PREVIOUS : Karl Jaspers - Views on Education (PART 1)
ROLE OF TEACHERS
Jaspers was in no doubt about the fact that the value of a school is directly bound up with the quality of its teachers who can only perform their task of educating young people through lifelong self-education and training.‘The only true educator is the one who is permanently engaged in a process of self-education through communication. Education can only be correct if its addressees acquire the ability to educate themselves through stringent and tenacious learning‘ Neither scientist nor scholar is concerned with what is merely fashionable or current; they cannot let others decide if their procedures are correct, but must rely on their own intellectual consciences. In their teaching they recognize the need of “teaching for substance” that only research can give. Here Jaspers states that “only he who himself does research can really teach.”
1. Children must be educated according to their own inclinations and abilities‘ (p. 32). Here Jaspers objects to the idea that psychology as a science should be the ‘foundation of pedagogical planning and decisions‘. However, he does concede that it has an ‘ancillary role to play under the guiding hand of the educator‘.
The essential role of the school in training children to become useful members of the community has two implications‘ (p. 33). Jaspers defines the first task as ‘arousing the historical spirit of the community and of life through the symbols of that community‘ (p. 33). This may be done through consideration of the previous history of such a community and through contact between young people and their educators, although this aim cannot be a deliberate and reasoned intention. The second task, on the other hand, is to ’learn and practice everything which is necessary for work and a profession ‘(p.33)‘. This is a matter for deliberate planning. Both tasks are indispensable. He emphasizes the exceptionally important role of the primary school that lays the moral, intellectual and political foundations for the entire population. The intellectual renewal imparted by teachers is the determining factor if the population at large and that in government are to recognize the justification of the necessary financial resources. Decisive importance attaches to the educational content that must be based on the great traditions of the human mind.
Jaspers advocates the need for a moral content in all teaching; reading and writing will then cease to be mere technical attainments and become instead a spiritual act—a miracle.
When that spirit is alive, effort and hard work, practice and repetition, which are often experienced as a burden, will acquire new meaning and become a real pleasure. Secondary schools, in all their different forms, must also pursue the same goal.
EDUCATION AND UNIVERSITY
Jaspers‘ university where research is its major purpose, discovery and research is an indivisible whole and scholarship depends on a relation to the whole. Jaspers writes that the university is meant to function as an “intellectual conscience of an era” and is, in many respects, the “meeting place of different disciplines and world outlooks.
Science and scholarship, as viewed by Jaspers, are meaningful only when they are part of a comprehensive intellectual life that is “the very life blood of the university.
The objectives of the university are identified as research, education, and instruction; to reach these objectives, scholars must communicate with each other and with students who, in turn, must communicate with each other.
Throughout his life, Jaspers remained committed to the idea that the university does not have a mere teaching function; the student must also ‘learn from his professors to engage in personal research and therefore acquire a scientific mode of thought which will colour his whole existence‘.
Jaspers paints a broad canvas of the tasks of the university: research, teaching and education; training; communication; the whole world of the sciences.
This internal cohesion is apparent in a number of statements made by Jaspers:
1. To the extent that the university seeks truth through science, research is its fundamental task. Since that task presupposes the passing on of knowledge, research is bound up with teaching. Teaching means allowing students to take part in the research process;
2. The correct method of imparting knowledge and skills in itself contributes to the intellectual training of the whole being;
3. Performance of this task is bound up with communication between thinking beings, i.e. between researchers, between teachers and pupils, between pupils and, in some circumstances, between all of them;
4. Science is essentially a whole. The structure of the university must be such that all the different sciences are represented (1923: 1961, pp. 64-65).
The university can only create the preconditions and foundations required for specific vocational training if its aim is not to ‘impart a self- contained body of knowledge but to train and develop scientific modes of thought.
‘The techniques of questioning must have been practised. A thorough grounding must have been acquired in a particular discipline, but there is no need for the student to memorize all kinds of specialized facts as is demanded by foolish examinations‘ .The emphasis must rather be placed on the sense of judgement which is gained through research, proves its worth in the everyday practice of a profession, directs the gaze towards all that is knowable and opens out onto the broadest horizon.
As Jaspers emphasizes, university education is ‘by nature Socratic‘ (p. 86) because the student‘s sense of responsibility and freedom come into play.
‘It is only through freedom that we can acquire experience of the original desire for knowledge and hence of human independencewhich is the gift of God and bound up with God‘ (p. 86). The freedom of learning has as its counterpart the freedom of teaching.
While others occupied themselves with the study of philosophy, Jaspers encouraged his students to engage in the act of “philosophizing.” For Jaspers, debate and discussion were more important than analyzing what was written in the past or how two famous men might relate on a theoretical level.
Communication with the researcher and participation in the research process can stimulate a scientific attitude in the student himself or herself which Jaspers characterizes as ‘objectivity, a devotion to the subject, reasoned balance, investigation of contrasting possibilities, self- criticism‘. It is ‘education in reason‘ which takes place without deliberate intent or planning.
EDUCATION AND DEMOCRACY
A democracy that is totally formal may itself generate total domination. He therefore constantly reminds us that confidence in the people is essential and that democracy presupposes an attitude of reason on the part of the people which it must itself take care to foster. Here Jaspers refuses to idealize, or at the other extreme defame, the people. He considers the people to be sovereign, but in need of self-education to attain that sovereignty.
People become ripe for democracy by becoming politically active and by accepting responsibility for solving concrete problems. Jaspers considers it self-evident that democracy demands the education of the entire people.
‘Democracy, freedom and reason all hang by that education. Only through such education it is possible to preserve the historical content of our existence and deploy it as a generative force underpinning our life in the new world situation‘ (1958, p. 444). It may seem surprising when this self education begins by ‘thinning out the undergrowth of unclarity‘. It always endeavours to ensure that the constitution is firmly rooted in the hearts of citizens. In all this, the vital need is to arouse an awareness in each individual that he bears responsibility for himself‘ (p. 52).
EDUCATION AND TRADITION
For Jaspers himself the existential appropriation of tradition was given lasting encouragement through his personal encounter with Max Weber, as a result of which he came to recognize the fundamental role of the past and its consequences for education.
‘Education through the study of great men has the purpose of permitting the individual‘s own existence to be rediscovered in them, to enable him to come to fruition through them until the human being which has become genuine and original in itself moves on to acquire objectivity and reach decisions without the detour of a hypothetical identification with the other person‘ . The following maxim was often confirmed for Jaspers:
‘He who sees greatness, experiences a desire to become great himself‘
EDUCATION AND THE FAMILY
From personal experience and conviction, Jaspers ascribes to the family the task of laying the groundwork for all education. It is in the family that children experience, through the love of their parents and the constant concern for their welfare, that ‘humanity‘ which helps them to master the difficulties of daily life and gives the next generation courage to pursue a responsible life in future, strengthened by all that is handed on to them. Here children experience solidarity and piety, faith and dependability in which all provide support for each other. Here the growing child receives impressions that shape his/her life, impressions of an order that is not constricting but grants freedom to everyone.
Education to achieve existence can mean only one thing: not hiding the possibilities of becoming oneself, not missing the path towards existence, not overlooking the need to achieve man‘s highest goal by falling victim to cleverness and fitness. It remains impossible to predict whether and to what extent man will gain mastery of himself in his selfness.