Philosophy of Education

Hello, sorry if this is ‘wading in’ somewhat. I don’t visit much. However:

For my own reasons I am currently undertaking a teacher training course in the UK - training to be a science teacher specialising in Physics. Half of my kids don’t see the point of academic work and tell the teachers they aspire to be hairdressers - which wouldn’t require them to do very well in their exams.

According to this survey hairdressing is the ‘happiest’ job sector in the UK. If accurate, that poll raises the worrying possibility that in persuading chidren to work hard and do well at school, teachers are in fact consigning them to a life of misery; for whatever reasons the ‘good job’ we all tell them they should be working towards could be the last thing they actually need.

So… why do kids need to learn? And from my perspective in particular, why Science?

to be honest, they don’t “need” to learn anything.

the teachers unions exist to keep teachers employed.

the standards exist to keep non “teachers” out

the kids will study and learn what they want to study and learn.

if they want to be hair dressers they will need to know some biology (at least in america) and they will learn that because they want the hair gig…

the physics majors will pay attention, most of the others will not because they have no interest in it and no matter what you say, their interest will wane… but that’s ok… teach what you can to those who want to learn… that is all you can do…

but I’ll give you a hint to make your teaching career more fruitful… study a bit of semiotics… learn how to talk on their level… do you really want to have them regurgitate physics facts for you (banking method ala freire) or do want to teach them to understand the concepts?

that will require a lot of work on your part (and theirs), but teaching is an actual gig and if you aren’t in the education business for the sake of educating the kids maybe a different career option would be advantageous… aspacia and tab are teachers as well…

when the students are ready, the teacher appears…


Hi, wvoelcker. This seems to me to be a classic error in logic. You mustn’t use the average to attempt to describe a particular. Yes, many people might be happier being hairdressers. But some are going to be ecstatic being scientists. This is why it’s important to give kids a broad view of different disciplines, exposing them to all manner of potential professions.

Plus, education is (or ought to be) more than training for a job. It’s a lesson on how to think, and how to learn. Valuable skills for a human being regardless of career.

I had the opportunity to have several good teachers in the ‘hard’ sciences. They had to be good because I managed to learn a great deal from them and I wasn’t interested in the subject matter in the slightest. What they knew to do was tap into the principles I needed to learn, but on my terms. I was a gear head in love with quick cars - as were a lot of the guys my age, and so all physics principles were carefully presented in ways to understand how to make a car go faster. The chemistry I learned was based on the same collection of practical applications. (I think the two teachers were in cahoots) If you start with the applications that fit the student’s interests and work backward to the principles, you’ll win, they’ll win, and everybody will be happy. You might not get a Nobel for your efforts, but you could find job satisfaction…

Another way to look at the necessity of teaching the sciences, and more specifically, the scientific process, is teaching the students how to smell the bullshit.

I don’t watch adverts aimed at the UK, but here in the US the BS is layered thickly, the more esoteric or fantastic the claims of any given product the thicker.

Kids need to know what causation is. Kids need to know the difference between a mean and a median, and when to use which. Physics in particular can be an excellent subject with which to teach empiricism.

That said, I imagine there will always be students plodding along at the bottom of the curve - but are they at the bottom of the curve because they have no talent or interest, or because they’ve been -told- they have no talent and have subsequently -learned- not to have interest?

Thanks for your interesting replies. In response:

I think very few will become actual scientists - the rest will go into jobs for which you need science qualifications, e.g. engineering. And my worry is that those people are unhappy. If the “vast minority” who go into science are ecstatic with their jobs, then maybe Bentham would approve. But if they’re ecstatic, should we worry about the objectivity of their research? :wink: Besides, are they? My image of a scientist is somewhat lonely.

This is what I’ve heard from a friend of mine who trained to teach a few years ago but never ended up going into the profession. I think this is important - we need to teach students to think for themselves, in an informed way. But do they really need to know the molar mass of fluorine to do that?

Turth is your caught in a trap, you see the turth yourself but there is nothing you can do about it, you ask other people “why”, out of hope that they will have an answer, only to discover that they don’t.

You can contiue to particpate in this manipulation of these chidren or you can quit, suffer and die.

I don’t no how to solve this conudrum… i know faith in god helps and the promise that he will one day save me from satan

Thanks, Mullfa. Why do I have to suffer if I quit teaching? Surely at a mere 23 years I have time to find a way of life I am happy with.

But I am unconvinced either way about science teaching. As with so many things, I am unable to make a decision - it’s as if I can’t quite visualise what each opposing possibility entails. Tis annoying.

What’s your background, anyway? What are your political views? I would be interested to hear.

OK, think of it this way. If you have anything more than half a brain, hairdressing is probably the most incredibly depressing thing you can think of ever doing.

The only argument you are making is the one for selective education, weed the hairdressers from the engineers and give the potential hairdressers lollipops that are bigger than brain to suck on instead of math.

It’s about realising potential. Just because some dumbass who’s hifding their brain up their arse in an effort to look cool thinks hairdressing is a great career doesn’t mean that’s what they really want. And if you let them piss their lives away creating a legion of very unhappy hairdressers, it’s on your head, not theirs.

So, and here’s the crux, are you a socialist idiot who thinks everyone shoulld recieve the same educsation or are you making the best argument ofr selection that exists and running the possibility of leaving a few behind? Or do you want to give these kids a chance to be something meaningful to society instead of just being a cog in the machine?

and what’s better is that the children themselves are the ones who decide on what makes them happy…

strapping them down and force feeding them information works about as well as a clockwork orange…


Because from my experience if you did change jobs you will be confronted with the same problem over and over again.

If at every choice we chose to do the right thing, every time, we would
end up dead.

example; society tells me its wrong to endanger others lives, now i need to drive a car to survive, and in doing so, i am doing what society claims to be wrong.

when it comes to the prospect of suffering and death people will chose to do the wrong thing, for some reason our mind shifts from “Whats right is best” to Whats best is right"… =Problem of life

I always try to do the right thing and in doing so, i have become isolated, live in poverty and suffer, i don’t know how much longer i will survive.

Basicaly i’m betting on god. like christ


I ran into the same problem at the high school level. At the community college it is quite different. By this time most students have realized they cannot make it on the pay they make as hair dressers, etc., and want to be there.

What worked for me at this level, was weighting the grades and giving 30% for participation points. If students have there asses in class, are working not passing notes or visiting, I gave them 5 points daily. If screwing around, I reminded them, immediately dropped their points to four, three, to zero. This seems to work with 90% of the students. Also, providing a printed grade reports on a weekly and by weekly basis keeps them aware of what assignments they haven’t done and their class standing. Calling parents always helps as well. I have only encountered 3 parents who were not responsible and responsive “MY JOHNNY OR JUANITA” blah, blah, blah. During these times, and with disruptive students you must have a backbone of steel and never lose you temper.

I hope this helps.

Good luck,

aspacia :sunglasses:

I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language in Turkey for the last 10 years at university undergraduate/masters level mainly, with a year or two of experience at primary and mid levels.

I don’t really think you should worry too much about the students all wanting to be hairdressers, at their age I wanted to be a 1) A Millionaire 2) A frogman 3) A Spaceman. Perhaps I was retarded… :laughing:

Basically you must look at it as giving them what they need to be able to make choices later. Perhaps indeed some will become hairdressers, and later decide they want to become something else. Without the necessary diplomas and certificates, some doors they wish then would be open, will remain closed, or at least obstructed without further adult-study - necessitating a spending of funds and more importantly time that they don’t have as adults, that they did have as children. Then they will curse, but too late. It is your job to prevent this from happening. For a child to have too much choice, is better than them not having enough - frustration in career/life generates more unhappiness than an achievement later found to be empty, as one at least actively chose the path one took, rather than had it forced upon them by lack of other options. If that makes sense.

With regard to bored/unmotivated students - I too suffer from the classic “Teacher - I am/will be a mathematician, why do I need to study a language I do not need and will never use…?” syndrome. There’s the easy answer - which is “Because I say so.” or “Because the world’s not fair - get used to it kiddo…” Or you can get Socratic on their collective asses, and ask them a question or two… “Why learn anything…? Why learn to drive…? You don’t have a car… Oh - you’ll buy one, hmm, but you don’t need to, do you…? - there are buses, you could take one of those, a lot of people do… Ahh - buses don’t always go where you want them to…? They’re not always on time…? Buses are crowded…? Boring…? A car gives you more independence perhaps…? More choice…? Take you places where a bus won’t go…? Get you a better girlfriend/boyfriend…? Hands up then - Who wants a car…?”

“Well then - think of these ______ (insert subject here) lessons as your driving lessons - you can screw it up - I can’t make you pass, but if you want a Ferrari, then learn, if you want to spend your life on the bus, then feel free to fail.” Or some such.

With suitable dynamic arm-waving and tricks of voice. A teacher is as much a theatre artiste as he/she is an educator - become the Mel Gibson/Mr. Bean of the classroom. I can think of no better advice than this. You must use your personality to allow the class to bridge the gaps of boredom and difficulty which are inherrent to any discipline. And care about your subject - if you do not, no-one else will. Come out from behind your desk, and get involved.

You must also remember that all you need to do is say something upon your initial meeting to get them over the bump. Once the class regime begins - how it goes is mainly in your hands, not so much as a teacher, but as I say above, a person. Classes are always a personality cult. This does not mean they have to worship the ground you walk on (though that helps frankly) But it does mean they have to respect and listen to you. If they do this, or rather if you are able to attain this relationship - then they will automatically follow the course, because they think being you, or at least emulating you is something to aspire to, and because you give the subject matter importance, and passion, they will too, because they will associate it with you.

Teaching can be an awful job, an easy job, or a fucking terrific job - but it is the type of person you are that defines this. The students by and large are a given, a constant, the variable is you.

Thank you very much indeed. Those are all helpful replies. I’ll be back later with more, when I have time to type it… :slight_smile:


p.s. is this post against the house rules, on grounds of not saying anything?

I think you’ll find that the rules here are more… guidelines.