The ideas of John Locke concerning understanding human personality and efficient ways of education were among the most important concepts that influenced the development of liberalism during the Enlightenment period. They were revolutionary for the philosopher's contemporaries because of their strong humanistic and democratic components. However, some of his basic ideas related to educational process seem to be strange nowadays. In this essay, there will be made an attempt to analyze and compare Locke's educational thoughts with the communicative method of teaching, which is the dominant one in American educational institutions.
First, it is necessary to describe the main characteristics of contemporary critical pedagogy and communicative approach to education. Teachers and students are communicating and discussing the issue trying to formulate the problem and find solutions to it. According to this method, the teacher is not the person who knows everything better than others and who has the right to punish the students. Freire (n.d.) emphasizes that problem-solving method helps to develop a liberal, democratic mentality in the minds of students, while the simple drill is oppressing them even more. The goals of education in communicative approach are to teach students how to think critically and liberate their mind; they need to be active and not hesitate to speak up.
According to the communicative concept of education, the world is changing constantly, and people are changing with it. Even more, people are those who create an impulse to alter the world around them. That is why everyone in the classroom needs to be treated with respect because every person has the potential for making the world better. People are placed in the center of the world according to this communicative approach. They are not merely observing what is going on; they are participants because they have the right to express their opinion. These ideas might seem not very related to the educational process. However, the basis of such concepts like freedom of speech, critical thinking and self-respect are formed at schools.
Communicative method is efficient in liberating the consciousness and developing creativity in students. According to this concept, every person has a unique individuality, and this approach to the educational process might lead to efficient results. It is mostly used in modern educational institutions and is considered to form a free-thinking member of the democratic society.
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Locke denied the idea that was popular in his times that children are adults in miniature. It was quite wide spread during the Middle Ages to send children at the age of 7 as apprentices to the masters, and it was thought that they would be able to learn by example as effectively as the grownups. Locke suggested that children have absolutely different mechanisms of cognition compared to adults, and that is why the traditional way of apprenticeship is not effective. The philosopher considered the following ideas important in educational process. They are bringing up self-discipline, good character and the logical reasoning. All these components of the grown up personality can be developed only through the teacher's esteem towards students and his or her disgrace in case of their failure (Bevilacqua, Giannetto, & Matthews, 2001). These aspects of children's education correspond fully to the contemporary critical pedagogy and communicative approach. The modern methods of education have the same goals as the methods proposed by Locke.
However, there is another important idea the philosopher mentioned in his theory, and this idea is the basic one. Locke thought that every person is born with an empty mind; he/she is tabula rasa, and the whole life the person learns from his/ her environment. The duty of the teacher is to fill the empty mind of the student with the right knowledge, and the duty of the student is to accept that information in the way it is given to him/her. In this case, the student is passive, and the educator is active, which is unacceptable in the contemporary pedagogy.
According to this concept, students are considered to be containers that need to be filled with knowledge. It is based on the opposition between teachers who know everything and students who know nothing. The teachers deposit knowledge to the empty space in their students' heads. Such idea of Locke, that was quite progressive in the times of enlightenment, led to the development of so-called banking method of teaching (Nola & Irzik 2005). It is entirely passive and does not give students a possibility to develop critical thinking.
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Such educational style can be described simply as a drill. Students do not need to think about information they percept. The only thing that is obligatory for them is to learn the facts by heart. For example, teacher said, “two multiplied by two is four”, and the entire class repeats it; no one tries to think what they are doing and why. As the result, students are given much factual information about the world without any explanations. This often leads to the results when the person becomes an erudite, who cannot adjust to the real world and make conclusions in problematic situations.
The method that is based upon the idea that the child is tabula rasa views students as the objects of educational process and tries to make everyone fit into the system. It is possible to say that banking education is an oppressive method because it does not take into consideration the fact that every person is individuality. Teacher is the source of wisdom, and the knowledge (just like the punishment) is a precious gift to students; he or she is the main person in the educational process. Teacher decides what students need and how they need to interpret it.
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