Archive for the ‘EDU 6120’ Category

The development of individuals intellectually and morally at the initial levels of education is the foundation upon which society is built.  The character of a society is defined by the beliefs and actions of its inhabitants.  Education is the Paideia where individuals develop their sensibilities and ability to discern truth.  Educators have the singular privilege and opportunity to enrich and improve the development of an individual’s place in society.  The most important goals of teachers are the improvement of the moral and social fabric of students and the raising of academic achievement (reflective of increased intellectual development).  The intellectual and moral development of individuals is essential to a good and stable society.  Education is power and the ability to provide for and defend oneself and others.  Society needs to have institutions that focus on the development of the individual, so that the intellectual capability of the populace is cultivated for the betterment of society and the world.

There are many thinkers who have written on the importance of an individual’s intellectual and moral development and on how this is to be accomplished.  Plato (n.d.) wrote in “On breaking the Bonds of Ignorance” and other works how an individual can find the most fulfillment through a true philosophy of truth seeking.  Plato believed that tradition and society obscured the observance of truth as defined by reality.  True understanding comes from a process of taking specific examples as evidence in the process of discovering general truths.  Important to Plato was an individual’s ultimate perception of what is ‘good’ or what is beneficial to individuals and society.  The true pursuit of knowledge, therefore, should produce virtue (wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice) (R. Scheuerman).  If we follow Plato’s argument to its logical conclusion, then truth or reality is something observable and knowable by everyone.  True understanding, comes from observing or learning from others what reality is.  Truth that is absolute engenders confidence of information’s future application and necessity.  Education, therefore, needs to be established on the principle of a knowable reality so that understanding and morality can follow.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1773) writes in Emile about the importance of nature and its observance in education.  Knowledge and understanding for the individual are the products of curiosity about the nature of things.  If someone desires to develop an understanding of morality, one must first observe nature and how the world is affected by actions and consequences.  Morality is taught to students through personal example and through having them practice good deeds.  Education should be focused on the development of an individual’s feeling and conscience to a greater degree than reason and science (R. Scheuerman).  Rousseau looks to the natural state of things for the development of an individual’s understanding of morality.  Morality and the understanding of what is ‘good’ comes from the observance of what happens in the world around them.  The teacher should be working to develop an individual’s perception of morality through real world examples and observations of consequences for actions.  Understanding what is beneficial to themselves and others develops an individual’s understanding of their responsibility to do what is good because of the consequences they have observed in the natural state of things for specific actions or behaviors.

Johann Friedrich Herbart (n.d.) wrote in “The Ethical Basis and Aim of Instruction” about the need for the development of an inner motivation to and understanding of morality.   Virtue is inner freedom and the relation between volition and insight.  True education and religion depends on the awakening of a moral sense in an individual, not the fear of punishment.  A society that is educated without morality is not sufficient: it must have a moral or ethical foundation.  Understanding of morality is accomplished through experience and through observance of the teacher.  Students should take historical studies for the heart: in other words, their moral understanding should be derived from their observance of the experience of others (R. Scheuerman).  History is a perfect setting for developing an understanding of morality.  Society and it’s laws loosely define morality, but suffers if individuals don’t have an understanding of what is good for them and those around them.  A good education includes an understanding of morality and ethics.  Teachers must teach their students morality and responsibility through discussing consequences in history and through providing a good example for students.

Horace Mann (1848) wrote in “On Education and National Welfare” about the responsibility of the state to the physical wellbeing of individuals.  The best way for the state to provide this is for individuals to be taught how to provide for themselves.  Individuals should be taught from an early age to work hard so that they can reap the profits of their labor.  Unlike European nations where individuals are forced to serve upper classes, the people of the United States pride themselves on their ability to affect their environment for the enrichment of their lives.  Education in this way is the means to change your life for the greatest good and the ability to protect yourself against the selfishness of others.   America is a land of great opportunity where individuals are given the ability to choose the conditions of their life which will affect its overall quality.  Students need to be taught to see the rewards that they will receive for the work that they put into their education and other pursuits.  Education often determines an individual’s quality of life. This understanding should motivate students to work hard and take their education seriously.

John Dewey (1859 – 1952) wrote about how education is about the life long intellectual development of an individual.  Students are important to the fabric of tomorrow’s society.  Education, therefore, should focus on the development of the individual, with instruction bending to their needs and curiosities.  Because of an individual’s crucial part in society, instruction needs to focus on problem-solving with practical instruments and scientific approaches.  Optimism for tomorrow should be produced in the pursuit of preparing an individual for their future place in society (R. Scheuerman).  If individuals can be taught their future responsibility in society, perhaps they can be motivated to be educated.  Understanding of purpose for learning eradicates the feeling or perception of futility.

In conclusion, individuals need to be taught that truth is knowable by everyone, that it is knowable through instruction and observance, that morality is understandable in observing consequences, that future quality of life will be determined by amount of hard work and effort, and that education should be taken seriously because in the future they will be asked to take a responsible part in society.

Of all the individuals and philosophies that we discussed in class, the ones that had the most effect on me were Johann Amos Comenius, Leo Tolstoy, and John Dewey.

Johann Amos Comenius (1592 -1670) was a Moravian Brethren minister who wrote several works on education that were not published until after his death.  In The Great Didactic (1633 -1638) and other works Comenius wrote about the role of the teacher as a servant whose mission or goal is the cultivation of young minds to understandings of order and truth.  Reason and science reflect God’s design, purpose, and ideas.  From these understandings of how the world works, God can then transform the soul of the individual for his purposes (R. Scheuerman).

These perspectives and beliefs resonate with me because I agree with his perspective about teachers taking a serving role and because I share his religious motivations.   I am a Christian who believes that God reveals himself to mankind through revelation and through nature.  I believe that reason and order in the world point to God.  I want to see others come to Christianity, but my classroom is not a pulpit.  I believe in absolute truth and absolute reality that is knowable and understandable by every individual.  Observance and study of this truth, I believe, brings people to belief in God.  But I also believe that the best leaders are those who serve those that they are leading.  Often, for the cognitive development of students the teacher must ask questions that inspire inquiry on important subjects. This often must take place instead of the teacher simply informing students what they believe.   Religious convictions are deeply personal and teachers must allow their students to make their own decisions.

Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) is one of the most fascinating characters in Russian history whose writings recorded and challenged many aspects of Russian society.  In “On Popular Education” (1860), Tolstoy writes about how the masses resist the education that government and society provides for them.  Human beings have the natural tendency to resist whatever is being forced upon them.  The Russian Education system at the time had a curriculum which boasted many classical and religious works and understandings.  To an audience who was becoming modern and Atheist, the curriculum seemed pointless and useless.  It therefore begs the question, according to Tolstoy, what is the legitimacy of a certain curriculum being forced on individuals?  Tolstoy’s conclusion is that education should not be restricted to a hard curriculum of information that may or may not be useful.  Education in Russia, Tolstoy argues, should be defined by freedom to learn what is necessary and interesting and by experimentation with the system for the best possible outcome.

What Tolstoy brings up here is a question that needs to be answered by all educators and asked by every student.  Often, the perspective of students for education is limited to the punishment they will receive if they do not participate or perform.  How often do students and teachers ask about the legitimacy of being forced to learn specific information?  What reason does society give for asking individuals to learn a specific amount of information they find important?  The answer is that society has agreed on this information as being necessary for students to prepare them for being future responsible citizens.  If students are brought to understand the significance of their place both in education and in their future community, perhaps more motivation to studies and learning can be cultivated because of its significance and importance.

John Dewey (1859 – 1952) was an American educational reformer who wrote about the centrality of a student’s interests in effective education.  Dewey believed that the future involvement of an individual in society should define the focus and instruction of the educational system.  Therefore, instruction should focus on the intellectual development of the individual and be set up to bend to their curiosities and interests.  Education should not be about learning specific information as much as preparing an individual to fix problems in tomorrow’s society.  By preparing individuals to deal with tomorrow’s problems, schools will be working to create optimism in schools about the condition of the world and their place in it (R. Scheuerman).  The central motivation of this system is the empowerment of the individual.

John Dewey’s focus and beliefs appeal to me because he identifies the core of education: the development of the individual for their future wellbeing.  Often it seems that educational systems can lose their perspective of the needs of the individual if curriculums and testing focus on the benefit of only the majority of students.  If teachers teach with the perspective of reaching only the majority, they miss the opportunity of developing relationships with students who are struggling with their studies.  The central motivation of most teachers is the enrichment of individuals.  The process of helping students succeed where they otherwise would have failed often legitimizes a teacher’s perception of themselves and their ability.  Teaching is about reaching individuals and often different individuals struggle with different things.  Humanity is enriched by the differences between human beings and the variance in human beings creates the best society.  Therefore, having an individual centered perspective on instruction which highlights the differences and abilities of individuals allows those individuals to become who they are meant to be to the betterment of tomorrow’s society.

From the writings of Comenius: teachers should be servant leaders who put the development of their students before the justification of their own beliefs and perspectives.  From the questions of Tolstoy: Students should learn to ask why they are learning what they are learning so that they can gain a perspective of the future application of their education.  Finally, from the writings of John Dewey:  individual differences enrich the fabric of society.  Teachers should focus on empowering individuals with instruction centered on their development with the perspective in mind of their future place in tomorrow’s society.


Scheuerman, R. (n.d.).  EDU 6120 Foundations: American Education Past and Present (Lecture Notes).

Retrieved December 3, 2010, from

(Lectures 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10)

Plato (n.d.).  On breaking the Chains of Ignorance.   Retrieved December 3, 2010, from

Rousseau, J. (1773).  Emile.  Retrieved December 3, 2010, from

Herbart, J. (n.d.).  Ethical Basis and Aim of Instruction.  Retrieved December 3, 2010, from

Mann, H. (1848).  On Education and National Welfare.  Retrieved December 3, 2010, from

Comenius, J. (1633 – 1638).  The Great Didactic.  Retrieved December 3, 2010, from

Tolstoy, L. (1860).  On Popular Education.  Retrieved December 3, 2010, from


Read Full Post »

In today’s schools, teachers face students who have absolutely no motivation to learn the information required in school curriculums.  Students today are trained at an early age to participate in the classroom’s learning process, but often have no reason why they personally should find the information they are learning important or applicable.  How many courses do adults look back on as being unimportant in their pursuit of their quality of life?  How often does the process of assisting children with middle school or high school math homework intimidate adults who have supposedly mastered these subjects (as evidenced by their high school diplomas)?  Teachers today face the need to inspire their students to learn the important skills and concepts necessary to make them successful in the modern world.

Teachers need to make the information that they teach appealing and applicable.  Information gained in class must be taught in such a way that students realize the immediate or long-term application of what they are learning.  Students must be taught to critically analyze all information they receive for application to their environment.  This especially applies in the field of history, where dates and facts are lost easily if there is no meaning or significance applied to those dates and facts.  Information must be structured in such a way that important concepts are taught and freedom is allowed in the classroom for the exploration of student interests.  Teachers themselves need to be focused on caring for each one of their students.  Teaching methods should be focused on principles which elevate the needs of individual students.  Student understanding of information must be grounded in cultural and historical understanding of the world they live in.  Subjects such as History and English must connect what is being taught to the conditions of the modern world. Often to achieve this, teachers will need to work together to make their subjects connect to the learning happening in other classrooms.  As no class can fully inform students on all important ramifications of information, the connection to understandings in other classrooms must be established.  A student must understand that the information that they learn in class should be applied to their general knowledge and understanding.  Teaching should be a process of helping students understand how they can use information to form their understanding of the world.  In this way, they can be successful in whatever they decide to pursue.

Read Full Post »

Leo Tolstoy asks in “On Popular Education” what the right is of schools to force education or the learning of knowledge on their students.  Why should society ask its newest individuals to conform to the expectations of knowledge that educational institutions create?  Through the medieval era and up to the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, the reasoning behind asking students to learn information was founded on an understanding that man must have knowledge about God and creation for him to find salvation and for him to succeed in the world.  Since the advent of Darwinism and the findings of science, society has moved away from having religious foundations for education.  Society has focused their reasons for education on the effects of education on people in their environment.  Tolstoy wrote about how in Russia these two conflicting perspectives had provided no good answer as to why individuals should be taught a specific catalogue of information.  He believed that there should be no specific expectation of knowledge to be learned, but rather that schools should conform their teaching to the needs of today’s society and that all learning should be based on freedom and experiment.

The answer to the question that Tolstoy sought in his society lies for us in the importance of understanding an individual’s future place in society.  John Dewey writes in “My Pedagogic Creed” how education should be out of the larger life experience of the child.  The purpose of education should be to provide the child access to the lessons learned by those who have gone before him or her for the purpose of finding answers to the questions they consider important.  This process of allowing a student access to society’s understanding of morality and nature allows the student to take full command of themselves as a powerful and able individual.  Through their participation in the society of the school they are allowed to develop their understanding of how to function in society at large and from there to understand what place they will take in it.  School, therefore, should pursue both the goals of the institution and the goals of individual.

Without a specific religious calling for individuals to education in today’s society, the reasoning for the importance of education must lie in the place specific individuals will take in tomorrow’s society.  As they will become tomorrow’s citizens, it is important that they achieve the understanding that will make them apart of an enlightened society.  Without education, society runs the risk of becoming entirely composed of individuals who have no understanding about the importance of the world around them.  It is therefore important for them to gain a sufficient understanding of the world to make the correct decisions.  In order to engage the student’s desire to become apart of this process, the school must be willing to work with the student to answer their specific questions about the world around them.  Preparation for life after schools, therefore, should occur in such a way that the student is prepared for what they want to do.  Their active place in society will not become meaningful for them if they are forced to fit into a place that they weren’t made for.

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 8 Full Text.

Read Full Post »

Arthur Ellis in Multicultural Education writes about how the dream of the melting pot in the United States has never been realized.  Israel Zangwill envisioned a land where peoples from around the world came to America where they would leave their cultures and languages behind in the pursuit of being an American.  This dream of an American identity separate from all other cultures and nations never came to be.  The country that we live in is a mixture of cultures and identities, which all continue their separate existence in differences in individual backgrounds and family histories and traditions.  Arthur Ellis argues that our perspective as a society should not be one of America as a melting pot or as a singular society, but rather as a pluralistic society containing multiple cultures and dimensions.

The problem with this perspective is that it lessens the importance of American identity for the sake of preserving and uplifting the identities of other cultures.  Often when Immigrants come over to the United States they come from rough environments and want to be enriched in the character and culture of America, with all of the freedoms and abilities that come with it.  As teachers we have the responsibility to help students become better citizens, and how will they develop a sense of their connection to the American system without a perception of their own American identity?  It is important that regardless of the many cultures that compose our nation that we as a people still have a perception of ourselves as Americans.

Previous generations understood the importance of their identity as Americans and sought to make education a part of the process of passing on their national heritage and beliefs.  Horace Mann wrote about the responsibility of the state to promote the necessity of individuals working for their own preservation and enrichment.  He also wrote about how education elevates the poor and destitute so that wealth can be shared by all and so that individuals will have the ability to defend themselves against the selfishness of others. In so doing, he promotes American ideals and beliefs about the state of humanity and what should be done about it.  His belief in the American system shines through his writings on the importance of education.

Many others wrote about the importance of what it meant to them to be an American.  As the nation grew and changed, the perspective and beliefs of the people altered the national perspective of American Identity.  Booker T. Washington wrote about how individuals should pursue the opportunities that are all around them.  He also wrote about how different racial groups in society should learn to cooperate for the betterment of all.  The American people have worked to eradicate the evils of discrimination.  Racial tolerance has become a hallmark of what it means to be an American.   It is important that individuals are encouraged to embrace their individuality and that especially in schools cultural diversity is continually developed.  However, the existence of American identity does not stand in the way of encouraging the differences between people.  America is now composed of different racial and ethnic backgrounds than it was in previous centuries and so the conversation that should be taking place throughout the nation is who are we now?  What does it mean to be an American?  General Educators are given a responsibility to educate students on their responsibilities as citizens and so are entitled with the calling to develop the next generation’s perception of their own identity.  If the United States becomes disconnected in its perception of itself, what is going to keep other cultures from completely overrunning it?

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 7 Full Text.

Read Full Post »

Arthur Ellis writes in Educational Challenges about the responsibilities of the school to prepare children for the outside world out of their obligation to society.  Schools are required to educate individuals with understanding in information and skills, awareness of cultural values, development of social ability and peer group relations, and with a modest preparation for working life.  Teachers are given a responsibility to prepare students for citizenship.  Central to the process of a child’s growth as an individual is the development of their moral understanding. This process, however, is complicated by the fact that multiple cultures and value systems influence and affect our society and the diversity of students in a classroom.  So, a teacher is endowed with a responsibility for moral development, but society hasn’t defined what their moral values are.  An aware teacher understands their effect on students and their perception of understanding.  Students assume automatically that the teacher is well learned in the subject they teach and are taught by society to trust what the teacher is saying.  Therefore, a teacher holds responsibility for everything they say and for every value they teach their class.  But from where should a teacher define their moral standards and beliefs?

Johann Hobart in The Ethical Basis and Aim of Instruction writes that the aim of education is the pursuit of virtue, and virtue is found only in true inner freedom through the pursuit of insight and volition.  Virtue includes the process of moral self-determination, for which Hobart prescribes an education in religious training.  The pursuit for a communicable system of moral values is a search to find an anchor, by which to tether all perceptions of how society should be and what the correct course of action is for society and for individuals.  Without something to base society’s perceptions on, moral values change from generation to generation and there is no understanding of moral absolutes to be passed to the next generation.  For generations, western culture was based on the moral values and understandings found in Christianity.  Our current society rejects Christianity as a viable source for moral values.  Society is only happy with the teachings of Jesus if those teachings line up with society’s perception of moral values.  This means that moral values are no longer a hard foundation of understanding, but rather something that fluctuates with the changes in society.

All individuals feel that actions are either right or wrong and from this we perceive society’s view of moral understanding.  The nation that we live in dictates actions as legal or illegal based on the agreement on and acceptance of laws upheld by the government.  From an understanding of this and from an understanding of what actions generate favorable outcomes can a teacher derive their perception of a system of moral values communicable to their students, says society.  There are, however, teachers whose convictions run deeper than society’s perception of right and wrong.  It is inappropriate, by law, for those teachers to teach their students those convictions. Yet it is difficult for a teacher to not teach those attitudes when their values are communicated by their actions and their own attitude.  Ellis also points out how a teacher’s life is defined by small victories in the classroom and the cumulative positive effect that they have on student outcomes.  It is a responsibility of a teacher to better the lives of their students through the understanding that they communicate to them.  So how does a teacher better their students by encouraging them to pursue moral understanding if moral values fluctuate with society?

One of the foundations of education for Rousseau in his Emile is the importance of directing students to nature and inviting them to curiosity.  Nature as understood either by man’s nature or by the natural world is knowable through observation and through pursuit of understanding.  Moral absolutes, if they are all encompassing and definite, are definable and knowable by individuals.  What is best for self and for others is an understanding that is worthy of student interest.  The obligation of the teacher is to teach individuals the rules that society dictates in the context of the conduct of individuals, and then to ask questions that will pique their curiosity about what the correct course is for humanity.  It is only by asking these questions that humanity is allowed to progress and to make changes for the betterment of all people.  Moral understanding in today’s society is a process of searching for absolute truth.  Teachers ought to use their position to encourage students to ask the kinds of questions that will lead to student understanding of absolute moral values.

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 6 Full Text.

Read Full Post »

Key Idea Identification is a reflective assessment practice that asks the students to relate what the most important key concept was for a specific amount of time in class.  Students are required to write down or to tell the teacher in a class discussion what the most important idea or foundational concept was out of all of the information given and discussed in the classroom.  This reflective practice requires the student to think critically about what they have learned for the purpose of finding a foundational thought to their understanding of the rest of the material.

The most important concept in the lecture and in the readings for EDU 6120 for this week is the centrality and effectiveness of inspiring inquiry and discussion in education for the purpose of preparing students for their future place in society.  In order for students to truly retain and use information given and discussed in class, the information given must cause cognitive stimulation.  Lectures and talks given by the teacher should inspire students to ask questions about the information that they have been presented with.  Education in school should not be seen as the process of merely communicating all of the important wisdom to students, but rather should be understood as the process of asking students to think for themselves about the needs and problems of the world, as is understood by the Progressive school of thought.

Petrarch taught that the education system of his day should include the understanding of classical virtues in the process of developing an understanding of the relationship between man and God.  Martin Luther wrote about how the future of a city is dependent on the education of its citizens.  Johann Comenius wrote about how children should be educated through a process of reason and discovery in a gentle rewarding environment to produce a person educated with the best foundations of morality, honesty, and wisdom.  All three of these writers understood the importance of inspiring individuals to wisdom and intelligence for the sake of the community.  Many writers over the centuries have seen education as the answer to fighting ignorance and poor societies.  Unfortunately, teachers now face a generation that is uninterested in the process of learning in school.  Teachers must be able to take information that is necessary for student understanding and make it applicable to a student’s desire to understand.  The perspective of the teacher and of the students should encompass the great rewards that are gained from the understanding that comes from the process of learning in schools.  Information learned or received in class should cause the reaction of student interest and the desire for further inquiry.  Learning should be an exciting process for both the student and the teacher.  Students should understand early on how the process of learning in schools is a part of the larger process of incorporating them into society as capable productive citizens.

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 5 Full Text.

Ellis, A.  Philosophical Perspectives.  Retrieved October 28, 2010, from

Read Full Post »

“Learning Illustrated” is a reflective learning exercise where students are asked to show in a picture, map, or graph what they learned that week.  The idea is that by asking students to do this, you are encouraging students to use different parts of their brain to construct something from what they learned.  Involving different types of brain activity over information learned encourages longer term memory and retention.  The project also asks for creativity and allows students who have difficulty communicating through words to have a different medium for telling you what they know.

The Tree of Understanding

Plutarch wrote that the soil of a man must be good before the seed of knowledge can be planted in him.  This means that the student must be receptive to the process of learning and must have the ability to retain and expand upon the knowledge given to him.  No curriculum is good enough to educate a soul not in tune with the process of learning he or she is a part of.

The image of a tree can be an allusion to a person’s understanding.  The seed of knowledge or the desire for knowledge is planted deep within a person, from which a tree of knowledge and understanding grows.  This specific illustration illustrates a part of a specific individual’s understanding.  The roots of the tree represent the foundational understandings that all other understandings are based on.  Philosophy is written in the soil of the illustration as a foundation for the roots of the tree, a subject that was important to Quintillion.   To this I add foundational concepts that we’ve discussed in class: moral reason and the understanding of social values.  For this particular individual, religion and religious understanding were also foundational in his pursuit of knowledge.  From these roots grows the trunk of a person’s understanding, which is surrounded by other trees of knowledge or the understanding of other individuals.  Being surrounded by society in the pursuit of knowledge was another point important to Quintillion.  Out of the trunk of this person’s understanding branches many of the different fields of his education.  At a very early age, this individual was taught fundamentals like colors, numbers, and letters, etc.  From this understanding came more complicated understandings like reading and writing.  From these understandings came the exploration of social studies and elementary calculations, and the further pursuit of understanding of the English language.  The pursuit of Art was also a pathway of understanding and knowledge.  From elementary calculations came the pursuit of more formal understandings of science, math, and music.  From social studies, came the pursuit of understanding politics and history.  From history came the dual branches of historical study and the desire to understand how to teach.  Teaching as a profession and a goal is the fruit of the labors of the individual to pursue understanding.

This illustration is by no means complete in its depictions of the understandings of this particular individual, but rather seeks to illustrate the connection between foundational understandings and other kinds of knowledge.  This illustration also seeks to illustrate how one understanding branches off from one another during the course of one’s education until the individual decides which specific focus of understanding bears the most fruit in their lives and in their pursuit of education.

Scheuerman, R., & Ellis, A. (2010).  Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement.  Washington State Kappan, Volume 4, #1, Winter/Spring 2010

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 4 Full Text.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »