Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

I’ll resume education again, but since I haven’t blogged in a while I thought I’d touch on this subject.  I was discussing it with Bill and I tought I’d see what other people, perhaps more intelligent in this area, thought.

I currently work as an aide in a pre-k classroom for special needs.  (I am certified as a teacher but with the economy…well…)  Most of our children are on the autism spectrum.  In fact, recent data is now suggesting that 1/70 boys are born with autism.  The rate is increasing dramatically, and no one really knows why.  While I’d love to investigate the reasons of what causes autism, I’m going to wax philosophical instead.  Working with these children has made me reflect on what it truly means to be human.

I know that I was taught, and I’m going to assume that many young “conservative” Christians are also taught, that reason separates humanity from the animal kingdom.  This idea is largely based on Aristotle.  He was the first philosopher to propose that to be human was to reason.  I should also mention that Plato was the first to suggest that it was the soul.  Christianity was so intrinsically wrapped up in Greek philosophy that both of those ideas were rapidly absorbed.  Most world religions have some variation on the soul or afterlife.  Greeks believed in a soul but not a resurrection.  The Jews believed in a bodily resurrection.  Question: is the idea of the soul in the Jewish Scriptures or is it a concept that was added onto Christianity later?  By later I mean either the New Testament or early Christian Philosophy.  What does it mean to have a soul?

In the earliest records of the Torah, the book of Genesis, it is written that man is created in the image of God.  God is said to be spirit so the word image can not indicate a physical likeness.  Again for the longest time, I believed it was man’s ability to reason.  I studied the animal kingdom and came to the conclusion that animals have instinct only.  As a human we not only have instincts but we have rationality and free will (sorry not a neo-calvanist ;).  Then I began to work with children with autism.  A whole new world academically and philosophically was opened up to me.  I work with children who don’t make eye-contact, have little to no communication, many don’t have the instinct to eat, and have no social skills.  Yet, those of us that work with these children see them as non-functioning little humans.  We love on them, and try to help them become functioning people.  I hate to make the comparison, but some act very similarly to the ape species.  However, the apes and other animals still have instincts and social skills.  Many of my children don’t even have these. 

So what is it that makes us human?  An abstract concept-and clearly undefined- called a soul?  Genetics?  Reason?  Creativity?  And to what exactly does “image of God” refer?  I’d love for comments from people who have some insight or find my conundrum puzzling as well.


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In Defense of Cognitive Psychology and against the Destructive Nature of Constructivism

While I defend a balanced view of psychological thinking, and even educational philosophy, I have to defend those areas which I think are especially important and have come under attack in recent years.  This blog is in support of the Classical Education Model and uses contemporary cognitive psychology to give the Classical Model strength from outside sources.  (Good Reading : Daniel Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom) (more…)

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