Personalist pedagogy of John MacMurray
Tittley, Serge G.
Master of Education
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This study attempts to determine what contribution British philosopher John Macmurray makes to contemporary issues in education. Specifically, it seeks to determine how the philosophy of personalism, a variant of which Macmurray developed over more than fifty years of professional practice, informs our attempts to create nurturing learning environments. Macmurray's work is rich in content and subtle in presentation. .Although he rarely wrote or spoke using only the technical language peculiar to philosophical discourse, his writings are textured and many-layered. They are accessible, but defy easy interpretation. Here is a presentation of his philosophical position in as clear and simple a manner as possible for a nonspecialist. It is also an essay in the application o f this pedagogy to a real-life setting. The thesis also connects Macmurray's insights with those of contemporary philosopher of education Nel Noddings. The ethical system proposed for schooling by Noddings is not theistic. as is the model proposed by Macmurray, but in its clear emphasis on personal relations as essential to moral sense-making, it meshes and complements Macmurray's perspective. As a respected contemporary voice. Nel Noddings brings an awareness and engagement with present-day issues that did not need addressing when Macmurray was formulating his personalist stance. The thesis is structured as follows: Chapter One, Wennington School: An Experiment in Personalist Education provides a thumbnail sketch of Macmurray's personalism, and how these ideas were adopted by British schoolmaster Kenneth Barnes. In Chapter Two, Personalism and the Postmodern Context, describes the encounter between a basically religious and personalist worldview, such as Macmurray's, with the secularizing influences o f postmodern thinking. It then goes on to recast Macmurray's personalism in a more contemporary stance by twinning it with the “pedagogy of care" so well articulated by Nel Noddings. The first and second chapters are the core documents of the thesis. Two attached appendices provide helpful details and useful contexts. A thorough presentation of John Macmurray's personalist point of view is found in Appendix A: Historical Sketch o f a Personal Universe. The appendix provides an analysis of Macmurray's historiography, in which, as a thoroughgoing humanist of the old school, Macmurray grounds his philosophy within a Christian reading of purposeful history. Appendix B: Religion-as-Liberation, Society, and Community examines issues of particular interest to Macmurray. This is done through reference to his own work, as well as to that of scholars who either based their views directly on Macmurray, or worked on identical themes along similar lines. Macmurray, always a strong believer in the life of the mind, was nonetheless never seduced by the academy. He was far less interested in knowledge than in wisdom. "The philosopher,’’ he wrote at the height of the Great Depression, “should reveal him self not as a specialist in a particular field but rather as one who has grasped the significance of human life and achieved the ability, if not to live well, at least to understand how it should be lived” (1935. p.56). As a teacher of adolescents, I can only hope that I shall have a small part in helping young persons come to such a conclusion by themselves.