Humanism vs. competency: Traditional and contemporary models of education

Zovko, Marie-Élise (2017) Humanism vs. competency: Traditional and contemporary models of education. In: Educational Philosophy and Theory. Taylor & Francis, Routledge, London, UK, pp. 1-11.

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The roots of Western philosophy lie with the Greeks. Nevertheless, education and philosophy come to be in response to a universal human need – and the ideals toward which they aim are universal. The task of philosophy is inseparably bound to the task of education. In an ideal sense, the aim of education: cultivation of our physical, emotional and intellectual powers, transmission of skills for the production of things useful and pleasing, cultural norms and heritage is to cultivate the excellence proper to our humanity. The Greek concept of paideia expresses the sum of these elements and the complex whole of their interrelationships. In Classical Greece, paideia included child-rearing in its physical, moral and intellectual aspects, as well as ‘higher’ education, including formation in good taste, manners and rhetoric, in practical and theoretical pursuits, as well as in morality and culture. Closely related to the concept of paideia is the German concept of Bildung, which incorporates elements from the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition, along with their Platonist counterparts. The term Bildung is more comprehensive and more complex than the English term "education", referring both to the process by which the human individual is formed and to the "outcome" of that formation. Knowledge alone does not produce Bildung, although the transfer and internalisation of information comprises the most substantial part of education today.The meaning of Bildung was gradually transformed as the concept of humanity changed, from Renaissance ideals of individuality and humanism to Enlightenment ideas of the practical, moral and social education of the free and rational individual, and Idealist and Romantic ideals of harmonization of mind and heart, nature and subject, and eventually to modern ideals of secular and civic formation. Contemporary educational systems, with their professed ideals of self-directed and life-long learning, acquisition of “competencies” and promotion of skills for realization of competitive, knowledge- based economies, are centred around a vague and mostly unquestioned idea of humanity, even where promotion of human rights, religious tolerance, cultural diversity, or more diffuse concepts like ‘quality of life’ and ‘social cohesion’ are concerned. The question of what constitutes our humanity, what aims are meaningful or important for us as human beings, remains unexplored. The conflict among the natural motivating forces of human behaviour, the utilitarian goals of education, and the values on which modern democracies are based often remains unadressed. For the purpose of functionalization of individual for economic competitiveness concepts concepts like solidarity, autonomy, learning, decision, consensus, and even Bildung are coopted, but their meaning remains unreflected. A crucial role once belonging to the competence and responsibility of the humanities, formation of judgment, is frequently neglected by contemporary models of education. Formation of judgment, in particular the capacity to act as an independent, non-partisan, unaligned, critical and evaluative instance for evaluation of the legitimacy of authority, and of the prudence and timeliness of policy decisions, cannot be achieved by accumulation of factual information alone. Sound judgment requires contextualization, familiarization with historical circumstances, interpretation of facts, exercise in application of rules and principles to particular cases and situations, definition and justification of the rules and principles of judgment, and the ability to predict and understand the broader consequences of human decisions and actions. Training in these competencies belongs to realm of the humanities. Over-emphasis of quantifiably measurable competencies and marketability of skills, moreover, derails central aspects of formation like imagination, aesthetic and artistic ability, metaphorical, symbolic and analogical thinking, – capacities indispensable for the development of innovativeness and creativity, whether for the sake of utilitarian goals or forsatisfaction of higher aims of the human spirit. To draw attention to these important lacks in contemporary educational trends and suggest alternative approaches were among the main purposes of the The International Symposium ‘Bildung and paideia. Philosophical models of Education", which took place in Hvar, Croatia, from October 12th to October 17th, 2013. The collection of papers in this volume are the product of the ongoing discussion which emerged from the Symposium.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Depositing User: Maja Šoštarić
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2018 13:46
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2021 11:30

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