New Perspectives on Philosophy and Education: Pragmatism

Pragmatism: Summary

Philosophers such as John Dewey, Charles Peirce and William James are the founding fathers of Pragmatism in education.  These influential thinkers rejected Idealistic education model and instead conceived of schools as institutions for practical goals. The curriculum is based on performing activities, history and geography, and scientific problem solving. Progressive politics is also taught to students. Students are encouraged to take a pragmatic approach to problem solving.  The curriculum is not rigidly set.  In contrast only the broad outline is provided within which a variety of course content could be accommodated. The teachers play the role of a mentor to students.  There is no standardized evaluation of learning. Moreover, the process involves experimentation and learning through experience rather through concepts.  Pragmatism also rejects Metaphysical Absolutes and Metaphysical Dualisms.

Pragmatism: Synthesis & Response

The lack of standard grading system can be problematic for contemporary educators. The ability of a student to handle ad hoc problems as posed by the teacher is loosely evaluated for learning outcomes. It is this aspect of Pragmatism which makes it incompatible with the present mindset of teachers and parents.  Today teachers and parents want students to excel in tests, irrespective of understanding how it translates into social and communal adeptness. Though Pragmatism differs from current education system on many aspects, educators should try to include some elements of its philosophy.  Otherwise students are unlikely to tap into their full potential.  By focusing mostly on grades they may forget the social relevance of their education.  One must treat with caution, though, Pragmatism’s outright rejection of other education models such as Realism, Thomism, Idealism, etc. This is so because each system has its own share of positive features.