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Stewart’s Pragmatism Free Essay Example

It is necessary to analyze Stewart’s pragmatism in relation to learning. It seems reasonable to compare this approach with Durkheim’s conception of education. These two systems propose two very different solutions concerning the learning process, the roles of a student and a teacher, the questions of how the education system should look like, how teaching should be designed, etc. Pragmatists suggest that the goals are usually determined by individuals and cannot be determined by any structure or organization. Arthur Stewart provided a pragmatist definition of learning as something that may result from the disruption of and challenge to our habits (unconsidered beliefs).

According to pragmatists, the goal of education is to teach people to feel comfortable in their daily environment to a degree when people are living their life. This type of learning environment is not considered as a preparation for life but life itself. Pragmatists believe that teachers should know the subject well, generate interest, and motivate students accordingly. All learning goals should originate from existing conditions, have a long-term perspective, and be tentative.

It is recognized that main educational goals should be based upon the intrinsic activities and needs of a specific individual. One should be able to transform all learning goals into a method of cooperation with students during the learning process. Pragmatists believe that some kind of learning environment is necessary for organizing students’ capacities. Otherwise, students may be intellectually confused by the requirements for adaptation of external sources. However, there is another approach. Durkheim’s conception of education refers to the process of imposing social facts on the individual, which may become habits if transferred successfully. Central to Durkheim’s teaching on educational practice and theory was the subject of morality, which he explained in a comparatively broad sense in order to analyze the rules of various kinds. He used his method of structural analysis for showing that moral and educational principles and practices are socially determined.

Any type of ethical behavior may share a general characteristic: it is behavior that conforms to pre-existing methods. According to Durkheim, both individual self-interest and the sum of individual self-interests may only be immoral. It may be characterized as the egoistic individualism that is typical for modern capitalist society. It is very different from “moral individualism”, which requires an additional feature in modern society that may be called “autonomy”. It seems that it is not enough to behave morally out of deep respect for and commitment to a group or authority; ethical actions should be rational, i.e. based on perfect awareness of the essence of social conduct (Thomson, 2002).

It seems reasonable to criticize Durkheim’s views for additional stress on education’s purpose of serving to reproduce members of society. It may represent a conservative vision on stability and a view of education as a tool of social changes.

According to pragmatists, educators have to be on their guard against goals that are universally recognized as ultimate and general. It may be stressed that for the majority of pragmatists, the main goal of education is providing the general conditions that make development inevitable. Pragmatists consider that the whole organism may be presented as the combination of the biological, psychological, and social characteristics. Thus, the pragmatists consider a student as a complex organism permanently interacting with the social environment (Bansal, Maheshvari, & Agarwal, n.d.).

Durkheim was extremely cautious about the necessity for introducing radical social changes through the learning process alone. Education may serve for reproducing society rather than changing it. However, Durkheim’s perspective may be criticized as he did not recognize that a number of ideologies, as presented by education and moral practices and doctrines, could be influenced and constantly work in favor of the aims of specific classes against other members of society. According to pragmatists, a teacher may be characterized as a member of the learning community who helps to guide and arrange students’ experience. He is also closely involved in the process of education. They are in favor of ideas of laissez-faire and freedom (Bansal, Maheshvari, & Agarwal, n.d.). It seems correct that knowledge should be organized and closely related to actual students’ experience. Every teacher should be responsible for communication with the students and assist them in the process of developing their personal projects. He may advise and direct their activities and projects that come from the existing needs of the students. Students and teachers usually view the subject matter from different perspectives. For the teacher, it is an organized system of knowledge which may be presented as a progression from the simple forms to the more complex ones. However, for the student it is not typically the case. They see only those parts of the general system that at a given moment are important to them at a given moment. According to pragmatists, subject matter and its typical arrangement may be presented as a wasteful and arbitrary system which all students have been forced to obey. They reject this kind of system in order to put additional emphasis on the subject matter and the needs and problems of a given student.

Durkheim suggested that growth in consumption and wealth may lead to growing acceptance of aristocratic lifestyles. It may influence the existing middle class and generate modification in educational ideas (Thomson, 2002).

The issues around which education is organized should be the real issues of the students. They should not be mixed with questions from abstract books. The most important aspect is helping learners to develop their intelligence and use the scientific method in the process of analyzing different problems that are significant for a given student (Bansal, Maheshvari, & Agarwal, n.d.).

One may believed that history should be eliminated from the curriculum of the pragmatists, as it is considered to be past and irrelevant for the student. It seems incorrect as history may be used as a collection of facts of different aspects of social reality. History may be very useful for education purposes as well.

It seems that the key area of learning for pragmatists is the questions of daily life. However, there are also a number of other (more abstract) areas that should be analyzed. For pragmatists, truth is considered as being permanently tested and changed rather than as a universal system of knowledge. At the same time, it does not seem to be correct as there are different general laws that are valid for different cultures and peoples.

Pragmatists remind teachers to individualize their programs in order to meet the needs of a given student. It is important to respect old traditions and introduce new ideas.

It seems that Stewart’s pragmatism is a more relevant concept in comparison with Durkheim’s views. It is generally recognized that students are influenced by society. However, the educational system should be oriented towards an individual’s needs and requirements. Durkheim’s position may be useful for sociologists and other people who are interested in social sciences. Stewart’s pragmatist views may be applied more broadly to a large variety of subjects and learning situations. It should be stressed that the concepts of society and individual are not the opposite ones. Both of them are important for correct understanding of complex social processes.

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