What is education? Education is formally defined as “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life”. Education is therefore part of our maturation process as humans; it develops our knowledge and sense of reasoning. With education, humans gain the opportunity further understand the vast world we live in and possibly change it. My own philosophy of education has been greatly shaped through my experiences within the school system and the philosophies of: Kant, Locke, and Plato. As a basic tenet, I believe that every child deserves education- no matter how differently they learn or what their socio-economic situation is. Further, I believe that a child should be taught by a teacher who values patience, discipline, and respect, both in and out of the classroom, to: inspire a greater love of learning, create a path towards growth, and spark a sense of change within the mind of the student.
The first inspiration to my philosophy of learning has been my teachers. At a young age, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficient/Hyperactivity Disorder. While the other students in my class sat at their desks and learned, I struggled. It was extremely difficult for me to learn and take tests like others did, behind a desk. Thankfully, my teachers understood how hard it was for me, and helped me as much as they could. With what seemed like a never-ending stream of patience, my teachers gave me the resources and capability to succeed like everyone else. They could have so easily written me off as dumb or a trouble-maker, due to my ADHD. Instead, they did not let my ADHD define me and my learning capabilities. With kind yet firm words, they taught me how to focus: my greatest struggle. Even with this insecurity, they believed in me. My teachers not only taught me about math and science, but they taught me about confidence.
They instilled within me a self-confidence I lacked from learning differently. With this confidence, they provided me with the structure and discipline that I needed in order to achieve my best. They invested their extra time and energy into me, giving me the confidence to ace my exams. Within the traditional classroom system, they personalized the experience and format to suit my special learning needs. They provided further attention towards my learning, that I otherwise would not have received. These teachers above and beyond for me and believed in me when I did not. I am so grateful so all the blood, sweat, and tears that they gave me, which making me who am today. Looking back, it was their patience, discipline, and respect for me as both a human being and student that blossomed within me a love for education. With these values in the forefront of my mind, I hope to teach as my past teachers have taught me. Even more so, I am inspired to follow them down their path of teaching, into a network of inspiration and growth for a future generation of students.
Another inspiration to my philosophy of learning is the ideology of Immanuel Kant[footnoteRef:2]. His optimism towards the process of education has shaped my perspective on teaching. According to Kant, education is the key to the betterment of human nature. Without education, humans are left to their natural state: animalistic impulses and desires. Under the structure and discipline of education, children learn to rise above their infantile state. Kant furthers this point and states that, “he is nothing except what education makes out of him”. This sense of discipline musts be taught to children from a young age, where their minds are highly impressionable, because as they grow older it is harder to change them.
At this young age, it is important to teach them not only substance, but structure. Kant repeatedly stresses that children must be taught how to think, as reason does not come to natural to a human being. With this early implementation, children will be accustomed to a sense of reason. Reason allows them a fuller cultivation of their abilities and understanding in the world they live in. Corresponding this taught reason, children should be morally trained to make good choices and seek goodness. In a cycle of sharing, the past generation must provide the future generation with all known knowledge and learning. Equipped with this wisdom, humans will have acquired a drive for good, and ultimately will improve humanity. Kant theorizes, “Perhaps education will get better and better and each generation will move one step closer to the perfection of humanity; for behind education lies the great secret of the perfection of human nature”. His positive outlook towards education illustrates the macro-level significance of education: the improvement of humanity. Kant theorizes further that in the implementation of this goal of education, “children should be educated not only with regard to present but rather for a better condition of the human species that might be possible in the future”. Kant concludes optimistically that through the continuation of education, the future of humanity will only improve.
The philosophy of John Locke has also contributed to my thoughts on education. Like Kant, Locke stresses the importance of education form a young age. He states that the impressions one makes on a child are foundational to their development and will impact them later in life. Therefore, according to Locke, education should be a positive experience for a child. While discipline is a necessity for a child to learn according to Locke, children should not be subjected to corporal punishment. Rules must be taught to them; however, they are not capable of learning so much at once so frequent punishment for transgressions will weaken authority. Locke theorizes that the punishment of a child breaks their spirits, and it counterproductive to the goal of education: “arouse and maintain student interest, while conveying knowledge and skills in such a way to make clear the significance of what is being taught and the power inherent in the new knowledge.
However, discipline is necessary to flourish a child’s mind with a love of knowledge and a desire to know more. Desires should be denied for children to teach them how to behave for them to be in the mental-state to learn. A child’s mind naturally wanders so they must acquire structure and discipline for them minds to flourish with knowledge. Unlike Kant, Locke argues that a human being is born rational. Thus, he believes that children should be treated as rational creatures. He states that, “The sooner you treat him as a man, the sooner he will begin to be one”. Treating children with a sense of respect as a fellow rational human will then train them to act and behave like one. For example, the substance of a child’s lesson should not be a burden to him/her. Instead, it should be explained to them the importance and application of what is being taught to them. In their curiosity to learn more, children will ask question that should be answered. Even more so, it is important that the answers provided to them should be truthful in nature and not deceitful. Then, the education that they receive will provide a sense of power to the child and ultimately strengthen their abilities in life.
The last philosopher that has inspired my philosophy on education is Plato. Like both Kant and Locke, Plato believes that it is important that children be taught as young as possible. Like Kant, Plato argues that children must learn reason because they are not born with it. Instead, children are naturally in tune with their spirit and must grow into their sense of reason. Plato stresses that this reason must be taught through good education, or under the guidance teachers that have a strong understanding. On the other hand, bad education corrupts reason and poisons the mind of a child. Ultimately, like Kant, Plato believes that the goal of education is for the betterment of society at large. Thus, the wrong path of education obstructs this path towards good. According to Plato, good education is one filled with discipline. Laws are essential to the structure and development of a child and teaches them to be accustomed to the laws of the state that they are under when they are grown. Learning this discipline and implemented for education will teach them to grow as a good citizen. Plato stresses this significance, in that education teaches one to curb their insatiable desires that are natural to man. Instead, education equips human beings with a gravitation towards goodness for all, in choosing light over darkness, and thus the improvement of humanity at a whole.
All in all, my perspectives on education have been shaped through my personal experiences and the philosophies of Kant, Locke, and Plato. Those philosophies greatly correspond to that of my teachers, which I believe have pushed me onto successful pursuits. Through the shared values of patience, discipline, and respect of my teachers, I have acquired the confidence and capabilities to achieve what I needed to. Additionally, with the philosophies of Kant, Locke, and Plato in an optimistic vision of education, I am inspired that as a teacher I will provide knowledge and guidance to a future generation for the improvement of society.