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Education Philosophy of Education
by
Chad Lykins

Introduction

Philosophy of education includes the investigation of the ethical, political, social, epistemological, metaphysical, and ontological dimensions of education. Philosophy of education is certainly the oldest of the educational subfields, dating at least as far back as ancient Athens with its Sophists and their greatest critics, Socrates and Plato. The central challenge in philosophy of education is to produce insights that are relevant both to educational practice and philosophical theory. In some cases, philosophical theories are examined in light of their educational implications. In other cases, educational practices are examined in terms of their philosophical assumptions and implications. The challenge for philosophy of education is to contribute both into educational practice and philosophical theory. The pressure to balance these two demands continues to influence the professionalization of philosophy of education, its self-exile from mainstream philosophy, and its tenuous relationship with educational practice. The following bibliography serves as a portal through which readers can access some important figures and problems in philosophy of education. It focuses on Western philosophy, specifically philosophy written or translated into English. While this bibliography does not cover all work in philosophy of education, it does a good job providing interested readers and students with extensive guidance to many of the most influential thinkers and traditions in the field.

General Overviews

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Phillips 2008) and the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Siegel 2010) have terrific overviews of philosophy of education. Readers looking for a broad sampling of educational “thinkers,” many of whom count as philosophers, should turn to the two volumes Palmer, et al. 2003 and Palmer, et al. 2001. For a volume that gives overviews not just of figures but also of major concepts, readers should consult Chambliss 1996. Though the breadth of the 228 entries may overwhelm the novice reader while leaving the expert reader yearning for more depth, it successfully conveys the diversity of the field and includes many overlooked historical sources of philosophical insight.

Introductory Works

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, introductory texts on philosophy of education have been eclipsed by broader introductions to the so-called “foundations” of education. These tend to be historical, sociological, and philosophical scholarship, with philosophy playing a minor role. However, there are a few notable exceptions, each written by recognized leaders in the field. Noddings 2007 provides perhaps the best introduction for the thoroughly unacquainted. Those without a background in philosophy may appreciate the relaxed tone as well as the inclusion of summary questions and focused guides to further reading on each issue. Winch and Gingell 2004 and Carr 2003 offer two more useful introductions and provide a nice contrast. Whereas Nel Noddings is content to raise issues and point toward the relevant paths or argumentation, Christopher Winch and John Gingell and David Carr are far more willing to argue toward a particular resolution of each controversy.

  • Carr, David. 2003. Making sense of education: An introduction to the philosophy and theory of education and teaching. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

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    Carr offers an organized and clear introduction to some of the main philosophical issues in education. The writing is somewhat advanced and may therefore prove challenging for the impatient or beginning student.

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  • Noddings, Nel. 2007. Philosophy of education. 2d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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    This volume is addressed specifically to the needs of teachers. It would serve nicely in an introductory course, because it neatly connects philosophy with problems of teaching practice.

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  • Winch, Christopher, and John Gingell. 2004. Philosophy and educational policy: A critical introduction. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203465431Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Though this was written as an introductory textbook, the authors introduce a “critical” perspective on a number of policy issues, such as standards, assessment, and market reforms. The focus on policy makes this book uniquely suited to an introductory course that highlights philosophical issues in educational governance, administration, finance, and organization.

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Journals

While philosophy of education is discussed in many general-interest journals in education, public policy, and philosophy, the bulk of leading work appears in a relatively small number of specialist journals and books pertaining to philosophy of education. Educational Theory tends to represent much of what is popular in philosophy of education in the United States. Educational Philosophy and Theory has similar coverage, though with greater representation of Australian and British authors. Journal of Philosophy of Education is the leading specialist journal in Great Britain and in recent years has been particularly adept at developing special issues in response to specific policy problems. Studies in Philosophy and Education aims for a slightly broader audience, publishing occasional contributions from practicing social scientists. Theory and Research in Education is a relatively new journal, a needed venue in which empirical work can exist side by side with conceptual and conjectural papers. The annual Philosophy of Education Yearbook (United States) is regarded as a unique and valuable outlet. It publishes new articles along with substantive responses from the top scholars in the field.

Historical and Cultural Traditions

“Philosophy of education” is a broad term that refers to several genres of scholarship, of which three will be mentioned here. The first genre includes “mainstream” philosophers. In the past, “mainstream” philosophers were those who were part of larger discussions about major philosophical topics, not just topics that bear directly on educational issues. In the early 21st century this refers largely to those trained and employed primarily in philosophy departments. The best collection of 20th-century work primarily by “mainstream philosophers” is Rorty 1998. For a collection of work by mid-20th-century “mainstream” philosophers (such as Ralph Barton Perry, Gilbert Ryle, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook), see Scheffler 1958. The second genre includes philosophers “of” education. This usually refers to those trained and employed primarily in schools of education. Kaminsky 1993 argues that this genre is marked by its close ties with the social sciences and its distance from many of the technical arguments that occupy mainstream philosophy. Muir 2005 traces the evolution of this genre much further back, beginning as early as the pre-Socratics. A number of collections give the reader a broad overview of the history and current direction of philosophy of education. Notable examples include Blake, et al. 2003; Cahn 2009; and Curren 2007.

  • Blake, N., P. Smeyers, R. Smith, and P. Standish, eds. 2003. The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of education. Blackwell Philosophy Guides 9. Oxford: Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470996294Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is among the best-organized anthologies of current schools of thought and areas of inquiry in philosophy of education. The essays are all by contemporary writers. Those looking for historical selections should supplement with another text.

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  • Cahn, S., ed. 2009. Philosophy of education: The essential texts. New York: Routledge.

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    This is a highly focused collection, including quite substantive excerpts from canonical figures, paired with an interpretive essay on each. Both the main selections and the essays are excellent. However, those looking for a broader sampling of current trends will want to consider supplementing with an additional text.

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  • Curren, R. R., ed. 2007. Philosophy of education: An anthology. Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies 27. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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    This volume can make a solid claim to being the most useful on philosophy of education among those printed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The historical selections may be a bit thin, but the coverage of contemporary philosophy of education will be highly pleasing both for philosophers and those with a more general interest.

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  • Kaminsky, J. 1993. A new history of educational philosophy. Contributions to the Study of Education 58. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

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    Kaminsky presents the history of philosophy of education from a sociological perspective, with a heavy emphasis on the role of institutions.

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  • Muir, J. 2005. Is our history of educational philosophy mostly wrong? The case of Isocrates. Theory and Research in Education 3.2: 165–195.

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    Muir presents compelling evidence that the history of educational philosophy was shaped more by Isocrates and other largely forgotten figures rather than Socrates and Plato.

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  • Rorty, A. O., ed. 1998. Philosophers on education: Historical perspectives. London: Routledge.

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    This volume contains essays primarily by mainstream philosophers on the educational significance of canonical philosophical thinkers. The quality of the essays is unsurpassed for a volume of its kind. However, those seeking highly applied thinking (for instance, whether Aristotle would support tracking) are advised to turn elsewhere.

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  • Scheffler, I., ed. 1958. Philosophy and education: Modern readings. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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    This volume promises to present “current philosophical methods,” namely, conceptual analysis, in relation to educational problems. Some of the essays are considered classics in mainstream philosophy, while others are a bit dated. All come with commentary by Scheffler.

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Greek Philosophy

Readers interested in ancient Greek philosophy would be wise to begin with Plato 1981 and Plato 1992. Taken together, the two works cover the major elements of Plato’s educational thought. For a collection of Plato’s other writings, all of which have some relevance to educational philosophy, the standard text is still Plato 1989. Though better translations of individual dialogues are available, this collection gathers everything in one place at reasonable cost. Readers interested in examining the structure of the arguments in the Republic in more detail are advised to consult Roochnik 2003. Aristotle 1999 and Aristotle 1981 are standard reading for those seeking an introduction to Aristotelian philosophy. For a contemporary analysis of Aristotelian philosophy in reference to contemporary debates, see Curren 2000. The emphasis on Plato and Aristotle should not be taken to suggest that they are the only Greek philosophers with interesting things to say about education. The Sophists in particular were renowned educators, responsible for the tutelage of many Athenian would-be politicians. For a general introduction to other Greek thinkers, see McKirahan 1994. For an inspired account of the relevance of early Greek philosophy, see Muir 2005.

  • Aristotle. 1981. Politics. Translated by T. A. Sinclair. New York: Penguin.

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    Though not quite as widely read as the Nichomachean Ethics, Politics is at least equally as important. This volume is particularly relevant to current debates over the extent to which education is a public or private affair.

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  • Aristotle. 1999. Nichomachean ethics. Translated by M. Ostwald. Library of Liberal Arts. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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    This is a widely accessible edition of Aristotle’s major work on ethics. For those with no prior background in philosophy, it is surprisingly readable.

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  • Curren, R. R. 2000. Aristotle on the necessity of public education. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    Curren argues in defense of public education by drawing on Aristotle’s philosophy, including Aristotle 1981 and Aristotle 1999. The book is notable for its careful interpretation and reluctance to offer glib recommendations drawn from historical texts.

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  • McKirahan, R. D. 1994. Philosophy before Socrates: An introduction with texts and commentary. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

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    McKirahan takes on the formidable task of presenting and interpreting early Greek philosophy. This volume treats education only in passing but is useful for those wanting to understand many of the major ideas that shaped thinking about education before Socrates and Plato.

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  • Muir, J. 2005. Is our history of educational philosophy mostly wrong? The case of Isocrates. Theory and Research in Education 3.2: 165–195.

    DOI: 10.1177/1477878505053300Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Muir presents compelling evidence that the history of educational philosophy was shaped more by Isocrates and other largely forgotten figures rather than by Socrates and Plato. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Plato. 1981. Five dialogues. Translated by G. M. A. Grube. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

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    This inexpensive and widely accessible volume is used in many introductory courses. It contains Meno, which offers one of Plato’s main statements on learning.

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  • Plato. 1989. The collected dialogues of Plato: Including the Letters. Edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairnes. Bollingen Series 71. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Though this is an expensive way of accessing Plato’s work, it provides full coverage of all of Plato’s writings in serviceable translations by several scholars.

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  • Plato. 1992. Republic. Translated by G. M. A. Grube. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

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    This is a good choice for those interested only in the Republic. A serious study of this book is a task in its own right.

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  • Roochnik, D. 2003. Beautiful city: The dialectical character of Plato’s Republic. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    Roochnik has challenged the conventional reading of the Republic. He argues that both the form and the content of the argument show that Plato does not endorse the antidemocratic conjectures in the early books but rather some form of deliberative democracy.

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Premodern

For lack of a better term, “premodern” philosophy of education refers to the period roughly from the Greeks to René Descartes, a span of nearly fifteen hundred years. During many of these centuries, induction into a religious way of life was the aim of education, with the Bible, the Qurʾan, or the Torah serving as the primary textbook supplemented to greater or lesser extent by Greek and Roman philosophers and poets. The writings of the great theologians are among the densest in the history of philosophy, yet they remain among the most important examinations of the relationships between phenomena such as faith, reason, intuition, and experience. Their “philosophies of education” do not often come in tidy essays but in the broader arguments on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Interested readers can begin with the writings and interpretations of Saint Augustine (see Augustine 2009, Chadwick 1991, Harrison 1998), Saint Thomas Aquinas (see Kreeft 1990, MacIntyre 1998), and Maimonides (see Maimonides 1963, Stern 1998).

  • Augustine. 2009. “On the teacher.” In Philosophy of education: The essential texts. Edited by S. Cahn, 159–178. New York and London: Routledge.

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    This entry contains Augustine’s important text De Magistro, On Learning, along with a helpful commentary by Philip L. Quinn. Of particular interest is the examination of what it means to educate someone to be a good person.

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  • Chadwick, H., ed. 1991. Augustine: Confessions, with introduction and notes. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This is one of many editions of Augustine’s work. It contains a useful introduction.

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  • Harrison, S. 1998. Augustine on what we owe to our teachers. In Philosophers on education: Historical perspectives. Edited by A. O. Rorty, 66–80. New York: Routledge.

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    Harrison examines Augustine by showing the extent to which he is indebted to previous thinkers, giving the reader a broad understanding of Augustine’s thought relative to his predecessors.

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  • Kreeft, P. 1990. Summa of the Summa: The essential philosophical passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologica. San Francisco: Ignatius.

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    This is an abridged version of Aquinas’s massive Summa theologica.

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  • MacIntyre, A. 1998. Aquinas’s critique of education: Against his own age, against ours. In Philosophers on education: Historical perspectives. Edited by A. O. Rorty, 93–106. New York: Routledge.

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    MacIntyre ranks as a leading virtue theorist. In this chapter, he presents the radical nature of Aquinas’s educational thought and the extent to which it diverges from most popular conceptions.

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  • Maimonides. 1963. The guide of the perplexed. Translated by S. Pines. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    To say that this book is challenging is a gross understatement. However, for readers seeking comprehensive coverage of philosophy in the Middle Ages, it is required reading.

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  • Stern, J. 1998. Maimonides on education. In Philosophers on education: Historical perspectives. Edited by A. O. Rorty, 107–121. New York: Routledge.

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    Stern gives an understandable reconstruction of Maimonides’s account of the “learned man.” His account highlights the extent to which Maimonides stands in sharp contrast with later notions of common schooling and basic human equality.

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Modern

The philosophers of the modern period are largely responsible for our contemporary understandings of justice, nationhood, autonomy, human rights, and knowledge. Even if these notions have their origins among the ancients, they come to us filtered through the distinct outlook of the moderns. The incalculable impact of modern philosophy on philosophy of education is due mostly to its development in mainstream areas, such as epistemology, metaphysics, political philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. For instance, Kohlberg 1981 is an influential work on moral development that draws more on Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy than on any particular statements Kant issued on pedagogy. Similarly, philosophers of education who stress the importance of sentiment, feeling, and imagination in morality (see, for instance, Noddings 2003) invoke David Hume’s legacy in moral psychology, not his writings on education. This should caution the reader from interpreting the moderns too narrowly; their most educationally relevant work is often not in educational philosophy. The two obvious exceptions are Locke 2000 and Rousseau 2010, which give us, respectively, the notion of mind as a “blank slate” and the notion of childhood innocence. Rorty 1998 is the best collection of writings on the educational importance of the moderns.

  • Locke, J. 2000. Some thoughts concerning education. Edited by John W. Yolton and Jean S. Yolton. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The most systematic presentation of Locke’s views on education. Includes an excellent introduction by John Yolton that provides a short but clear explanation of the continuity between Locke’s philosophy of education and the rest of his thought.

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  • Kohlberg, L. 1981. Essays on moral development. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

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    Kohlberg’s theory of moral development assumes that the highest order of ethical thinking is to think in terms of universals, a notion he adopts almost entirely from Kantian moral philosophy. The empirical strategies Kohlberg has built on this Kantian framework have been highly influential in the study of moral education.

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  • Noddings, Nel. 2003. Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. 2d ed. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Noddings argues that caring provides a better ethical framework for education than do rule- or virtue-based approaches. Her work has attracted attention both from philosophers of education and those working outside the area.

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  • Rorty, A. O., ed. 1998. Philosophers on education: Historical perspectives. New York: Routledge.

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    Includes substantive chapters on many major modern philosophers, including René Descartes, Benedict de Spinoza, John Locke, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant.

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  • Rousseau, J.-J. 2010. Emile: Or on education: Includes Emile and Sophie; or, The Solitaries. In The collected writings of Rousseau. Vol. 13. Edited by Roger D. Masters and Christopher Kelly. Hanover, NH: Univ. Press of New England.

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    Rousseau’s most famous writing on education. With The Social Contract, it lays out Rousseau’s understanding of the means and ends for a just state. These two texts are usefully examined (along with other of his writings) by the chapter on Rousseau’s educational theory in Rorty 1998 (pp. 237–253). Accessible online to subscribers.

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19th Century

There are a number of 19th-century philosophers whose ideas continue to shape contemporary debates. Foremost among them is Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who despite his stature as the century’s most towering figure and a lifelong educator, wrote very little directly about education. Nonetheless, his ideas wielded an enormous influence on the development of education. For a useful examination of Hegel’s relevance to education, see Wood 1998. John Stuart Mill comes close to Hegel in importance. Some of Mill’s thoughts on education are in Mill 2002. For an excellent analysis of Mill’s educational thought and a deeper guide to his writings, see Anderson 1998. Karl Marx exerts perhaps even greater influence on how education is currently researched and theorized, specifically his emphasis on the role of schools in reproducing stratification. Marxist themes animate the anticolonial thinking in Freire 2000. Giroux 2001 extends these themes to current debates about commercialism and exploitation in education. For a useful overview and excellent bibliographic demonstration of Marx’s influence, see Small 2005. Johann Heinrich Pestalozz, Friedrich Froebel, and Johann Friedrich Herbart certainly deserve mentioning. Though their influence on the development of education is undeniable, their major works have been of interest mainly to educational historians. For short summaries of their contributions, see relevant sections in Palmer, et al. 2003. William Torrey Harris was perhaps the leading philosopher of education in the United States in the late 19th century. He founded and edited the first journal of philosophy in North America, the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, served as superintendent of Saint Louis Public Schools, and later served as US commissioner of education. For a short introduction to his philosophy of education and his work in Saint Louis, see Collins 2008. Herbert Spencer did more to apply evolutionary theory to education than perhaps any thinker in the 19th century. For his educational philosophy, see Spencer 1993.

  • Anderson, E. 1998. John Stuart Mill: Democracy as sentimental education. In Philosophers on education: Historical perspectives. Edited by A. O. Rorty, 333–352. New York: Routledge.

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    Anderson gives a textured and informed reading of Mill’s moral psychology and its relation to education.

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  • Collins, P. M. 2008. The philosophy of education of William Torrey Harris in the annual reports. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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    For those who have ever wondered what would happen if philosophers ran educational systems, here is an answer. Harris’s annual reports during his tenure as superintendent (and later commissioner) contain a great deal of philosophical analysis. This short monograph is a useful introduction to these texts.

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  • Freire, P. 2000. Pedagogy of the oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum.

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    Freire is among the most-read authors in colleges of education. In his most well-known work, he outlines a social-justice agenda for the education of the oppressed.

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  • Giroux, H. A. 2001. Theory and resistance in education: Towards a pedagogy for the opposition. Rev. and exp. ed. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.

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    Giroux is among the most widely read educational theorists working in the Marxist vein, particularly for his analyses of government policy and commercialization.

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  • Mill, J. S. 2002. The basic writings of John Stuart Mill: On Liberty, The Subjection of Women, and Utilitarianism. New York: Random House.

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    This volume collects some of Mill’s most important writings.

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  • Palmer, J., L. Bresler, and D. E. Cooper. 2003. Fifty major thinkers on education: From Confucius to Dewey. Routledge Key Guides. New York: Routledge.

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    This volume contains a number of entries on influential but largely forgotten 19th-century educational thinkers.

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  • Small, R. 2005. Marx and education. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    Small gives an extensive account of Marx’s influence on educational thinking, policy, and practice. This is a useful book for a systematic study of Marx’s educational thought.

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  • Spencer, H. 1993. Education: Intellectual, moral, and physical. British Educational Theory in the 19th Century. London: Routledge.

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    It seems that every philosopher of the period had something so say about Spencer, usually negative, but the fact that he earned so much attention says volumes about his influence on popular thought. This volume collects some of his writings on education.

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  • Wood, A. 1998. Hegel on education. In Philosophers on education: Historical perspectives. Edited by A. O. Rorty, 300–317. New York: Routledge.

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    Hegel’s influence on philosophy is remarkable. However, his influence on educational philosophy is often underappreciated. This essay does an admirable job of drawing out the educational dimensions of Hegel’s dialectic.

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Early 20th Century

The early 20th century, perhaps more than any other time, saw a remarkable number of leading mainstream philosophers writing extensively on education. Notable examples are James 2009 (first published in 1900), Whitehead 1929, and Royce 1891. Other obvious examples include Dewey 1985, W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous arguments against Booker T. Washington (Du Bois 1999), and Bertrand Russell’s work on education and individualism (Russell 2010a and Russell 2010b). Taken together, these authors offer brilliant explorations of the main philosophical traditions and themes of the period: pragmatism, idealism, symbolic interactionism, instrumentalism, naturalism, and conceptual analysis. Philosophy of education was, at least for a time, a major concern for mainstream philosophers.

  • Dewey, J. 1985. 1916: Democracy and education. Vol. 9 of John Dewey: The middle works, 1899–1924. Edited by J. A. Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press.

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    By Dewey’s own estimation his most important book, though also one of his most challenging. It is widely recognized as among the most important books on education of the 20th century. First published in 1916.

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  • Du Bois, W. E. B. 1999. The souls of black folk: Authoritative text, contexts, criticism. Edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Terri Hume Oliver. Norton Critical Edition. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    Du Bois defends liberal education against Booker T. Washington’s calls for a more “practical” training. A vital and still-relevant important contribution to the debate over the role of education in economic development.

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  • James, William. 2009. Talks to teachers on psychology: And to students on some of life’s ideals (1900). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    James was a legendary teacher. This work, based on his course lectures, is a fascinating examination not just of the nature of the young mind but on the ideals toward which its development should be directed. First published by Holt in 1900.

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  • Royce, J. 1891. Is there a science of education? Educational Review 1.1: 23–24.

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    Royce attempts to tamp down a bit of the positivistic enthusiasm for the contributions of science to education. Regarding the “science” of his day, it is clear that Royce’s cautions were warranted. Still, his arguments are not completely dated by the technical advances of the 20th century.

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  • Russell, Bertrand. 2010a. Education and the social order. New York: Routledge.

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    Russell’s most focused writings on the role of education in society.

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  • Russell, Bertrand. 2010b. On education. London and New York: Routledge.

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    Articulates Russell’s broadly libertarian, secular, humanist educational theories. The book is notable especially for its views on early childhood education.

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  • Whitehead, A. N. 1929. The aims of education and other essays. New York: Macmillan.

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    Originally an address to the Mathematical Association of England. Whitehead, one of the century’s more versatile philosophers, focuses on issues of curriculum and instruction in relation to the aims of education.

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Philosophical Contributions from Social Work and the Sciences

There were also influential works published by those working outside of mainstream philosophy. Educators such as Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, and Jane Addams not only wrote original philosophical treatments of educational issues but brought them alive in actual classrooms. Though Waldorf schools continue to operate throughout the world, Steiner’s own philosophical views are perhaps rightly treated as occult (perhaps a testament that decent education can spring from rather confused philosophy). For a sympathetic presentation, see Uhrmacher 1995. Montessori schools can be found throughout the world. For a discussion of Montessori’s status as a philosopher, see Martin 1994, chapter 5. Addams, by contrast, is enjoying a surge of interest as a philosopher. For a thorough account of her philosophical contributions, see Hamington 2009. Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, Edward Thorndike, and B. F. Skinner, psychologists by temperament and training, challenged traditional philosophical accounts of knowledge, learning, and the mind. In many ways these works eclipsed the works by those working in departments of philosophy in the battle for visibility among teachers and policymakers. Vygotsky’s most important work is Thought and Language (Vygotsky 1986). For critical assessments, including an essay by Jerry Fodor on Vygotsky’s philosophy of language, see Lloyd and Fernyhough 1999. Edward Lee Thorndike, despite a number of clearly epic blunders (such as his ventures into eugenics), helped persuade policymakers that a science of education was indeed possible. For an interesting comparison of his work vis-à-vis John Dewey, see Tomlinson 1997. Skinner’s main views on behaviorism are summed up in Skinner 1976. For a brief summation of criticisms of behaviorism, see Graham 2010.

Middle 20th Century

The middle decades of the 20th century witnessed a general decline of interest in philosophy of education in departments of philosophy, with the center of influence now primarily in schools of education. The landmark philosophical texts of the period, such as Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, certainly evoked questions about education, but they were pursued most vigilantly by those outside of mainstream philosophy. Toward the middle of the 20th century it became more difficult to isolate “canonical” texts in philosophy of education, certainly not in the sense in which the canon has incorporated Plato, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or John Dewey. The brightest stars of the period shine not so much from their own light but in the way they clarify and focus the lights of others. Rousseau found his 20th-century doppelganger in A. S. Neill (Neill 1960), whose school would come to be a favorite target for those opposed to child-centered education. Dewey was followed by a gamut of interpreters and popularizers, such as Sydney Hook (see Cotter 2004; Hook, et al. 2002), Boyde Bode (see Bode 2010), and William H. Kilpatrick (see Kilpatrick 1918). Bertrand Russell was followed by R. S. Peters and Paul H. Hirst (see Hirst and Peters 1970, Hirst and White 1998), who together set the tone of philosophy of education in Great Britain and Australia—and to some extent the United States—for decades.

  • Bode, Boyde. 2010. Selections from Progressive education at the crossroads. In American educational thought: Essays from 1640–1940. Edited by A. Milson, C. Bohan, P. Glanzer, and J. W. Null, 581–585. Readings in Educational Thought. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

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    Contains a short excerpt from Boyd’s most influential text, published in 1938. Unfortunately, the full text has long been out of print.

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  • Cotter, M. J., ed. 2004. Sidney Hook reconsidered. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

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    An impressive collection of essays examining Hook’s philosophy. Includes essays on his contribution to philosophy of education.

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  • Hirst, Paul H., and R. S. Peters. 1970. The logic of education. Students Library of Education. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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    Highly influential work by two leading analytic philosophers of education. Good demonstration of the analytic approach to concepts and theories in education.

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  • Hirst, Paul H., and P. White, eds. 1998. The philosophy of education: Major themes in the analytic tradition. 4 vols. Philosophy of Education 1. London: Routledge.

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    As the title and number of volumes indicate, a wide-ranging collection of work in the analytic tradition of philosophy of education.

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  • Hook, S., R. B. Talisse, and R. Tempio, eds. 2002. Sidney Hook on pragmatism, democracy, and freedom: The essential essays. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

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    A collection of some of Hook’s political writings, including two essays on the role of education in a democratic society.

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  • Kilpatrick, William H. 1918. The project method. Teachers College Record 19.4: 319–335.

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    The article that catapulted Kilpatrick to fame and placed him as the most prominent interpreter of Dewey’s educational ideas.

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  • Neill, A. S. 1960. Summerhill: A radical approach to child rearing. New York: Hart.

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    Neill’s most famous work and the one that details his approach to education, which might be called libertarian, child centered, or romantic. The work of a reformer rather than a careful philosopher but still shows how philosophy is appropriated in practice.

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Major Traditions in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Though these categories are problematic, philosophy of education continues to channel three broad philosophical traditions, which may be referred to as analytic, Continental, and pragmatist. While it is true that many philosophers work across the categories, they usually do so while self-conscious of the border crossing.

Analytic Philosophy

Analytic philosophy began with the basic notion that a great deal of philosophical arguments arise because of misuse of language. Thus, the main task of philosophy is to unpack the conceptual content and logical structure of philosophical notions, such as truth, beauty, meaning, knowledge, and so forth. Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, George Edward Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein are generally regarded as some of its leading figures. In philosophy of education, many have followed their style of philosophizing if not their doctrinal allegiances. Hardie 1962 presses on the conceptual vagueness and logical inconsistencies in much educational theory. Scheffler 1960 is largely responsible for the “linguistic turn” in philosophy of education in the United States. For an examination of Israel Scheffler’s contemporary relevance, see Siegel 1997. Hirst and Peters 1970 offers a fine example of conceptual analysis as a form of educational research. Peters 1970 is a classic example of conceptual analysis applied to ethical issues in education. For a remarkably comprehensive collection of work on analytic philosophy of education, see Hirst and White 1998.

  • Hardie, C. 1962. Truth and fallacy in educational theory. New York: Teachers College Press.

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    Hardie’s dismissal of the leading philosophers of education is typical for his milieu. One representative quote is “Pragmatism was conclusively refuted by G. E. Moore as far back as 1908, and I shall discuss it very briefly lest the philosophic reader should consider me sadistic in flogging what is undoubtedly a dead horse” (p. 49). Such assertions forced philosophers of education to revisit some of the challenges from the analytic tradition.

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  • Hirst, Paul H., and R. S. Peters. 1970. The logic of education. Students Library of Education. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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    With leading sections such as “The Concept of ‘Education’” and “The Concept of ‘Development,’” this book exemplifies careful conceptual analysis, for which it was celebrated at the time.

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  • Hirst, Paul H., and P. White, eds. 1998. The philosophy of education: Major themes in the analytic tradition. 4 vols. London: Routledge.

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    These volumes collect some of the best work in the analytic tradition of philosophy of education.

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  • Peters, R. S. 1970. Ethics and education. New ed. London: Allen and Unwin.

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    Peters’s seminal volume continues to attract scholarly attention and is considered one of the landmark texts in the analytic tradition.

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  • Scheffler, Israel. 1960. The language of education. American Lecture Series 409. Springfield, IL: Thomas.

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    Though Scheffler was influenced by John Dewey, he was a strong advocate for the “new” mode of philosophy. This is Scheffler’s most well-known work. The focus on language is emblematic of the “linguistic turn” in philosophy of education.

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  • Siegel, Harvey, ed. 1997. Reason and education: Essays in honor of Israel Scheffler. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-5714-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays examining Scheffler’s philosophy of education.

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Continental Philosophy

The Continental tradition, encompassing thinkers such as S. A. Kierkegaard, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Jürgen Habermas, has long emphasized issues such as context, history, and embodiment. A number of philosophers of education work in these traditions. They are often happy to describe their work as phenomenological, existential, deconstructionist, postmodern, feminist, or critical. Greene 1995 blends Continental approaches in an analysis of the role of the arts in education and society. Noddings 2003 challenges, among other things, disembodied conceptions of moral and political values. Martin 1985 gives a major feminist challenge to analytic philosophy of education. Peters 1996 is a difficult but rewarding examination of the political dimensions of education in light of the work of thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and Gilles Deleuze. Peters 2002 is a collection of essays seeking to examine the importance of Heidegger as a philosopher of education. Popkewitz 1984 brings postmodern challenges to the rationality of science to debates over the role of education research in public policy.

  • Greene, M. 1995. Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    Greene is regarded as one of the leading thinkers on the role of the arts in education. This book contains some of her best philosophical thinking on the subject.

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  • Martin, J. R. 1985. Reclaiming a conversation: The ideal of the educated woman. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    Martin began her career as an analytic philosopher. This book marks her first major work outside of the tradition and is now considered a classic in feminist philosophy of education.

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  • Noddings, Nel. 2003. Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. 2d ed. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    There is a considerable literature advancing and attacking care ethics. This work is the author’s most significant statement on the ethics of care in education.

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  • Peters, M. 1996. Poststructuralism, politics, and education. Critical Studies in Education and Culture. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.

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    Peters examines thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and Deleuze to analyze the political dimensions of educational thinking. It is likely to reward those with some background in these thinkers and may be less helpful to those entering the genre for the first time.

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  • Peters, M. 2002. Heidegger, education, and modernity. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    Heidegger is a towering figure in philosophy, but the educational importance of his thinking has been underexplored. This volume seeks to address the issue with a number of critical essays by philosophers of education and “mainstream” philosophers.

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  • Popkewitz, T. S. 1984. Paradigm and ideology in educational research: The social functions of the intellectual. New York: Falmer.

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    Popkewitz brings the Continental tradition’s suspicion of rationality and science to bear in a critique of educational research. This book can be considered foundational for those taking a “critical” approach to scientific research.

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Pragmatism

The pragmatist tradition continues to draw inspiration from the work of thinkers such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Margaret Mead, Jane Addams, and John Dewey. Of these names, Dewey’s legacy looms the largest. A veritable industry of books, such as Hansen 2006, reexamines his thought. Kahne 1996 extends his thought into current debates in education policy, while Biesta and Burbules 2003, Bredo and Feinberg 1982, and Howe 2003 extend it into education research. Fairfield 2009 compares Dewey’s views with Continental approaches to education. Garrison, et al. 2002 is one of the few collections of essays of the educational philosophy of William James.

  • Biesta, G., and N. Burbules. 2003. Pragmatism and educational research. Philosophy, Theory, and Educational Research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    This slim volume is part of a series that examines the relationship between certain philosophical traditions (such as pragmatism, postpositivism, and post-structuralism) and education research. The book is written primarily to introduce education researchers to certain philosophical positions.

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  • Bredo, E., and W. Feinberg. 1982. Knowledge and values in social and educational research. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    This book applies Dewey’s analysis of the difference between facts and values to issues of objectivity and subjectivity in research. It is useful for those seeking an in-depth argument about the role of values in shaping inquiry.

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  • Fairfield, P. 2009. Education after Dewey. New York: Continuum International.

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    Fairfield gives a highly sympathetic reading of Dewey’s philosophy of education in conversation with a wide range of thinkers from Continental traditions. In addition to a discussion of Dewey’s broad views, Fairfield also dedicates several chapters to specific curricular areas, such as history and literature.

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  • Garrison, J. W., R. Podeschi, and E. Bredo. 2002. William James and education. New York: Teachers College Press.

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    The essays in this volume attempt to bring William James’s work into contemporary discussions in philosophy of education.

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  • Hansen, D. T. 2006. John Dewey and our educational prospect: A critical engagement with Dewey’s Democracy and Education. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    A collection of informative, if perhaps a bit celebratory, essays on John Dewey’s Democracy and Education. The list of contributors spans both mainstream philosophy and philosophy of education, with a fair measure from curriculum theory and history. Taken together, they make a nice reading companion to the original book.

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  • Howe, K. 2003. Closing methodological divides: Toward democratic educational research. Philosophy and Education 11. Boston: Kluwer Academic.

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    Much has been said of the so-called “paradigm wars” between quantitative and qualitative researchers. Howe argues that the notion that the two are fundamentally different is rooted in two dogmas: the quantitative-qualitative distinction and the fact-value distinction. He argues that education researchers should turn toward a pragmatic account of truth to get past these dogmas.

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  • Kahne, J. 1996. Reframing educational policy: Democracy, community, and the individual. Advances in Contemporary Educational Thought 16. New York: Teachers College Press.

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    Kahne examines broad issues in education policy, such as tracking, school choice, and progressive educational ideas. He argues that much policy research fails to situate these issues in conceptual and theoretical frameworks that link up to the basic democratic purposes of schools, thus making such analysis largely irrelevant to political debate.

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Philosophy and Education Research

Philosophical examination of the epistemological, ethical, ontological, metaphysical, aesthetic, and political dimensions of education research goes back nearly as far as does education research itself. For early and influential examples, readers are referred to Dewey 1985 and Royce 1891 (cited in Early 20th Century). For a summary of early debates over the scientific status of education research, see Robarts 1968. Recent movements have largely followed developments in philosophy of science and sociology of knowledge (perhaps with a lag of one or more decades). For rich collections of articles by many of the leading thinkers on the topic, see Bridges and Smith 2007 and Smeyers and Depaepe 2006. For a unique and fascinating collection of philosophical readings on empirical research, see Paul 2005. Phillips and Burbules 2000 gives a formidable defense of postpositivism in education research. A number of authors carry the banner for pragmatism in education research; see Biesta and Burbules 2003 and Howe 2003. Postmodern and critical approaches to education research are also in abundance; see, for instance, Popkewitz 1984. Eisner 2002 gives an influential philosophical treatment of education research, unique in that it draws more heavily on aesthetics than on philosophy of science.

  • Biesta, G., and N. Burbules. 2003. Pragmatism and educational research. Philosophy, Theory, and Educational Research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    This slim volume is part of a series that examines the relationship between certain philosophical traditions (such as pragmatism, postpositivism, and post-structuralism) and education research. The book is written primarily to introduce education researchers to certain themes in pragmatist philosophy.

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  • Bridges, D., and R. Smith. 2007. Philosophy, methodology, and educational research. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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    This includes contributions from a number of philosophical traditions on key issues in education research. The book is representative of many of the ways philosophers are currently discussing issues in education research.

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  • Dewey, John. 1984. The sources of a science of education. In The later works, 1925–1953. Vol. 5, 1929–1930: Essays, The sources of a science of education, Individualism, Old and new, and Construction and criticism. Edited by J. A. Boydston, 1–40. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press.

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    Dewey presents his views on the meaning of science in education and education research. While he mainly echoes his fellow progressives in the call for more scientific studies of education, he also warns against unrealistic expectations about what a science of education can provide in terms of prediction and control.

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  • Eisner, E. W. 2002. The educational imagination: On the design and evaluation of school programs. 3d ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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    Eisner’s widely read book is perhaps the best account of the aesthetic dimensions of education research. But it is also much more than this, covering curriculum theory, design, and evaluation as well.

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  • Howe, K. 2003. Closing methodological divides: Toward democratic educational research. Philosophy and Education 11. Boston: Kluwer Academic.

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    Howe is a regular contributor to debates about education research. This is his most extensive analysis of the “two dogmas” of education research: the quantitative-qualitative distinction and the fact-value distinction. He argues that education researchers should turn toward a pragmatic account of truth to get past these dogmas.

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  • Paul, J. L. 2005. Introduction to the philosophies of research and criticism in education and the social sciences. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

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    In the increasingly crowded genre of anthologies of philosophical comments on education research, this volume stands out. It contains exemplary pieces of empirical research alongside philosophical reactions from leading thinkers. Students of education research who have an interest in the philosophical underpinnings of current research trends will find the book very useful.

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  • Phillips, D. C., and N. C. Burbules. 2000. Postpositivism and education research. Philosophy, Theory, and Educational Research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    This slim volume by the leading postpositivist philosopher of education research does a great deal to combat the overuse of the term “positivism” in describing empirical education research, defending the rationality of scientific inquiry in education from postmodern criticisms.

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  • Popkewitz, T. S. 1984. Paradigm and ideology in educational research: The social functions of the intellectual. London and New York: Falmer.

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    Popkewitz argues that social and political values are at the bottom of all educational research. He then seeks to expose these values for criticism, with special interest in the contrasting cases of the United States and the Soviet Union. This book is among the many that take the side of sociology of science over Enlightenment philosophical conceptions of science.

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  • Privitello, L. A. 2010. Josiah Royce and the problems of philosophical pedagogy. In Special issue: A symposium in memory of Peter H. Hare. Edited by Joseph Palencik and Russell Pryba. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 46.1: 111–142.

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    Royce is receiving increasing attention from scholars of classical American philosophy, but this is one of the few recent articles about Royce as an educational philosopher. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Robarts, J. 1968. The quest for a science of education in the nineteenth century. History of Education Quarterly 8.4: 431–446.

    DOI: 10.2307/367537Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Robarts provides extensive coverage of the debates over the scientific status of education in the 19th century. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Smeyers, P., and M. Depaepe. 2006. Educational research: Why “what works” doesn’t work. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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    These essays address, among other issues, the conceptions of causality (and of the methods that uncover causal relations) that underlie many efforts to discover “what works” in education.

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Political Philosophy and Education

Political philosophy constitutes a major portion of contemporary philosophy of education. Readers are advised to see Gutmann 1999 on deliberative democracy; Feinberg 1998 on multiculturalism; and Callan 1997, Levinson 1999, and Blacker 2007 on liberalism and education. For a discussion of the rights of children in education, see Brighouse 2006.

  • Blacker, D. J. 2007. Democratic education stretched thin: How complexity challenges a liberal ideal. State University of New York Series in Philosophy of Education. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    Blacker argues that the complexity and interdependence characteristic of contemporary societies challenge liberal conceptions of autonomy and equality. He then extends the implications of this challenge to the practice of democratic education, arguing that it must preserve a place for individuals to express their ultimate aims and purposes.

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  • Brighouse, H. 2006. On education. Thinking in Action. New York: Routledge.

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    Brighouse’s short book presents a compelling defense of the overriding interests of children, as opposed to parental or societal interests, as the key factor in debates over curriculum, governance, and policy.

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  • Callan, E. 1997. Creating citizens: Political education and liberal democracy. Oxford Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    Callan argues that liberal democracies are committed to creating “virtuous citizens.” He then attempts to articulate an account of civic virtue to support this argument.

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  • Feinberg, W. 1998. Common schools/uncommon identities: National unity and cultural difference. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    Feinberg’s book deals with a fundamental philosophical problem in its political form—how to reconcile unity and diversity. The author addresses the issue in the context of multicultural education in liberal democratic societies.

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  • Gutmann, A. 1999. Democratic education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Gutmann’s thorough book has landed on the must-read list of works on deliberative democracy, both in mainstream philosophy and in philosophy of education.

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  • Levinson, M. 1999. The demands of liberal education. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Levinson engages deeply with the literature on liberalism and liberal education to articulate her own vision of liberal education. She addresses, in particular, issues of school choice, religious education, and civic education.

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Ethics

Ethical claims infuse every dimension of education, offering a rich source for philosophical reflection. For debates on the role of ethics in teaching, see Strike and Soltis 2009. For an examination of the ethics of education research, see Bredo and Feinberg 1982. For broader accounts of the role of ethics in education, see Jackson, et al. 1993 and Hansen, et al. 2009. For collections of essays on moral education, readers should turn to Halstead and McLaughlin 1999 and Macedo and Tamir 2002.

  • Bredo, E., and W. Feinberg. 1982. Knowledge and values in social and educational research. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    This volume introduces a number of high-quality essays on the ethical underpinnings and implications of education research.

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  • Halstead, J. M., and T. McLaughlin, eds. 1999. Education in morality. Routledge International Studies in the Philosophy of Education 8. New York: Routledge.

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    This edited volume contains a number of impressive chapters on moral education. Many of the essays cover related topics both in philosophy and education policy.

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  • Hansen, D., S. Burdick-Shepherd, C. Cammarano, and Gonzalo Obelleiro. 2009. Education, values, and valuing in cosmopolitan perspective. Curriculum Inquiry 39.5: 587–612.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-873X.2009.00461.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an essay on the kinds of moral commitments that education should foster. As the title suggests, the authors tend to favor “cosmopolitan” commitments rather than national or more provincial ones.

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  • Jackson, P. W., R. E. Boostrom, and D. T. Hansen. 1993. The moral life of schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    This unique book examines the morally complicated life of a number of classrooms and schools. The authors embedded themselves in the schools to witness the daily happenings of each classroom, which resulted in a rich and grounded moral portrait of education.

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  • Macedo, S., and Y. Tamir, eds. 2002. Moral and political education. Nomos 43. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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    The editors collect essays by many top political theorists and education philosophers on the proper role of education in liberal and democratic societies.

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  • Strike, K. A., and J. F. Soltis. 2009. The ethics of teaching. 5th ed. Thinking about Education. New York: Teachers College.

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    Strike and Soltis offer an introduction to ethical theory primarily through two broad schools of thought, consequentialism and nonconsequentialism. The book is accessible to an audience of nonspecialists.

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Philosophy with Children

Matthew Lipman remains the most influential theorist on the possibility of philosophical inquiry into precollege students. Building on work in philosophy of mind (about what kinds of reasoning children can do), political philosophy (what kinds of communities classrooms should be), and other sources, Lipman and others have taken what can be described as a hands-on approach to philosophy of education (see Lipman 2003; Lipman, et al. 1980). For a general overview of such philosophies applied to children, see Pritchard 2009. For a discussion of the development of reason through philosophical inquiry, see Pritchard 1996. For a discussion of the “community of inquiry,” which might be the central pedagogical contribution of philosophy for children, see Splitter and Sharp 1995. For an effort to make philosophy a major part of mainstream education, see Wartenberg 2009.

LAST MODIFIED: 12/15/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756810-0028

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