My Philosophy of Education, Reaction Paper Example

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Research Paper

If any single term defines my personal philosophy of education, it is expansion, and I hold to this because learning is so incalculably varied in form and process.  The ways in which learning occurs are necessarily both complex and exponentially reliant on the learner’s abilities, and actual being.  It is, unfortunately, ordinary for learning to be perceived as a formulaic construct; there is information, there is a recipient, and the trajectory is then easily understood.  This mode of learning is not without foundation, nor without value.  Rudimentary education is frequently conducted most effectively when the process is rendered that linear, and the information acquired inevitably enhances the potentials of the learner.  At the same time, and given the inescapable fact that “learning” is ultimately nothing more than acquisition, there are no true parameters as to its occurrence.  There is, as noted, purely cognitive learning (if any learning may be only cognitive), yet there is also that learning less easily classified.  A striking example of such  non-cognitive learning is Gifford Pinchot’s experience in developing the U.S. conservation policy in 1905.  Challenged by President Roosevelt to devise a national directive for natural resource management, Pinchot emerged from under a seemingly impossible burden to an epiphany of sorts, in which he mentally perceived a landscape wherein resources were managed for the good of all (Swan, 2010,  p. 2).  It is tempting to regard this experience as unrelated to learning, yet it seems to me that the essence of learning is reflected in it.  More precisely, Pinchot’s mind, faced with an extraordinary dilemma, appears to have abandoned its own cognitive processes in order to engage in subconscious activity better suited to the occasion.  However this occurred, clearly emotion was a part of it, and the resulting thought was a highly internalized, and certainly inexplicable, mode of learning.  In a very real sense, Pinchot’s mind utilized what it had, learned, and generated a solution.

Here, then, is expansion validated, as literal knowledge is converted and explored through more visceral mental channels.  For Pinchot, there was realization arising from processes largely unknown to himself, as I myself have had experience of this kind.  In my academic career, there have been numerous occasions when a theory remained inaccessible to me, and further application of concentration failed to inculcate the idea.  Only when I “shut down” my cognitive efforts, I found, did the theory become known to me.  That this learning occurs at a level not apparent to me renders it no less substantial, and this partially goes to my “expansionist” view of education.  That is, to properly appreciate learning, it is necessary to acknowledge the depths of it persistently defying identification.

As I seek to understand what I truly know about myself as a learner, I become aware of inherent incongruities.  It is difficult, the more one enters into learning, to isolate that which is supported by experience and that which is assumed, simply because accumulation of the former promotes a greater reliance on the latter.  New learning does not replace what is already known; it augments, challenges, revises, and/or converges.  Consequently, I approach new educational material on a foundation both in place to accept and critically evaluate.  It is a process as potentially self-defeating as it may be enriching; excess reliance on even an educated  assumption, for example, is as unwise as a reflexive and unthinking adoption of new information supplanting what is in place.  At the same time, I feel I am obligated to value these incongruities. If the processes work in a manner unclear to me, they work nonetheless, as the entities of assumption and experience actively challenge one another.

That these processes are inextricably linked within my own educational experience reflects the larger arena of human experience.  They also very much reflect what I believe I know about my own learning, both to my advantage and otherwise.  More exactly, and as I strongly believe in learning as necessarily expansive,  I suspect I am inclined to lean more toward assumptive approaches, as I believe is true of most people.  This is not to imply a mindlessness to the assumptions; rather, there is simply a greater trust in what I believe I know, as well as a kind of intellectual imperative to challenge the new all the more.  The disadvantage here, not unexpectedly, is that the weight I attach to the intellectual challenging rises in response to the new, which may obfuscate the value of the new.  As complex as are the processes of learning, this reveals a further irony, in that assumptions carefully developed through learning may impede future progress.  It is an educational circumstance regarding myself of which I am acutely aware, and one requiring a degree of intellectual vigilance on my part.  It would as well be greatly beneficial to me for a cohort, sensing my inclination to challenge perhaps excessively, to encourage me to mentally “step back,” as it were, and withhold criticism until the new learning is allowed to fully present itself.

I would add, however, that within the sphere of the disadvantage or detriment lies opportunity.  If my inclination is to stand on assumptions and critically evaluate the new, that same intellectual bent is restless, and the eagerness to challenge translates to a kind of educational avarice.  My philosophy is expansive, yet this aspect actually presents it as more territorial; expansion of learning, in a sense, is conquest in my mind.  On further reflection, in fact, it may be that “exploration” is the better metaphor, and this motivation in me often leaves me unsatisfied with even those assumptions I tend to nurture.  This element of my practice and philosophy is, I believe, valuable.  As noted, learning is an enormously varied process; it also reflects tiers of instruments and techniques.  To be restricted to basic processes, cognitive and formulaic, is to abandon a wealth of learning opportunity.  Such opportunity is revealed, moreover, in ways not immediately associated with learning.   Lately, for example, my interest is drawn to how learning itself relies on language, and how interpretation may often create actual meaning.  There is no real dichotomy between language itself, by which ideas and feelings are communicated, and the natural world.  In any verbal culture, forms of expression become interchangeable with that which is the subject of expression, and a highly intricate, participatory relationship develops  (Kunisue, Schavrien, 2011, p. 167).  In perceiving this, I am drawn to question the worth and nature of each learning experience as it arises, and consider just how this particular avenue of learning influences the entire circumstance of it.

This in turn leads to a further extension of my personal philosophy, and one that emphasizes the importance of my own interpretative processes.  More exactly, it seems to me that learning shapes the individual, rather than merely acting to enhance; this being the case, there is a responsibility to comprehend individual being as vitally concerned with educational processes.  If learning largely makes us who we are, we then have both the right to better comprehend all the elements of it, and to act in a way reflecting the subsequent responsibility this process creates.  Learning brings the individual into the world, literally and otherwise, so the expansion I present as my philosophy is all the more validated.  Learning creates a relationship between the individual and the culture, and permits the individual to attain a true sense of self in the process.  This inherently carries with it the responsibility of an expansive viewpoint, and one going to the good of all concerned: “The process of identification relates to activating personal involvement by seeing some aspect of reality as intimately relevant to oneself and even a part of oneself, thus presumably worth  protecting”  (Hoot, Friedman, 2011,  p. 90).

My learning processes and capabilities, then, reflect both a tendency to employ assumptions and a contrary impulse to move beyond their boundaries, in order to honor the social relevance of learning and encourage how it shapes myself.  I believe I adhere to my own philosophy, in that I seek to maintain as expansive as possible a perception of what constitutes learning.  More precisely, I am inclined to dismiss parameters regarding actual learning, in favor of attempting to render all experience, pragmatic and more spiritual, as such.  The approach is, I am aware, hardly new, as it is also significantly connected to psychological theory.  Jung, for examples, insists on the healthy psyche as only existing when the unknown is acknowledged and addressed:  “The total psyche must be approached, its dark as well as its light aspects”  (Davis, 2011, p. 151).  It may appear that such an emphasis on totality is at least partially removed from learning; certainly, it may be argued that there is a distinct incorporation of what may be termed the mystical here, or that any such probing into psychological depths does not necessarily pertain to how learning occurs.  My strength, however, or that which I perceive to be my strength, lies in expanding the concept of learning itself.  In no uncertain terms, education in any form is a means of transcendence.  The learning mind gains insight, which then undergoes the extraordinarily complex processes of assimilation in regard to insight already acquired, and new thought is generated.  If the consequences of this process typically take more pragmatic forms, as in new information applied to existing stores, the effect is nonetheless “transcendent.”  New thought, simply, must translate to new or different states of being.

Consequently, I feel that to deny any external experience of contact with the new, which is essentially a definition of learning, is to radically thwart education.  Psychological impetuses and Jung notwithstanding, any authentic pursuit of learning must be expansive, in that confidence in the ability to discern value permits an embracing of even the suspect, in regard to information, theory, or belief.  With regard to my cohort, I adamantly believe this to be an asset I manifest, if one inherently requiring a kind of intellectual “wariness.”  More exactly, I feel that my inclination to entertain the unknown must serve to extend parameters, both in individuals and in a group setting.  Virtually any arena concerned with betterment or education immeasurably benefits when there is a judicious, but expansive, welcoming of what may be initially deemed as extraneous to it.  Put another way, the histories of multiple cultures reflect a consistent reality, in that science and education are likely to  advance when the radical is introduced.  This, I believe, is as true of seemingly “unscientific” thinking as it is of the emotional and/or “mystical” elements of the self.  If anything distinguishes humanity’s evolution, it is the remarkably regular redefinition of the specious to established fact or theory.  Such redefinitions demand, of course, critical thinking and a necessary degree of skepticism, yet their very existences, from Freud and Jung to Darwinism, validate the process behind them as crucial.  This, then, is my strength, in that I will always seek to at least investigate what may appear unrelated to the learning or subject at hand.

References

Davis, Judson. (2011). “Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash: A Transpersonal Synthesis of Depth Psychology, Tibetan Tantra, and the Sacred Mythic Imagery of East and West.” International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30 (1-2), 148-164.

Hoot, Robert E., & Friedman, Harris.  (2011). “Connectedness and Environmental Behavior: Sense of Interconnectedness and Pro-Environmental Behavior.”  International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30 (1-2), 89-100.

Kunisue, Yukari, & Schavrien, Judy. (2011). “Yamato Kotoba: The Language of the Flesh.” International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30 (1), 165-170.

Swan, James A.  (2010). “Transpersonal Psychology and the Ecological Conscience.” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 42 (1), 1-25.

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