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Education from a Dooyeweerdian Perspective

What is the purpose of education? To increase an organization's or nation's competitiveness? To enhance an individual's employability? To develop individual skills? To impart knowledge of various subjects? To create good citizens? To teach critical thinking? To inculcate values? (These were among many possible purposes were mentioned on a BBC Radio 4 Programme, The Moral Maze on 13 July 2002; not all of were agreed with!) [See Geoff Hall's response: self-knowledge.] Whom should be educated? Everyone? Those who can be? The elite? When should education take place - when young, or life-long? Where should education happen, in school, at home, in place of work?

A Dooyeweerdian view of education is likely to be based of three main parts of his thought: his aspects, his view of knowledge and thinking, and his view of humankind. In brief, since Dooyeweerd saw human beings as imaging God in loving responsibility, he would probably see the overall purpose of education being to lead us to better and wiser multi-aspectual functioning. This is based on the Shalom Hypothesis, that the best living, individually and socially, is when we function in line with the laws of every aspect. When we do so, the whole world benefits in both long and short term (e.g. sustainability). [See Geoff Hall's response.]

Knowledge, Skills, Values and Wisdom

The aim is good functioning in each aspect; this means a number of things:

What we call knowledge, in the context of education, is often that tied to theoretical knowledge and thus of the analytic aspect. Knowledge mediated via this aspect includes not only theories, but also classifications, methods, rules, etc. It also has strong lingual overtones, in that it is transmitted via symbolic means. Often via school lessons and university lectures, books, etc.

What we call skills is usually tied to the formative aspect. It is formative knowing, ability.

What we call values is often of the pistic aspect because it is concerned with what we are committed to as of ultimate or at least major importance. There is also a strong element of self-giving as opposed to self-centredness.

What we call wisdom, Dooyeweerd would see as the harmonizing of all aspects, especially the deliberate, reflective attempt to harmonize, but sometimes more like everyday knowing.

To Dooyeweerd, everyday knowing is multi-aspectual, in which we function in all aspects without being aware of them. That is, tacit knowing. To Dooyeweerd, this is not an inferior way of knowing, a reduced form of theoretical thought, but he restores dignity to it.

Education in Each Aspect

To Dooyeweerd, each aspect provides a distinct way of knowing. A full education therefore is to develop both skills, conceptual knowledge (theories, classifications, methods, rules, etc.), worldviews, values, etc. in each aspect. [See Geoff Hall's response that the original version was too oriented towards conceptual knowledge - which led to me amending it. See also his linking to aspects.]

Aspect What is learned Results, Benefits
Quantitative Being able to count, do arithmetic, and have a feel for quantity. Also theories, rules, classifications, methods etc. of arithmetic. Numeracy
Spatial Sense of place, direcion, shape, area, size, angle, spatial relationships, etc. Also conceptual knowledge thereof such as in geometry. Spatial ability
Kinematic Sense of movement and speed, etc. Theories etc. of movement. Feeling for movement
Physical Appreciation of weight, momentum, inertia, energy, force, materials, interaction, cause and effect, electricity, solutions, etc. Also theories, rules, etc. A good intuition for such things as heat flows and insulation, leverage, materials, electicity, etc. Also, development of muscles, balance, aim, etc.
Biotic Ecological sense, the conditions and processes of life, such as cleanliness, waste, food, etc. Also theories, rules, etc. Healthy living. Interest in and respect for living things. Being able to work with animals and plants. Agricultural or horticultural ability.
Sensitive Sensory ability, mental fitness, emotions, etc. Theories etc. relating to these. Emotionally mature, balanced individuals, with good sensory ability.
Analytical Ability to distinguish what's important, think clearly, logical flow. Clear thinkers.
Formative Ability to plan, achieve, create, shape; use of will. 'Capability'. Good planners, achievers; creative thinkers.
Lingual Ability to speak, write, communicate, express. Multi-linguality. Good communicators, who do not resort to deceit.
Social Ability to interact well socially, ability to hold appropriate positions in organizations, both low and high status. Social theory, knowledge of social rules and institutions. People who are socially aware and adept, who do not resort to bullying or baseless charm.
Economic Skilled, careful management of resources of all types, productivity in using resources, financial acumen, etc. Rules and theories of economics. Managers who are skilled and who respect all their resources. Also, for the individual: employability.
Aesthetic Keeping and generating harmony in life and social situations. Seeing and highlighting nuances; ability in music, poetry, art, etc. Ability to take leisure and have fun but not let it control one. Artistic ability in living, people who are fun to be with and who bring harmony.
Juridical Responsibility, citizenship. Ability to judge the essence of a situation and what is due to all therein. Knowledge of types of rights of others, legal codes, frameworks etc. Good citizens, who take responsibility well and who have due respect for all people, animals and other things.
Ethical Generosity, tendency to give of oneself, even to sacrifice for sake of others. Generous people who set the moral tone in the community.
Pistic Commitment, vision, loyalty, values, knowing one's place in the cosmos, religious faith and action; dignity. People of vision who are not arrogant, people of commitment who are not stubborn; people who are intimately linked with the Divine. Good role models.

Thus we see that the various views on the purpose of education find a place among the aspects - from education to enhance employability (economic aspect) to value systems (pistic aspect). In this way, a Dooyeweerdian approach is likely to be eclectic.

[See Geoff Hall's excellent and practical discussion of how to integrate variety of aspects in teaching and curriculum.]

Reason for Education

Dooyeweerd would hold that we are all made in the image of God, and hence worth educating, to develop that image to its full potential. A Dooyeweerdian view would hold that, by and large, everyone can develop in every aspect; there are no 'natural leaders' or 'natural slaves' as Aristotle would have it.

However, our life experiences might have left us with a certain profile of developments and distortions in each aspect. For example, some people can express themselves better than others, some can run faster than others, etc. Moreover, such things as attitudes can affect how well we actually learn: for example, bitterness, arrogance, etc. can stunt our learning (even if they might stimulate a one-sided excellence in certain things). But any of these handicaps can be lessened.

Where should education primarily take place? Western thinking tends to assume: at the school (or college or university), with some capability-based education being carried out at the workplace. What is learned at home is often seen as merely providing the basic skills of living that form a foundation upon which 'real' education can be carried out. But, seeing how a Dooyeweerdian approach would give value to every aspect, and seeing how most of these are not primarily mediated via theoretical or conceptual means such as schools and universities are geared to, it would take a different stance. Education should occur everywhere. Especially at home and in the local community. Yes, even the 'advanced' topics can be mediated via these. However, since conceptual content is very important to education, much of this is still best done via school.

Likewise, education would be seen as lifelong. But maybe the sequence in the aspects indicates something of what is more likely to be learned earlier in life and what, later. This links with the non-Western cultural idea that the elderly can have a particular role in society as those with wisdom.

Student-teacher relation

Do teachers have authority? Or should we treat education as a partnership between student and teacher? Dooyeweerd would affirm both if we look at the multi-aspectual process of educating and being educated. The social aspect tells us that authority and respect are real and important, but that so also is interaction and cooperation. The pistic aspect tells us that both student and teacher should be committed. The juridical aspect tells us that both student and teacher should give each other their due, not only as teacher and student but also as human beings. The aspect of self-giving tells us that neither student nor teacher should be self-seeking in their relationship. [See Geoff Hall's response.]

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This page is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Compiled by (c) 2013 Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Created: 13 July 2002. Last updated: 15 July 2002. 5 August 2002 added links to response from Geoff Hall, and some consequent rewording. 23 July 2013 .nav, .end, rid u-net.