EDU 6120: Module 4

“Search for Meaning” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module 4

“European Educational Ideas” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

“Historical Perspectives: Education in the Old World (Part 2)”

The readings and lecture for this week focused on European influences on American education via the four great movements known as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Romantic Movement. I found it very interesting to review this information, through the filter of my years of teaching– versus from my perspective prior to any experience in the classroom. The meaning behind the philosophical approaches takes on a new light as I consider today’s school setting.

The Renaissance beginning in about the 13th century in Italy, followed the time of the Middle Ages and was characterized by an increased focus on classical literature, language, art and science. One of the side effects of the Renaissance involved a renewal of Aristotle’s philosophy of regarding learning through reason and observation. Prior to this time, all learning was thought to be derived from the church.

With the Reformation, which began with Martin Luther publishing his criticism of the corruption in the Roman Church by way of his publication known as the Ninety-five Theses, emphasis on the “individual” took precedence. One of specific outcomes, particularly in England, was the creation of opportunities for the common person to learn to read. Access to reading instruction became available to girls as well as boys with the intent of allowing all–to personally read the scriptures.

The rise of science and the idea of natural law became paramount during Europe’s period of Enlightenment. Ellis notes, “…with the Enlightenment comes the rise of Rationalism, and the search for rational explanations of the world and a new found sense of realism…”

In my work as a special education teacher, each student’s Individual Education Plan, clearly has the child at the center—surrounded by a team. Perhaps this is a derivative of one of the effects on education of the Romantic Movement–that of “the American progressive movement and the child-centered movement”? As I consider the European ideas of “tracking”—vocational, middle and upper—with regard to a student’s course of study—I wonder why there is a current focus to push every student to become “college ready”?

Education today seems to be focused on individual achievement—not only with regard to meeting graduation requirements in terms of credits, but also “meeting standards” in reading, writing and math. Along with diplomas, students who reach these marks are also issued a “Certificate of Academic Achievement” or if modifications are made—a “Certificate of Individual Achievement”.

My question is, however, even though we focus on the academics and see reflections of so many significant European philosophies in our schools today –what aspects of education have been “lost in the translation” over the years? Today, for example, where do we see spiritual learning—in the public school system? Can we effectively teach the “whole” child without addressing this key element?

Ellis, A.K. (2007). European Educational Ideas: The Beginnings of the Modern Era.

Historical Perspectives: Education in the Old World (Part 2)


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