General or Specialised Education? Or Maybe Both…
Two trends in thinking: a theoretical and a practical one, so evident in differences between Platonic and Aristotelian thinking, have forever remained in human culture and in education, which is a tool for preservation and transmission of culture. Their significance was evaluated differently in the past. There were times, for instance during the Middle Ages, when theoretical knowledge was definitely more important and was considered a necessary condition for any reasoning or practical decision making. In other periods of history, however, for example during the Enlightment or Positivism, much more attention was given to the practical aspect of life, and sensory experience as well as empirical evidence was promoted within the area of education. However, while on the one hand it can be said that on Raphael’s famous fresco The School of Athens a spirit of unity can be sensed – the peaceful dialogue between philosophers indicates that theoretical and speculative interests of Plato and the more practical approach towards philosophy represented by Aristotle make a whole which surrenders to the spirit of rationality − on the other hand, it can be seen that over the centuries these two trends of thinking grew apart, and currently are in opposition. This phenomenon is evident especially in the evolution of the philosophy of education, which is considered less and less as transmission of culture and formation of broadly understood spiritual sphere of man. These days there is a growing tendency in the philosophy of education to treat knowledge instrumentally, as a tool that serves only practical purposes and does not have any value itself. Knowledge that cannot be applied practically in life, usually rather contemptuously referred to as theory, is considered to be unnecessary and young people are taught more and more often that cognition is not selfless and should always be linked to achieving some practical goals.
It appears that in the contemporary thinking about education there is no place for the ancient concept of Paideia. In ancient Greece, Paideia referred to education process that combined such aspects of life as civilisation, culture, tradition, literature and moral refinement. Education was seen not only as teaching merely formal skills or abstract theory, but also as focusing on the development of the inner, spiritual realm of human existence. Literature was considered the most valuable element of culture and education because the ancient thinkers believed that both skills and theory find their fullest expression in this discipline. This issue – the necessity for interdependence between general education and specialised training – is the main focus of this article.
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