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Education as a Discipline: Just for Would-be Teacher?
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승인 2013.05.13  10:53:19
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Education as a Discipline: Just for Would-be Teachers?
 
By Seo Yong-seok, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Education
 
Before we take it as an academic discipline, education is primarily a practice which has its own history. Dating back to as far as the prehistoric times, educational practices did not necessarily take the form of schooling as we know it today. As we often see in television documentaries about primitive tribes, education was closely associated with the initiation ceremonies and family upbringing by which the young are inducted into personhood and the good life. Surely, as education came to involve more than learning practical skills and moral doctrines, a special place was required for teaching the letters and all branches of sophisticated knowledge, and thus schools were established. Around 18-19th centuries in the West when the modern nation states started to emerge, education and schooling became one of the great public and political concerns. National systems of popular education were introduced because education was considered the significant basis for national integration and prosperity. There was a great demand both for teachers and for professional teacher training through which qualified teachers could emerge. It was in this connection that education began to make appearance as a subject in the academic curriculum of universities.
     

 

"Our Educational Goals" in front of College of Humanities

 
 
As this brief sketch of the history of education shows, education as a modern academic discipline was geared towards the urgent need for teacher training. It was construed largely as a ‘practical’ discipline which would equip teachers and educational practitioners with some useful intellectual resources. Hence, they were introduced to a wide range of knowledge such as history of education, philosophy of education, psychology of education, and sociology of education, and later the list was extended to include curriculum study, educational administration, educational measurement and evaluation, educational technology, educational counseling, and so forth. This tradition continues and indeed remains so powerful that such studies on diverse aspects or issues of education are still central to current teacher training courses open for the College of Education students. Depicted this way, educational study is a comprehensive discipline offering would-be teachers all the intellectual paraphernalia for the practice in which they will engage later on.
And yet, I would say, educational study is certainly much more than this. As we might all agree, education is not just confined to schooling, nor is it that in which only some selected groups of people like professional teachers are entitled to be involved. Rather it is what every one of us knowingly or unknowingly engages in from birth to death. Indeed, before we are put into schools, we are already learners or teachers actively interacting with our environment and the people around us. And after we finish formal education, we cannot stay out of education. We continue to concern ourselves with education in the form of lifelong learning or parenting. Life as a whole is, before anything else, the stage in which we are educating ourselves.
Then, educational study should have the general relevance. For the practice that educational study is interested in and tries to shed light on is the elemental practice of human living from which none of us can extricate ourselves; all of us are educational practitioners. Approached this way, educational study is more concerned with some fundamental questions regarding human existence and human cultivation than mere tools or techniques for enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of formal instruction. To name a few: Is there anything called ‘human nature’?, What is education for?, If it is for the good life, then what do we mean by it?, How can we characterize the educated man?, What does it mean to learn and to teach?, What do we need to learn or to teach, and why?, What is the authentic teacher-pupil relationship? For sure, none of these questions are easy to answer, and yet while exerting yourself to respond to them in meaningful ways, you will most likely find yourself drawn to some deep dimensions of human life and human flourishing; addressing them puts you on the path to self-understanding. To pursue self-understanding in this sense to a certain degree, I believe, is an ontological duty for every human being unless they are a headstrong nihilist.
Educational study to be constructed along this line goes far beyond the modern formulation of the discipline. It is unquestionably inherent in the thoughts of the ancient Greek thinkers, Confucius, and many others. Or to put it rather provocatively, any serious philosophical and spiritual inquiry is the expression of educational concerns. The modern establishment of the discipline, however, does not completely break with this primordial mode of educational study. Indeed, known as the ‘father of scientific pedagogy’, Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), for example, incorporated and integrated paramount ethical and psychological reflections on education into his theory of education.
If we wish to stick to Aristotle's threefold division of the sciences, educational study would fit into the category of the practical sciences. And yet, the term ‘practice’ should now be carefully interpreted. Educational study is practical in that it does involve more than purely theoretical desires of explaining how things are. But, it is not practical in the narrow technical sense of the term. It is at times assumed that the central or, even, whole business of educational study lies in devising or prescribing effective learning strategies for achieving some given objectives. This, however, is a highly deplorable misrepresentation of the discipline.
Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) says that a university is a home of learning, a place where a tradition of learning is preserved and extended. And the characteristic gift of a university is an invitation to participate in the conversation of mankind. If this makes sense, it can be said that an invitation is already issued to each of you as you enter a university. With other academic disciplines, educational study is one of the voices comprising the conversation. At the same time, the voice educational study speaks stands out, I would like to say, in that it is directly concerned with the pursuit of self-understanding. How about coming to education classes to participate with us in the conversation?
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