Thursday, September 27, 2007

My philosophy of education

Recently I was asked to write my philosophy of education. This is a copy of the answer to that question:

My philosophy of education can be summarized as: An effort to move a student towards as much independence as can be attained. The philosophical goal of special education that I embrace is social mobility, which is to provide students with maximum personal choice as to what their goals are, and to provide them with the training and credentials necessary to achieve this.

I hold that education should always move towards increased choices and freedoms for the student. So, while I support and utilize non-naturalistic reinforcement and non-naturalistic teaching, I temper this with Vygotsky’s scaffolding, which is the progressive removal of supports and prompts as the student demonstrates mastery of a concept. I argue that supports are only useful to the extent that they move or allow a student to obtain greater independence.

In terms of ethics I attempt to balance my support for the IEP process and safeguards, which I argue brings a good to the most people and which I consider to be an example of Mill’s Utilitarianism. I also balance this with my belief in Kant’s Deontology which holds that ends and means are equal in importance and that teaching should be done to the extent possible in a way that avoids bringing unpleasant experience to the student. To this end I advocate the use of positive reinforcement and the minimal use of aversive control, similar to what is discussed by Sidman.

I also hold that students with disabilities fall under the same protections and rights as accessed by students without disabilities the same age. I also believe that while students with disabilities may have a mix of strengths and weaknesses, that difference alone, even if it involves a significant departure from the norm does not constitute disability in and of itself.

In terms of epistemology, I assert that the universe is orderly and this order can be understood as described by Russell. I advocate the use of use of science in the attempt to understand the world including the sub-field of human behavior and learning. I also believe that overarching scientific theory progresses ad infinitum as described by Popper and that specific science moves through stages of evidence as described by Gould. I also hold that the perception of a theory in science changes as described by Kuhn and that science should not only consist of methodology, but also of logic as noted by Feyerabend.

Specifically in the field of science, I align with the radical behaviorism of Skinner. This is to say that while I look to contingencies for the cause of a behavior, I believe that to tell the whole story, we must include thoughts and feelings in our research. I also embrace and the attitude and words in which Skinner received his award as the 1972 Humanist of the Year, for: “Helping to create a less punishing world”.

I believe that teaching that is not in accord with community expectations may result in tension between the teachers and community as described by Wolf. I believe that the teaching must be aesthetically pleasing to the community and must also be seen to bring to bring benefit or have an axiological value, to the community. To this end I support organizations such as the PTA and other feedback systems.

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