"I don't understand nothing no more:" An Educational Philosophy

"I don't understand nothing no more." Tillie (Isabel Sanford), the Drayton's (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) housekeeper, delivered this line in the 1967 movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner when her social world, as she understood it, began to change-when she began to question her beliefs. I know exactly how the character Tillie felt. After three years of schooling to obtain Teacher Certification (not four weeks) and an additional two years of graduate work (concurrently with teaching) to obtain my Master of Education; five more years of teaching (a total of eight years), and arriving at the end of my ninth year as an educator serving as a full-time graduate student and assistant at the University of Georgia, I now have fewer secured beliefs and a lot more questions-"I don't understand nothing no more."

However, being assigned to write a Philosophy of Teaching and Teacher Education, I am compelled to attempt to articulate what I do believe. Since "I don't understand nothing no more," I will provide an Education Philosophy that I wrote in the Spring of 1994, followed by statements and questions that I have today, in the Spring of 2001. I will illustrate that even though I have begun to question my beliefs about the purposes and roles of education and of educators with great intensity, my philosophical foundation of why I am in the profession of education has not changed-to assist in the creation of a literal democracy. For ease of the reader I will provide new statements and questions in italics.

Educational Philosophy

In defining my Educational Philosophy, I will examine three categories: view of society, nature of knowledge, and purpose of schools. The foundation of my educational philosophical view is set in my concept about society and what I have determined to be the greatest influences on society. The common thread that runs through all three categories is my concept of the human identity; it is this concept of human identity that has given me the "calling" to enter the profession of education.

In defining a Philosophy of Education (or of Teacher and Teacher Education) the categories would remain the same; the foundation of why I entered into the profession of education, the human identity, is unshakable. However, understanding the degree to which the three over-lap has become difficult and complex. I no longer perceive the three categories as distinct categories-rather than being discrete they are continuous; rather than being linear they are circular.

View of Society

When I begin to examine society I must first break down the components that define society-the "human being" (or individual), religion, government, and economy. I believe that the human being is in an evolution of intellectual development. This evolution is one in which "man" is beginning to accept the human identity in all humans. Although I acknowledge the historic accomplishments that have been achieved in the evolution of gaining equality for all humans, it has been a very slow process and will take many more decades until it reaches maturity.

I believe that government and religious leaders have been deterrents in this evolution process. Many humans are being caught in the crossfire of issues made controversial by these two ruling bodies and it has been damaging to the entire evolution process-for example, the concept of a truthful multicultural curriculum. The political leaders have hindered the development of a multicultural curriculum, because it would contain some negative aspects of how the United States Government has not always recognize all humans to be of equal value, regardless of Thomas Jefferson's words, "All Men are created Equal." The religious leaders have hindered the development of a truthful multicultural curriculum, because it would contain the fact that the Christian missionary initiated prejudices against other people by classifying them as heathens only because they worshiped God differently. Since two of the major forces in society are fighting against a multicultural curriculum, the development of a truthful curriculum has become more difficult.

I, however, as an educator, will aid in the establishment of an all-inclusive truthful curriculum, first by acknowledging the human identity within all of my students. Whenever possible I will include historical facts in my lessons that will acknowledge all different types of humans and demonstrate the contributions that all humans have made in developing the civilization of "man". I will also teach my students about stereotypes and how they may encounter individuals who identify humans by using unsound stereotypes. Like many educators of today, I believe that educators must bring about a multicultural reconstruction of the way in which information is transmitted to students. This reconstruction can be achieved without destruction of the "Canon" and without damage to student's religious beliefs. A curriculum must be developed which respects all people as individual humans and will teach students that there is no threat to their individuality when they learn of different perspectives.

Multicultural literacy is crucial to another aspect of society-the economy. The economy of the United States is more than ever dependent on a pluralistic work force and other economies of the world-a trend that will continue to increase. If the United States plans to maintain its position as the economic world leader, it must develop an understanding of how and why humans differ.

I still believe the largest obstacle to a democracy in the United States is the lack of a multicultural education. I also still maintain that two of the major forces in protecting the "Canon" are the Government and the Church. However, the following are new questions:

Nature of Knowledge

I define the word knowledge with the concept of knowing versus understanding. I believe that only with understanding does one gain knowledge. For example, as a math teacher, I will be able to get many of my students to know Leibniz's Fundamental Theorem of Calculus through repeated trials of recitation and computation. However, that should be an objective, not my goal. My goal should be to enable my students to understand the concepts of the theorem and how it can be utilized to solve many problems they may encounter in adult life. In more general terms, I as a teacher can enable students to know that one behavior is more desirable than the other. I can even teach students to know that the less desirable behavior has negative consequence. However, not until the students have an understanding of why one behavior should be chosen over the other and understanding of how the negative consequences will effect them personally, will I be effective in teaching the desired behavior.

In relating mathematics to my students, I will work toward their obtaining an understanding that the world is moving toward an increasing amount of technology and the common component of the new technology is mathematics. Students need to understand that individuals that are mathematically literate in the next century will have an advantage over those that are not. I also believe that if educators can strengthen the understanding of the logical thought process of mathematics in students, students understanding will be strengthen in other disciplines. A strong logical thought process will also aid students in their interaction within society as they begin to logically recognize and respect the human identity of all persons.

Although I still believe the above statements to be true, the statements also illustrate my naïveté as a new young educator. The following are new questions:

Purpose of Schools

In establishing the purpose of schools, I go beyond the concept of educating students to become productive citizens, but also to become productive human beings. Schools should teach students to have a great respect for knowledge and to understand the power that follows knowledge. Society is a "society in transition"-schools should be the stabilizing factor and aid the students in "making sense" of all the factors involved during this transition period. The school's responsibility is to equip the students with knowledge needed to effectively operate within the changing environment. This knowledge includes not only academic knowledge, but also knowledge about the diversity found in society. If schools are successful in accomplishing this task, the students will be able to develop a true democratic society, a society in which all humans are created equal.


The Arena of Education has many players, all strategically planning to enforce their ideas about schools and education. To be an effective teacher, I believe one must be determined to pursue his or her own personal convictions. However, if one's personal convictions are in conflict with the establishment, the educator, as a public servant, must work within the guidelines to effect change. I, as an educator, will always follow the lead of one the greatest effectors of change this century, Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. There has not been any other citizen of the United States that has stabilized the concept of democracy any stronger than he. He demonstrated that a political document based on the idea of "All men are created Equal" could be raised to its literal heights.

New questions:

If the purpose of EMAT 8020 was to define teaching and teacher education, it failed. If the purpose of EMAT 8020 was to create and develop more complex questions to the profession of teaching and teacher education, it was a grand slam; I of course understand that it was the latter. The Educational Philosophy provided from six years ago was naïve and idealistic. However, the common thread of the human identity and democracy remains- growing stronger every year.

"He has an idealist perception of the human identity and democracy and how public education is to assist in achieving these ideals," is a statement that I hope will always be used by others when individuals are asked to describe the philosophical framework of David Wayne Stinson. There is too much reality in education. As teachers and teacher educators, we should be the individuals in society that validates the concepts of "question everything-change everything-dream everything"- always feeling as though, We don't understand nothing no more.

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