According to Lorraine Zinn, there are several major philosophies of education. It is worthwhile and even important for adult educators to identify their philosophies of education for a number of reasons. The overarching idea is that each of us has both a (loose) theory we espouse when explaining our actions or predicting what we would do in hypotheticalsituations and a theory that in fact guides our actions and unifies (to some degree) our beliefs. Reflection on both of these and their inter-relations facilitates self-improvement and the development of one's many personae—moral, parental, etc. For an adult educator, "facilitator" or "instructor" is one persona that becomes pliable by these sorts of reflections, and so one can improve as an adulteducator by examining (i) her espoused philosophy of education, (ii) the philosophy of education that in fact guides her actions, and (iii) the extent to which ii corresponds to i. This paper examines four of Zinn's five philosophies of education, comparing especially the roles they provide for teacher, the attitude they take toward students, and the role they afford knowledge.
It is important tonote that these four philosophies are not at all exhaustive: one's own philosophy of education may take features from a few of the overarching views and combine them to make a "hybrid" view, or one may agree with just about every part of one view while jettisoning or tweaking a fine detail, but one may also subscribe to a philosophy that doesn't resemble any of these at all. For practical purposes,these serve as a sort of menu for the educator; she can use it to systematize her own unreflective commitments or to inspire her reflection on those commitments. In short, it is a guide to developing one's own teaching philosophy; it is not a stricture into which one should squeeze her own teaching philosophy. So long as one's teaching philosophy is ethical and responsible, the most important pointis that one finds confidence and inspiration in it.
This educational philosophy has its roots in the classical Athenian systems first discussed thoroughly by Aristotle, and forming the core philosophy driving instruction in his Lyceum. This philosophy's central commitment is that humans are endowed with a capacity for reason that underwrites all or most of what's positive in usand the world, and which can be improved by reading the Great Works of classical authors. (Hiemstra 1988) Within this framework, the instructor is typically conceived as an expert or authority, relegating the student to a more passive role. (Zinn 1990) Although it emphasizes the role of reasoning in education, it doesn't always let students' capacity for reason to "fly" in discussion, thanks to itsinherent authority structure.
Although the Liberal approach proposes that developing human intellects is a route to social change, it does not make social change the centerpiece of its teaching philosophy. The Radical approach to educational philosophy does just this. (Zinn 1990) Not only does it envision education as a route to social change, it takes the purpose of education tobe to mold agents of social change. (Friere 1970) Since bringing about social change requires the ability to "create one's own meaning" and to confront the obstacles to social change—which will often involve others who have created or inherited different meanings—this educational philosophy gives students and teacher equally or near-equally authoritative roles. (Hiemstra 1988) The idea is to givestudents the confidence in their own views that they'll need when confronting oppression. In practice, however, this confrontational approach may not always be fruitful for more timid or even circumspect individuals.
Like liberalism, Humanism proposes that humans have a unique capacity for intellection, and this capacity is at the heart of what makes us inherently good,...