chapter  5
28 Pages

The fragmentation of education

The philosophy of critical realism raises fundamental questions about truth and truthful living, about our knowledge relationships with the ultimate order-ofthings and the implications of these for the task of living the good life. In doing so, it questions the empiricist tendency to reduce knowledge of reality to the identification of recurrent patterns of interaction between observable objects, the idealist tendency to reify values to the status of abstract ideas dislocated from real-world environments, and the pragmatic tendency to shrink the good life to that which meets the parochially perceived needs and aspirations of particular individuals and groups. This dislocation of fact from value forces human beings to muddle through by making the best use of the resources available to them, whether these take the form of objective facts, subjective values, a pragmatically driven volition to maximise happiness, or some combination of the three. This fact-value divide recurs in the theological realm. Religious worldviews and their secular counterparts, insofar as they take the hermeneutical circle seriously and seek to relate the parts of reality to the whole, strive to pursue truth and truthful living sub specie aeternitatis in relation to the ultimate order-of-things. In affirming the possibility and importance of such striving, critical realism questions the empiricist tendency to bracket-out questions of Transcendence, the idealistic tendency to generate abstract accounts of Transcendence dislocated from everyday life, and the pragmatic tendency to consign the striving for truthful living in harmony with the ultimate order-of-things to the level of an optional extra, open to those whose personal inclinations happen to draw them in that particular direction. This same pattern emerges in the field of education. The present chapter will tell a story of the disintegration and fragmentation of the realistic and holistic assumptions underlying ancient and medieval paideia under the auspices of the Enlightenment, and of the resulting tendency to order education on the basis of epistemic assumptions rather than ontological commitments in a manner that effectively undermined the essential unity of the twin tasks of pursuing knowledge and overseeing personal and social enrichment. The following chapter will seek to show how critical realism opens up the possibility of recovering an approach to education in which the pursuit of truth and the cultivation of truthful living sub specie aeternitatis are bound together in an indivisible whole.