Should the school only teach humanistic values and focus on systemically meet the state’s workforce needs? Or should it use humanistic pedagogical methods where the goal is to empower the learner’s formation and individual choices of life path? We have seen the result of the first alternative during the past century, but to find the historical roots of the second alternative we have to turn Ancient Greece, to its central notion of Paideia. Here you not only find the core of humanistic education but also the philosophy that in our age lead to UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.
The history of Humanistic Education
There are four directions in the development of humanistic education.
Classical humanistic education origins from an ideal of human perfection, especially Pericles, Aristotle, Plato, Protagoras, Isocrates and Socrates can be seen as the founders of this school. A few centuries later the Romans in the same spirit established the studia humanitias, which was a normative and formative education for free persons. But it was not until the Renaissance people began to call themselves humanists.
Romantic humanistic education origins from Rousseau and had a therapeutic approach from the prerequisite that every human has an inner nature that is good and unique. The purpose of education is to set it free.
Existentialist humanistic education with ideas from Sartre, Camus and Kierkegaard are focusing on the human as the exclusive author of its own identity.
Radical or Critical humanistic education origins from Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux, and this “school” argues that pedagogy should become more political and politics more pedagogical. This means that larger cultural, social and economic contexts should remain an essential part of education. But the perspective should be critical and questioning in order to improve awareness of problems in order to find solutions. Paulo Freire writes:
“It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings.”
This quote also expresses the core of the difference between humanistic education and industrial society’s school. The societal context has similarities with the critical pedagogy approach. However, instead of aiming to grow strong individuals the educational system work to manipulate the learner into the national society’s present requirements and trends. The prerequisite for this to work even to some extent to succeed is that the society stands still. The author Paolo Coelho gives the following solution:
“To change the world, we need to combine ancient wisdom with new technologies.”
New digital technologies are the driving force and the humanistic education that has its origins in Ancient wisdom is the pedagogical method to leave the mechanical age of dust and mass-communication noise behind.