Values and beliefs of about human beings and education

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The humanities course has addressed human values, beliefs, and emotions in a way in which these have been expressed through critical thinking. I think the purpose was to expand our awareness of the human condition and appreciation of human needs, values and achievements with the intent that this course will assist in developing insights, capacities and well-reasoned convictions essential for a fulfilled public and private life as well as success in one's life work.

The course of the humanities program provided us with a background of informative content and flexible skills that will enable us to learn and teach whatever area of humanities we wish; it certainly helped me to learn both individually, on my own initiative and cooperatively in a community of inquirers. It has been important that we had a series of vital intellectual encounters with great texts that allow for intellectual and moral openness, and in a community supporting inquiry into the deepest questions of human life. The program thus served to symbolize the nurturing of intellectual and moral flexibility and vision that we know will be required of those who will face a world as different from ours as any generation's has been from those that preceded it.

The traditional answer to the question "What are the humanities?" begins with an attempt to explain what unifies the humanities. That is, it asks us to look beyond the various ways of organizing the various humanistic fields of study and seek out the common elements which they share. Most often, the common elements are areas of questioning.

It is proposed that human minds and spirits in all their diversity fascinate the humanist. The biologist studies plant and animal life, the geologist studies the changes the earth undergoes, and the sociologist studies communities and institutions. These scientists have tried to organize their understanding of subject matter so that it does not reflect the idiosyncrasies of a particular human mind but is the same for every rational observer. The humanist, on the other hand, delights in the way human minds order nature within frameworks of personal purpose and thought.

The course promotes the ideology that humanities deal with human capacities to make forms, to exercise historical and geographical awareness, to grasp imaginatively the cultures of others, and with the impulse to order life according to values, the quest for answers to "impossible" questions about ultimate purposes, and the love of texts and artefacts that speak effectively about human existence. These human capacities, the common elements of the humanities, form the subject matter of the humanities course. Each of the bold-faced concepts above can be turned into a set of questions which can help children and adults interact with the texts we study. For example, what notion of history does this text assume? What stories about the past does it tell? Why does it think that these stories are important? In what way does this text believe that the past can influence the future? Or, what does this text assume about the value and uses of language? To what community is this text addressed?

Knowledge is described as the skills acquired by a person through experience, education and the practical application or understanding of a subject. The Oxford dictionary describes knowledge as facts, information acquired as well as the theoretical and practical understanding of a subject.

Traditionally, schools have been used as an instrument to transmit knowledge; however Chomsky opines that the skills and knowledge taught are often not worthwhile. "The goal of education", according to Noam Chomsky, "is to produce human beings whose values are not accumulation and domination, but instead are free association on equal terms."

Chomsky argues that "the value of education should be placed on children's' critical thinking skills and the process of gaining useful and applicable knowledge". However Chomsky's view of the factory model of education is that children are mandated to adhere to national written curricula where standardized tests are necessary. Children are inadvertently pushed to learn through memorization of facts, rather than through critical thinking.

Chomsky suggests that society simply reduces education to the requirement of the market. Children are trained to be compliant workers. The education process is reduced to knowledgeable educators who transfer information to those who don't know rather than to help children formulate higher level thinking skills on their own. Chomsky describes education as "a deep level of indoctrination that takes place in our schools". Teachers are referred to as workers who merely carry out a task they were hired to do. Schools indoctrinate and impose obedience and are used as a system of control and coercion.

Chomsky complains that children are not taught to challenge and think independently, yet they are taught to repeat, follow orders and obey. Education is described as a period of regimentation and control, with a system of false beliefs. Based on these analyses, the goals of education should be to encourage the development of the child's natural capacity. The course has therefore taken this approach to develop us to think and reflect on our practise as teachers in the same way as Chomsky's learning theory suggests, which I completely agree with.

Why teach Humanities

The humanities all play an important role on the overall curriculum for primary schools and in inter-curriculum skills. If well instructed, they can teach children vocabulary skills, creative skills, literacy skills, spiritual, social and even patriotic skills. (Alexander, 1984)

History has a very crucial role in the primary curriculum. This is because it provides solutions to some instrumental questions within our lives. It allows children to understand how the world around them became what it is today. It also allows them to trace the origin of the people surrounding them. Children in lower levels of learning are usually not familiar with events in the past. They do not know that the past exists and history is the platform for introducing children to this crucial aspect of their lives. It also teaches children the ability to piece together different types of information and hence they learn the principle of drawing conclusions from evidence presented. On top of this, history allows children to form links between the present day and the past.

As teachers handling relatively young children, we need to realise that children learn best in a practical environment. This is why the subject should be taught through visits to the museum. Using this teaching technique, children can see how, where and when certain people in the past lived. They can also comprehend certain aspects of their curriculum by relating it to images they see. Similarly, we should make use of historical sites depicting elements of the curriculum, for the same reason as the museums. Certain teachers also make objects about a central character in a certain topic say King George V's reign or display pictures of the main players within a historical topic and then use it to tell a story. Another example of a specific technique that may be used to deliver topics within the history curriculum includes use of video recordings. Here, a specific topic is selected say 'The Vikings' then actors play out the roles of all the important characters within that topic of study. This makes it seem less rigid and more visual for the children. Consequently, it will heighten their chances of remembering.

Geography as a subject in the humanities is also another crucial subject. Where children are able to learn about their location in relation to the rest of the world. They also learn how certain locations are affected by the environment and how they can change with time. Children will be able to locate certain areas practically even if it is their first time there through development of map skills and will learn about the link that location or the environment has between economic and social activities of the inhabitants. This is achieved through fieldwork activities. (Barton & Walker, 1981)

One of the techniques that I learnt from the course is to instil geographical, historical and thinking skills through inquiries. Here, the teacher selects a certain question and uses it as a baseline for teaching map work, field work and thinking skills. For example in my experince during the course, the teacher selected the topic 'Lizzie Dawson'. The main question that we worked around was 'Who was responsible for Lizzie's death?' Why did she die so young?' Such an inquiry will help children develop an understanding of the world around them. It will also help them develop skills in geography as well as history within a relevant context. Besides these, children will learn to relate how different aspects of a location can change with time. Children should start with simple tasks and resources, but as the weeks progress, they can change this to become more complex. For example, at the start, the scales of the maps are simple and even the maps themselves are quite easy to understand. However, as time progresses, teachers should increase the level of geographical vocabulary. They could also expect the children to draw their own maps. By asking the children questions about their surrounding, children develop communication skills by observing what they see and then speaking them out.

Unfortunatley, according to statutory orders, more time is allocated to mathematics, sciences and english subjects and a subject in humanities like history and geography does not fall into the sort of 'core' treatment that the former three subjects receive. Consequently, from my experinec in se1 and se2 it becomes very difficult to try and fit all the requirements of the curriculum within the limited time allocated for history or geography. The mode of teaching these subjects currently needs to be organised in such a way that teachers maximise on limited time despite having a lot of material to teach.

The humanities subjects give room for the development of literacy skills. This is because as children become proficient in these subject areas, there is a need for them to communicate to each other. When properly channelled by teachers, it improves their vocabulary and enhances their communication skills. Children also grow socially.


From the experience I have had and the information recieved on the course, I am aware the humanities subject do not take as much precedence as english, mathematics and sciences within certain schools. It is therefore in my opinion essential that schools leave more time for these activities. It should also be noted aswell that teachers should also equip themselves with more knowledge in these subjects to teach it with more enthusiasm, engagement and practicality, as this short course has provided me with a flavour of. These will go a long way in enhancing children's capabilities within these areas of study.