Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 3/Experts Take Sides

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by Ryan Collins


Education as we know it today has not always been that way. As with almost everything in today's society it is ever changing and updating itself. Different methods have been used to help improve the way education is looked at by professionals in the field of education. Education is a very important part of the up bringing of people as a whole. Without an education it is hard, for some, to be successful. Wikipedia describes The History of Education as "the history of teaching and of learning, and the history of what might be described as the curricula: what it is that is taught or learned."

Learning Targets

The reader will be able to describe the different interpretations of the history of education. The student will also be able to identify the similarities and differences between the classroom of today and the classroom of the past.

The Differences

As the world evolves and changes so does the way that education is looked at. There are several things that haven't changed much and things that have significantly changed. For instance, every day a different philosophy or teaching practice is applied in a classroom. This is one of the most diverse parts about teaching because it is ever changing. Over the years as the country has matured so has the way education is looked at. Why is the history of education important to study? Edward J. Power's article Persistent Myths in the History of Education says that the reason to study it is "that the history of education will sharpen students' professional study with precisely the same objective as, say, techniques of teaching or classroom management"(Powers, pg.142). Basically what Powers is saying that learning about the past is just as important, if not more important, than just learning about the hands on aspect of the profession. It is a big argument among professionals in the departments of education whether or not it is important to teach the history of education. Powers also said "In recent years the history of education has been treated as educational philosophy's untitled and undistinguished cousin." (Powers, pg. 142)


The teaching styles of today are very similar to those of fifty years ago. Even though they are similar they have several differences. Whether it be from the size of the classes or the way that people with special needs are taught. For instance, there was a point in time when everyone that was attending school was taught in one big room at the same time no matter the age. Today that method more than likely would not work because the subject matter in today's society is so different. The first graders wouldn't understand the concepts discussed in the high school math class. While on the other hand the high school students would become bored with the subject matter of the first grade class. The evolution of the history of education has drastically improved the way that school is thought about by professionals.

Charles Webster says in his article "Changing Perspectives in the History of Education" that the main reason for the study of the history of education is "to familiarize intending teachers with notable steps in the development of the modern system of public education" (Webster). What Webster is saying that it is important because with out the steps that were taken in the education field in the past we would not be at the level of education offered in today's society. It is similar to if Henry Ford had not figured out a better way to mass produce cars, how far would the auto industry have progressed today?

The Encyclopædia Britannica describes the history of education as "tracing the evolution of the formal teaching of knowledge and skills, from prehistoric and ancient times to the present, and considering the various philosophies that have inspired the resulting systems" (Britannica). What they are saying here is that education has been evolving everyday since prehistoric times. It is also saying that many different philosophies have led to the education curriculum being the way it is today.


Why are there so many different interpretations of these four words....."the history of education"? Why are their so many ways to say basically the same thing? This is because every one in the teaching profession has their own opinion on what the important aspects are included in "the history of education". If you compare the three authors philosophies above, you will be able to identify their different interpretations. They are all correct in their own way, depending on how you look at them. Edward Powers said that the way education in the past was looked at, helps people studying to become teachers today with ideas on how their predecessors did things. The second example is also saying that what was done in the past will help benefit the present and future and finally, it is agreed upon that the many different philosophies have helped bring the present day education system to the high level that it is today.


In conclusion the way that teaching has evolved over the years will greatly benefit the present and future teachers of the world. As we continue to study the present "history of education" we will continue to improve our educational methods and practices in an effort to refine the educational system that we pass on to our children and grandchildren. Dr. Carl Sagan once said "You have to know the past to understand the present." That is exactly what the History of Education is all about.

Test Your Knowledge

1. If Johnny is in a classroom full of thirty people ranging from age six to age eighteen, what time period would he have been in school?

  A. The modern classroom
  B. The colonial classroom
  C. The classroom of the future
  D. A home school classroom

2. According to Charles Webster why is it important to study the history of education

  A.  To familiarize teachers with the developments in the past that refined the teaching methods of today.
  B.  To ensure that teachers don't make the same mistakes they made in the past.
  C.  It's not important, because teaching methods of today are so different.
  D.  Because those that don't study the past are doomed to repeat it.

3. What did Edward Powers identify as the most important factor in studying the history of education?

  A. That it doesn't have a large impact on today's education.
  B. That today's methods of education are far superior to the past.
  C. That it helps people studying to become teachers today with ideas on how their predecessors did things.
  D. That there were too many philosophies to compare the effects on teaching today.

4. What are the reasons that it's important to continue studying the current "history of education?"

  A. The further in the past we look, the less important it becomes.
  B. To ensure that we provide future generations with the best educational system we can.
  C. It's not important because the methods of teaching have evolved so quickly.
  D. There are too many philosophies to identify the really important ones.

References , June 6, 2009 , June 6, 2009

Elliott, B. J. (1977). Researching The History of Education. Research Intelligence. 3, 16-19.

Webster, Charles (1976). Changing Perspectives in the History of Education. Oxford Review of Education. 2, 201-213.

Power, Edward J. (1962). Persistent Myths in the History of Education. History of Education Quarterly. 2, 140-151.


1. B
2. A
3. C
4. B
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