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Interdisciplinary Approaches to Learning, Essay Example

Pages: 7

Words: 2024

Essay

Introduction

Learning is a fundamental key of personality development and humankind in general. With the course of time, there have been many scientific theories dedicated to investigating the nature of human evolution and laws of nature.  Human experience and knowledge through centuries led to the formulation of general laws of physics, biology, chemistry, geography, etc. However, constant progress in knowledge and technologies made scientists reconsider earlier theories, re-evaluate them, or even change the entire concept. This process of scientific development and occurring changes was investigated by Thomas Kuhn (1962) in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This research made an enormous resonance in the scientific world and general attitude to science. Another revolutionary work was produced by Dawkins (1976) who expanded Darwin’s theory of evolution, and offered his theory of ‘memes’ as the main factor of humanity cultural development.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the concept of Kuhn’s (1962) paradigm and its application to natural science. Moreover, there is a necessity to consider the development of social paradigms that serve as organizational principles in society. The examination of both Kuhn’s (1962) and Dawkins’s (1976) theories will allow one to formulate the enhancements and boundaries pertaining to the existence of human beings in society. Since learning is the major factor that distinguishes human beings from other creatures, it is critical to investigate the problem in the existing educational system. This aspect of study is based on the Kozol’s (1992) book dedicated to savage inequalities in American schools.

Kuhn’s Concept of ‘Paradigm’

The main focus of Kuhn’s (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions lies in the knowledge evolution in the scientific world. Kuhn (1962) investigated how the structure of science changes with the discovery of new knowledge and regularities, and how the scope of the particular field expands. Kuhn (1962) claimed that initially scientists do not target to make a scientific revolution; they only pursue to support the existing theories and laws of natures. However, new discoveries change or modify the concepts of the set perception of the world. According to Kuhn (1962), there are periods of normal science when everything seems clear and predictable; then some anomalies or revolutions happen and change the general outlook. The periods of normal science, Kuhn (1962) called paradigms which, however, cannot be “reduced to a set of beliefs or to a list of rules…; scientists have to learn by doing, both thinking in terms of the concepts that are used in a particular science and by physically manipulating material to create phenomena” (Paradigm – On Definition, Criticism of Kuhn’s Paradigms, Revolutions, Leaps of Faith, Criticism of Kuhn’s Relativism, n.d.).

When scientists try to solve problems and scientific puzzles within the paradigm, they usually go beyond its limits. Thus, Kuhn (1992) claimed that paradigms “differ in more than substance… they are the source of the methods, problem-field, and standards of solution accepted by any mature scientific community at any given time” (as cited in Sankey, 2002, p. 822). Therefore, it is critical to consider the fact that “when paradigms change, there are usually significant shifts in the criteria determining the legitimacy both of problems and of proposed solutions” (Sankey, 2002, p. 822). The main themes of Kuhn’s (1962) theory are that the change of paradigm provokes change in both concepts offered by scientists and the vocabulary used to express these concepts. Paradigm also influences scientific observation of the world. Thus, scientists examining different paradigms have different world perceptions, and sometimes experience difficulties in comparing and putting in correspondence their paradigm concepts (Sankey, 2002). On this basis, Kuhn (1962) made a conclusion that alternative paradigms are incommensurable.

Application of Kuhn’s Theory to Natural Science

Kuhn (1962) applied his theory of scientific revolutions to such paradigm shifts in scientific history as works of Copernicus, Lavoisier, Newton, and Einstein. On the basis of these scientific discoveries, Kuhn (1962) provided characteristics of the scientific revolution. Firstly, it demands rejection of the previous long-held theory in this field; secondly, it influences the shift in problems, identification standards, and solutions of normal scientific investigation; thirdly, it changes scientific perception of the world (Kuhn, 1962, p. 6).  The main focus of Kuhn’s (1962) historical examples concerns the re-formulation of Ptolemaic theory by Copernicus. Ptolemy’s concept of world structure claimed that all planets are rotating around the static Earth in the center. His school of thought was used for many centuries until the Copernicus revolution in the 16th century. After long-term planetary observations and calculations based on Ptolemy’s cycles and epicycles, Copernicus offered the theory of the universe structure where the Sun in the center, and Earth is just one of the planets rotating around it. The rejection of Ptolemaic cosmology by Copernicus lacked credibility and was not accepted (Kuhn, 1962).

The paradigm shift became possible later when Galileo offered his theory of motions that declared the existence of friction which cause the halt of any object set to motion sooner or later. Though Galileo had no proper equipment to connect his observation with Ptolemaic cosmology, it was evident that the then knowledge could not explain the entire complexity of the universe (Kuhn, 1962). Later, Kepler denied Ptolemaic theory, and claimed that Mars has an elliptical orbit; these ideas and calculations of angular velocity led to the existing law of equal areas. Hence, each of the conjectures made by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler supported each other, and made the change in world perception. Later, Newton provided a unite cosmology theory based on theories of motion and planetary motion; thus, Newton completed a paradigm shift (Kuhn, 1962). However, the paradigm shift offered by Kuhn (1962) could not be applied to all cases of change in the scientific world. This concerns the Einstein’s theory of relativity that changed the concept of motion offered by Newton; however, Newton’s paradigm is still valid as a scientific revolution. Thus, Einstein’s theory of relativity does not deny the existence of gravity, but fills in the gaps of Einstein’s theory (Berman, 2007).

Social Paradigms and Their Reference to Learning

Similar to Kuhn (1962), Dawkins (1976) dedicated his investigation to the study of humanity progress and evolution. Dawkins (1976) examined the theory of natural selection offered by Darwin, and claimed that the main factor of human development and evolution is a cultural aspect. Thus, Dawkins (1976) reformulated Darwin’s theory, and changed the entire perception of social biology study. The main concept of Dawkins (1976) theory is the existence of meme that is a combination of ideas, behaviors, cultural phenomena, and styles that spread from one human being to another within a culture. Dawkins (1976) provided a variety of memes that included catch-phrases, melodies, technological achievements, fashion, etc. Thereby, Dawkins (1976) explained the connection between scientific revolutions and evolution of social behavior (Lecture on Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, n.d.).

Dawkins (1976) declared that the inheritance of such quality as culture is only peculiar to human beings. This meme can be called a cultural gene that is passed on through centuries to enrich the humanity knowledge by joint experience, world perception, acquired knowledge, and artistic works. According to Dawkins (1976), both processes of memetic and genetic replications are similar, though there are some differences in them. While genes leap from one body to another with the help of eggs or sperms, memes are passes on from brain to brain through the process of imitation (Dawkins, 1976, p. 6). Thus, when one person is introduced with an idea, he or she comprehends, analyzes, and relates it with the previous knowledge and experience. This reformulated or mutated idea is later transmitted to the mind of another person; therefore, it is possible to see the human social evolution from the Antiquity to the modern time (Lecture on Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, n.d.). Hence, it is possible to conclude that this is the way how patterns of community cognitive behavior and world perception are formulated in social principles determining social rules of behavior, organization, and regulation.

Modern society has achieved a high level of evolution; technical opportunities allow humans to discover new scientific aspects that enhance the quality of their existence. A human being has already conquered the ground, ocean, and air, technology world, and space; there is much knowledge explaining the laws of nature and the universe; numerous technologic achievements are targeted to make people’s life easier. Nevertheless, this progress of humanity has not still eliminated social boundaries such as racial segregation or savagely circumstances in the field of education. The discrepancies of education level and opportunities in schools of different races were examined by Kozol’s (1992) work called Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. Kozol (1992) illustrated his impressions produced by visits to a great number of schools all over United Stated. His experience revealed such social problems as school overloads, lack of educational equipment and materials, unsanitary, inappropriate learning environment, curriculum gaps, undertrained teaching staff, low budgeting, and high education fees and taxation (Kozol, 1992).

Kozol (1992) observations of schools is strong evidence how many gaps are still present in the public education. Kozol (1992) conducted interviews with students, parents, and teacher in about 30 neighborhoods in various states; his work revealed how much segregation exists in America’s public schools (Beauford, n.d.). Though racial segregation is considered to be left in the past, Kozol’s (1992) travel showed that almost all schools are either non-white or white; there are no schools with an equal number of white and non-white children (Beauford, n.d.). Besides inequalities in schools, there is a great problem of social environment aspects such as drugs, poverty, and crime that influence children’s advancement and development. In many non-white schools, children are left on their own; there is no proper administration, instruction, or supervision. Thus, even if a child has interest in studies, he or she has a range of predictors – personal, social, or legislative ones – to receive a proper level of education.

Conclusion

The investigation of works of Kuhn (1962) and Dawkins (1976), the evolution of humanity is vivid and valuable. During the centuries, human being have acquired new knowledge, analyzed their experiences, structured and organized the finding to make the picture of the world organization clear and understandable. People already know how the universe operates, and how to explain the laws of nature. There are many technological achievements that are targeted to make people’s life easier and more comfortable. The scientific evolution is accompanied with social evolution that is a result of joint experiences and cultural ideas collected through centuries. Majority of past prejudices are now left in the past, such as racism, social status segregation, or women’s place in society. In the modern world, people have equal rights for the whole range of opportunities such as equal access to education, medicine, politics, etc.

Nevertheless, the work of Kozol (1992) shows that relics of the past are still present in the modern society. Despite the existing social principles regulating life in society, many people experience elimination of some fundamental rights and freedoms. One of the acutest problems is the situation in the educational system. The main factor of personality development, advancement, and further prosperity depends on his or her achievements in the learning process. Though most of the modern schooling institutions provide a high level of education, individualized approach to students, and a variety of educational equipment and materials; there is a great number of the public schools that are unable to satisfy student needs. Hence, the approach to learning should not only concern the equal right for education, but the consideration of social environment, equal loading of schools, and well-qualified instruction form teacher and administration.

References

Beauford, D. (n.d.). Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools – Jonathan Kozol, 1991. Retrieved from http://faculty.fordham.edu/kpking/classes/uege5102-pres-and-newmedia/Jonathan-Kozol-Savage-Inequalities-by-D-Beauford.pdf

Berman, D. (2007). String Theory: From Newton to Einstein and beyond. Retrieved from http://plus.maths.org/content/string-theory-newton-einstein-and-beyond

Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kozol, J. (1992). Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. New York: Harper Perennial.

Kuhn, T.S. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lecture on Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (n.d.). Retrieved from http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/introser/dawkins.htm

Paradigm – On Definition, Criticism of Kuhn’s Paradigms, Revolutions, Leaps of Faith, Criticism of Kuhn’s Relativism. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://science.jrank.org/pages/7948/Paradigm.html

Sankey, H. (2002). The structure of scientific revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 36, Iss. 6, pp. 821-824.

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