The student’s orientation on education affects the student’s performance at school. Students formed in the traditional, teacher-oriented and objectivity centred environment are used to mind gruelling memorization of concepts. In this type of educational milieu, the student is coerced to absorb the ideas, concepts, definitions in verbatim. Examinations are mostly of the objective type. The examinations consist mainly of enumeration, identification and objective essays. The student therefore, must listen to the teacher and there is no room for open dialogue.
Students formed in the pragmatic method learn through application and operation of theories. The students are encouraged to apply the concepts and theories in various ways of expression. Literature, music, creative reporting, touchstone presentations are just one of the many ways where the students can apply whatever they have learned in the classrooms. Unlike the traditional method, it is student-oriented and subject-centred. The teachers are mere facilitators and dialogue is a must. Here, students develop their skills in social communication, practical thinking and the arts.
When it comes to pedagogical method, I support pragmatism. Let me argue from the standpoint of philosophy education. In the past before Vatican II, seminary students are forbidden to study the works of the contemporary philosophers. Instead, they memorize in verbatim the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Every day, they study Thomistic-Aristotelian philosophy and learn its strict system of corollaries and theorems. They learn to think through the intricate Aristotelian logic of Aquinas and criticize certain issues using it. Let me give you an example. Materialism affirms that all things consist of matter. However, matter is not actuality. It is in potentiality because it undergoes change from one form to another form moreover matter is generated. Thus, anything generated undergoes change. Thus, matter is not actuality and is generated. Therefore, materialism is invalid. This is a classic criticism of materialism. If you think that they learned this by themselves, you’re totally wrong. They have memorized the concepts of Aquinas and have been taught to criticize through it alone. Certain philosophy handbooks like that of Frederick Coppleston and Joseph de Torre utilize the Thomistic critique in their books.
Students oriented in this style of education suffer from anachronism. Indeed, in classical Thomism, anachronism is a disease it does not recognize. Thomists prefer to hide in their hermetic chambers of Thomistic thought and scrutinize everything from there. They do not experience the vitality of contemporary thought especially the developments of phenomenology and post-structuralism. Neo-Thomists and Transcendental Thomists reconcile the philosophy of Aquinas from the perspective of Kantianism and phenomenology. Indeed, in these new times, the downfall of Thomistic-Aristotelian philosophy will signal the renaissance of philosophy in Catholic Universities. Never will the students memorize the concepts of any philosophers rather, they are tasked to encapsulate the idea in externality i.e. life. Literature seems to be philosophy’s best friend in the contemporary era. During the ancient times it was mathematics and the medieval period; metaphysics. Today, poetry, novels, short stories, plays, cinema, etc makes an idea alive and kicking. The idea is acted, felt and experienced not in abstract concepts and mathematical logic but in mundane experience. This makes the idea alive and not distant from us. The idea then evolves from a head-level entity into an imminent reality towards the development of the human psyche.
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