Tori E. Bazile
Dr. A. Nauman
November 30, 2004
“Social Change Through Education”
The philosophy of reconstructionism contains two major premises: 1) Society is in need of constant reconstruction or change, and 2) such social change involves a reconstruction of education and the use of education in reconstructing society (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 167). This school or philosophy of thought has impacted the educational system in a major way. Reconstructionists believe that education should be a method of changing the world. When issues arise they are brought to education so that it can be addressed and ultimately changed. Reconstructionism emphasizes the need for change. The idea of promoting change is based on the notion that individuals and society can be made better (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 185). Reconstructionism is more concerned with the broad social and cultural fabric in which humans exist (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 171).
The philosophy of reconstructionism was brought to the forefront by two scholars- George S. Counts and Theodore Brameld. Both scholars had their ideas on how reconstructionism affects society and the educational system. Counts sought to awaken educators to their strategic position in social and cultural reconstruction. Count’s central
message was that although education had been used historically as a means of introducing people to their cultural traditions, social and cultural conditions were so
altered by modern science, technology, and industrialization that education now must be used as a positive force for establishing new cultural patterns and for eliminating social evils. Counts argued that educators should give up their comfortable role of being supporters of the status quo and take on the more difficult tasks of social reformers (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 171). Counts argued that every generation must reconstruct it’s own educational philosophy. If this did not happen, the extant educational philosophies would become outmoded in the wake of social change. Social values and institutions did not remain static, thus educational philosophies too must be reconstructed to maintain their relevance. Counts also believed that education, because of the central role it played in the transmission of the culture, was uniquely suited to help promote the necessary reconstruction of the larger society (Stanley 29).
Theodore Brameld was the most influential person in building reconstructionism into a more fully developed philosophy of education (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 172). Brameld viewed reconstructionism as a crisis philosophy, not only in terms of education but in terms of culture, as well. He saw humanity at the crossroads: One road leads to destruction, and the other to salvation only if people make the effort. Above all, he saw reconstructionism as a philosophy of values, ends, and purposes (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 172). Brameld maintained that our society faced serious economic and cultural crises and that the schools could use a reconstructionist curriculum to help bring about the social change necessary to create a better social order. Brameld urged that the school curriculum be changed to give more attention to the interests of those students who will not go on to college and the professions (Stanley 32-33).
The school should be a place where reform takes place. Reconstructionists believe that we can and should use the public schools to help reconstruct society in such a way as to resolve our social and cultural crises (Stanley 21). They believe that education in schools must be directed toward humane goals that result in better social consequences for all (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 184).
One great need in education today is to view the schools in a much wider
perspective. This movement should be a more radical approach that seeks,
through a variety of methods, to change existing social institutions,
including the school, in ways that make them more responsive to human
needs. They believe that schools should not be apart from society but
within society. Thus issues that are within the society should be addressed
through the schools. This movement requires educators who are willing to
explore new possibilities through action. It requires teachers who can see
alternatives and who have some conception of a better world (e.g. Ozmon
and Craver 183).
Reconstructionist views on education basically states that in education social issues should be addressed. Driver’s education, school based health centers, drug education,
busing are only some of the social issues that are being addressed in education.
When looking at the situation today, one finds that schools and educators are still not leaders of change and often serve to prevent it. When society had moved ahead in accepting new social customs, the school often continues to preserve traditional ways. Educators should become more involved in social causes. World community, brotherhood, and democracy are three ideals that Reconstructionists believe in and desire to implement in schools and society. Schools should foster these ideals through curricular, administrative, and educational practices (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 185-86).
Reconstructionists are critical of most methods currently used in all levels of schooling. This is because the old methods reinforce traditional values and attitudes
underlying the status quo. In such circumstances, the teacher becomes an unwitting agent of entrenched values and ideas. The “hidden curriculum” underlies the educational process, and students are shaped to fit preexisting models of living (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 186). Teachers are viewed as dispensers of knowledge and students as passive recipients; the way is paved for students to accept uncritically whatever is presented. Passivity on the part of students deprives them of any creative role in analyzing and constructing materials or in making judgments or decisions (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 186).
Reconstructionists favor students getting out as much as possible into society, where they can learn and apply learning. Brameld recommends that as much as half of a student’s time is spent outside the traditional school structure, learning at some place other than school. The traditional classroom setting might have some value, but the important thing is to get students to use what they learn, and traditional school do not always encourage this (e.g. Ozmon and Craver187).
Reconstructionists believe that the teacher should be an educational activist (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 189). The teacher should be a person who is aware of what is going on in society and have an opinion and is able to discuss this with the students she teachers. Teachers need to be freed from passivity and fear of working for change. They need to focus on critical issues not generally found in textbooks or made a part of the school curriculum. They also need to make students more critical about the knowledge they receive (Ozmon and Craver190).
According to the writings of William Howick in his book Philosophies of Education he summarizes the principles and practices of reconstructionism
Education of the right kind is the most effective means of achieving the
goals of the social pragmatist. The opportunities for schooling reach
practically everyone, the administrative structure is already in place, and
we need only to redirect our efforts and alter our curricula in order to use
that system to usher in the great society.
The behavioral sciences would constitute the heart of the schools’
curriculum. These subjects, properly focused, would send students out,
both during school days and later, equipped to solve social problems and
alleviate community difficulties. The subjects of greatest value would be
sociology, economics, political science, anthropology, and pragmatic
The good teacher would busy himself with social concerns, both in and
out of the classroom. In the community at large, the approach would be
through social consensus. With pupils in the classroom, the project
method would be most applicable. Both approaches are similar to the
well-known scientific method, differing from it mainly because of the
need of social pragmatism to emphasize the need to solve large social
problems. The teacher would actively promote the involvement of
students with social programs and work to develop insight and
understanding of contemporary society.
The student’s role would be to become immersed in social concerns, to see
to understand what precipitated the problems, and to be able to propose
some means that would lead to a reduction in their intensity or to their
solution. A background of training in the social sciences would prepare
the student for leadership in the chosen community and the ability to
operate by social consensus. In the main, the competencies required for
promotion and graduation would be society-centered rather than
There are many social issues that have been addressed through education. The
busing of students has come about because of a need for school desegregation. There is
now majority to minority transfers and magnet programs that are put into place so that
students with diverse cultures can attend different schools. One issue that
Reconstructionists believe have been addressed in education is the “melting pot” in
public schools. They favor a world curriculum where students are aware of what is going
on in the world. Schools are giving much attention to the variety of cultures in American
society. Cultural pluralism is the term generally used to describe this cultural diversity, and multicultural education is the term most often applied to educational programs designed to study it. Reconstructions would encourage the learning of language and the cultures of other people. They also would encourage reading the literature of other cultures, as well as newspapers and magazines that deal with issues on a worldwide basis (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 188).They believe that if an issue arises then it should be addressed through education. For example, if people needed health care then that issue should be addressed in the educational system. At some public schools, there are site –
based health centers. Because of the need for health care and so many students not getting the proper health stuff, the centers were implemented in the schools. Social workers, an LPN, a doctor and a nurse staff the health-based centers.
Reconstructionism has influenced educators into thinking anew about the role of education. They have championed the role of the educator as a primary change agent and have sought to change schools in ways that would contribute to a new and better society (e.g. Ozmon and Craver 180).
Ozmon, Howard & Samuel Craver, ed. Philosophical Foundations of Education. New
Jersey: Merill Publishing Company, 1999
Howick, William H. Philosophies of Education. Illinois: The Interstate Printers &
Publishers, Inc. 1980.
Stanley, William B. Curriculum for Utopia: Social Reconstructionism and Critical
Pedagogy in the Postmodern Era. New York: State University of New York
Dewey, John. Reconstruction in Philosophy. Massachusetts: Beacon Press. 1948