Philosophy of Education

phil-of-ed-titleThis fifteen-part video course covers philosophical issues that bear directly upon education. Professor Hicks discuss the philosophers — Plato, Locke, Kant, Dewey, and others — who have influenced education greatly, and he compares systems of educational philosophy and their implications for education in practice. This course presupposes no formal knowledge of philosophy or education.

Jump to Part 1: Introduction to the Course. Part 2: Metaphysics. Part 3: Epistemology. Part 4: Human Nature. Part 5: Ethics. Part 6: Transition. Part 7: Idealism. Part 8: Realism. Part 9: Pragmatism. Part 10: Behaviorism. Part 11: Existentialism. Part 12: Objectivism. Part 13: Marxism. Part 14: Postmodernism. Part 15: Conclusion. Appendix.

“Philosophy” of “Education”
What education is
Some philosophical questions about education
What philosophy is
The relevance of philosophy to education
Motivation for the course
[View all of Part 1 at YouTube.]

Introducing metaphysics: our hybrid civilization
Two philosophical stories:

     The Big Bang story
     The Creation story
     Comparing the two stories

The argument from design
The argument from evil
Metaphysics and method
[View all of Part 2 at YouTube.]

Introduction: What epistemology is
Reason — a developmental story:

     The Semmelweis case
     The “Juliet is the sun” metaphor
     Education’s epistemological mission
     Asch’s conformity experiments
     Milgram’s obedience experiments
     Two more virtues: independence and courage
     The value of reason

From reason to faith:

     Phase One: Copernicus, Bruno, and Galileo
     Phase Two: the rise of natural theology
     Phase Three: “I found it necessary to deny reason … ”


     Kierkegaard, Luther, and Tertullian
     The story of Abraham
     Kierkegaard’s lesson: Abraham as model of faith

Educational implications:

     Choose your hero — Semmelweis or Abraham?

[Further Readings: Semmelweis and Childbed Fever. Galileo Galilei. Quotations on Faith.]
[View all of Part 3 at YouTube.]

Five issues in human nature
The physical and the psychological

     Dualism of mind and body
     Reductive materialism
     Mottos and graphics
     Reasons for and against dualism

Implications for education

     The “problem child”
     Physical education?
     Cognition: theory and/or practice?
     Sex education?

[View all of Part 4 at YouTube.]

Six questions in ethics

     Preamble: What is the meaning of life?
     Nature or Supernature [Where?]
     Reason or Non-reason (faith, tradition, feeling) [How?]
     Universal or Relative [When?]
     Teleology or Deontology [Why?]
     Egoism or Altruism [Who?]
     Values and virtues: health, wealth, pleasure, friendship … [What?]

Our hybrid civilization

     Two ethical traditions: Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christianity
     Declaration of Independence and a priest’s vows


     What is the meaning of life?
     Egoism: end in oneself, self-responsibility, investment, achievement
     Egoism’s educational mission

The Myth of Gyges

     Predation’s solution: power, aggression, win/lose
     Altruism’s solution: selflessness, sacrifice, lose/win service to others

The Three Options chart

     Role models
     Cases: money, sports, sex

[View all of Part 5 at YouTube.]

From issues to “isms”

     Philosophy “horizontally”: metaphysics, epistemology, human nature, ethics
     Philosophy “vertically”: integrating positions into systems
     Placing our seven “isms"
     Why those seven: influence on contemporary education and philosophical diversity

Six primary educational values

     Knowledge, Method, Skills, Individuality, Socialization, Morality
     Implications: hiring teachers, curriculum, assessment
     Quotations on the six educational values

[View all of Part 6 at YouTube.]

Idealist philosophy
Plato on education

     The Allegory of the Cave

Immanuel Kant on education

     Obedience, imposed discipline, disobedience, punishment

Idealist education
[View all of Part 7 at YouTube.]
[Further Readings: Plato and Immanuel Kant.]

Contrasting Realist to Idealist philosophy
John Locke on education
Realist curriculum

     3 R’s, foundational knowledge and methods
     Example: Science, math, and technology
     Example: Physical education
     Example: Art

Theory and practice integrated

     Example: Younger kids and baseball math
     Example: Middle-school kids and bike-jumping
     Example: High school kids, auto mechanics and theater

Tracking issues
Character, discipline, and liberty
[View all of Part 8 at YouTube.]
[Further Readings: Aristotle and John Locke.]

Pragmatic philosophy

     Evolution, skepticism, and democracy

John Dewey on education
Pragmatic education

     Groups and socialization
     Teacher as facilitator
     Historical “truth”

[View all of Part 9 at YouTube.]
[Further Reading: John Dewey.]

Behaviorist philosophy

     Psychology and the progression of the sciences
     20th century psychology: Freud, Behaviorism, Cognitivism
     Two preconditions for a science of psychology
     On scientific observation
     On correlating cause and effect: The "standard model" in psychology
     The problem with the standard model
     The behaviorist solution
     Black box methodology
     The assumption of environmental determinism

Behaviorist education, with quotations from John Watson and B. F. Skinner

     Behaviorism as a how of education, not a what
     2 x 2 chart of techniques
     Applying what we’ve learned from psychology
     Overcoming the resistance to conditioning:
     Resistance 1: Behaviorism sounds so authoritarian
     Resistance 2: Behaviorism makes teachers too accountable

[View all of Part 10 at YouTube.]
[Further Reading: B. F. Skinner.]

Existentialist philosophy

     God is dead
     Albert Camus and “The Myth of Sisyphus”
     Jean-Paul Sartre and “Existence precedes essence”
     Religion and science as dehumanizing
     Authentic humanism

Existentialism’s educational implications

     General themes: choice, commitment, responsibility
     Contra the good-news-sunny-skies approach to life

[View all of Part 11 at YouTube.]
[Further Reading: Jean-Paul Sartre. Albert Camus.]


     Rand's entrepreneurial philosophy

Value philosophy — Romanticism, Liberalism, Egoism:

     The Romantic sense of life
     Liberal politics
     Rational self-interest

Metaphysics and Epistemology:

     "Primacy of Existence"
     Consciousness as Relational 
     Cognitive tabula rasa
     Francis Bacon's “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed”

Human nature:

     Mind/body integration, volition, reason and emotion, tabula rasa morally

Ethics and social philosophy:

     Individualism: self-responsible living and the virtues
     Egoism versus the false alternative of altruism or predation 
     Optimism: philosophy and history

Ayn Rand on education:

     The purpose of education
     Howard Roark’s expulsion as example
     Critique of mainstream education
     Rand on Montessori

Montessori education:

     Montessori practices and principles
     The compatibility of Objectivist philosophy and Montessori education

[View all of Part 12 at YouTube.]
[Further reading: Ayn Rand (“The Comprachicos” and selected quotations). Maria Montessori (The Montessori Method and selected quotations).]

Marxist philosophy

     The science in “scientific socialism”: 
     Environmental determinism
     Economic forces as fundamental
     Philosophy, art, politics, and religion as superstructure
     Religion as an example
     The socialism in “scientific socialism”: 
     Necessary economic developmental stages
     Capitalism’s dynamic: “The rich get richer ...”
     Revolution, not evolution
     Religion as the opium of the masses
     The role of teachers in developing revolutionaries

Marxist education

     Marxist teachers in a capitalist system
     Education during the dictatorship of the proletariat
     Education under socialism

[View all of Part 13 at YouTube.]
[Further Reading: Karl Marx.]

Postmodern philosophy

     What modernism is
     The Enlightenment vision
     Post-modernism’s themes
     Quotations from Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida
     Problems from Marxism
     Pomo: skeptical relativistic rhetoric against modern society

Henry Giroux on education
Postmodern education

     Teacher training

[View all of Part 14 at YouTube.]
[Further Reading: Henry Giroux. Chart: Defining Modernism and Postmodernism. A 56-page transcript of the video lecture.]

The Importance of the Philosophy of Education

     What is the value of Philosophy of Education?
     Personal growth
     One's professional mission as a teacher
     Understanding the contemporary school system
     Progress and reform
     Our students

[View all of Part 15 at YouTube.]

Course flyer and table of contents for the lecture series.
Supplemental readings booklet: Philosophy of Education [pdf].
These video-lectures can also be viewed via playlists at CEE’s channel at YouTube or at the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship’s site.
The lectures were recorded during the 2009-2010 academic year.

A complete listing of my education-related posts.

[Keywords: 7 philosophies of education, 8 philosophies of education, Philosophy of Education courses, Philosophy of Education lectures.]

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19 thoughts on “Philosophy of Education

  • October 20, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Thank you for a cogent and accessible course in philosophy of education.

    In the past 45 years or so, I have read brief passages of various philosophers, heard bits an pieces of their ideas, and generally avoided any deep, formal, and systematic exploration because I believed philosophy to be too complex and a lot of work. Essentially what I had was a hodge podge of confusing thoughts. In your first few lectures, suddenly everything fell into place and was made clear! I feel awakened and enlightened to something I’ve struggled with for those many years.

    I’ve completed the video series and have been reading through the text (updated version) and also a few other similar texts. Your course has inspired me. I find the work fascinating and compelling. Now if I can only find something similar regarding philosophy of medicine.

    I teach adults in a vocational setting. My background was not in teaching nor philosophy. This course has helped me in ways I wasn’t aware of at the start.

    Thanks again.

  • October 21, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Wonderful feedback, Ed. I appreciate it very much. Best, Stephen

  • November 30, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    I’m a Tanzanian.Thank you very much for these video lectures.In fact,I enjoy watching the videos.May the Lord continue to bless you.

  • December 2, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Thank you for the feedback, Kulwa.
    I appreciate it.

  • June 27, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Dear Prof. Hicks,

    Thank you so much for your comprehensive course and for sharing your knowledge with us online. I recently started a Master degree in Education but have a Bachelor from a completely different field. Your course is really helping me to ‘construct’ my learning. After feeling a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the degree – with the help of your course – the basics are now starting to come together to form a big and truly fascinating picture. Thanks so much!


  • June 27, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Glad to know it’s useful to you, Elisabeth. Thanks!

  • February 22, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    I really learn from you Dr. Hicks. I want to share this to my class will you allow me?
    Thank you in advance.

  • February 22, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    I really learn from you Dr. Hicks. I want to share this to my class will you allow me?
    Thank you in advance.

  • February 23, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Please feel welcome to, Dr. Barquilla. Thank you for asking.

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