Friday, June 12, 2015

"When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become." - Louis Pasteur

In posting this quote, I wanted to know if Louis Pasteur was religious. The answer appears to be: sort-of. Catholic by birth, spiritual by temperament, believing in an ordered universe, but dedicated to the ability to think freely. In the language of our day we might say, spiritual but not religious.

I am interested in whether our belief in the value and potential of a child depends on a religious or spiritual viewpoint. To believe in the innate value and potential of a child is a hard conclusion to reach with science alone (unless one argues that evolution favored this as a social belief, and then we're negating it as a independent belief, which makes this whole post moot).

In the late 1800s the incredible advances of scientific study inevitably turned to our own human situation, especially that of our cognition, and we see ascent of psychology. Psychology arguably starts to replace much of what was previously discussed in philosophy.

As a part of that transition, I think we have struggled with the particular gulf that psychology and the scientific study of the brain has created in our view of children. The behaviorist view of all actions being the result of stimulus and response leads us away from a less-scientific belief in the inherent worth and potential of children. And while a lot of our actions in the education world reflect a behaviorist view (structured, top-down, behavior-focused, with an acceptance of bell-curved intelligence), I think the ideas that drive the passion of most educators are actually more in the "believing" realm.

Am I seeing this dilemma accurately?

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