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Class Reconstruction and Integrated Education: An Ecological Viewpoint

Class Reconstruction and Integrated Education: An Ecological Viewpoint

 

Prof. Li Shen

 

Research Institute of Education Science, Southwest China Normal University

Chongqing  400715, P.R.China

lisen@swnu.edu.cn

 

Abstract

 

To introduce the ecological principle and method into the research of integrated education has methodological meaning. Classroom ecological construction has an important role in integrating the educational resources and accelerating the educational reform. Compared with natural ecology, class ecology is a special one. There are different kinds of relation between class ecological subject and environment. As a result, dynamic structure is coming into being. In this essay, classroom ecological construction is discussed from the following points of view: value, society and psychology. Some ideas are put forward: class ecology follows ecological value viewpoint; both teachers and students share inner and instrumental value which are integrated in class; democracy is the basic principle and main living style among the class ecological subjects; social psychological environment of tolerance and inter-respect are needed in class ecology, and so are the personal traits of independence, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Key words: integrated education; class ecology; value reconstruction; social reconstruction; psychological reconstruction

 

Biography

Shen Li, Dean of the Center of Southwest Fundamental Education Curriculum Research in China.

 

 

 

Ecology is a science that studies the interactions of organisms with one another and with the environment. The early exploration of applying ecological theories and methods to the educational research started in the 1930s. In 1932 American scholars W. Waller in his book The Sociology of Teaching proposed the conception of “classroom ecology”. In 1940s, American psychologist Barker and Wright explored the relationship between the emergence and developmental characteristics of children’s behaviors and education from the perspective of natural ecology of the society. Three international conferences about the human environment held in the 1970s accelerated the research on educational ecology. Hereafter many researchers began the fruitful inquiry into the interaction between the macro-environment in which people live and education. A comparatively complete theoretical framework of the educational ecology has been established at the macro-level after over seventy years development, but the systemic research on the classroom ecology at the micro-level is rather insufficient. In view of this, this paper attempts to explore the classroom ecology from the dimensions of values, society and psychology, aiming to make the classroom full of vitality and beneficial to reconstruct the classroom.

1. the value reconstruction of the classroom ecology

The value reconstruction of the classroom is based on the ecological values which is contrast to the anthropocentric. American famous ecological philosopher David Pepper pointed out “the nature of the anthropocentric is the world outlook which positions the human as the centre of all the living beings and it regards people as the source of all values.[i]” The ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras stated “Man is the measure of all things: those that are, that they are; and those that are not, that they are not” [ii] which is the classical expression of the values. A Chinese philosopher Yu Mouchang puts forward that “the anthropocentric regards the human as the center of the universe. It is human-centered and serve the human and starts from human benefits[iii]”. Everything starts from people’s interests. Some researchers generalized the anthropocentric from the perspective of the values as following: the anthropocentric regards human as the only existence with inner value of nature while the other existences and the nature only have instrumental values. Human’s inner value is the yardstick of all values, hence the starting point and ends of practice is and should be the interests of human”[iv]. The ethics meaning of the values excludes human from direct moral obligations. Hence the anthropocentric naturally excludes the nature and other existences from the care of human.

“Theory of teacher-centeredness” and “theory of child-centeredness” is the projection or reflection of the anthropocentric on the classroom values. The former is a typical proposition of the relation between the teaching and learning in the traditional educational theories, which views the teacher as the domination of the teaching process and puts undue emphasis on the teacher’s will and authority. It regards the teaching activity as the activity that the teacher inculcates knowledge to students and the students should be in passive and receptive state. Whereas the “theory of child-centeredness” places the child as the centre of the teaching process and claims that the teacher should offer the learning materials according to the interest and needs of the children. The implicit value orientation of the two theories is logical extension of the value relation between human and nature embedded in the anthropocentric. As stated above, “theory of teacher-centeredness” over-emphasizes the teacher and his authority, making the value balance of the teacher-student relationship slope to one party of the teacher unreasonably, but it ignores the subjective initiative of the child, belittles the students’ subjectivity and changes them into the inactive and passive knowledge “containers”, hence denies the inner values of students’ self-growth, self-development and self-realization. Actually this is a kind of “materialization” of the students. While “theory of child-centeredness”, during the process of objecting to “theory of teacher-centeredness”, slips to its own opposite original intention, just as the Renaissance Movement, which originally aimed to rejuvenate the ancient Greek and Roman culture, but unfortunately sank into the mire of “classicism”. Same as the “theory of teacher-centeredness”, “theory of child-centeredness”, to a certain extent, ignores that the classroom ecological subject has to pursue the inner value of self-realization in the learning process. The former denied the subjectivity of the child but the latter is just the opposite, so from the point of causing the teacher-student relationship out-of-balance, there is no essential difference between the two except the difference in the sequence. Actually the two are surprisingly similar in setting the inner value of the teacher and students against their instrumental value. So the two theories have caused the ecology of the classroom to be out-of-balance in various degrees.

The ecological values are a kind of self-realization values. Abraham H. Maslow, one of the humanism psychologists, suggested that “self-realization means one makes every effort to turn into what he can be, including the realization of full humanness (realization of the human nature) and the realization of personal potency or feature (realization of the individual latent nature). He once said vividly: “a composer must compose music, a painter must paint, a poet must write poems, and otherwise he is unable to be quiet all the time. A person can become anything, he must become anything, and he must be faithful in his own natural instinct. ”[v] Based on the distinction between self and ego made by a psychologist of psychoanalysis Karl • G • Jung, the ecological researchers made a new interpretation of self-realization[vi]. They held that self-realization is the full representation of one’s personal potency and enables one become “Self” — ecological self. Here the “self” in self-realization is capitalized “Self”, which is different from the small-lettered “self”. The developmental process from “self” to “Self” goes through the following stages: ego — social self — ecological self. This process is a process in which the soul “self” understands the prototype “self” (human race’s hereditary collective subconscious instinct) and realizes the ecological “self”. Its essence is value identification, that is to say, the process is a process in which human expands the self-identification range and narrows the estrangement between oneself and the other existence in the nature and a process in which human moves towards alienation and finally can “see oneself in all the existence and see all the existence in oneself”. This value identification is based on the inner value of the both sides. And the incompleteness and complementarities of both sides is the premise of the value identification process. Just as the British romantic poet William Wordsworth said, “In the nature, nothing is self-sufficient. Each object though is a true individual, all shoulder a certain obligation to other objects; conversely, it cannot survive without other objects. So the nature is a collective system made up by various kinds of interdependent relations. We could not apply the mode of mechanism to it[vii]”. Norwegian philosopher Allen Naess wrote: “the quality of human life partly relies on the pleasure and satisfaction coming from the intimate cooperation with other living forms. Those attempts of establishing master-servant relation will make human move to alienation.[viii]

The ecological values and realm in life which the ecological researchers do one’s utmost to follow and pursue, have already shown at the ancient Chinese sages. The sigh “I agree with the idea of millenarianism dreamed by Zen Dian ” given by Confucius, the life ideal “human lives harmoniously with the nature” pursued by Chuangtse, the comprehension “we should become a part of the universe” given by Lu Xiangshan, are exactly this kind of values and image portrayal of the realm in life. However in the reality, “heaven and earth” and “I” are in the opposite position “everything” is separated from “me”, why?  Mr. Feng YouLan pointed out the reason is “human is selfish[ix]”. Just because of this selfishness, human becomes the slave of the material world and the emotions, finally is separated from the universe, making human feel lonely, depressed and helpless. Where is the outlet? Mr. Feng YouLan suggested that “Get rid of the selfishness! Otherwise there is no other ways”. Heidegger found “the chicken soup of soul” at God’s and discovered the meaning of existence, and called out “only the God can rescue us!” Juergen Habermas, the representative figure of second generation of Frankfort school, called to “emancipate rationality” and “liberate oneself from the outside existence[x]”.

The classroom ecological values hold that no matter the teacher or the student has the inner value and instrumental value, and the two values are organically integrated. In terms of value theory, the incompleteness and complementarities in inner value and instrumental value of both teachers and students provide the foundation and prerequisite of the ecological values of the classroom.

The inner value of teachers and students comes from the inner needs of self-realization on both sides. As to the teachers, the self-realization means fully and effectively presentation of the values carried by the knowledge, hence to stimulate the harmonious emotions between the teacher and the students and experience the spiritual pleasure and satisfaction. Meanwhile, self-realization includes the teacher’s personal development in professional knowledge, technical ability and morals. As to the students, self-realization means that students transform and produce the values carried by knowledge through his own learning activities, hence to experience the personal filling sensation. The instrumental value of both teachers and students is formed by the meaning brought by the inner value of each other. The students’ value-transforming and value-producing activities make the inner value of the teacher become the instrumental value to the students, and vice versa.

The inner value of the teacher just offers possibility for realization of its instrumental value, students’ inner value provides the reliable ways of transforming the teacher’s inner to instrumental value. Without the students’ inner value, there is no teacher’s instrumental value and only by the teacher’s inner value, the students’ inner value can be successfully transformed into its instrumental value. In the process of value transforming, the inner values of both sides provide the channel for the ascending of ego to “social oneself” and “ecological oneself”. The values’ incompleteness and complementarities of both sides makes the value infiltration and integration not only possible but also necessary. This possibility and necessity becomes the foundation and prerequisite of constructing class ecological value.

2. the social reconstruction of classroom ecology

Based on the classroom ecological values, the social reconstruction of classroom ecology focuses on how to construct ecological teacher-student and student-student relationship. This kind of relationship, as a manifestation of interpersonal relation in the classroom ecological values to a certain extent, includes two aspects: ( a) the ecological subject of the classroom occupies the equal position at the aspect of value; (b) democracy is the basic principle and main living style of the interaction between the ecological subjects.

(1) The ecological subject of the classroom occupies the equal position at the aspect of value

The classroom ecological values regard the teachers and students as the unity of inner value and instrumental value and the two values of both sides is incomplete and complementary. Based on this, the classroom ecological subject has his own irreplaceable inner and instrumental value and the two ecological subjects occupy equal position at the aspect of value. Just as Benedict de Spinoza said, “All concrete things are the expressions of God; the God manifests oneself through all things, no ranks. There are no inferior things living for the survival of the superior things and all the things are ontologically equal.”[xi] This equality in the sense of sociology is assured by teacher and students’ treasuring the other side’s unalienable value and a mood of awe. Neither side has sufficient and proper reasons to control or dominate the other side because this kind of control or domination is actually unreasonable deprivation of the inner value and instrumental value of the side which is being control. It deprived the controlled side of its opportunity and right of making an independent judgment and selection about the influences exerted by the external world, hence making the controlled side become persons who follow or resist blindly. Among teacher-student relationships such as autocratic type, management type, affectionate type, indulgent type and democratic type, the teacher and student respect each other with an awesome mood in the democratic classroom, while the teacher has the tendency to dominate the students in the autocratic classroom. To this kind of unwise control desire or behavior, the French thinker Michel de Montaigne criticized “The rational power of the human makes me understand what the foundation is when he thinks himself enjoys great privileges over other existences…. Actually, the human have not known even a fraction of the universe, let alone command and control the universe[xii]”. Ernst Cassirer claims this kind of desire or behavior as a result of “selfish and joskin’s way of thinking and judgment”, because this kind of people always tend to regard his living circle as the center of the world and regard his personal life as the standard of the universe”[xiii]. Many scholars view this kind of control or domination as the product of “an arrogant ideas and the product of the biology and philosophy when they are at rudimentary immature stage”[xiv].

(2) Democracy is the basic principle and main living style of the interaction between the ecological subjects

The unalienable and equal position enjoyed by the ecological subject of the classroom have offered the rationality basis on which democracy becomes the ecological interactive basic principle and main living style of the classroom subjects.

As the basic principle of the classroom ecological subject, democracy means that the classroom ecological subjects enjoyed the equal right of participating in organizational management of the classroom. It has two connotations: First, the power of classroom management is limited. Countless painful historical facts proved that only those limited power can become the public weapon which will serve mass’s interests, otherwise, any power will become the private weapon that a few people used to deceive and control the majority to seek individual or group interests. Unlimited power is sure to move towards the corruption. Jean Jacques Rousseau in his masterpiece Du Contrat Social explored the issues about origin of power, rationality and how to limit and control the right and this book is still the model of glory in this respect so far. Classroom is a kind of ecology, and a kind of society in embryonic form too; hence the classroom management power is limited power too. If this power is beyond control, it will make a few in the classroom dominate the majority unreasonably. One of the effective implementation is to establish the classroom conventions with a focus on the rational share of the management power among the classroom ecological subjects. The classroom ecological subjects are controlled by the conventions; no one is allowed to enjoy privilege. Only when the classroom ecological subjects can fully and extensively participate in the discussion, formulation and revision of the conventions and the interests of the majority are expressed in the conventions, the effects of classroom management conventions can be guaranteed. In formulation of the conventions, we should watch out that anyone utilize the conventions to maintain his personal interests in a disguised form. About this, Montesquieu said, “The principle of the autocracy is the terror; the purpose of terror is calm instead of peace, it is only silence of the city where the enemy will conquer soon.[xv]” Secondly, the conventions offer classroom ecological subjects inter-inhibitive power. The power not only needs to be rationally restricted, but also various kinds of power need to be restrained to ensure a balance and harmony among them. This involves a problem of how to manage the class according to the conventions. To do this, it is necessary to establish the class management board made up of several function “departments” such as “classroom routine affairs management department” (be responsible for the management of classroom routine affairs), “classroom management monitoring department” (be responsible for monitoring the management according to the classroom conventions) and “classroom management convention interpretation department” (be responsible for the interpretation of the conventions). All the departments are in the charge of the whole class conference.

As the living style of the classroom ecological subjects, democracy means that class members enjoy abundant freedom of speech and freedom of thought that provide by classroom management conventions. “The principle of parabiosis” is the theoretical foundation of advocating the freedom of speech and thought in the classroom ecology. Some scholars expound the freedom as following: “in a country, that is to say, in a legal society, freedom means that a person can do what he should do, without being forced to do what he should not do.”[xvi] Every one is born free and the freedom is not bestowed nor can be deprived. The same is in the classroom ecology. In the range of power offered by classroom management conventions, the subjects enjoy the right of thinking, expressing and acting freely according to his will. The freedom of speech which is based on the freedom of thought is a sharp weapon against fallacy and absurdity. As to this, Dewey claims, “on one hand, individual has been deprived of the material that he might get from others, and these materials are exactly nutrient and food of the thought. He has no chance to listen attentively to different views and ideas, so his views will inevitably be limited to one kind of thinking. This limitation will form the prejudice and indifference… on the other hand, if the view can not be expressed, one may suffocate to die; or change into a passion, hence forfeit the calm inquiry and understanding; or seek for a certain indirect, remote and technique hence safe and reliable channel”. “Fallacy varied and they will offset each other in the debate, and the mistakes will be cleared out just the same as the dirt is washed in the suds.”[xvii] When the classroom ecological subjects enjoy the right of freedom of speech and thought, they can avoid being mediocre and making mistakes.  Meanwhile this right is the effective way for the classroom subjects to exchange ideas and views, to reach a common understanding and public will, hence finally create a harmonious classroom ecological community. In such harmonious community, the subjects share the common “interests”, “purpose”, “hope” and “faith” on the basis of ideas-exchanging. The members of the community have conscious “understanding”, strong “interest” and active “pursuit” of their commonality; they are closely connected in the emotion and realize the influences exerted by his own behavior upon others’, and vice versa.

3. the psychological reconstruction of classroom ecology

The social view of the classroom ecology advocate that the ecological subject of the classroom occupies the equal position at the aspect of value and democracy is the basic principle and main living style of the interaction between the ecological subjects, following the principle of “limited power”, the principle of “power-balancing” and the principle of “freedom of speech and thought”. That requests the subjects create a social psychological atmosphere of “tolerance and inter-respect” and foster the personal traits such as “self-independence”, “self-confidence” and “self-supporting”.

As the basic principle and living style of the classroom ecological subjects, democracy inevitably bring about the corresponding response of social psychology, shown as the tolerance and inter-respect between the classroom ecological subjects. Tolerance means that the people who have the same even contradictory viewpoints about the same thing can live together peacefully and harmoniously and enjoy the right of perfecting or revising their viewpoints. Tolerance originates from a faith: fallacy will disappear during the free debate while the truth will gain the authority. Tolerance also means that we should appreciate the unanimous ideas, thoughts and behaviors; keep neutral towards the strange or “dissident’s view”, and criticize the dissidents on the basis of sound reasons. Without such tolerant social psychological atmosphere, the viewpoints and thoughts tend to become rigid and stubbornly biased, the fallacy becomes legal and the views, thought which are close to the truth are often regarded as the heterodoxy. What is more, the bloody and violence of all sorts appears. Just imagine without the tolerant atmosphere in Ancient China, is it possible to appear “the contention of a hundred schools of thought” in the Spring and Autumn Periods? Is it possible to appear the beautiful scenes described by the “Nine school of scholars”? Is it possible for Mr. Zhu Xi and Lu Jiuyuan to meet at the “Lake of E Hu” to have a heated debate over “respecting one’s own nature” or “possessing a wide knowledge”? If there is tolerant atmosphere in the Middle Ages of Europe, would the “Heliocentric Model” of Copernicus have to be postponed but the “Geocentric Model” of Claudius Ptolemy become wide-spread? Would Giordano Btuno be burned to death by the accusation of heterodoxy? Would Galileo Galilei be imprisoned in the basement? The answer is self-evident. So, the classroom ecology, which shoulders the duty of developing new ideas and new thoughts, should provide the tolerant and inter-respect atmosphere of social psychology on the basis of respecting the equal value of the subjects, and change the inculcation of the ideas and thoughts into the communication and dialogue between the various ideas and thoughts.

The personal traits such as “self-independence”, “self-confidence” and “self-supporting” are necessary for the tolerant and inter-respecting classroom atmosphere. Though these traits provide the proper and relaxed classroom atmosphere for the growth of the classroom ecological subjects, the growth quality of the subjects mainly depends on their own personal psychological traits. Tolerance means a belief that fallacy will fade away in the battle again the truth, instead of making a concession and yield to the mistakes, nor making a comprise between the truth and the fallacy. So in the tolerant classroom, the spiritual self-independence is needed, which means the subjects make independent thinking and judgment of the various ideas and insists on the right ideas. Meanwhile the subjects should not adhere stubbornly to his own opinions and reject other people’s experience but ready to correct his mistakes and learn form the right. Only those who are self-confident will admit his weakness and mistakes while those who are not self-confident tend to conceal mistake and deficiency just as a Chinese saying goes: “we should making unremitting efforts to improve ourselves just as the Creator persists in moving around year after year”.

Note

 

[1] Hao Deyong. (2002). Curriculum and Culture: from the Post-modern Perspective. Beijing: Educational Science Press, P. 159.

[1] Chen Qi & Zhang Jianwei. (1998, 3). Constructivism and Teaching Reform. Educational Research and Experiment.

[1] Li Wenge. (2002). Returning to the Realistic Life-world. Beijing: Chinese Social Science Press, P. 152~156.

[1] Li Weiyan. (2002, 4). On the Pedagogics Sense of Heidegger’s Existential Philosophy .Educational Research and Experiment.

 

 

Authors:Li Baoqing, doctoral candidate of the Institute for Educational Research, Southwest Normal University;Jin Yule, professor and Deputy Director of the Institute for Educational Research, Southwest Normal University.

 

Notes:

[1] Pepper, D. , Modern Environmentalism:An introduction, New York: Routledge, 1996, P. 328.

[1] Russell, Bertrand. History of the Western Philosophy (Vol. 1), Beijing: the Commercial Press, 1976, P. 110

[1] Yu Mouchang, Disillusionment in Penalty: towards the Ecological Ethnics, Guangzhou: Guangdong Educational Press, 1995,P.185

[1] Lei Yi, Research on the Deep Ecology, Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2001, P. 15

[1] Che Wenbo, History of the Western Psychology, Huangzhou: Zhejiang Educational Press, 1998, P. 559.

[1] Lei Yi, Research on the Deep Ecology, Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2001, P. 46-47

[1] Hou Wenhui, Lament of Conquer, Oriental Publishing House, 1995, P. 34

[1] Naess ,A. , The Shallow and The Deep,Long-Range Ecology Movement:A Summary, Inquiry, 1973, PP95-100.

[1] Gu Chun, Origin, Argument and Traits: Three Educational theories of Lu Jiuyuan, Beijing: Educational Science Press, 2003, P. 176

[1] Liu Fangtong, New Western Pilosophy, Beijing: People’s Press, 2002, P. 479

[1] Lei Yi, Research on the Deep Ecology, Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2001, P. 36

[1] Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man, Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Press, 1985, P. 19-20

[1] Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man, Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Press, 1985, P. 20

[1] Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Changchun: Jilin People’s Press, 1997, P. 263.

[1] Montesquieu, De I” Esprit des Lois, Beijing: the Commercial Press, 1982, P. 60

[1] Montesquieu, De I” Esprit des Lois, Beijing: the Commercial Press, 1982, P. 154.

[1] Sun Youzhong, The Symbols of American Spirits, Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Press, 2002, P.139 & P.149


Notes:

[i] Pepper, D. , Modern Environmentalism:An introduction, New York: Routledge, 1996, P. 328.

[ii] Russell, Bertrand. History of the Western Philosophy (Vol. 1), Beijing: the Commercial Press, 1976, P. 110

[iii] Yu Mouchang, Disillusionment in Penalty: towards the Ecological Ethnics, Guangzhou: Guangdong Educational Press, 1995,P.185

[iv] Lei Yi, Research on the Deep Ecology, Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2001, P. 15

[v] Che Wenbo, History of the Western Psychology, Huangzhou: Zhejiang Educational Press, 1998, P. 559.

[vi] Lei Yi, Research on the Deep Ecology, Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2001, P. 46-47

[vii] Hou Wenhui, Lament of Conquer, Oriental Publishing House, 1995, P. 34

[viii] Naess ,A. , The Shallow and The Deep,Long-Range Ecology Movement:A Summary, Inquiry, 1973, PP95-100.

[ix] Gu Chun, Origin, Argument and Traits: Three Educational theories of Lu Jiuyuan, Beijing: Educational Science Press, 2003, P. 176

[x] Liu Fangtong, New Western Pilosophy, Beijing: People’s Press, 2002, P. 479

[xi] Lei Yi, Research on the Deep Ecology, Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2001, P. 36

[xii] Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man, Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Press, 1985, P. 19-20

[xiii] Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man, Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Press, 1985, P. 20

[xiv] Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Changchun: Jilin People’s Press, 1997, P. 263.

[xv] Montesquieu, De I” Esprit des Lois, Beijing: the Commercial Press, 1982, P. 60

[xvi] Montesquieu, De I” Esprit des Lois, Beijing: the Commercial Press, 1982, P. 154.

[xvii] Sun Youzhong, The Symbols of American Spirits, Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Press, 2002, P.139 & P.149

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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