Reconstructionism is one of the widely spread philosophical movements which are very popular, especially nowadays. Basically, this philosophical movement is focused on society and its permanent changes. On of the basic ideas of reconstructionists is the changeability of human society and, what is more important, they believe that people can influence these changes. In such a way, they presume that, hypothetically, it is possible to shape society and social relations in accordance with the need, interests and desires of humans making the life of people better. In this respect, education plays an extremely important role since it is due to the education reconstructionists suppose to change the world and human society. Naturally, their views were and still are often criticized because of certain idealism and ephemeral intention to change human society. Nevertheless, this movement is apparently progressive as it attempts to understand the structural changes that take place in society, analyze their effects and attempts to find the ways to positively influence the reconstruction of society and social relations. This is really important, especially in relation to education, which plays the defining role in the life of the modern society. This is why it is necessary to carefully analyze the major ideas of this movement and discuss them in the context of their application in education.
Primarily, it should be said reconstructionism is based on the permanent evolution of human society which changes human life and social relations dramatically. At the same time, reconstructionists underline that these changes often occur rapidly and the contemporary education simply cannot catch up with the social changes that take place in society. In such a situation, the followers of this philosophy emphasize the importance of the reformation of the education system especially public schools in order to change its functioning radically that can improve its effectiveness and prepare children to the life in the new society.
Moreover, reconstructionists stand on the ground that social changes that define social life may be created in a way or, to put it more precisely, influenced with the help of education. Reconstructionism implies that, in the course of social changes or reconstruction, it is possible to make the life of society and each individual better. In fact, reconstructionists even argue that it is possible to change human nature for better and, in this respect, education should become a backbone of such positive changes. This is why many reconstructionists underline that education “should be a method of changing the world”ť (Ogbu 1993:502).
Basically, these ideas were promoted by two major representatives of reconstructionism, George S. Counts and Theodore Brameld. They carefully analyzed the existing social order and education system and attempted to develop their own ideas which targeted at the improvement of both human society and humans through education since they believed that reconstructionsim inevitably affects both human society and education. Counts was particularly concerned about the role of educators in the modern society and the social changes that took place. He insisted that educators should carry the positive changes to the minds of their students and influence the formation of students’ personality in a positive way promoting the reconstruction of society for better. His main idea was that although education had been used historically as the means of introducing people to their cultural traditions, social and cultural norms were changed by modern society, technology, industrialization and scientific development so significantly that education now must be used as a “positive force for establishing new cultural patterns and for eliminating social evils”ť (Martin & Van Gunten 2003:47). In such a way, Counts underlined that educators should become the reformers which should change the entire society through their work.
As for another representative of reconstructionism, Theodore Brameld he developed his ideas even further since he was focused not only on education as a tool of the reconstruction or improvement of human society but he also developed reconstrucionism into a crisis philosophy not only in terms of education but also in terms of culture (Blimling 2001). In fact, he viewed humanity at the crossroads: “One road leads to destruction, and the other to salvation only if people make the effort”ť (Alema 2001:504). He underlined the fact that the modern society was in a profound economic and cultural crisis which had to be overcome and, typically for reconstructionists, he supposed that educators could change the situation for better. He insisted on the change of the school curriculum paying more attention to the interests of students that will not go on to colleges or professions (Baez 2003). In such a way, the public education was supposed to be changed dramatically making it more focused on the social changes and improvement of the life of all people.
Basically, reconstructionists viewed the school as a place where reforms should take place. This means that the educators should focus not only on the academic knowledge, skills and abilities of their students but also they need to pay a lot of attention to their spiritual development and, what is more, to their social education. What is meant here is the fact that reconstructionists believe that the public schools can help reconstruct society to the extent that the reconstruction initiated by educators in schools would be later expanded by their students on the entire society. Ideally, they believe that the school can help change society in such a way as to resolve the social and cultural crisis people are currently facing.
Naturally, the profound change of education leading to the improvement of human society and life of each individual should be based on the improvement of the current education system. In this respect, it should be said that the major goal of reconstructionists in the change of the contemporary education is to make it more humanistic and socially-oriented. Moreover, they underline that the changes should not be exclusive, instead they should “result in better social consequences for all”ť (Martin & Van Gunten 2003:49). This means that the currently existing gap between public and private schools, for instance, should be possibly narrowed as the education is more focused on the formation of new type of really humanistic individuals for whom moral values and social stability are more important than some material values or individual success.
At the same time, reconstructionists also insists on the necessity of changing the curriculum making it less academically-oriented. Instead, they argue that it is necessary to use the educational potential of society in educating children. For instance, Brameld recommends that “as much as half of a student’s time is spent outside the traditional school structure, learning at some place other than school”ť (Martin & Van Gunten 2003:51). In such a way students should be more involved in social activities which, according to reconstructionists, can positively influence students and contribute to the formation of humanistic ideals.
Finally, it should be said that reconstructionists argue that in the modern education social issues should be mainly addressed, such as school based health centers, drug education, etc. This will provide students with positive social experience and contribute to the change of their personal philosophy making it more socially-oriented. In fact, it is necessary to underline that world community, brotherhood, and democracy are three ideals reconstructionists strive for and which, they believe, should be the major goals of the modern education and the subject of the social change promoted by educators.
Thus, in conclusion, it is possible to say that reconstructionists basically focus on education as the major tool that can change society and humans for better improving the life of not few but all people. Naturally, this will need the profound changes such as the increasing role of social activities and orientation of social and humanistic values but the fulfillment of the ideas of reconstrucitonists is supposed to result in the creation of the new, democratic, world community based on the humanistic principles. Even though this sounds a bit idealistic, this philosophical movement has already found a lot of supporters and, judging from the rapid changes that take place in the modern society, the changes will grow even faster in the future that will naturally increase the need in reconstruction and reforms in all levels and spheres of social life, including education. In such a context, it is possible to forecast that reconstructionism have good perspectives and its major ideas and principles may be implemented in education in the nearest future.