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Philosophy of Education

Integral Philosophy of Education: A New "Paideia"

Agustin Basave
Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Mexico

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ABSTRACT: Education, an action, is a process, a development of the imperfect human being intentionally directed at achieving the ideal of human plenitude in the best possible manner. This is a description of the educational process based on the human being who travels toward plenitude, a point of arrival; the human being who achieves his or her own perfection in the best possible manner; and a method: intentional guidance towards plenitude in the harmonious formation of humanity. It is not enough to say what education is or what it is like. It is necessary to clarify what education is for. The harmonious development of essential, integral and vocational abilities makes the student more perfect and causes his or her cosmic and social circumstance to be more perfect. In this integral philosophy of education, I offer a new "Paideia." It is necessary to seek the student's point of balance between the sciences of empirical verification and humanistic duties. Otherwise, we will march toward the disintegration of the human being, to the anti-knowledge of a very powerful technocracy. Integral personal and community education is education which promotes the person in a changing society susceptible to progress. That student perfectibility which is anxious to satisfy demands can only be fulfilled with love. The contemporary world has not rehearsed on a large scale an education for love. If we do not found education on love, the world will not be inhabited by humans.

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Education is not just an idea, it is a fact. We start with the fact: there are educational centers, teachers, learners, seminars on educational sciences and magazines on pedagogy. But education in action, is the process of developing an imperfect human being intentionally directed towards reaching the ideal of human plenitude in the best possible manner: a human being is directed towards plenitude, a point of arrival, and he reaches his own perfection in the most plausible manner. It is a method: intentionally guiding a human being towards the plenitude of the harmonious formation of man. Personalized education does not exclude that which is essential—common and equal—in all human beings; instead, it invigorates and justifies the individual himself or his individual personality. Body and soul are susceptible to acquiring perfection and beauty, as Plato wished. This perfection assumes there is a natural, progressive and systematic development of all of man's superior abilities. Education is about preparing us for an integral life and for that which comes after our worldly existence. For that reason, the organization of habits capable of adapting individuals to their physical and social environment are so important. It would, however, be an error to limit us, as pragmatists do, to the organization of habits and the adaptation of individuals to their circumstances. The formation of men: as multi-dimensional and harmonious human beings and not just as specialists is fundamental. In this sense, education is the intentional perfection of uniquely human powers through systematic activities exercised by teachers with learners.

The individual who receives education is an imperfect person capable of perfection. A person becomes educated because he is able to be educated; because his ability to acquire education is an ontic and moral demand. It is an ontic demand—or from the person's being-- because in the deepest part of human beings there is an "impulse" towards noble development which vigorously and dynamically carries one upward. By developing the human being through knowledge, actions, deeds, and worthiness, we reach or we may reach a superior level of self-consciousness and a consciousness of the universe. We can take better advantage of things surrounding us and we can have better coexistence with persons. All education assumes that this ontic impulse exists --which is proven by the instinctive levels of a child who carries out actions which are necessary for subsistence and for perfecting the human being.

Moral demands occur within the framework of standards, be they interior commands which cannot be silenced, or demands which appear to transcend ourselves. Although man is not just a project, the project of his being thrusts him forward towards permanent self-development with new and never ceasing action. An ordinary project should certainly not be accepted, thus we feel we have a duty to become an ideal project. Each man, in his spiritual life, searches and finds, conserves and increases the nucleus of his being—the beginning of form and development--which Aristotle called "entelequia". Every being attempts to formally attain self-accomplishment. He cannot become what he should be without considering this "unique or set form developed by living", as Goethe stated. There is a spiral process of improving oneself which leads to self-development. Although one may undergo many self-transformations, one always returns to the beginning of his personal sameness. I can change circumstances and situations, I can undertake new spiritual adventures and new experiences, but I will always return to the nucleus of my unexchangeable vocation. This includes aptitudes, inclinations, talent, disposition and constitutive limitations. One usually travels a long path through life to find one's self, which seemed so near. Internal voices and experience and treatment in the world tell us what we should do at every juncture. Human existence has a missive, missionary character from the moment we are brought into that existence by the loving will of a fundamental and basic Being. The ability to be educated comes from a pre-conscious impulse. We move according to the conscious moral mandate that compares what we are with what we should be. From ontic and moral demands of the ability to be educated emerges the right for each person to receive an education, to develop himself according to his ideal program. The right to educate himself to become a whole being. A right which must be respected and assumed by all others and by the State. The order of Natural Law is superior to the will of individuals and to the State itself. A human being's right to education is ultimately founded on the supreme will which creates and maintains universal order. It is not important that some men sometimes attempt to destroy this moral balance. The affirmation of rights by all of the countries in the World and the Declaration of the United Nations concerning human rights, upon following Natural Rights or Supra-Legal Rights, ultimately take into consideration the right to an education, although this is not specifically mentioned.

The principle of integral cultural liberty concerns the right of access by all people to proven truth. People also have the right to learn and teach and this is limited only by requiring that pacific public order and fundamental morals be maintained. It is clear that liberty should coexist with reason. In order for this not to degenerate into libertinism or arbitrariness, it is necessary to respect the legitimate individual liberty of others. Educational monopoly is against democratic pluralism because it does not recognize the dignity of the human being when it is against his full action, his culture and intelligence. To impose a certain educational system, without taking into account the diversity in the aspirations of students and teachers, is to go against the nucleus of human beings in their intellectual and cultural aspects. One manner or style of teaching, of orientation, or of programs when imposed "a fortiori" is typical of a dictatorship. In order to counter a monolithical system of education there is pluralism in methods and programs. Only pluralism respects the fundamental right of the person to reach the truth by himself. The second paragraph of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man proclaimed by the UN should be recalled: "The object of education is that of fully developing human personality and strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental liberties".

It is not sufficient to state what education is or how it should be. It is necessary to clarify what education is for. There are two possibilities: The first is that educational goals are based on the concept of human nature (classical humanistic ideas) and the second is that the principal goal of education is to help the individual optimally develop his abilities through experience and by experience (pragmatic idea). In the latter case, universal values and objectives cannot exist, only empirical development of the student counts. However, an education without an axiological goal has no purpose. The goal of the process of educational is not in and of itself. Society cannot be made an absolute as a standard of moral education because this would cause human beings to be without value. If nothing is greater than society—God and human beings—What freedom is left to the person that does not belong to society or to the director—the State—of the social orchestra which is dictatorial and without appeal? Education without a goal is not education. Human education must have essential personalization which is gradually perfected as its goal.

To educate is to personalize; and to personalize is to honor the individual and social nature of human beings. One must keep the integral structure of concrete man in mind as well as his specific manner of achieving plenitude. Therefore, I postulate vocational education before professional education. We are not only dealing with integral structures which by nature correspond to human beings, but to the particular vocational structure of each person being educated. In man we find multiple dimensions: the bio-psychic dimension, the sensitive dimension, the technical dimension, the aesthetic dimension, the cosmic dimension, the social dimension, the historical dimension, and the transcendental dimension. This latter dimension, the most important one, is open to other spiritual realities and to the supreme reality: God. The essential faculties of the student—intelligence, will, love, transcendency—spring from the essence of the person. The harmonious development of essential, integral and vocational faculties make the student and his cosmic and social circumstance more perfect. Humanistic education deals with man as man and, for that reason, he needs an essential, integral and vocational education.

From one's inner self emerges the tendency to love in the measure that self-consciousness, self-decision and self-command have been achieved. Before the dignity of our fellow man exists generous surrender which is not egotisic, and which does not require any imagination, only the fulfillment of being oneself. Because God is love and man was created in His image, man is also love. Even though this love is at times cloudy, diminished, sometimes poorly achieved, man always uses love, if he truly knows how to be human. We must wake up the student's heart and correctly orient him so that he may grow in the flame of living love, which will make him shine with the most pristine patience, with the dignity of other persons and with his own dignity. The habit of love carries us to an absolute which is "beyond" ourselves. This absolute, before which we feel total dependency, is not imposed from outside. This is the acting and loving presence of the Lord found in our being and who has created us freely from love. Before that personal God, before that You in whom the I finds safety and the ultimate plenitude of being, we find that we are placed in life, with a personal mission, by the love of a Loving God. We will never totally understand ourselves without the habit of love. Truly dignified education will never exist without the loving habit which moves us to cultivate the meaning of God and the meaning of our fellow man. It is fine for us to acquire the ability to find a place in the reality of circumstances in which we live, with many, varied habits. It is enough to point out the principal ones: A) promotion and care of life; B) control and proper use of senses; C) transformation and use of the material world by technology; D) proper placing of incarnate people in society; E) an understanding and appreciation of beauty; F) orientation and control of emotions; G) proper placement of cosmic reality in which we must live. This is not an encyclopedic definition which gives the student with a great quantity of unrelated data. True education searches for harmonious, architectural, organic synthesis. We do not only seek the universality in our knowledge, but we also—and perhaps more greatly—seek the universality in the cultivation of man's abilities. The difference between an imperfect person and another less imperfect or more perfect person is found the process of education as interpersonal development. If habits were to be directed towards good, I cannot conceive of education which is not moral—growth of virtue—which would end in an education for love. Without love there is no interior growth, no progressive perfection of power, no firm orientation towards an end, no reciprocal donation of pacific and friendly socio-synthesis. Education itself is an occupation of love which orders man to reach the greatest possible perfection: love of charity. It is not enough to state that the goal of man cannot be anything else than the simultaneous possession of all that he feels is convenient (subjective goal). It is necessary, through time, to search for good with infinite and perfect love which can only be God, the ultimate and natural goal of man (objective goal). Therefore, the ultimate, natural goal of education can be no other than supreme love because only through this can man reach the full perfection which education seeks for the student. The inescapable difference is original liberty, self-consciousness of that which is temporary. Liberty is exercised over this original liberty which contains options chosen by each person which engraves, marks, and distinguishes us, sculpting our character, an "ethos", a moral configuration. The teacher educes the perfect forms in the student. He helps him develop his potential in order to reach plenitude. In this sense, the teacher efficiently promotes education which dominates other liberties and subordinates him. The art of teaching—"didactiké"—as ancient cultures called it—is a generic mode, a set of standards which allows one to reach exact and full personalization. As a consequence, didactics can never be absolute. The action of educating is above an anomalous growth of means and didactic instruments. The formation of men in flesh and blood cannot be substituted by idolatry of methods. Instruction and education must be differentiated in order to unite them. Instruction serves education but education does not serve instruction. The teacher demands because he possesses authority ("auctoristas"), which causes natural observance and respect. We have to help our students so they may acquire sufficient understanding of their relationship to the kingdom of nature, to the kingdom of man and to the kingdom of God. We must not underestimate the intellectual formation or the richness and profoundness of knowledge, but we must give priority to the formation of will and of the heart in order to build a strong character and noble personality. Our best reward, as educators, will be the effort—not always crowned with success—of transferring firm and constant resolve to receive and forge values in our students. There is no social task which is more noble nor of a more elevated purpose.

Before peoples who greatly restricted education to only members of the highest classes: Priests, Mandarins, nobles; the Greek "PAIDEIA" forged a new style in molding man's spirit and community. The "PAIDEIA" attempted to be an "integral and conscious formation of man due to the reciprocal influence of individuals and the community". But dignity, the ultimate goal of the person, never stopped subordinating the perfect polis which set the standard in education and ethics. Certain conflicts always existed as Werner Jaeger warns, "between the spirit of the state and the "ethos" of man which houses his soul in a perfect state as he struggles to live according to it" (Werner Jaeger "Paideia—The Ideals of the Greek Culture", Volume II, page 446, Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, Buenos Aires 1948). Plato gave rewards to representatives of different types of souls and of different forms of life and he proclaimed a just man as the only truly happy one. Glaucon asks if justice itself, independent of its social recognition, could make man happy (Plato; Republic, 488 B B SS). The proper response to Glaucon's question would require a proper concept of the human person and of his transcendental dimension which will only be provided by a Christian culture. For that reason we offer, in our integral philosophy of education, a new "PAIDEIA".

Integral education cannot ignore national tradition and historical situations. When Socrates formulated the imperative for Eutidemo of "Gnoti se auton" ("know thyself"), he not only referred to individual knowledge, but to all situations and circumstances, the tradition of one's country and one's structural vocation. Knowing oneself is a radical opening to one's fellow man. When I know myself, I find myself in you, and in the infinite you I find God.

The teaching vocation implies that the teacher abandon himself to the ministry of educating. It is a total vocation which deals with the soul of the student. All true teachers feel "called" to educe in students exemplary models of all men.

When there are no humanities taught along with useful sciences, a comfortable life can be achieved but it will cause the destruction of man. There will be material abundance in markets and in cities, but there will be an interior poverty. It is necessary to search for the point of balance in students between sciences of empirical verification and humanistic duties. If this is not done, we will march towards the disintegration of human beings before unwise and very powerful technology.

An integral personal and community education is an education which promotes the person in a changing society which is susceptible to progress. It is not mere formal self-realization, the discovery of one's own vocation, finding an incorruptible model which has been conferred us. True education selectively and directly transmits cultural wealth. It wakes up the spirit of the student, forms good habits and causes the interiorization of science, culture and, more importantly, wisdom. It uses the pedagogy of the encounter of the teacher and student in a pneumatological space. It uses the pedagogical "eros" for integral formation. An uneducated man cannot become educated without an educational process which uses his educational abilities. This cannot be done without pedagogical institutions—family, school, church, state—to aid human nature to adapt himself to the process, nuturing ideal, sensitive signals for the interpretation and assimilation of knowledge, organizing the student's intellectual habits and morals. A complicated educational process is of no good if it does not reach the goal of education: the perfection of free men which cannot happen without possession of an ultimate goal, of a saciating good. If this is so, we must believe that education should teach us how to be in love and what we should fall in love with. Great historical achievements have been the work of great lovers. Saints, heroes, philosophers, men of science and artists have been those who have made great milestones in history.

We need to state what the meaning of technology is, who and how many must possess material goods. This cannot be dictated by technology. The science of education (andragogy), the art of teaching (didactics), the final, supreme and rigorous examination of the principles and postulates of pedagogy (philosophy of education) have their hierarchical place within the educational structure and process. Moral personality is always valid in education. However, we cannot ignore that spiritual interiors direct things and circumstances. In summary, our incarnate spirit does not acquire its proper sense if it is not within a more just society.

That perfectibility which exists in all students and which is anxious to satisfy demands can only be truly reached through love. We are not talking about utopias. The contemporary world has not tried, on a large scale, to educate for love. If we do not begin to educate for love, the world will not be inhabitable by man. We must search for more wise men and fewer scholars. Let us attempt to lift a small child from his unhappiness and frustration, he is an admirable being who lives and dies among asphalt and smoke, always tormented by the clock, bothered by diseases which civilization produces, saturated with problems, always searching for, but generally frustrated before finding love.

Love is a living affection which is benevolent and which professes itself to God and to human beings. We are able to conquer adversity and death with love. Speaking in an Augustinian manner, we can say that man is love. All impulses, all passion, all senses have their roots in love's strength; even understanding a goal (value) which provokes desire in us (love to know about something). Our destiny is illuminated by love.

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