Author: Philip W. Jackson
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
This is the book I needed for my history and philosophy of education module two years ago! I sat down with What is Education? one evening expecting to get through a chapter or two, and then realised I had read it from start to finish. There aren't many philosophical books I've said that about.
What is Education? presents a fascinating exploration of different ways of thinking about education, and it is arguably the reflective quality of the writing that makes the discussion so engaging. As a reader, it feels as if you are watching the author's ideas unfold before you; the work that Philip Jackson shares spans more than 60 years, and the book is structured in a way that enables readers to keep pace with how his thinking has developed over this time relatively easily. There are several sections that require the deepest of deep concentration but, generally speaking, the clarity of Jackson's writing is likely to make this an engaging read for most undergraduate students. The reader is able to enjoy absorbing and reflecting on the ideas being discussed rather than continually having to revisit sections, which is often necessary when tackling books of this nature at undergraduate level.
Thoughtful reflection is something that this book stimulates throughout. What is education? Is the term "education" one that can be defined? How should we think about education, and how do we make education matter? Are there definitive answers to any of these questions? These are all ideas that I found myself mulling over long after I had finished reading. The author contends that there should be a "subjective truth" for each of us, and that is one of the real strengths of the book. It presents ideas that are likely to prompt a rethink about what the aims of education should be, but ultimately it leaves room for readers to think for themselves.
Although this book is perhaps aimed chiefly at practising teachers, I would argue that it is a must-read for undergraduate education students. We tend to arrive at university with a fairly narrow understanding of what education is, unsurprisingly, and it is books such as this that open our eyes and help us to start thinking critically and seeing education from a new perspective.
Who is it for? Undergraduate education students with a good concentration span.
Would you recommend it? Highly.