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Doctoral Project: Personal Educational Theory

Education 7511 Theory into Practice

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vincent E. Morton

Texas State University—San Marcos



My choice of Pragmatism as a theoretical framework for my own personal theory is

based on my personal experiences, interests, the communities I grew up in and my

educational pursuits. I have gone to schools where blacks, Hispanics and whites have

been the majority as well as the minority. As an African-American male, I am concerned

with the dismal high school graduation rates of African-American males and the low

number of African-American males going to college. One of the issues I would like to

research is what do black males consider to be the benefits of a formal education. I want

to know what it is about our culture, society, postionality, etc., that impacts the black

male’s desire or lack of desire for attaining a formal education. In this paper I use

African-American and black interchangeably.

As for my own theoretical framework, I would begin with a statement similar to

that recorded by Garrison and Nieman (2003, p. 23):

We acquire our habits from our habitat, especially the customs of our social habits, our community. James,

like Pierce, thought it important that habits come under our control; that is why reflective learning is so

important. At a deeper level, it is why cultural critique is so important. Culture has us before we have it; if

we are ever to possess ourselves and realize our unique potential, we must critique and reconstruct the

culture that has us first.

There are individuals born everyday from all over the world. They are born into

different circumstances and cultures. Newborns have no control over the circumstances

or culture in which they are born into. For example, there is a distinct culture for a child

born today in Baghdad, Iraq than in Beverly Hills, California or a kid born and raised in

Snook, Texas compared to one born and raised in Queens, New York.

The family unit is probably the first and most significant culture a person will
experience. The family could consist of a single parent or a married couple, heterosexual

or gay parents, the child could be an only child or part of a large family, abusive alcoholic

drug users or devout religious church goers as parents or relatives, etc. Regardless,

children are basically helpless in changing their environment. Just as important and

influential as the family is, the community or communities are just as important and


A person who grows up in a low socio economic, crime riddled neighborhood with

poorly funded schools will generally experience a different culture than someone who

grows up in a middle or upper class neighborhood and attends a well funded school in a

high tax base school district. This is not to say that a child from any of the above

examples will automatically fail or succeed, but the cultures they are exposed to can

significantly impact them and their perspectives on life.


I do not believe that children and adults learn the same nor should they be taught

the same way. Maturity, environment and experiences such as supportive (or non

supportive) individuals all impact learning. I believe there are definitely some basic needs

that every individual should learn including reading, writing and math and then there are

other subjects or subject matter that might assist the person depending on the culture or

positionality of the person. Children have to be guided although it is important to listen

and learn about the things which are of significance to them regardless of their age.

Another reason I like Pragmatism is that it lends itself to multiple perspectives and

encourages pluralistic thought. Pluralistic thought can enable educators to consider a vast

array of pedagogical methods to teach children and adults who come from a vast array of
communities, towns, cities, states and even other countries. Consider this excerpt for

from a faculty member who was teaching a multicultural class (she appears to have some

familiarity with Pragmatism):

Not everything about this class is pragmatic in orientation. Like many faculty, I work and teach in a system
that constricts the extent to which I can craft a course with students before the first day of class. My
walking in on the first day with a ten-page syllabus, activities determined, books ordered, and writing
assignments devised substantially and negatively influences the ways in which this course can completely
represent a pragmatic framework. If we were starting from a pragmatic position, form the point of the view
of the persons in the class and their particular interests and issues related to multiculturalism, we would
surely have far more collaboration on the construction of a syllabus, the writing assignments, the books we
would read, and the activities we would engage in. It is my experience, however, that students are deeply
appreciative of the constraints that I work within and the ways in which those constraints influence them.
When I explain the pragmatic philosophy that undergirds the course and the limitations we face when
executing it, students are overwhelmingly positive and ready to work where they can (Henry, 2005, p
The teacher recognizes the diversity of the class and the impact of a packaged or

constrained curriculum, this could be indicative of an institutional culture. Fortunately the

class recognizes her limitations and still supports her; maybe because the teacher made an

effort to validate their worth.


Because people are so different, the laws and decisions which govern them and are

influenced by elected and public officials should reflect the diversity of individuals. I

support a democratic process and consider lively debate as healthy but I have a personal

dilemma which I have not come to grips with in terms of separating politics and religion.

The fact may be, I have a grip but I am not willing to compromise my faith’s role in any

aspect of my life. But regardless, rules and laws should be established that take into

consideration those who do not have the same beliefs as I. The creation of order should
benefit all people, not just a few.


My religion would greatly influence my theoretical framework. My religion teaches

me to focus on the needs of others more than myself, treat others as I would like to be

treated (and I enjoy being treated with respect), be a cheerful giver and do not keep score,

never take what is not mine and avoid as best I can hurting anyone physically or

mentally. I would hope even an atheist could appreciate these principles. My dilemma

would be, I’ll Jesus Christ as my Savior from the mountain tops and I would not care who

heard me. This would be a political shift, but true to Pragmatism, I would respect the fact

that not al people will worship who I worship or identify with the same religion as me

and they have that right.


It was interesting as I read about Pragmatism and philosophers who support

Pragmatism. Three of the most influential Pragmatism philosophers we have read about

were Charles Peirce, William James and John Dewey. Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-

1914) was the founder of American pragmatism, a theorist of logic, language,

communication and a mathematician. A practicing chemist and geodesist by profession,

he nevertheless considered scientific philosophy, and especially logic, to be his vocation

(Burch, 2006).

Pierce’s close friend was William James (1842-1910) who was an evangelist, a

psychologist and obviously a philosopher; I was delighted to see James had a Christian

background. James studied at Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School and the School of

Medicine, but his writings were from the outset as much philosophical as scientific
(Goodman, 2006).

John Dewey (1859-1952) was an American psychologist, philosopher, educator,

social critic and political activist. He was born in Burlington, Vermont, on 20 October

1859. Dewey graduated from the University of Vermont in 1879, and received his PhD

from Johns Hopkins University in 1884 (CyBrary, 2006).

Pierce and James were close friends, Dewey was a disciple of James and Pierce

served on Dewey’s doctoral committee so the three were closely connected. With my

current role as an educator, and from what I have personally experienced this theory and

its individual, subjective, pluralistic elements appeal to me and I identify with most of the



When I consider culture, education, politics and religion I think I have identified

key elements which impact me in my role and direction as an educator. We have opened

the doors of our institutions to the world so we may as well open our hearts, minds and

souls as well. The laws we pass and enforce cannot support only the elites of society, but

rather society as a whole. Critical Theory could be possibly be utilized to address my

primary issues of concerns, specifically Critical Rave Theory, but Pragmatism is more


My concern for African-American males has been influenced by the great students

and exceptional minds I have seen as an educator but also by the great minds I see

wasting away when I go back home. Through it all the pluralistic, subjective and open

minded stance I believe we should possess tells me that what is pragmatic to me may not

be pragmatic for others who appear to be just like me. I have to know who they are and
where they are coming from before being able to support and help as an educator or

simply as a concerned citizen.

Garrison, J. & Neiman, A. (2003). Pragmatism and Education. In Blake, N., Smeyers, P.,

Smith, R., & Standish, P. (Ed.), The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of

Education. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Henry, S.E. (2005). A Different Approach to Teaching Multiculturalism: Pragmatism as

a Pedagogy and Problem-Solving Tool [Electronic Version]. Teachers College

Record, v107, n5, p1060-1078.

Burch, Robert, "Charles Sanders Peirce", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

(Fall 2006 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Goodman, Russell, "William James", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring

2006 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

The Pragmatism CyBrary (n.d.) James Dewey, American Pragmatist. Retrieved

November 19, 2006, from