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No doubt it somewhat over-simplifies the complex path of intellectual history to suggest that what happened in the twentieth century—early on, in the home discipline itself, and with a lag of a decade or more in philosophy of education—is that philosophical analysis came to be viewed by some scholars as being the major philosophical activity (or set of activities), or even as being the viable or reputable activity.In any case, as they gained prominence and for a time hegemonic influence during the rise of analytic philosophy early in the twentieth century analytic techniques came to dominate philosophy of education in the middle third of that century (Curren, Robertson, & Hager 2003). Ennis edited the volume (1965), consisting of essays by a number of prominent British writers, most notably R. Peters (whose status in Britain paralleled that of Scheffler in the United States), Paul Hirst, and John Wilson.In all this the philosopher of education prizes conceptual clarity, argumentative rigor, the fair-minded consideration of the interests of all involved in or affected by educational efforts and arrangements, and informed and well-reasoned valuation of educational aims and interventions.
Unfortunately, ordinary language analysis did not lead to unanimity of opinion about where this border was located, and rival analyses of the concept were put forward (Snook 1972).
The danger of restricting analysis to ordinary language (“normal English usage”) was recognized early on by Scheffler, whose preferred view of analysis emphasized first, its greater sophistication as regards language, and the interpenetration of language and inquiry, second, its attempt to follow the modern example of the sciences in empirical spirit, in rigor, in attention to detail, in respect for alternatives, and in objectivity of method, and third, its use of techniques of symbolic logic brought to full development only in the last fifty years…
It is…this union of scientific spirit and logical method applied toward the clarification of basic ideas that characterizes current analytic philosophy [and that ought to characterize analytic philosophy of education].
(Scheffler 1973 [1989: 9–10]) After a period of dominance, for a number of important reasons the influence of APE went into decline.
(An example here is the behaviorist psychologist B. Skinner, the central figure in the development of operant conditioning and programmed learning, who in works such as (1972) grappled—albeit controversially—with major philosophical issues that were related to his work.) What makes the field even more amorphous is the existence of works on educational topics, written by well-regarded philosophers who have made major contributions to their discipline; these educational reflections have little or no philosophical content, illustrating the truth that philosophers do not always write philosophy.
However, despite this, works in this genre have often been treated as contributions to philosophy of education.
First, there were growing criticisms that the work of analytic philosophers of education had become focused upon minutiae and in the main was bereft of practical import.
(It is worth noting that a 1966 article in , reprinted in Lucas 1969, had put forward the same criticism of mainstream philosophy.) Second, in the early 1970’s radical students in Britain accused Peters’ brand of linguistic analysis of conservatism, and of tacitly giving support to “traditional values”—they raised the issue of whose English usage was being analyzed?
Elsewhere Peters developed the fruitful notion of “education as initiation”.
The concept of indoctrination was also of great interest to analytic philosophers of education, for, it was argued, getting clear about precisely what constitutes indoctrination also would serve to clarify the border that demarcates it from acceptable educational processes.