Today's students will enter a workforce that is vastly different from that of their parents. Increasingly, they must be able to work in teams that are cross-functional and often global to solve complex and important problems that critically affect the world while responding creativity to rapidly changing business landscapes using rapidly evolving technologies. Teachers should provide them with good characters to support the development of critical skills students that will meet the complex demands of the 21st century.
Education is part of our life, the basis of everything, all the knowledge and skills people acquire, since we have use of reason, which are needed to function and predict consequences in society. These days, students are taught how to prepare themselves dealing with the society, enabling them to independently find solutions to various and complicated social problems. As important as it is considered that many institutions such as school and university are available, which offer programs to children, adolescents and adults to build their strong character to deal with the upcoming problems in social life . Basically, students will learn in these institutions skill as reading, math, and science. However, character education is fundamentally crucial for the success of the individual’s life in coping with the demands of the 21st century, where everything are judge by its value to the society . In 1996, the UNESCO-sponsored Delors Report (The Treasure Within) identified four pillars enabling individual development: learning to do, learning to be, learning to understand, and learning to live together. These four pillars are essential in order to prepare the students interact with the community and social life.
This paper will present arguments in supporting the idea that the implementation of pragmatist epistemology and education can be a good basis of character education in Indonesia because of its four reasonable concepts: (1) An active and exploratory mind (2) Method of Intelligence (3) Situational learning construction and (4) Curiousity stimulation. Thus, this paper explains how the implementation of pragmatism in education can be a good basis to build student characters as their preparatory towards the complicated 21st century demands.
Character education has been phenomenal in Indonesia these days. This kind of teaching method started to boom quite a long time ago when people in Indonesia especially teachers and parents concern not only about student academic achievement, but also the emotional and religious intelligent. Character is the way how an individual think and behave which shape his or her trait to cooperate with other people in family circle, society, and country. An individual is considered good in character when he or she is able to make decisions and be responsible for the decisions he or she has made. Character education is one of the aims of national goal in educational aspect. It is said in Pasal 1 UU Sisdiknas 2003 that the national education aims at developing student potential to have intelligence, good character and personalities, and be a real human. As Dr. Martin Luther King says that intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education. In America, this kind of education has been embodied in every subjects taught at school or university.
Chaedar Alwasilah, a professor in University of Education, stated in his article that character education in Indonesia has not been a good news for us. Many cases have risen on TV about corruptions, misconceptions, criminal, etc. were actually rooted from the failure of character education. The teacher roles as an educator, instructor, and best example are built through the character-based education and this should be embeded in every subject taught at school or university. Furthermore, it is good to know that character education benefits both the teachers and the students. For the language teacher, it is a challenge to be a good model or example for the students and the they are expected to initially had it before transferring the character education through language they use in everyday meetings. Seeing the fact that students are facing a world that is full of complexity, pragmatism is believed to be a great foundation to help them live in the socity. Character education is considered helpful in shaping the most important character expected in student’s life, namely critical thinking. Critical thinking should be embedded as to stimulate students’ way of thinking to be able to diagnose problem, analyse it by facts, seek for ideas, make decisions, and later on solve the problem independently.
The Philosophy of Pragmatism
Pragmatism refers to the philosophical position that the test of an idea’s truth is its practical consequences. Pragmatism is a reaction against abstract, romantic, and idealistic philosophies, countering instead that the truth of an idea arises from observing its consequences. Pragmatism’s roots are in empiricism and the scientific method, and the energies and enthusiasm of late nineteenth-century American life are obvious in pragmatism. John Dewey (1859–1952), chair of the philosophy department at the University of Chicago at the turn of the century, is best known for his work on education and social issues. Dewey’s guiding philosophy, instrumentalism, is a strand of pragmatism. Dewey was critical of abstract and theological notions of truth and reality. Dewey’s approach utilized a praxis formula for inquiry as the method for advancing knowledge. He believed that through experience the mind acquires knowledge, but over time new experiences challenge the previously held beliefs. The process of inquiry, challenging staid ideas and the resulting new synthesis, is the process by which truth becomes known to the individual.
In philosophical terms, pragmatism is generally considered to be nominalistic and pluralistic. Ideas are not real as abstract, formal categories, but change as experiences are apprehended and given meaning by the mind. The philosopher Ferdinand C. Schiller (1864–1937) wrote that concepts are tools slowly fashioned by the practical intelligence for the mastery of experience (Schiller 1907, p. 64). Thus, for Schiller there is no single truth, although there are truths that are relevant within a given context. James agreed, citing that truth was not static but ambulatory, directly related to human experiences. Moreover, old truths may no longer be relevant to the contemporary setting because they no longer adequately convey meaning about the world as it is. Thus, they are no longer true.
For pragmatists, ideas are contextual and their worth derives from the utility of their consequences. Pragmatists believe there is no first cause, nor is there a single ultimate end. Rather, the world is pluralistic in that social and empirical phenomena are connected but it is the individual who gives meaning to experience, and therefore the value of a concept is in its practical consequences. James wrote that the distinctions between thoughts and things are the the conceptions of classes with subclasses within them, surely all these were once definite conquests made at historic dates by our ancestors in their attempts to get the chaos of their crude individual experiences into a more shareable and manageable shape. (James, 1909).
The Implementation of Pragmatist Epistemology and Education As A Good Basis of Character Education
Having provided with the reality and the development of education, pragmatism can be considered as one of the most suitable philosophy of educations nowadays. Teachers are expected to teach and help the students to learn how to solve problems by providing character education. It is in here were education pay an important role in the school. In his most famous writing about education, The School and the Society, Dewey presents some principals in educating students. It is included, that the role of the teacher is mainly as supervisor or advisor and devil’s advocate. The education process should begin with, and built on, the student interests (Magee, 2001). The There are four arguments which evidentally supports the implementation of pragmatism: (1) An active and exploratory mind (2) Method of Intelligence (3) Situational learning construction and (4) Curiousity stimulation. The explanations are as follow:
An Active and Exploratory Mind. Pragmatists believe the mind to be active and exploratory rather than passive and receptive. Knowledge is produced by a “transaction” between man and his environment, and truth is a property of knowledge. As a pragmatist, Dewey sees that knowing is very human (Magee, 2001). If teachers put this argument, they will not limit their students into some restictions. They will treat those explanatory-mind-creatures as something that is open to any possibilities, new creative ideas, new perceptions, breakthroughs, and unlimited learning process.
Method of Intelligence. Pragmatists also maintain that the “method of intelligence” is the ideal way to acquire knowledge. Students grasp things best, by locating and solving problems. (Kneller, 1971). Dewey supports the idea of problem solving should be the basis of children education, which he claims as learning by doing. This method encourage students to be imaginative, and the most important, train them in accomplishing competence in every aspect of life (Magee, 2001).
Situational Learning Construction. According to the pragmatists, the teacher should construct learning situations around particular problems whose solution will lead his or her students to a better understanding of their social and physical environment. The same procedure should be followed in learning the skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. All subjects become more meaningful to the student and so more easily mastered when the student can use them as means for satisfying needs and interests of his own. By creating situational learning construction, students will be engaged in learning since the subject taught based on their interests. This will nourish their ability to be critical, tolerant towards social environment, and respective to other people’s point of views.
Curiousity Stimulation. A young person is a natural learner because he is naturally curious. He will learn most from whatever he feels stimulated to explore and think about. The teacher should foster this spirit of inquiry. Instead of instructing the student in subject matter prescribed for him by others, the teacher should encourage the student about to learn what he feels curious about and to feel a curiousity about the subject that matter such as science, literature, and history. Stimulus novelty, however, is not a sufficient factor for evoking exploratory behaviour: in order to elicit exploration, a stimulus, apart from being novel, must also be interesting and attractive (Henderson & Moore, 1980). The point for the pragmatist is that the child should learn from curiousity, while the teacher should stimulate curiousity about subjects that will fully reward it.
Pragmatist Values and Education
Values abound everywhere in education. They are involved in every aspect of school practice. They are basic to all matters of choice and decision-making. Using values, teachers evaluate students and students evaluate teachers. Society evaluates course of study, school program, and teaching competence, and society itself is evaluated by educators. For the pragmatist, values are relative. Ethical and moral canons are not permanent but must alter as cultures and societies change. The child should learn how to make difficult moral decisions not by recourse to rigidly prescribed principles but by deciding which course of action is likely to produce the best result for human beings. Teachers should assist them in making the best solution by providing them with character education.
As Thomas Kuhn argues about the structure of scientific revolutions in 1970, to understand scientific thought we must understand scientific communities; scientific knowledge changes, not as our understanding of the world changes, but as scientists organize and reorganize relations among themselves (Couvalis, 1997). Thus, taking into consideration all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that education, being a very complicated phenomenon, has to progress and adapt to the current conditions. Education should be democratic, humanistic, and more importantly, provide students with character education, practical knowledge and skills and abilities to realize them in practical life. But firstly the purposes of education have to be defined and only after that it is possible to speak about methods that can be applied, classroom activities and classroom management, curriculum at large and finally, this process has to be based on an individual approach to each student. Naturally in such a situation a teacher should correspond to such demands and progress along with his/her students.
Alwasilah, C. 2011. Bahasa dan Karakter Bangsa. Bandung: Pikiran Rakyat.
Couvalis, G. 1997. The Philosophy of Science. London: Sage Publications.
Dewey, John. 1903. Studies in Logical Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago
Henderson, B., & Moore, S. G. (1980). Children’s responses to objects differing in novelty in
relation to level of curiosity and adult behaviour. Child Development, 51(2), 457–465.
James, William. 1909. The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to “Pragmatism.” New York and
London: Longmans, Green.
Kneller, G. 1971. Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. Canada: John Wiley & Sons,
Magee, B. 2001. The Story of Philosphy. London: Dordling Kindersey Limited.
Schiller, Ferdinand C. 1907. Studies in Humanism. New York: Ayer.
SRI International. 2009. Center for Technology in Learning: The Power of Project
Learning with ThinkQuest. California: Oracle Education Foundation.
Subbotsky, E. 2010. Curiosity and exploratory behaviour towards possible and impossible
events in children and adults. British Journal of Psychology, 101, 481–501