Dr. Otengho’s Message to the Students:
My philosophy of education has been anchored in a constructivist theory where by acquisition of knowledge is not static but always reconstructing as new information and experiences help to shape the borders of that knowledge. This same thought has governed the way I process formation in my cultural and philosophical understanding of metaphysics. I strongly believe true knowledge not to be static but is always involving, growing and reconstructing itself based on new ways of thinking. Therefore I am convinced that through inquiry and critical thinking, one is able to arrive at new constructs as well adjust their thought based on new information.
Notwithstanding my own cultural persuasions, I have allowed my understanding of education to be governed by a process of constant probing and questioning of existing body of knowledge. Paul (1993) said “The advance of knowledge has been achieved not because the mind is capable of memorizing what teachers say but because it can be disciplined to ask probing questions and pursue them in a reasonable, self-critical way.” He stated further that “Scholars pursuing knowledge submit their thinking to rigorous discipline.” Education, therefore, is the harbinger of all cultural thought and philosophy through which each society inculcates its offspring.
In this regard, I fundamentally believe, that each of my students is endowed with the capacity to learn and that all children have the ability to learn, aided by effective teachers who nurture and recognize this ability about every child in their classroom. Therefore I invite you to an academic journey that will challenge your ability to think as we investigate how each of us learns and how we know what we know.
Along the years, in my academic journey, I have come across many modern philosophers who talk about the idea of critical thinking as it applies to the classroom. I have found the work of Dr. Richard Paul: “Critical Thinking: How to Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World”, stimulating and provocative in asserting the primacy of thought in each discipline. I have found Paul’s work to be quite alluring, and significant, in the belief that “reasoning must be the center of our teaching—that we must use specific intellectual standards in our teaching and learning.” Seeing that those who think critically investigate and evaluate their thoughts to advance them, he stated that “holding certain standards as Criteria to aim for in our thinking and reasoning should be an important part of our teaching.” In this way children are taught to attempt, assess, evaluate their own thinking, dialogue, and compose within this framework of thought process. This process includes lucidity, accuracy, precision, application, comprehensiveness, and complexity in the reconstruction of knowledge.
Using this framework as a point of reference or benchmark, children can learn to habitually evaluate their thoughts as they occur by asking such queries as "is my writing clear," "am I being complete in my discussion," and "does my response show the depth of my thinking?" It is this kind of self-assessment that develops scholars into independent learners. This process is a good aim for students to target. If not used, it becomes obvious when a scholar continuously gives unclear, imprecise, incomplete, and shallow answers. These standards are of paramount essence.
Needless to say, Dr. Paul’s work has greatly influenced my instruction. In the existence of diverse methods and explanations regarding critical thinking, Paul's interpretation that “it is the development of disciplined organized thinking that monitors itself and is guided by certain intellectual standards” is paramount in my thinking process. Additionally, Paul believed “the heart of good teaching is reasoning.” In my opinion, his metaphysical thought and method regarding critical thinking places his concepts and ideas at the top of good pedagogy. Try them!!
My philosophy of education, therefore, centers on the Constructivist theory. I believe that every student has the ability and constantly construct information along the learning praxis in the classroom. Students are not empty slates but use their prior knowledge to investigate and acquire new knowledge as they experience new stimuli from their surroundings. Additionally, as my education journey has matured, I have come to adopt Humanism as an underlying philosophy to guide an understanding of the importance of my students. By incorporating Humanistic theory, I have become a crucial element, eve participating to advance their acquisition of knowledge. Students must be given a voice in and outside of the classroom so that they are capable of functioning in a real world. By embracing the Humanist theory, I become a “facilitator” allowing students to explore answers to questions within their learning process. .My aim in teaching is for you as my students to be become independent learners capable of solving problems by yourselves before seeking for help.
Foundations of our Education system:
Education. in United States of America, through its Public Schools, is about Freedom. You see, the framers of our constitution knew so well about the dangers of ignorance. They also knew that if this country and its esteemed citizens were to become the guardians of peoples’ liberties and freedom, that citizenry had to be educated. I therefore believe that Democracy requires and demands an informed citizenry, hence the almost unwarranted preoccupation with education policies that guarantee free education for the first 18 years of our youth. What a privilege!!
I consider you therefore, my students, to be the world’s treasured and best resource. Your determinations, your views, and your visions are bound to lift our world to heights that only reside in our imaginations. Determine to be proactive in your thoughts. Learn the benefit of delayed gratification. Better things are yet to come; just be patient and navigate the system to your advantage. “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." These words, uttered by Isaac Newton, must remain true in your quest for knowledge and for holding fast to the democratic values of our society. Just as the great philosopher David Hume said long time ago and it is true today “Your parents and your teachers, along with the millions of people who have lived and learned before you have provided the shoulders.” For some it meant persecution, discrimination and torture. For others, it took paying the highest price of all, death, to achieve freedom and civil liberties that we enjoy today.
Here lies the prospect and the accountability for you to envision more, to acquire knowledge, so that this world can be better place for us and for those yet to come and to advance that which has stayed constant in our society; education.
Remembering that your heart and mind are the greatest asset, the cultivation and the nurture of them will open doors that many simply dream of. In this globalized world, driven by new innovations in every area of our lives, the future looks awesome. I therefore count it a privilege to be part of your success along this life’s journey as I lead you to an awesome and most prosperous future in a world that is changing each day. Keep the dream alive.