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Philosophy of Education

Philosophy of Education

Image: Aristotle and Plato: Detail from The School of Athens by Raphael

Education is “the systematic training of the conceptual faculty by means of supplying in essentials both its content and its method.” (Dr. Leonard Peikoff) It is one of many things — among them fitness, nature time, friendship, family, security, emotional stability — needed to fully develop a person in all their human aspects and needed to thrive.

The function of education is to prepare a child for adult life, or prepare an adult for further life or a career, by training their conceptual faculty to know, in the wider world, what is true and how we know it. The need for education arises from the fact that the human conceptual faculty is volitional and develops over years of training.

The academic subjects needed to accomplish the purpose, the primary goal, of primary education are history, science, mathematics, literature, and grammar/language. History, because it is the story of humanity and human nature. Science, because it is the organized study of the external world and natural law. Especially important is biology: the science of life, nutrition, diet, sleep, exercise, farming, ecology, environment, and the world we need in order to thrive as the rational animals we are. Mathematics, because it is the science of measurement, teaching the tools of science, basic logic, and providing clues to the essence of deduction, induction and the application of knowledge. Literature, because it is the form of art that uses concepts as its medium.

Writing, as a tool of thought, should be done daily in as many subjects as possible. Logic should be taught implicitly in the various subjects through similarity and difference, essentializing, determining cause and effect, analysis and synthesis, induction, and deduction.

We should keep sight of our holistic nature: we are rational animals, integrated beings of mind and body. We cannot function optimally without exercise, good movement training and practice, a diet that nourishes brain and immune system and our total needs, sufficient sleep (7-9 hours for most of us; 9-12 hours for athletes), alone time, independence, social time, deep bonding, security, trust.

The basic principles that need to be applied at all times in all academic subjects (and fitness and extracurriculars) are:
integration: all knowledge is interrelated and interconnected;
hierarchy: all knowledge has structure (lower to more abstract levels) so subjects should be taught step-by-step, starting with the evidence of the senses;
reality: knowledge is knowledge of an objective reality;
values: all knowledge has a value component, a use in attaining the values needed for human life.

The implications are that one needs to present bite-sized units of knowledge appropriate to the audience’s context; the pieces need to be integrated into larger units and into the whole of a person’s knowledge; the purpose and value of what you are teaching needs to drive your presentation; and you need to keep your audience focused on success and their own efficacy, and keep alive (through praise, rewards, and good direction) the burning desire to achieve and move forward — and to look at failures and weaknesses as things that are in the process of improvement.

Fundamentally, a proper education rests on the principles that (1) a human is a rational animal (and an individual), (2) reason is our human means of survival and method of cognition, (3) reason is volitional, (4) sense perception is valid, automatic and is the base of all our knowledge, and (5) the external world is intelligible, lawful, and independent of consciousness.

The “cash value” is that a proper education, based on rational principles, will teach students to be self-reliant, independent, objective, purposeful, responsible, social, and value-oriented adults.

Some books I recommend are:

The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori

Montessori: A Modern Approach by Maria Montessori and Paula Polk Lillard

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey and Eric Hagerman

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd by Joe Camp

Horsemanship Through Life: A Trainer’s Guide to Better Living and Better Riding by Mark Rashid

Teaching Johnny to Think: A Philosophy of Education by Leonard Peikoff

The Practice of Natural Movement: Reclaim Power, Health, and Freedom by Erwan LeCorre

You can learn more about education in the following episodes of the ReasonRx Podcast.