimentation. Discussion method is also considered healthy and fruitful (Dash, 2004).
PRAGMATISM AND THE SCHOOL
The school serves as both, part of an environment as well as a man made environment which works to provide the best possible learning experiences to the students and that is why John Dewey calls a school as “Miniature society” and assets that “schools should be the true representatives of the society” (Singh, 200, p.187) where students experience all the activities in accordance with their interests, aptitudes and capacities (Singh, 2007).
In an industrial society like ours, the school should be a miniature workshop and a miniature community; that is it should teach through practice, and through trial and error, the arts and discipline necessary for economic or social order. In fact, any social environment which inspires the children for experimentation constitutes as a school for them (Agarwal et al, 2010).
PRAGMATISM AND DISCIPLINE
Pragmatism favors freedom for children. The teacher, acting as an advisor and guide, and the self active learning of the students should together promote discipline. John Dewey believes that both interests and discipline are closely related to each other and so the interest of students if aroused, sustained and satisfied would itself result in discipline. Pragmatism advocates the merging of play with work. By doing so, an eagerness, willingness and joy develops among students in relation to their work without thinking of what others are doing. Students develop an attitude of seriousness, consideration and sincerity as well as self confidence, self reliance, sympathy and fellow feeling. The formation of these social attributes result in social discipline and moral obligation (Singh, 2007).
PRAGMATISM AND THE STUDENT
The pragmatists see a student as a whole organism which consists of the biological self, the psychological self and the social self. A student is constantly interacting with the environment and brings to school all the values, meanings and experiences as a learner (Agarwal et al, 2010).
A student is creative and constructive by nature. They are not just passive listeners but an active participant in the tri polar process of education (that is the student, the educator and the teaching learning process). Therefore their intrinsic needs of creativity and activity should be fulfilled by educators through challenging environment in the classroom (Dash, 2004).
PRAGMATISM AND THE TEACHER
The teacher, as pragmatists view it, is not a dictator but only a leader of group activities. He should not overshadow the personality of the students. The teacher has to plan and organize the teaching-learning process, provide learning opportunities for experimentation. Teachers must not impose themselves onto the learners and should help them build socially and intellectually with equal opportunities (Singh, 2007).The role of the teacher is important in successfully educating students. The teacher must capture the student’s interest and build on the natural motivation that exists (Khalid, 2005). Teachers need to remember to vary their teaching methods to accommodate each individual learning style. Not all children learn at the same pace or are at the same point; therefore, the teacher must vary his/her style. Dewey believed that knowledge should be organized and related to current experiences. The teacher, for the pragmatist, is a member of the learning group who serves in the capacity of helper, guide, and arranger of experiences who is as involved in the educative process as are the students within the system (Agarwal et al, 2010).
Pragmatism as an educational belief does not have everyone agreeing. Some believe that it is too vague and others believe it is too watered down.After analyzing pragmatism, one may feel that this philosophy best describes ones teaching style. This philosophy is easier to understand and make connections. Pragmatism reminds teachers to individualize their instruction to meet the needs of each learner. One must remember to keep old traditions, but incorporate new ideas.
· Agarwal, S., Bansal, S. & Maheshwari, V. K. (2010). Pragmatism and education.
Retreived from http://www.scribd.com/doc/30853941/Pragmatism-and-Education
· Dash, B.N. (2004). Educational Society. New Delhi: Dominant Publishers and
· Khalid, T. (2005). Education: An introduction to philosophy and history. Islamabad:
National Book Foundation
· Singh, Y. K. (2007). Philosophical foundations of education. New Dehli: APH Publishing
The term pragmatism derives its origin from a Greek word meaning to do, to make, to accomplish. So the use of words likes ‘action’ or ‘practice’ or ‘activity’. Action gets priority over thought. Experience is at the centre of the universe. Everyone is tested on the touch-stone of experience. Beliefs and ideas are true if they are workable and profitable otherwise false. Will Durant sums up pragmatism as the doctrine that truth is the practical efficiency of an idea. It follows there from that pragmatism is not a philosophy but a method–the method of experimentation. As a basis for school practice pragmatism opposes pre-determined and pre-ordained objectives and curriculums. The past of the pragmatist is dead.
Values are instrumental only. There are no final or fixed values. They are evolved and are not true for all times and for all situations. According to an undeviating standard of worth, pragmatism tends to be individualistic, selfish; has no values; has no ethics and is thus superficial.
FORMS OF PRAGMATISM
1. HUMANISTIC PRAGMATISM-
This type of pragmatism is particularly found in social sciences. According to it the satisfaction of human nature is the criterion of utility. In philosophy, in religion and even in science man is the aim of all thinking and everything else is a means to achieve human satisfaction.
2. EXPERIMENTAL PRAGMATISM-
Modern science is based upon experimental method. The fact that can be ascertained by experiment is true. No truth is final, truth is known only to the extent it is useful in practice. The pragmatists use this criterion of truth in every field of life. The human problems can be solved only through experiment.
3. NOMINALISTIC PRAGMATISM-
When we make any experiment we attend to the result. Our aim is examination of the material. Some hypothesis about the results invariably precedes every experiment. According to nominalistic pragmatism, the results of an experiment are always particular and concrete, never general and abstract.
4. BIOLOGICAL PRAGMATISM-
Experimentalism of John Dewey is based upon this biological pragmatism according to which the ultimate aim of all knowledge is harmony of the man with the environment. Education develops social skill which facilitates one’s life. The school is a miniature society which prepares the child for future life.
PRINCIPLES OF PRAGMATISM
Philosophically, the pragmatists are pluralists. According to them there are as many words as human beings. The ultimate reality is not one but many. Everyone searches truth and aim of life according to his experiences.
2. EMPHASIS ON CHANGE-
The pragmatists emphasize change. The world is a process, a constant flux. Truth is always in the making. The world is ever progressing and evolving. Therefore, everything here is changing.
Pragmatists are utility is the test of all truth and reality. A useful principle is true. Utility means fulfillment of human purposes. The results decide the good and evil of anything, idea, beliefs and acts. Utility means satisfaction of human needs.
4. CHANGING AIM AND VALUES-
The aim and values of life change in different times and climes. The old aims and values, therefore, cannot be accepted as they are. Human life and the world is a laboratory in which the aims and values are developed.
Pragmatists are individualists. They put maximum premium upon freedom in human life. Liberty goes with equality and fraternity. Everyone should adjust to his environment.
6. EMPHASIS ON SOCIAL ASPECTS-
Since man is a social animal therefore, he develops in social circumstances. His success is success in society. The aim of education is to make him successful by developing his social personality.
Pragmatists are experimentalists. They give more importance to action than ideas. Activity is the means to attain the end of knowledge. Therefore, one should learn by doing constant experimentation which is required in every field of life.
PRAGMATISM AND EDUCATIVE PROCESS
Activity lies at the centre of all educative process. The basis of all teaching is the activity of the child, says Foster. Every continuous- experience or activity is educative and all education, is fact, resides in having such experience. But continuous growth in experience is not the whole education. Education is something more. It is a constant reorganizing or reconstructing of experience. Pragmatism approaches the problems of education from the ‘progressivits’ view point “progress implies change. Change further implies novelty”, so education cannot be conceived of as acquired once for all. Problem solving is at the core of all education. The educative process thus becomes empirical, experimental, and piecemeal: in a word pragmatic.
1. EDUCATION AS LIFE-
Pragmatists firmly believe that old and traditional education is dead and lifeless. Education is a continuous re-organizing, reconstructing and integrating the experience and activities of race. They want to conserve the worthwhile culture of the past, think out the solutions to meet the new situations and then integrate the two. Real knowledge can be gained only be activity, experiments and real life experiences.
2. EDUCATION AS GROWTH-
Thus education will be useful if it brings about the growth and development of the individual as well as the society in which he lives. Education is meant for the child and child is not meant for education and child is not empty bottle to be filled up by outside knowledge. Each child is born with inherent capacities, tendencies and aptitudes which are drawn out and developed by education. One of the aims of education is to develop all the inherent capacities of the child to the fullest extent.
3. EDUCATION AS A SOCIAL PROCESS-
To pragmatism, man is a social being. He gains more and more knowledge through personal experiences than he gets from books. According to pragmatism, the education of the child should be through the medium of society so that develops in him socially desirable qualities which promote his welfare and happiness. John Dewey rightly speaks out – Education is the social continuity of life.
4. EDUCATION A CONTINUOUS RESTRUCTURING OF EXPERIENCE-
Education is a process of development. Knowledge is gained by experiences and experiments, conducted by the learner himself. One exercise leads to another and so on and the area of knowledge is widened by the child. The process of reconstruction of experience goes on and leads to adjustment and development of personality. For pragmatists educational process has no end beyond itself. In addition to the individual it is continuous reorganizing restructuring and integrating the experience and activities of the race.
5. EDUCATION THE RESPONSIBILITY OF STATE-
Education is the birth right of each individual and may not be within the right of the individual, so the state should shoulder the responsibility. The refusal of the state to do so may not lead the nation to suffering. It is for the state to make the child capable and confident to meet the problems and challenges of life successfully.
AIMS AND PRAGMATISM
Pragmatists do not believe in any pre-conceived aims of education. Aims cannot be conceived of as final, fixed and immutable. Aims arise out of the ongoing experience and should lie wholly within the child’s experience. Living as we do, in a changing world with an uncertain and shifting future, human experience is prone to change. And so the need to reshape our aims to meet the needs of such a dynamic environment as ours has become where the invention of every machine means a new social revolution. So it has been said that education has no aims. “Continuing education “, says a UNESCO booklet, “has become a necessity in almost every field of life from housekeeping to atomics”. Education is a lifelong process and not as something to discipline the recalcitrant person in to conformity with the pre-existing truth. The pupil should be able to, as they say, ’thing through’ the problems. Education for Dewey is a process of individual growth and development. But “growth itself“, says Brubacher “has no end beyond further growth”. In other words, he goes on to say “education is its own end”. Education means more education.
PRAGMATISM AND CURRICULUM
In the field of curriculum development, the following principles have been prescribed by pragmatists.
1. PRINCIPLE OF UTILITY-
According to this principle, only those subjects, activities and experiences should be included in the curriculum which are useful to the present needs of the child and also meet the future expectations of adult life as well. As such Language, physical well-being, physical training, Geography, History, Science, Agriculture and Home science for girls should be included in the curriculum.
2. PRINCIPLE OF INTEREST-
According to this principle, only those activities and experiences where in the child takes interest should be included in the curriculum. According to John Dewey these interests are of four varieties namely- (1) interest in conversation, (2) interest in investigation, (3) interest in construction and (4) interest in creative expression. Keeping these varieties of interests in view, at the primary stage, the curriculum should included Reading, Writing, Counting, Art, Craft-work, Natural science and other practical work of simple nature.
3. PRINCIPLE OF EXPERIENCE-
The third principle of pragmatic curriculum is the child’s activity, vocation and experience. All these three should be closely integrated. The curriculum should consist of such varieties of learning experiences which promote original thinking and freedom to develop social and purposeful attitudes.
4. PRINCIPLE OF INTEGRATION-
Pragmatic curriculum deals with the integration of subjects and activities. According to pragmatism knowledge is one unit. Pragmatists want to construct flexible, dynamic and integrated curriculum which aids the developing child and the changing society more and more as the needs, demands and situation require.
PRAGMATISM AND METHODS OF TEACHING
The whole emphasis of method of teaching in pragmatism is on child, not the book, or the teacher or the subject. The dominant interest of the child is “to do and to make”. The method should be flexible and dynamic. It must be adaptable and modifiable to suit the nature of the subject matter and potentiality of the students. The pragmatist’s curriculum provides for creative and purposeful activities in the teaching- learning process. Pragmatists regard school is a’ miniature of society’ where child gets real experiences to act and behave according to his interests, aptitudes and capacities.
Project method is a contribution of pragmatist philosophy in education. According to Kilpatrick“a project is a whole hearted purposeful activity carried out in a social environment”. The child learns by doing says John Dewey. All learning must come as a product of action. Learning by doing makes a person creative, confident and co-operative. They also emphasize the discovery and enquiry methods. The method like problem solving, play-way, experimental and laboratory techniques which follow the principle of learning by doing can be used according to pragmatic view.
Pragmatism regards teacher as a helper, guide and philosopher. The chief function of pragmatic teacher is to suggest problems to his pupils and to stimulate them to find by themselves, the solutions, which will work. The teacher must provide opportunities for the natural development of innate qualities of children. His main task is to suggest problems to his pupils and to guide them to find out solutions.
To utilize the interest of the pupil is the basis of discipline here. The teacher and pupils attack a problem jointly. Teacher’s role is that of a guide and a director; it is the pupil who acts, learning this becomes a cooperative venture- a joint enterprise. Pursuit of common purposes enforces it own order. Education becomes a social process of sharing between the members of the various groups and all are equal partners in the process. That is no rewards also there are no placing for the martinet so any punishments. The discipline proceeds from the life of the school as a whole.
CONTRIBUTIONS OF PRAGMATISM TO EDUCATION
· Pragmatism provides definite aims of education. The student is prepared to live in society and learn skills and attitudes. Which are required of him to live as a useful member of society?
· The teaching methods are based on learning by doing. The project method is the contribution of pragmatism to modern education.
· Pragmatism encourages a democratic way of learning through purposeful and cooperative projects and activities.
· Utility in the educative process is the first criterion. The school is expected to provide learning and experiences that are useful.
· Education is not bound to tradition. Pragmatic philosophers advise us to test everything through our own experience.
· The teacher has to play a very challenging role in the educative process under pragmatism and he has to be very alert and watchful.
DEMERITS OF PRAGMATISM
1. OPPOSITION TO ETERNAL TRUTHS
Pragmatism is opposed to pre-determined truth. According to it, truth changes according to a change in circumstances, times and places and is created by the consequences of our actions and experiences. Pragmatists hold that if the results of an activity are satisfying, then it is true otherwise not.
2. OPPOSITION OF PRE-DETERMINED IDEAS AND VALUES-
This emphasizes that ideals and values are man-made and change according to changes in circumstances, times and places. But all noble things have entered into this human world by the efforts of those great persons who were inspired by the great ideals namely- truth, beauty and goodness.
3. NO PRE-DETERMINED AIMS OF EDUCATION
There are no set and pre determined aims of education as well. In the absence of definite aims of education, all educational plans and efforts may go astray and achieve nothing.
4. NEGATIONS OF SPIRITUAL VALUES-
Pragmatists deny the existence of spiritual values. Negligence of spiritual value is a great blunder. Without developing spiritual values achieving human welfare, peace and satisfaction is simply to cry for the moon.
5. OPPOSITION OF INTELLECTUALITY-
Pragmatists believe that a man’s intelligence is subservient to his innate tendencies. This makes him only an animal.
6. NEGATION OF POST
Agmatists, emphasizing only the present and future, and neglects the past. Without the knowledge of past one cannot understand the present and without knowing the present thoroughly nothing can be predicted for the future.
7. DIFFICULTY IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF CURRICULUM
Pragmatism emphasize that all knowledge is to be gained from experiences of life. Selecting a project and construction of curriculum to gain all knowledge from life experiences is very difficult.
8. PRAGMATISM IS A METHOD ONLY
Unlike other philosophical doctrines, pragmatism does not lay down any aims, ideals and values of life to be pursued by human beings. Hence, pragmatism cannot be termed as a philosophy of life.
MERITS OF PRAGMATISM
1. CONSTRUCTION OF PROJECT METHOD
In the field of methods of teaching, pragmatism has given birth to project method. This method, a child indulging in various creative activities, is able to solve many problems which cater to his natural progress and development.
2. IMPORTANCE OF CHILD-
Opposing bookish knowledge and formal education, pragmatism lays great stress upon the development of child’s individuality by his own efforts.
3. EMPHASIS ON ACTIVITY
Pragmatism emphasizes upon activity. The principle of learning by doing is the main contribution of pragmatism
4. FAITH IN APPLIED LIFE-
Pragmatism emphasizes the practical life of child. Pragmatic education prepares the child for future life in a very effective manner.
5. SOCIAL AND DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION-
Pragmatism develops in the child love for democratic values and social efficiency which bring harmonious adjustment and development of personality.
6. INFUSION OF NEW LIFE IN EDUCATION-
Pragmatism has revolutionized the process of education to a very great extent. This has infused a new life and zest in education.
The foregoing discussion shows that pupil’s immediate experiences, felt needs and purposes play a prominent part in the determination of educational programmes and policies. This confirms the faith in the worth and improvability of individuals. Pragmatism puts emphasis on free flow of ideas, spirit of inquiry of investigation and discussion. Pragmatism upholds the supreme value of man and prescribes freedom of thinking, experimenting and experiencing for him. Not only this, it lays emphasis upon flexibility, utility and adjustment in all fields of human activity promoting the continuous development of individual and society to the fullest extent.Pragmatic philosophy is a practical philosophy, having no fixed or absolute standards. Man always creates new values and education should help him in doing so. Being practical and utilitarian school of philosophy, pragmatism has influenced education to the maximum extent. It has tried overcoming the limitations of other schools like idealism and naturalism and has influenced world in a great deal
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