Personal Philosophy on Education

Edward J. VanBeers, II

Graduate Student in Adult Education

Elmira College

I began this effort with a rediscovery of the "isms" that map philosophy. I actually developed an eclectic view of philosophy one page shy of discovering that it had already existed (my disappointment humbles me). I drew from each of the "isms" parts that I believed applied both in theory and practice. In outlining my personal philosophy I discovered that I needed to view it in different terms. I employed a deductive logical thought process in my microcosmic view of adult education, and countered the effort with an inductive logical thought process encompassing adult education with the sensitivities of learning styles, multicultural, multiethnic, learning disabilities, current and past environmental issues, abilities and experiences. These variables lend themselves to the formation of a macrocosmic view later discussed.

My Philosophical Paradigm on Education

I believe that learning is the foundation of human life. Without gaining some form of knowledge, whether through experiences (trial and error) or through thought processes, one could not achieve even the simplest of Maslow’s hierarchy – basic needs.

It is of my contention that a person should interweave the two rolls of student and teacher throughout his or her natural life. I believe that humans thirst for knowledge, and that the satisfaction of this thirst provides a plateau on which to confidently carry out a person’s full potential. I believe it to be my duty as a teacher to cast light on the many paths leading to this plateau, and to encourage the journey and lessons of others. I believe it to be my obligation as a journeyman myself, to embark toward the plateau, seeking my full potential as a human being. These are my truths; drawn from several philosophies, grounded in Humanism.


As I set the stage for different categorical performances, I draw in different proportions from my "ism" set, my eclectic view. Using humanism as a base, I delve further into "meaning" with liberation of the mind. In my professional and personal extra-cultural dealings, I find that a closed mind exhibits many limits of potential. I believe that learning past one’s believed abilities opens the doors of the mind airing out cultural, experiential, or stagnated behavioral patterns, lending the tools of discovery, experience, and understanding. True knowledge does not exist in solitude of the mind, body or spirit. True knowledge is not limited by experiences, sources or beliefs. True knowledge is an epiphany in concert with a person’s understanding of themselves and their relationship with their human existence and potential.

What is Reality?

If we may agree that at this point in the history of the world there exists 6 plus billion mortal souls and perhaps as many ones that have past, then it is my supposition that there are more than twelve billion answers to this question. I draw my conclusions from several schools. From the humanist, I see unlimited potential in the human race; that we possess in each of us the ultimate qualities of goodness. Within this belief are the characteristics of culture, history and meaning that a variety of humans bring to the table of diversity. The knowledge of interrelationships and the definition of "things" may lend a hand in humans’ ability to change their destiny. Radical? Yes, a dash of that school also.

Nature of Being Human

The "nature" of being human I would like to believe is vested in quality ethical principles of life. The reality of being human, I am afraid, can fall shy of this ideal vision. I draw my conclusions from two bases, the first of which is a lesson from my Native American friends. Mother Earth is the nucleus for human existence and that we are the caretakers of a larger cause. For this to be true, we vest our energy not in material things, but in each other. Central to this theory are the tenets of freedom, respect, and dignity.

The second of the two bases is vested in the belief that humans hold the innate ability to "learn" to "think" and to "reason." This distinguishes us from other forms of life, and grants us the ability, and the responsibility to create our intents, develop our morals, and values, and the ability to seek our full human potential.


Educational Aims

I believe that adults (humans in general) desire to learn. With this notion, it is my premise to create various environments conducive to adult learning. Given practicality, social and economic dynamics, and the desire to engage adults in the self-belief that they are themselves at the helm of their lives, it is my practice to assist adults in compiling a toolbox of skills necessary to reach their potential as learners. This toolbox, however diverse, and individually fitted, should include the basic tools of respect, critical thought (including inductive and deductive logical thought processes), and the ability to relate the learning into practical uses. I believe students should be wholly involved in their learning environment and process.

Educational Methods

I believe that learners possess different learning abilities and that their learning styles vary with each individual. However, what I believe to be common among each learner is the "desire" to learn, and to be involved in the process from cradle to grave of the endeavor. To this extent, I believe that learners not only are responsible for their learning, but also wish to be responsible. Understanding these complexities and the diversity between learners, I continually develop new tools that provide learners with opportunities. I create dilemmas for learners to apply the knowledge that they have gained to given situations. I believe in providing and requesting feedback and to open the lines of communication to the point of creating effective dialogue between learners and teachers; the blending of the two becoming apparent as we learn from and teach each other. I encourage critical thought and reflection as well as its evidence in forms that each learner develops. I promote open-mindedness to varying viewpoints, and provide to students not the lessons of conclusion, but the lessons of continuance in regard to learning.

What I ask of all learners is that they share the wealth of their knowledge. As I believe people who have benefited economically should give back to those who made it possible, I believe the same in education. Learners who have gained so much in the way of experiences and knowledge should share that with others. No better encouragement comes from communicating (in many ways) an "example."

Being a learner encompasses other life issues. Learning extensively involves certain sacrifices that may eventually be rewarded, but initially need attention. I believe in developing an environment in which learners may share their resources for meeting their needs, overcoming issues and dealing with being a dedicated learner. I believe in flexible conditions, creating an inclusive rather than an exclusive learning environment.

Educational Tools

Tools are the creation of each individual learner. I open my personal toolbox, and explain the culmination of my learning tools for others to see critically. I believe this sets the stage for learners to simulate a tool that I (and perhaps many other people) have developed, or to create one of their own. Tools may take the form of tangible items (time-management items, research tools, physical learning aids) or intangible concepts (self-direction, methodologies, self-discipline). I provide the notion of the toolbox as a suggestion; the learners develop their own contents.

Educational Content

The environment that I create for adult learners begins with a formal "needs assessment" of the adults, which measures their comfortableness and competency with the subject(s) at hand. This tool provides me with the definition of the parameters of the course content, the ability to develop challenges for those with a certain mastery of the subject, and the ability to create an environment for those who need to develop initial understandings and skills related to learning the subject. The tool provides learners with opportunities which coincide with their given situation and level of competency with the subject – their individual starting point.

Materials Consulted

Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (1991). Self-Direction in adult education. New York: Routledge.

Hiemstra, R. (1988). Translating personal values and philosophy into practical action. In R. G. Brockett (Ed.), Ethical issues in adult education. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. [adapted and updated, available at /philchap.html]

Kidder, R. M. (1995). How good people make tough choices. New York: Fireside.

Scarpetti, F., & Cylke, R. K., Jr. (1995). Social problems: The search for solutions. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company.

February 20, 2001

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