Behind every school and every teacher is a set of related beliefs-a philosophy of education-that influences what and how students are taught. These collections deal with the nature and theory of the philosophy of education ( Archambault 1972 , Lucas 1969 ) or provide important and useful handbooks of philosophy of education ( Siegel 2009 ; Bailey, et al. 2010 ; Blake, et al. 2003 ). In the two anthologies included in this section, original texts of key thinkers are included ( Curren 2007 , Cahn 2009 ), while Cahn 2009 follows each original text with an interpretative essay.
In approaching these questions about the individual, society, and education, there is a general conflict between a more liberal viewpoint of the aim of education—in which the independence of the individual is stressed over the good of the society—and a more communitarian view—in which the individual’s far-reaching dependence on and obligation to society has weight.
The most lively contemporary debates about education research, however, were set in motion around the turn of the millennium when the US Federal Government moved in the direction of funding only rigorously scientific educational research—the kind that could establish causal factors which could then guide the development of practically effective policies.
Rousseau wrote in his book Emile that all children are perfectly designed organisms, ready to learn from their surroundings so as to grow into virtuous adults, but due to the malign influence of corrupt society, they often fail to do so. Rousseau advocated an educational method which consisted of removing the child from society—for example, to a country home—and alternately conditioning him through changes to his environment and setting traps and puzzles for him to solve or overcome.
To cite one example that is prominent in the literature in North America at least, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling (Wisconsin v. Yoder) in which members of the Amish sect were allowed to withdraw their children from public schools after the eighth grade—for, it had been argued, any deeper education would endanger the existence of the group and its culture.