The Council of Europe has a long history of facilitating International cooperation since its inception in 1948. The history of international cooperation via business and trade goes back to The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
In recent times beginning in 2008 the Council of Europe has suggested a framework of educational levels(called EQF) ranging from 1-8 which are intended to be used for the purposes of evaluating educational qualifications internationally and thus facilitating the free movement of people between different sovereign nations
The Global Educational Reform Movement is a modern educational movement partially initiated by so called “progressive” pedagogues in the USA. This movement has swept the globe and produced devastating consequences for educational systems around the world. It is important to note however, that the movement actually has a very long academic history which goes all the way back to Hobbes and Descartes who heralded the beginning of the modern scientific and political age by dismissing the works of Aristotle: works which had actually been the foundation of all progress in Europe. Many philosophers throughout the ages have argued that the reason why Scientists have pursued their subjects so systematically is due to the systematic and universal approach to the subject. If this is so one must be wondering how two Philosophers of the modern age can have succeeded in dismantling Aristotle’s thousand year influence. Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages in the course of translation by Religious authorities who controlled the flow of ideas in the world. the work of Aristotle was falsely represented for reasons we do not yet fully understand. This was followed by a time when academic scientists with one eye on the treatment of Galileo sought to free themselves of the chains that were confining their scientific theorising about the structure and origins of the universe. The feeling was that we needed to reinvent the wheel of knowledge in a space free from Religious intervention. The Scientist wanted to be left alone to pursue his observations and formulate his theories in order to provide us with explanations of the origins and structure of the universe. This picture of the lone scientist completely disregarding the history of his subject and setting off into the desert and mountains of the universe with his instruments was the image which actually inspired the American revolution in Education that in turn suggested the child should adopt this a-historical backwoodsman mentality in the classroom. The teacher’s role should be as an advisor and guide and learn about the child’s mind via this uniquely revolutionary approach to education. We know now that this was a disaster and a number of generations of pupils instead of experiencing a truly progressive historical educational system based on the Philosophy of Aristotle with its amendments and improvements by Kant and the work of the later Wittgenstein, have been forced to participate in a romantically inspired adventure which has to my surprise not yet ended. It is my suspicion that, of all places, the Council of Europe are still more influenced by the limited perspectives of Hobbes and Descartes than they are by the systematic theorising of Aristotle Kant and Wittgenstein.
First we should point out that it is thanks to the work of Aristotle that we have the framework of the differences between theoretical, practical and technological science. It is thanks to Aristotle that we have the divisions between the sciences we have today, e.g. the physical,the biological, the psychological, the theological. It is thanks to Aristotle that academics do not believe the “stories” about ethics we get from theoretical scientists in which it is claimed that theories about ethical behaviour are not as objective as their theories about natural events and processes. This latter point is not an expression of a position in an academic quarrel but rather is an expression of the fact that our educational systems maintained their strong ethical focus for so long. For Aristotle, Education aims at the philosophical: it aims at universal knowledge which flows from the structure of the human mind which he examined in a way which to this day dwarfs all other examinations. The range of complexity of his theory is still being written about by scholars today. It took great minds like Kant and Wittgenstein to accept his framework and make improvements upon it. All three philosophers were highly critical of the scientifically inspired “framework” that developed as a consequence of the “modernisation of Philosophy and knowledge by Hobbes and Descartes. A framework which would eventually lead to the GERM.
The Council of Europe were undoubtedly influenced by Descartes lonely meditative figure reflecting on himself and by the materialist Hobbes and his vision of the good life which was the bourgeoisie businessman’s life dedicated to commodious living and occupied with a hedonistic calculation of the value of human life. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would have scoffed at this simplistic vision of the complexity of man as would have Kant and Wittgenstein. They would have suggested that if one followed such a vision one would end up with a society of the kind we currently see in the USA–the businessman’s paradise. If this is true, is this not a fascinating thought that the Council of Europe shares its values with a USA that largely ignores the ICJ and the UN and spreads the GERM everywhere it can.
So, in the light of the above considerations let us examine one of the latest products of the Council its EQF “instrument of evaluation”. There are eight levels in the EQF system. Level 4 is the level of gymnasium education, level 5 is a level between Gymnasium and University and there we see an amazing anti- Aristotelian thought, namely that as education advances it “specialises” into ONE area and as we progress toward doctoral studies at level eight we are dealing with a part of a subject. The very title-name of Ph.d is Aristotelian: it refers to a doctor of Philosophy and philosophy in Ancient Greece was the most universal of all the subjects. It was the subject which examined the mind which sought to understand everything about the universe,and not just the internal organs of the coffin worm which could be the topic of a science Ph.d. Aristotle that is, was using philosophical and first principle thinking when he identified all the domains of study which would later become the subjects we are studying. So for Aristotle the doctoral level of study should not be specialising but universalising. This is not reflected in the criteria we see for level 8.
Now the GERM has also all but destroyed our once excellent European University systems. It has definitely destroyed the University system in Sweden. When I was attending Universities in England in the 1970’s the GERM was just beginning to make its presence felt and I can honestly say I was given the original Aristotelian education at two Universities in England. Arriving with these qualifications in Sweden in 1979 I was forced to “alter” my Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian attitude in order to obtain a Swedish doctorate. That is, I was forced to write a worse doctorate than the one I would have otherwise written.
I am sure the Swedish University system is even as we speak requiring the same behaviour of students who come into the system with a genuine philosophical background and the difference is that they today are now able to point to two Council of Europe decisions and the EQF evaluation instrument in support. The dreams of Hobbes and Descartes of men and institutions created in the image of their Philosophies have come true. Sciences proliferate in accordance with the spirit of specialisation like the mythical thousand heads of the monster of the ancient Greek imagination. In the last 50 years the Humanities subjects in the spirit of philosophy have constantly diminished in stature and teaching hours at University level. These are the concrete consequences of the GERM with the added support of the EQF instrument and an ever increasing population of scientists at these “Universities”. How long before we call them by the more appropriate name: “Specialities.”?
I am a product of the English A level system and have been teaching in the Swedish Social Sciences/Economics and Natural Science programs as well as the International Baccalaureate Programme. All four programs would be placed in the current EQF system at the EQF 4 level. One program (the A level system) was a pre-GERM system and has with one qualification which we will not discuss here have a claim to be a higher level educational system than level 4.
On the basis of an Aristotelian/Kantian/Wittgensteinian framework where knowledge does not proceed in a specialising direction but rather a philosophical holistic universal direction one might conceive that the above 4 programs should be placed at three different levels ranging from 4 for the Swedish programs to low 5 for the IB AND 6 for the Olde English A level system before it was contaminated by the GERM. IB is currently placed at 5 because at its inception it had truly Philosophical intentions and should have been placed at a 6 in my new proposed system but with the expansion of the system in America and other non English speaking countries, the GERM system has managed to affect the quality of education produced and a current realistic estimate would be that the Ib system should be on the boundary between a 4 and a 5.
Let us note here that that the argument being put forward is not that science is not an important subject in the gamut of subjects we learn and teach. It is rather that, according to Aristotle, Science had characteristics which would firstly, explain its differentiation into different parts in accordance with the segments of physical reality it seeks to describe and explain and secondly would explain the universal nature of the subject where universal principles organise these descriptions and explanations. Science,in other words proceeds universally in accordance with the principle of non contradiction and other universal principles outlined by the Philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein. Proceeding in the direction of universalisation at University level might also have resulted in more research into the relations between the biological, psychological and theological “universal” sciences.
The IB deserves a place above normal gymnasium systems for three reasons. Firstly because of its attempt to incorporate its philosophy of education in a course given to the students called the Theory of Knowledge course. Secondly because of its inclusion of the subject of Philosophy amongst the range of options it offers in its humanities section. Thirdly because of the essay based approach which is assessed in terms of criteria which are intending to evaluate not specialist understanding of concepts but universal understanding of principles and systems of concepts.
The problem with this suggestion of a new scale and the new criterion of universalisation rather than specialisation is the problem of how we are going to find differentiating criteria for the higher levels. Again I would suggest turning to the ancient Greeks and the hierarchy of understanding that is involved in study over a period of time: the young man(bachelour) studying for three years at the Academy or the Lyceum is obviously learning how to make judgments on the material he is presented with in accordance with principles. The more mature man(master) who has studied somewhat longer has mastered the concepts and principles and is not merely capable of making judgments in accordance with the principles but can make judgments on the principles, i.e. can make critical judgments. The doctoral level is a more mature position,and involves the application of a critical approach for the benefit of the subject and its relation to all other subjects and the society one is part of as well as other societies. This would be a hierarchical escalation on an evaluative scale in accordance with the principle of universalisation rather than specialisation.
All the reasons for this approach can not be given in a short lecture of this nature and would require amongst other things also studying the work of Philosophers working with the same or a similar theory of knowledge. It would also require the study of the History of Psychology/Social Science and the History of Education as well as the History of the subjects of a school and university curriculum.
Let me in conclusion appeal to the study of two Psychologists whose work has been in the spirit of Aristotle, i.e. in the spirit of a holistic understanding of man, namely Maslow and Freud. Maslow’s work we know appeals to the businessman who is frantically searching for a theory which he can apply to his fickle customers or unreliable business partners but it is in fact an academic theory inspired by Aristotle’s theories. Maslow is trying to describe and explain what it is that motivates man and why. We are animals, as Aristotle pointed out, and as such we are motivated by physiological needs(which include the sexual) and safety needs: a place in a territory we have defended where we feel safe.
As animals capable of discourse and reason we also experience the need for a kind of love which animals do not possess. According to Maslow once we receive the required amount of love which occurs over a long period of time over a long childhood, a need at the next level of the motivational hierarchy emerges namely the need to feel self esteem and receive respect or esteem from others in ones environment. In Maslow’s earlier theory it was enough to fulfil needs at this level in order to become self actualised, i.e. reach ones full Aristotelian potential of being the fully functional rational animal. In order to test his theory he applied the criteria of his theory to his university students and discovered to his surprise that they fulfilled the criteria for esteem but not for self actualisation. Maslow asked himself why this was the case and realised that his theory was missing a dimension which is very relevant to my thesis, namely experience in the attempts to answer three universal questions that have come down to us from Greek Philosophy in general and Aristotle in particular, namely What is true? What is the Good?, and What is beauty?.
These are the universal questions one attempts to answer at University and one supposes that Maslow may also have reasoned in the light of the GERM that there was no guarantee that these questions receive satisfactory answers at many Universities.So Maslow believed in universalisation rather than specialisation in his motivational theory.
Sigmund Freud was a brain researcher of significance at Vienna University before he founded the universal psychoanalytical movement which lay completely outside the University system.His earliest theories attempted to use purely scientific concepts and principles in order to explain why people were not mentally healthy and he failed monumentally to such an extent that he even attempted to hide this embarrassing fact from future generations by burning his “Project for a Scientific Psychology”. As he progressed in his theorising, it is not difficult to see how he used definitions and concepts which were Aristotelian in order to develop a framework from which to treat his patients. Toward the end of his career he even turned to Plato for the concepts of Eros, Thanatos and Ananke when he sought to explain mans futile attempts to embrace the rationality principle of Aristotle in the wider context of life in so called civilised societies. This is an escalation from specialisation toward the universal.
My last argument is that the very word “university” means “universal” and all education aims at universal knowledge if we all are to understand the world in all its forms. It is without question useful to specialise and understand the functioning of the internal organs of the coffin worm at the extreme ends of this universal-specialisation spectrum but it is a finer thing to wish to understand the mind of man and the universal principles that determine the shape and form of the infinite starry universe above and all around us.