Educating for good judgment


What should be the primary aims of education? How might these aims be realized? These are foundational questions which Plato raised long ago in his Republic. The first of these questions is a normative, and profoundly philosophical, one which provides guidance to the whole endeavor of education. The second of these questions is a pedagogical one which informs educators as to how their work can be best conducted. In this work I endeavor to answer these interlocking educational questions. I follow most closely in the footsteps of John Dewey. I believe that Dewey had it right when, decades ago, he argued that education ought to be concerned with the cultivation of good judgment. But here a difficulty arises. For "good judgment" is a complex philosophical concept which spills over into considerations of thinking, knowing, deciding, and acting. Despite the efforts of philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant, and Dewey, there is a lack of agreement about the precise meaning of good judgment. Before moving into matters of education, then, I first endeavor to vanquish this lack of conceptual clarity. What is good judgment? What are its elements? Can it, for that matter, even be cultivated? Having gotten clear on what good judgment is, I turn to matters of education. First, I argue that a vital task of education is the cultivation of good judgment. I then turn to the practical matter of how one might go about cultivating good judgment. The community of inquiry approach employed by The Philosophy for Children Program, I contend, is an effective pedagogical means through which to cultivate good judgment



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