Appropriate AssignmentsI just got done responding to a high school student who was apparently assigned to state and discuss her philosophy of education.  This struck me as a ridiculous assignment...

Appropriate Assignments

I just got done responding to a high school student who was apparently assigned to state and discuss her philosophy of education.  This struck me as a ridiculous assignment for a high schooler.  Am I being hypercritical of the teacher? This is the kind of question that is routinely asked in teacher education programs both undergraduate and graduate, and only after the student has been exposed to some philosophies of education that he or she could discuss intelligently, for example, in a social foundations kind of course. I did the best I could for the student, without criticizing the teacher,but it seems to me to be an unreasonable inquiry for high school.

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's not stupid if the student IS taking an education course.  We offer such a course at the school where I teach in conjunction with the Future Educators Association and the local university Department of Education.  The class is designed for those students who think being a teacher is really what they want to do with their lives.  In addition to bookwork (studying theories, philosophies, etc), participation in our own FEA club, and obervations at our school, the students are able to shadow teachers of their choice and work twice weekly out in area schools to explore the possibilities of teaching on preschool, elementary, middle, and high school levels.

If the student who came to you is also considering becoming a teacher, I don't find this assignment ludicrous, outrageous, or inappropriate.  I'm surprised that you would.  What bores some of us "stupid" enthralls the rest...perhaps that the difference in being a good teacher who "does", a great teacher who "shows", and a Master Teacher who "inspires".

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that this is a valid discussion topic for ANY student with sufficient sophistication to understand the education system in the United States, beginning with 4th graders. However, it would take a talented, experienced teacher to elicit discussion that truly explored this idea and permitted students to be honest about what they think about schooling without descending into name-calling and insults about specific instructors.

So many children begin to become bored by what passes for education, and it happens by late elementary schools. By the time a student reaches high school, s/he generally has a strong opinion of what education is versus what it should be. I think this would make a great opening question for a Socratic seminar. Administrators who "get it" make a practice of holding informal discussions about this particular concept with students as well as teachers.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There was no student who came to me. If a student came to me, I would be able to ascertain more about the student and the assignment, and, of course, to "inspire" the student.  This was just a question posted on enotes. If the student is in such a program, I would agree that the assignment is appropriate. I believe I did indicate that those who are in teacher education programs should be expected to be able to respond to such an inquiry.  However, I do maintain that this is a completely inappopriate assignment otherwise. 

I must also say that the level of discourse in this forum is generally not accusatory, and I would hope this level could be maintained.

pippin1313 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beyond unreasonable I would say. I got bored stupid with it and I was an interested party. Seems to me that a lot of teachers these days don't seem overly interested in making education interesting for kids.

However maybe the teacher was teaching a social studies type course that looked at what things have shaped western society? I am clutching at straws though.

Setting an assignment that asks you to discuss your philosphy of education is asking for trouble as would be easy to criticise who was in front of you. And that is the danger of setting work that a student can't discuss intelligently through absolutely no fault of their own.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree in that the question posted to the student might not be unreasonable, after all.

If the student had already been exposed to the topic, the student of course would know what they are talking about.

If the student hasn't, the teacher might have wanted to pre-assess the level of readiness in the group in order to determine what and how to teach philosophy of education. 

The important part is that the student knows this ahead of time, and that there is a reason for this question that will benefit the student in the future.

marilynn07 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a valid question in social studies or U.S. history which has the "great experiment" of free public education for all citizens. Students in these courses may not fully appreciate what it means to have a free public education because it is "required". Writing an essay detailing one's own philosophy of education and what it may mean for the future of society is a good "thinking" assignment for a history or social studies class.

It is certainly a requirement in my college level Arts and Sciences of Teaching class.

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is possible that the student was exaggerating the assignment. To play devil's advocate, maybe the teacher was trying to figure out how students want to be treated and taught. Maybe the teacher titled the lesson "Educational Philosophy" and then simply asked the students to write a paper about what works best for them. That seems like something reasonable. I can't believe that a teacher would actually have a student research Dewey and such. It's probably a lot more innocent.

alohaspirit eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I actually do not think its a unreasonable type of question for a highschooler. I think as a young adult you should have a philosophy of education, it gives them ownership of their own education.  Teenagers do reflect on how their are taught, and understand what works and what does not work, and I think in this new age of education we need to listen more to our students and understand their point of view.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Based on #10 I do agree with your thinking, but I think it is a question of how such ideas are expressed and shared - phrases such as "philosophy of education" are rather heavy and cumbersome, and not really in the curriculum for high school students. There are opportunities to discuss the ideas you outline but not in such a didactic way.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's interesting that I never thought about what a target this teacher would make as a topic for a disengaged student.  What else could this student really discuss, except the education she is receiving right now?

I appreciate your validation of my thoughts.  I thought maybe I was just tired and cranky! 


epollock | Student

In our rhetoric class, there are 5 or 6 essays on education that our 11th grade students find enjoyable to read and discuss.  So, I feel that it is appropriate for high school students, especially in an AP English Lang class where students have to be able to rhetorically analyze argument.