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Guide Education Policy: Philosophical Critique (Journal of Philosophy of Education)

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The task of getting balance in the core culture of such a disparate society is a difficult assignment for its people Venter et al, in press. According to Mkabela and Luthuli the building of a unified South African society will require the recognition of diversity in the country in its education system. An ideal type of education places emphasis on unity in diversity.

In the African culture the concept of 'ubuntu' plays a major role. It emphasises the humanity of a person and is seen as the most important quality of a person. It has to do with Teachers should be educated to nuture humanness among the youth.

1. Fundamental Contributions to Education

Teachers and learners should realise that we have our humanness in common, despite differences. South Africa's first democratic election took place in April Part of the preamble to the Constitution which was amended in October sounds as follow:. We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. An overview of the prominent policy documents released since the establishment of the new political dispensation in South Africa, displays a marked change in attitude and spirit in favour of democratic principles and human rights at all levels and areas of governmental concern Venter et al, in press.

In a formal sense the Constitution obliges education authorities to ensure that democratic structures, education models and curricula are put in place. In a more informal sense it has to be ensured that democratic values and tolerance are cultivated in schools and that a change in attitudes is brought about Venter et al, in press. The increased awareness of human dignity and diverse perceptions in a multicultural South African society form part of the change in the moral perceptions of many South Africans.

There is an awareness that individuals and their personal contexts and values are important and these values should be accommodated in a more humane South Africa Venter et al, in press. To function in a democratic system, cultural differences and value plurality need to be acknowledged, but somehow, South Africans now also need to recognise similarities. Because of its variety of cultural groups, adequate cultural interaction becomes very important. Young [] cited in McLaren, ; Venter et al, in press affirms the necessity to assert the positivity of group difference by inter alia claiming that formerly oppressed groups have distinct cultures, experiences, and perspectives on social life with humanly positive meaning.

The emphasis on humanness and that which would promote humanity is, thus, very important. It lies, instead, in the intercultural acceptance of risks, unexpected detours, and complexities of relation between break and closure". This attitude of unity in diversity is also echoed by Bhiku Parekh see Aronowitz and Giroux, who gives the following description of multiculturalism:. At the same time it meant creating a public space in which these communities are able to interact, enrich the existing culture and create a consensual culture in which they recognize reflections of their own identity".

Burbules is of the contention that difference theory should be committed to "promote the agenda of solidarity and self-respect within diverse groups, freed to define the meaning and significance of their own identities". Communication, however, is important for identifying grounds of common interest and understanding, because contexts of radical or incommensurable difference are rare.

In South Africa relationships between people from different cultures are torn between on the one hand the tendency to embrace otherness and difference and on the other hand there is the fear of otherness. Bishop Tutu [] cited in Segal, articulated the fear of otherness as follows:. In a time of transition such as ours, people are insecure and uncertain because well-known landmarks have shifted or are shifting, and they look for security in sameness and homogeneity. They are scared of difference which heightens their anxiety, and so we see an aversion to diversity, be it of opinion or ethnicity or whatever.

If people could learn to listen and talk to each other with the humanness of the other in mind, the possibility exist to transcend the barriers of race, gender, class and religion. Educating humanity and education for humanity in a diverse society should start at school level, but before that could happen teachers need to be educated to assist the children in their classrooms to explore humanity and their own humanness.


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People should learn to listen to each others' stories, even if they differ in background and belief. Education should assist the individual to live life to its fullest within a heterogeneous society. Education should have as its concern that which is perennially distinctive of the human condition. Human values, rather than particular cultural values are important. It is, however, not a denial of social or cultural values or a negation of particularity, for human values are captured and expressed in human particularity Higgs, It is an attempt to enable individuals to understand themselves in relation to other persons and to understand what it is to live a human life Taylor, Giroux contends that it is "crucial for educators to develop a unity-in-difference position in which new forms of democratic representation, participation, and citizenship provide a forum for creating unity without denying the particular, the multiple, and the specific".

Educators need a "definition of multiculturalism that offers schools the possibility to become places where students and teachers can become border crossers engaged in critical and ethical reflection about what it means to bring a wider variety of cultures in dialogue with each other Giroux suggests that students should be provided with theoretical models that would support interests such as "human understanding, contextual inquiry, aesthetic literacy, and social reconstructionism". These models could be drawn from fields such as "hermeneutics, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, semiotics, and neo-Marxism".


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  • A climate for dialogue and critique, as well as heuristic devices based on different languages and different modes of rationality should be provided. According to Mkabela and Luthuli a "course to prepare teachers to deal with diversity should be included in the teacher education curriculum.

    Philosophy of education

    South Africa needs to restructure teacher education programmes if teachers are to be trained and equipped with the necessary skills, attitudes and behaviour that will allow learners to be comfortable to learn in a culturally diverse classroom Teacher education programmes should encourage all teachers to adopt a pluralistic approach". A pluralistic, problem centred approach to teacher education and training could be helpful to educate students to respect humanity and diversity.

    By critically studying different metatheories, as well as several education theories, and by being exposed to divergent ways of thinking in Philosophy of Education, student teachers might be better prepared to accommodate children from different cultures and backgrounds in their own classrooms. In this respect, metatheories and education theories should always find application in the various practical teaching situations. Whilst being exposed to the wealth of insight to be gained from exposure to more than one perspective, people also learn the need to respect the unique contribution of each perspective and to be on the lookout for possible points of convergence.

    Higgs argues that a pluralistic approach in their studies will involve philosophers of education in the task of:. After being exposed to different metatheories and education theories, student teachers should learn how to apply these theories in the practical classroom situation by using the problem centred approach. Knowledge, thus, becomes context bound again. Shapiro ; Venter et al, in press affirms that the young should be educated for a socially just, socially responsible, democratic, and compassionate community, but at the same time education should not turn into a monolithic, moral straitjacket where educational concerns are narrowly defined.

    Editorial Details

    The struggle for a more humane society may mean different objectives in different contexts - in one place it may be literacy; elsewhere it may mean the possibility of jobs; or in some other place political participation and empowerment. People should be enabled to accommodate the cultural diversity of their own society, before being exposed to cultures in the global community.

    In a world where borders are becoming more and more diffuse, South Africans will have to work hard on accepting each other in order to enter into the global world Venter et al, in press. Education is one way of humans to define their humanity, to practice humanity, to maintain humanity and to change humanity. Education is a way to connect oneself to the past and to project into the future Boyd, Philosophy of Education might be one vehicle to use towards this purpose.

    Richard Smith (ed.), Education Policy: Philosophical Critique - PhilPapers

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    Thinking Critically

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