Historical Perspective

I also learned that ethnocentric educators for dominated cultures argue that children should learn to break the grip of this white Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition by learning to see the world from their own cultural perspective. In the United States, Afrocentric, Native American-centered, Mexican American-centered and Puerto Rican-centered education would maintain, and in some cases restore, cultural traditions and teach from the cultural perspective of these traditions. Rather than white Anglo-Saxon Protestant traditions providing the means for ending cultural domination, ethnocentric perspectives, it is argued, will end this domination.

In contrast, multicultural educators for social empowerment want to teach cultural tolerance and different cultural perspectives, but they want all students united around concerns about social justice. Social empowerment will be achieved, it is argued, through the teaching of a critical pedagogy that will free the consciousness of all people from domination. These differing arguments regarding the nature of cultural differences, cultural domination and multicultural education have a direct impact on curriculum and methods of instruction.

Obviously, a curriculum emphasizing core values will be quite different from a curriculum stressing ethnocentric perspectives of dominated groups. And, of course, the methodology of critical pedagogy is quite different from that of teaching cultural literacy. The early writings on human behavior such as those of Aristotle’s teachings are deemed as one of the cornerstones of the social sciences, including philosophy, political science and ethics. Many of Aristotle’s ideas are outmoded today. But far more important than any of his individual theories is the rational approach underlying his work.

Implicit in Aristotle’s writings is the attitude that every aspect of human life and society may be an appropriate object of thought and analysis. The notion that the universe is not controlled by blind chance, by magic or by the capricious whims of capricious deities, but that its behavior is subject to rational laws; the belief that it is worthwhile for human beings to conduct a systematic inquiry into every aspect of the natural world, and the conviction that we should utilize both empirical observations and logical reasoning in forming our conclusions.

This set of attitudes is contrary to traditionalism, superstition and mysticism-and has profoundly influenced Western civilization. Similar to my set of beliefs is Aristotle’s thoughts on logic. The definitions that he proposed and the categories that he established have provided the basis for later thought in many different fields. It is his thoughts on common sense that is so akin to what I also hold true. Courage, moderate living and other good virtues provide people with a sense of order and purpose.

Science and philosophy belong to the genre of means or instruments. Philosophers bring forth their own ideas of truth, human nature, God and society (O’Keefe 2005). Meanwhile, the more modern idea such as the humanistic philosophy of human behavior is the idea of studying the whole person or student. It looks at a child’s behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the child doing the behaving. Humanistic psychologists believe that an individual’s behavior is connected to his inner feelings and self-image (Edwords, 1989).

The humanistic approach also believes that individuals are internally directed and motivated to fulfill their human potential. The humanistic educational philosophy believes that people should be able to choose what they want to learn. It is believed that people will be motivated to learn a subject if it is something they need and want to know. The perspective of this philosophy is to foster people’s desire to learn and teach them how to learn.

Applying this in a learning set-up, the humanistic teacher is opposed to objective tests because they test a student’s ability to memorize and does not provide sufficient educational feedback. Grading encourages students to work for a grade and not personal satisfaction. The most important lesson a teacher can teach a child is the importance of learning, the enjoyment of learning and how to learn. A person’s job is to make a person want to learn. In the context of education, self-evaluation and self-satisfaction should weigh above grades.

Grades should be a measure more for the teacher, not the student. The humanistic philosophy can be effectively applied to literacy mainly with its ideas of choice and desire. Students will be more inclined to write to their best ability and read at a high level if they are the ones choosing the topic to write on or the book to be read. Humanism parallels with my strongest conviction of what a teacher should do. In summary, this is what I believe are the basic principles of the humanistic approach from the students’ standpoint.

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