1. The Question of this Book
What is education, and, what kind of education can we call “good”?
In this book, I would like to offer an “answer” to this question, which hopefully can be agreed upon as a wide and deep common understanding.
To some extent it has been common knowledge that we cannot find the definite answer to this question in the field of contemporary pedagogy. I assume that a number of people as well as scholars are now thinking that there is no absolute truth. I must say that this way of thinking is right.
However, on the other side of the coin, those who are involved in education in some form are always desperately confronted by this question. Many teachers have a strong sense of responsibility that how their educational practice right here and now would have a big influence on the children. For this reason, they want to reflect and judge whether their practice is really “good”.
Questing and elucidating the essence and the principle of the legitimacy of education has an extremely significant meaning not only for the teachers but also those who are involved in envisaging education such as educational administration.
(1) Pedagogy does not thoroughly answer this question
As we have seen above, the essence and legitimacy of education is the question which everyone who is involved in education needs to keep asking to some degree in order to practice and envisage education. However, as I am going to discuss deeper in the following chapters, contemporary pedagogy has not been inquiring about this question let alone answering it.
The reason for this is mainly because it is now apparent that there is no absolutely “good” or “right” education as previously mentioned.
Educational philosophers have been relativizing those aims and ideals of education that these are the dogmas or violence especially since the late 20th century. It has a great significance, of course, in terms of warning and criticizing the danger that some educational ideals could be absotutized. However, on the other hand, it threw pedagogy into a kind of nihilism where everything about educational discussions can be irresistibly relativized.
(2) Rethink from the First Step
As discussed above, however, the questions of “what is education in the first place?” and “what kind of education can we call good?” are the extremely important questions for everyone who is involved in and envisaging education. For this reason, we need to think about this question with some methodology and offer an “answer” in some form.
The purpose of this book is to elucidate and manifest this “answer”. This attempt might seem reckless from the viewpoint of the “common knowledge” of contemporary pedagogy, and would irresistibly take a lot of strong mistrusts and criticisms. However, I believe that I can elucidate the question and can clarify the logic of it which people can verify with each other.
Obviously, there is no absolutely “good” and “right” education as I have repeatedly discussed, but is it alright that pedagogists just keep insisting that there is no absolutely “good” and “right” education? Why isn’t it possible to put forth a way of thinking (principle) which can reach wide and deep common understanding?
I would like to write this book with these interests for those who want to rethink education from the first step, and would like the readers to critically examine it from the perspective of whether it can be both helpful as a guide of educational practice and fully persuasive as a scholarly theory.
The purpose of this book, which tries to review education fundamentally and put forth the principle of education in order to rebuild it, is a philosophical inquiry; but this book is not only for the professionals of pedagogy or philosophy, but also for, I repeat, those who want to deeply reconsider education from the first step. Thus I would like to develop an argument as direct as possible, yet in a manner in which the readers can fully verify the logic of the principle rather than getting into details about overly specialized discussions.
2. The Method
Let’s layout the scope of this book below.
How can we discuss education with one another without getting trapped in the danger of absolutizing some educational ideals or the nihilation of relativism? Moreover, how can we elucidate the essence and the principle of the “legitimacy” of education?
I would like to start the discussion by saying the following. The question of the former can be elucidated most fundamentally by phenomenology, which was created by the 20th century German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938); and the latter can be solved by the philosophy of Hegel, who had an extremely great influence on 19th century philosophy and is as a result called the consummator of modern philosophy.
Attempting to apply their philosophy into pedagogy might seem unusual since they were not philosophers who focused on education. In actuality, their philosophy is seldom referred in the realm of pedagogy except by some experts. However I would like to say that their philosophy, which evoked a serious thought to human beings and the society and how to think of them fundamentally, is extremely useful because the attempt of this book is to rethink education again and rebuild educational philosophy.
Needless to say, we cannot ignore a representative 20th century American philosopher John Dewey as a philosopher who thought about education deeply and widely. He certainly is qualified as the most important educational philosopher for his pioneering, fundamental, and broad-ranging educational philosophy. However, I have a conviction that although his thought is still full of the important insights for the educational practices, its real significance becomes much clearer if it is supported by Husserl’s and Hegel’s insights. I will discuss this in the following chapters.
There are, however, some difficulties to refer to the philosophy of Hegel and Husserl in our time, because they both have been seen as the representative philosophers of vicious truthism and metaphysics. Therefore, declaring that I apply their philosophy to the educational philosophy of mine in order to overcome the nihilism of relativism might possibly be criticized that it is just the reaction which tries to aim at absolutism.
However, it is an entire misunderstanding that Husserl’s philosophy is metaphysics which quests for the absolute truth, rather, in my understanding, his phenomenology alone could overcome the conflict between absolutism and relativism most fundamentally in contemporary philosophy, and although it is inevitable in a sense that Hegel’s philosophy should be criticized as absolutism because of the constraint of his age, the most important insight of his has been fairly overlooked because of these criticisms.