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Principles of School Philosophy
Principles of American Education
by Eric Specht
The foundation of American education appears unchanged since the rise of the common school system during the colonial era. Nationally, laws persist that children attend school, the school systems remain similar across the country, and society continues to shape the education children receive as well as assist with the expenses. Although some educational grounds are unmoved, the succeeding layers in developing the United States educational systems change because different philosophical approaches of education occur when new concerns influence theoretical change. Three decades alone challenged the various beliefs that defaced and refaced the meaning and structure of American education.
Anna D. Watson began teaching merely with a high school diploma in 1922 at an old post office building. Aside from the only teacher, she was also the janitor, principal, counselor, nurse, and attained other responsibilities during her term due to a self-supporting system. Anna D. Watson was one of the scarce teachers from her era that introduced the first hot lunches, field trips, bake sales, and other traditional school practices that continue today. She also experienced the evolution of racial integration, transportation, World War II, and the accommodations of running water and plumbing in schools ("The Oral History... ", 2007). Due to Anna D. Watson’s experiences with dramatic western culture changes, she developed the philosophy of Progressivism by her retirement year in 1960. Progressivists believe that society is always changing due to innovations, so education should focus on preparing the learner to experience the world and meet life (Warde, 2005).
Anna D. Watson prevailed through many issues during her term as middle school principal. One of the primary concerns was coping with racial integration. Although Anna was the principal, she was under the authority of the superintendent not to register a child of color and as a result, contended with the parents and reporters. Another primary concern was the additional duties teachers performed before they were able to teach the children, such as gathering children from the buses because it consumes energy from teacher performance. However, Principal Anna D. Watson attempted to relieve the load by performing as many of the additional duties as she could ("The Oral History... ", 2007). I believe that if Anna D. Watson were viewing learners from the back of the classroom today, she would be enthusiastic to witness the implementation of technology and modern teaching principles because it supplies students with experiences to adapt to societal changes.
Vincent E. Reed career achievements went from teacher, counselor, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and then a superintendent whom retired from the United States school system in 1980. The easiest decision for Vincent E. Reed as high school principal was to develop friendly, fair, firm, and flexible relationships with the students while sustaining responsibility. Responsibility was Vincent E. Reed’s educational standpoint, as he did not relate to a certain philosophy of education. The responsibility was to prepare students to meet the challenges they are going to face in life with reading, writing, thinking, and reasoning talents. Furthermore, encourage students to develop the discipline that is required to be successful in life ("The Oral History... ", 2007). Vincent E. Reed educational perspective of responsibility appears to correspond with philosophy of Essentialism. Essentialists believe that teachers should emphasize realistic facts or the basic knowledge, skills, morals, discipline, hard work, and respect for authority as the student’s primary educational goals (Stallones, 2011). Essentialist and school official Vincent E. Reed view basic knowledge transmitted by the responsibility of officials as core standards for student preparation for life.
As a believer in responsibility or in relation to the educational philosophy of Essentialists, Vincent E. Reed tolerated responsibility issues during his terms. Racism was an issue at one school because out of one thousand and nine hundred students attending high school under his principalship, there were only forty students of color. Vincent E. Reed also dealt with students from a large number of socioeconomic positions. Moreover and perhaps more importantly during Vincent E. Reed’s term was the Vietnam War because it resulted in national turmoil as the nation’s people took sides to whether it was right or not for the United States to be involved in the war. Due to the primary issues forcing differences, it was difficult for Vincent E. Reed to assume responsibility to set standards, make sure students meet those standards, and make them cultivate the discipline that it is necessary to be successful in life ("The Oral History... ", 2007). I believe Vincent E. Reed’s perspective of today’s learners would leave him searching for a philosophy of education that reflects his responsibility viewpoint in correlation with today’s less authority manner but effective teaching strategies, such as a cognitivist/constructivist perspective.
The third principal to discuss is L. J. Bowman, his philosophy on education, and the issues during his term before he retired in the year of 2000. L. J. Bowman served three years as a teacher and then established a total of seventeen years of experience as an elementary principal in four different school districts ("The Oral History... ", 2007). I believe his philosophy corresponds with the cognitive/constructivist philosophy of education. Cognitivists/constructivists believe the learner constructs his or her own view of reality through the understandings of life experiences. However, some experiences provoke instability with reality and as a result; the learner attempts to restore balance. For that reason, the cognitivists/constructivists philosophy of education is for school officials to create the proper environment and mediate experiences that support student learning ("Theories of... ", 2011). The views of Elementary Principal L. J. Bowman appear parallel to cognitivism/constructivism as he attempted to facilitate a friendly and happy environment that delivered a positive and nurturing learning experience (2007).
L. J. Bowman educational ideals appear to resolve the primary issues during his elementary principalship. L. J. Bowman witnessed the swing of changes with United States education priorities, which went from open concept schools, continuous progress, to individualized programs for every student. As a result, there have been additional items included in the curriculum that demanded more time then there are hours in the school day. A new subject matter was integrating special education students along with regular education students in the classroom because students with special needs required additional services. A more important concern for L. J. Bowman was establishing a safe and secure environment for children and staff due to his experience in a school shooting. However, L. J. Bowman cognitivist/constructivist philosophy of education enabled him to construct a secure and safe environment as well as direct school faculty to foster student needs ("The Oral History... ", 2007). Today, I do not believe L. J. Bowman would negatively appraise learners or the school system because he appears receptive to other philosophies.
Test of Time
All three educators reveal how American education has endured the test of time. With each era, each educator undertook a process of integrating unfamiliar and dissimilar students. However, the process was different; it compelled Principal Anna D. Watson to endure racial integration, Principal Vincent E. Reed to support socioeconomic diversity, and Principal L. J. Bowman to adopt children with special needs into the classrooms. Another familiar concern shared by each principal was war. Anna D. Watson experienced national unity during WWII, but also experienced the disturbance it caused with student learning progressions. However, the Vietnam War during Vincent E. Reed’s term caused national chaos, which duty-bound him as principal to restore balance in the school and restore focus on education. L. J. Bowman struggled with ensuring the children, children parents, staff, and community that the school environment will be safe and secure from life threatening coercions. Principals Anna D. Watson, Vincent E. Reed, and L. J. Bowman embraced their philosophical approaches to resolve issues in an attempt to edify American education ("The Oral History... ", 2007).
However, resolving America’s educational concerns were different across the three decades of principalship, but similarly familiar. Anna D. Watson began her teaching career in a self-supporting system where she met with a superintendent two to three times a year. However, during her term the educational system began to gain support from the community and state and as a result, she was able to communicate concerns frequently with community members and with a small group of two or three teachers in a monthly principal meeting. The communication concern for Vincent E. Reed greatly distinguishes from Anna D. Watson because teachers, assistant principals, and counselors were available daily to discuss issues as well as scheduled meetings with superintendents. L. J. Bowman had a similar communication system with faculty as Vincent E. Reed, but L. J. Bowman socially engaged with elementary and secondary principals as well as superintendents on a weekly basis ("The Oral History... ", 2007).
Although the surface of American education appears to change over time, core-teaching practices appear to remain unchanged. The progressive movement from Principal Anna D. Watson’s era continues to play a vital role in education today as schools across the nation implement vocational programs into the curriculum to prepare students for life after school. I believe Vincent E. Reed and the essentialist views continue to be a dominant factor in schools because curriculum remains focused on teaching students basic knowledge and discipline. L. J. Bowman’s cognitivist/constructionist approach to facilitate environmental conditions and mediate student experiences are associated with today’s innovative teaching methods. I believe the education practices over time remain unchanged merely because all philosophical approaches to educate are ideal under certain conditions.
"The Oral History...". (2007, n/a n/a). Retrieved from University Libraries: http://www.library.unlv.edu/faculty/research/principalship/index.php.
"Theories of...". (2011, n/a n/a). Retrieved from Graduate Student Instructions: http://gsi.berkeley.edu/teachingguide/theories/cognitive.html.
Stallones, J. (2011). Philosopht of Education. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education Inc.
Warde, W. F. (2005, n/a n/a). John Dewey’s Theories of Education. Retrieved from International Socialist Review: http://www.marxists.org/archive/novack/works/1960/x03.htm.