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FDN 5840, Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education

We think philosophically whether or not we are aware of it. In our everyday thinking, we make decisions and analyze various situations based on bits and pieces of social and philosophical theory: Are children naturally good or bad? Is truth objective and final, or does what is true depend on time and place and on who is doing the thinking? Our beliefs regarding the answers to questions such as these determine to a large extent not only how we will expect teachers and students to behave in our classrooms, but will also determine the policies and procedure we will find acceptable to implement in our schools.

There are two components to a course such as this one, which aims to prepare you to engage with more rigor and understanding in the dilemmas of your daily lives at school. First, it is crucial that you be able to identify the theoretical notions that you inevitably bring with you into every situation as part of your class background, your race, your gender, age, and geographic location. Second, the course is designed to help you add to your theoretical understanding of the social and philosophical issues which are inherent in our everyday decision-making and understanding. Through the process of critical self-understanding and the enhancement of theoretical tools which each of us brings to the situations in which we engage, we become better situated to participate with stamina and thoughtfulness in the practical life of schools.

Central Questions

1. What is the purpose of schooling in a democratic society?
2. How do educators decide what is worth knowing?
3. What does it mean to have a vision? Is "vision" inherent to our humanity? Is the work we do in schools guided by a vision? Should it be?
4. Does truth have a subjective and objective component, or is it absolute? What bearing does how we answer this question have on our lives in school?
5. What is power, and what is the origin and nature of that power which is held by administrators and teachers?
6. What is your philosophy of education? Is it necessary to have one?

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