Philosophy of Education

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PHIL 2220
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course will provide students with an opportunity to consider a variety of educational issues from a philosophical perspective. The course will explore general questions such as: What is the ultimate goal of education? How is education different from social indoctrination? Should education aim at making good citizens? What should be taught and what is the most effective way to teach it? What are the roles of reason and autonomy in learning? Should education limit itself to imparting literacy, numeracy, and various kinds of skill and information, or should teachers also strive to influence the character and values of their students? In addition to these, various specific topics of current interest in the philosophy of education may be explored, such as: academic freedom; access to education; educational testing and measurement; fairness in education; academic standards; the ethics of special education; religious education; propaganda in education; sex education; education and career training.
Course Content

The course content may be structured in one of two ways, although these approaches need not be mutually exclusive, but could be combined in various proportions:


  1. A survey of some of the major historical figures and movements in the philosophy of education such as:
    • Selections from Plato's Meno, Protagoras and Republic; from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and Politics; from Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education; from Rousseau's Emile; from Kant's Thoughts on Education; from Dewey's Democracy and Education; from Whitehead's The Aims of Education; from Russell's On Education; from Maritain's Education at the Crossroads; and from Hook's Education for Modern Man;


  2. An exploration of some of the central and controversial topics of interest in the philosophy of education such as:
    • Should education involve socialization, or should it focus solely upon intellectual development? Should there be one standardized curriculum for all students, or should curricula be tailored to the differing abilities of individuals? Should education emphasize acquired objective behavioural skills, or should it emphasize subjective discovery and creativity? Should education teach value-free and objective facts and information, or should education include the advocation of specific moral and educational values? Should education adopt a posture of tolerance towards multi-culturalism and ethical pluralism, or should education critique religious and ideological beliefs and values? Should education teach socially and culturally accepted beliefs and norms, or should education emphasize autonomous reasoning and freedom of opinion? Should education be oriented towards meeting the economic goals of society through applied skills and career training, or should education emphasize liberal arts and notions of self-development and self-realization? Should education provide equality of opportunity, or should education be class structured through privatization and tuition? Should teachers be held to public standards of accountability based upon student performance, or should professional educators determine the adequacy of academic standards and outcomes?
Methods Of Instruction

A combination of lecture and seminar. Some classes may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material. Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.


Any combination of the following totalling 100%:



Essays  20% - 80%
Tests  20% - 50%
Instructor's general evaluation
(participation, improvements,
quizzes, short assignments, etc.)      
 10% - 20%
Learning Outcomes

The general objectives of the course are:


  1. To introduce students to some of the central concepts in the philosophy of education, such as training, socialization, indoctrination, facts and values, and fostering autonomy;
  2. To promote a greater awareness of the numerous philosophical and controversial aspects of educational theory and practice;
  3. To develop a capacity for philosophical analysis and critical reflection in the context of understanding the foundations of education, its main purpose and its essential components.

Specific learning outcomes: by the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the several different senses of education, including education as experience, education as upbringing, education as character building, education as intellectual development, education as personal discovery, education as institutional achievement, education as social praxis;
  2. Explain and analyse competing theories of education, especially education as an instrument for the achievement of societal ends; education as an intrinsic good; education as harmonization with community values; and education as the development and empowering of individual autonomy;
  3. Distinguish between the theoretical aspects of education and the practice of teaching, as well as demonstrate an ability to provide resolutions for specific problems that arise in the practice of teaching, such as promoting curiosity, fostering self-discipline, and distinguishing learned behaviour from subjective insight;
  4. Develop an ability to employ aspects of philosophical analysis and reasoning, as well as critical thinking skills, in the context of writing about the philosophy of education;
  5. Recognize and explain some of the basic philosophical concepts which underlie any analysis of education, including concepts such as knowledge, learning, rationality, emotions, experience, personhood, objectivity, morality, autonomy, society, value and transformation.
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students


Sample texts (one or more of the following):


Barrow, Robin and Ronald Woods. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. (NY: Routledge, 2006).

Cahn, Steven. The Philosophical Foundations of Education. (NY: Harper and Row, 1970).

Carr, Wilfred. For Education: Towards Critical Educational Inquiry. (Buckingham: Open University Press,                1995).

De Nicolas, Antonio. Habits of the Mind: an Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. (NY: Paragon, 1989)

Gray, J. Glenn. The Promise of Wisdom: an Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. (NY: Harper and Row,       1968).

Gutek, Gerald. Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education: Selected Readings (NJ: Prentice Hall,          2005).

Hare, William and John Portelli. Philosophy of Education: Introductory Readings (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises,       1996).

Kane, Jeffrey. Education, Information, and Transformation: Essays on Learning and Thinking. (NJ: Merrill,               1999).

Kohli, Wendy. Critical Conversations in Philosophy of Education. (NY: Routledge, 1995).

Noddings, Nel. Philosophy of Education. (Boulder: West view Press, 2007).

O'Connor, D.J.  An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. (London: Routledge, 1994).

Ozmon, Howard and Samuel Craver. Philosophical Foundations of Education. (NJ: Merrill, 2007).

Peters, R.S. The Philosophy of Education. (London: Oxford University, 1973).

Portelli, John and Sharon Bailin. Reason and Values: New Essays in Philosophy of Education. (Calgary: Detselig      Enterprises, 1993).

Pratte, Richard. Philosophy of Education: Two Traditions. (Springfield: C.C. Thomas, 1992).

Winch, Christopher. Education, Autonomy and Critical Thinking. (NY: Routledge, 2006).



No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PHIL 2220
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PHIL 1XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PHIL 1XXX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU EDUC 230 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU EDUC 2XXX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU EDUC 2309 (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) No credit
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO PHIL 2nd (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PHIL 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC HUMN 2XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PHIL 362 (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PHIL 2XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU PHIL 2nd (3)

Course Offerings

Fall 2022

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New Westminster - North Bldg.
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