John White

John White
University College London | UCL · Department of Education, Policy and Society

BA Oxon, BA London

About

384
Publications
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Introduction
Contact: john.white@ucl.ac.uk My interests are in the mind of the learner, and in educational aims and curricula. Recent books include What schools are for and why (2007), Exploring Well-being in Schools (2011), The Invention of the Secondary Curriculum (2011), An Aims-based Curriculum (with Michael Reiss) (2013), Who needs examinations? Climbing ladders and dodging snakes (2014), and What's wrong with private education? (2015)
Additional affiliations
October 1965 - present
University College London
Position
  • Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Education
Description
  • My interests are in the mind of the learner, in educational aims and curricula, set within a wider political framework List of publications at http://www.ioe.ac.uk/staff/HSSE/EFPS_76.html

Publications

Publications (384)
Article
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An interview with Zhao Xiantong about my past experience of research; views on the philosophy of mind in education; autonomy as an aim of education; the meaning of life and education; the place of moral education; how schools should change; the role of choice in school education; my views on Whitehead's ideas about education; exam-orientated educat...
Conference Paper
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NOTE In March 2016 an improved version of this paper was published in the Journal of Philosophy of Education on Early View. The improved version discusses the views of Elizabeth Anderson and Debra Satz on equality and sufficiency. Please consult the published version if you wish to cite this paper. This unimproved version was also presented to th...
Article
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A brief reply to Anders Schinkel’s) ‘Education and ultimate meaning’ Oxford Review of Education 41: 6 (2015). In that paper Schinkel critically discusses my ‘Education and a meaningful life’ Oxford Review of Education, 35, 423–435 (2009).
Article
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The paper focuses on ‘objective list’ accounts of personal well-being and the related view that schools should aim at inducting students into a wide range of objective goods. It reviews various objective lists, notes that very many of them include knowledge, a love of beauty and close personal relationships. It then seeks to explain why this might...
Article
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This article is a critical discussion of two recent papers by Michael Hand on moral education. The first is his ‘Towards a Theory of Moral Education’, published in the Journal of Philosophy of Education in 2014 (Volume 48, Issue 4). The second is a chapter called ‘Beyond Moral Education?’ in an edited book of new perspectives on my own work in phil...
Article
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Richard Peters's contribution to teaching and research in philosophy of education after 1962 until the mid-1970s was immense, as this piece by two of his colleagues from that period shows. He brought the prevailing emphasis on conceptual analysis in general philosophy to bear on creating a new way of philosophising about education. He worked tirele...
Article
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This is the submitted version of a piece on the Australian philosopher of education, Kevin Harris, author of Education and Knowledge (1979), showing its prescient critique of school education, especially relevant to a time, as now, of Neo-Liberal dominance in the UK as well as elsewhere. The piece is part of a series of tributes to Kevin Harris, pu...
Article
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This is a UCL IOE blog that notes the detailed work that philosophers of education in USA and UK have published on the aims of education and contrasts this with the scanty official aims that direct the school curriculum in England, given that actual rather than publicly announced aims may differ from these. A possible solution is proposed to proble...
Chapter
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My Exploring Well-Being in Schools (2011) has been translated into Chinese in 2021 by Educational Sciences Publishing House, Beijing as the first of a five-volume translation of some of my works. This is my preface to the translation of EWBS.
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An IOE Podcast in the series Research for the Real World. To access please go to https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2022/feb/philosophys-influence-school-curriculum-rftrw-s13e04 We hear from a long-serving member of the IOE community about education research and practice from a philosophical lens and how this view can help solve the real-life prob...
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This is the pre-prepared text of a UCLIOE Podcast interview with Emily MacLeod of UCLIOE. The podcast itself deviates slightly from this.https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2022/feb/philosophys-influence-school-curriculum-rftrw-s13e04 UCLIOE We hear from a long-serving member of the IOE community about education research and practice from a philosophi...
Article
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This is the submitted version of an article now published in Theory and Research in Education 2021: 3. Personal well-being is a central concept in philosophical discussions of education and its aims. Although the work of general philosophers like Nussbaum, Griffin, Raz and Sen on the topic has been influential here, there has been next-to-no intere...
Presentation
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Oli Belas, who teaches at the University of Bedfordshire, runs a lively Philosophy of Education class for second-year BA students. Their interest in issues of curriculum design and assessment prompted a Zoom video meeting on related topics between Oli and John White, with Oli introducing the session and putting a question raised in the class about...
Article
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This is a blog on the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain website about the success of the Society's first on-line Annual Conference Sep 3-5 2021. It details the many advantages of on-line conferences as compared with face-to-face ones, specifically PESGB's traditional Annual Conference at New College, Oxford
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This is a blog post on the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain 's home page https://www.philosophy-of-education.org/on-the-origins-of-pesgb/ about its origins in the 1960s, including the origins of its journal, now the Journal of Philosophy of Education. The piece argues that in its early days, PESGB's raison d'être was teacher educa...
Article
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This paper is about the place that love of the activities they engage in has in a student’s school education. After examining what it is to love an activity, the discussion turns to its place in school education as it might be. Given the role of human flourishing in the school’s overall aims, the paper looks first at how this is related to love. It...
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he paper begins with a fictional example of a life that has been spent frugally in several different ways and for different reasons over time: in wartime, through many decades of simple living, through a period marked by anxiety over the threat to future generations from the depletion of global resources and the climate crisis, to the Covid 19 emer...
Article
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Overview Written during and partly in the light of the Covid pandemic, this article presents a picture of how education especially in England but also elsewhere needs to be transformed to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by five current and ongoing global events. This involves changed perceptions not only of the aims of school educat...
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An obituary of Paul Hirst 1927-2020. Paul Hirst was a leading figure in teacher education and in the philosophy of education from the 1960s until into the new millennium. A close colleague of Richard Peters, he was jointly responsible with him for the massive expansion of philosophy of education in Britain in the wake of the Robbins Report in 1963...
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A UCLIOE London Blog about teacher education, contrasting the plan for a new Institute for Teaching with HMCI Amanda Spielman's plea that teachers in England should have a fuller understanding of curriculum theory
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This is a Question and Answer session with Oli Belas on my inaugural blog to launch the new website of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain in December 2020. In the 600 word blog, I look at the many faces of frugal living and ask whether educators should steer children towards it. The online version plus the blog itself and a spok...
Article
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This is an inaugural blog to launch the new website of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain in December 2020. In this 600 word piece, I look at the many faces of frugal living and ask whether educators should steer children towards it. The online version plus a Q and A with Oli Belas and a spoken version can be found at http://pesg...
Article
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[This is an early pre-submission draft . It differs in its title and other ways from the published version now in Early View 29.8.2020 and due to be in the print version by the end of 2020] Education in frugality is less important for young people in the climate emergency than pressurising governments to act. Schools can help in this directly, as...
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This article examines two scenarios for the future of education over the coming decades, mainly in England but also in comparable countries. It does so against the background of six large-scale historical processes now in progress: increasing longevity, the expansion of the internet, changes in work patterns, climate change, the rise in inequality...
Article
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The paper examines two scenarios for the future of education mainly in England but also in comparable countries over the coming decades. It does so against the background of six large-scale historical events now in progress: increasing longevity, the expansion of the internet, changes in work patterns, climate change, the rise in inequality, the co...
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An IOE London Blog on the radical challenge of climate change and especially Covid 19 to the traditional practices of the teaching profession. This is against the background of a wider challenge, since the arrival of the internet, to professions in general, including law and medicine.
Chapter
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This is a pre-publication draft of a brief foreword to Michael Merry's book Educational Justice (January 2020) emphasising its challenge to conventional liberal thinking about education. Please consult his book, published by Palgrave MacMillan, for the final version and use that version in any citation or reference.
Article
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This is a response to two discussions of my article 'The Weakness of "Powerful Knowledge"' featuring in 2018 in the London Review of Education 16 (2), the first by Johan Muller and Michael Young and the second by Jim Hordern. It also makes brief comments on pieces on powerful knowledge in the London Review of Education Special Issue 16 (3). The que...
Article
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A critique of private schools in GB for the think tank Private School Policy Reform, supporting their integration into a national system of education. file:///Users/johnwhite/Desktop/John%20White%20%20Private%20School%20Policy%20Reform.webarchive
Article
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This is an argument for a new public education for England, but not for a new public school. The focus should be on aims, not structures. We should ensure that all schools (community schools, private schools, academies and religious schools) are working to realise the same nationally determined aims. The national set of aims should be determined no...
Presentation
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A talk given to MA in Assessment students at UCL Institute of Education June 4 2019
Article
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This is a contribution to the UK Labour Party Policy Forum - a method of formulating policy that springs from the grass roots. See https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/a-national-curriculum-commission
Presentation
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A talk given at UCL IOE in 2017 Abstract The paper takes its inspiration from Ray Elliott’s great essay of 1974 called ‘Education, Love of One’s Subject, and the Love of Truth’. It begins with a wider focus than Elliott’s, looking at love not just in the education of those who become scholars and future teachers of their subject, but in the edu...
Article
The distinguished US philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, who teaches at the University of Michigan, answers questions put to her by John White about educational aspects of her work in moral and political philosophy. She begins by describing her indebtedness to Dewey in his views on developing students’ capacities for intelligent enquiry and as citizens...
Article
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Now published on JOPE Online Early The distinguished US philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, who teaches at the University of Michigan, answers questions put to her by John White about educational aspects of her work in moral and political philosophy. She begins by describing her indebtedness to Dewey in his views on developing students’ capacities for...
Article
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An IOE London Blog critiquing OFSTED's views on the school curriculum in its new consultation on changing its stance towards inspection. Also presented to a seminar of the New Visions for Education Group 17 January 2019
Article
Article published in Mandarin in Journal of Teacher Education (China) Vol. 6 No 1 (2019). It answers the questions: How do you define/understand moral education? What do you think are the aims of moral education in schools? What is the base for moral education? Reason or sentiment or other things? In a previous answer, you briefly mentioned...
Article
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English version of article published in Mandarin in Journal of Teacher Education (China) Vol. 6 No 1 (2019). It answers the questions: How do you define/understand moral education? What do you think are the aims of moral education in schools? What is the base for moral education? Reason or sentiment or other things? In a previous answer, yo...
Presentation
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This is a much extended version of a presentation to a seminar on 17.1.19 organised by the New Visions in Education Group. Ofsted is consulting on a revised draft inspection framework. Problems raised by Ofsted's new-look inspection plans have their roots partly in the incoherence and inadequacy of the National Curriculum and its aims that we have...
Presentation
This is a link to my home page for published material of various sorts: academic writings and videos, short stories, poetry, autobiography. The material will be updated at intervals Please click on https://sites.google.com/view/johnwhitespage/home
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This is an interview by Richard Marshall of 3am Magazine in his series of interviews with philosophers. I answer questions about the school curriculum and aims of education, how best to think about subjects and their historical place in the educational system, the aims-based curriculum model, the importance of autonomy and human flourishing, Richar...
Article
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I live in Barnet, a suburb in north London, which is twinned with Chaville, a suburb of Paris. This is a short piece written for the Barnet-based Friends of Chaville Newsletter Autumn 2018. It describes memories of my life as a very young child in pre-Second-World-War Chaville
Article
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This article offers a philosophical critique of Michael Young's notion of 'powerful knowledge', as found largely in his own but also in others' writings since 2009. The first part of the article focuses on the definitional connection that Young makes between 'powerful knowledge' and systematic relationships between concepts. It argues that most of...
Article
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We cope with the personal distress caused by bullying, physical and sexual abuse, depression etc by trying to remove its causes. School exam distress is different. If we removed its cause we would dispense with exams. But we take exams to be an irremovable part of the social fabric. We don’t remove the distress but teach students resilience so they...
Presentation
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This is the text of a talk to MA in Assessment students at UCL Institute of Education on 5 June 2018, It is a much revised version of a presentation to the same MA in 2017
Article
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This is the original, pre-peer-review, version of the paper. The published version in Ethics and Education online is somewhat different, especially in its removal of misleading references to the work of Doret de Ruyter. Please use the public version for citation, reference etc. The paper picks up from the widespread use by politicians and some edu...
Article
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The English version of an interview conducted by Zhao Xiantong with John White on the nature of teacher education, on the place of philosophy of education in teacher education both in general and in the British context, and on the pedagogy of philosophy of education in teacher education. The interview is available in Chinese in Global Education 201...
Conference Paper
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The paper picks up from the widespread use by politicians and some educational theorists of maximising (including optimising) notions about those being educated such as ‘reach their full potential’ or ‘make the best of themselves’ or ‘develop their talents to the full’. The paper discusses then puts some of these ideas on one side to focus on the i...
Article
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This is the submitted version of the interview published in Theory and Research in Education 16.1. (2018) with minor changes. Mitja Sardoč’s interview with John White discusses a neglected aspect of the educational goal of equipping learners to lead a life of autonomous well-being – trying to ensure that they have adequate options from which to c...
Article
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This is a submitted version of the accepted article now available online as from 24 January 2018 in the British Journal of Educational Studies. The published article has benefitted from reviewers' comments and differs substantially from this submitted version, especially in placing the argument about philosophy of education against a wider backgrou...
Presentation
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One function of education is to open up a range of worthwhile options from which people can choose. How extensive or narrow should this range be? How far should it be related to what interests the student? How might the range be affected by the world of automation, non-standard employment, and perhaps basic income which may lie ahead of us?
Article
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This article has been accepted for publication in The Journal of Philosophy of Education and the pre-submission version will be available here once the article is published, perhaps in late 2017 or early 2018 . It is a reply to another article in JOPE (50.3, 2016) by Anders Schinkel, Doret de Ruyter and Aharon Aviram, entitled ‘Education and Life’s...
Article
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This is a reply to Rebecca Taylor’s 2016 JOPE article ‘Indoctrination and Social Context: A System-based Approach to Identifying the Threat of Indoctrination and the Responsibilities of Educators’. It agrees with her in going beyond the indoctrinatory role of the individual teacher to include that of whole educational systems, but differs in emphas...
Article
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A short philosophical critique of the much used notion of helping children to 'reach their full potential'.
Article
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Published in Journal of Teacher Education (China). 5.2017. The paper begins by investigating the concepts of examining, testing, grading and marking and relations between them. It shows [a] how far removed the conventional picture we have of a school examination can be from an examination as a systematic and thorough investigation; and [b] how the...
Data
This is a complete list of my academic publications from 1967 to August 2017. It includes some links to complete versions of some items. I hope in time to put as many of these and future publications as possible on open access.
Article
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This is the submitted version of a paper now (August 21 2017) published on Online Early in TRE. Please refer to the published article for pagination, quotation, referencing. It began as a way of putting the record straight about a mistake that John Tillson made about my views on moral education in his recent ‘The Problem of Rational Moral Enlistmen...
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A call for a return to the big questions of education. These were present in some form in teacher education in England from 1839 until the 1980s but have since then all but disappeared. The blog suggests how they could be restored within a larger reform of teacher education
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A brief account in English since translated into Korean as the Preface to the Korean translation of An Aims-based Curriculum
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This is my contribution along with Judith Suissa to The Journal 1966-2016: This Virtual Special Issue comprises 25 papers selected from the Journal of Philosophy of Education (JOPE) between 1966 and 2016, an explanatory Editorial and 12 videos. The videos offer insights into the first 50 years of the Journal and the Philosophy of Education Society...
Article
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The paper focuses on ‘objective list’ accounts of personal well-being and the related view that schools should aim at inducting students into a wide range of objective goods. It reviews various objective lists, notes that very many of them include knowledge, a love of beauty and close personal relationships. It then seeks to explain why this might...
Chapter
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The chapter comes from a book published by the Russian Academy of Education (Institute of Strategic Development in Education). This book was based on a conference dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the outstanding Russian scientist and educator, academician of the Russian Academy of Education,Volodar Viktorovich Kraevskii. My short piece is a rem...
Chapter
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Submitted version of an overview of the work of R S Peters and discussion of his contribution to educational thought. An updated version of my entry on him in Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education: From Piaget to the Present, first published by Routledge in 2001. Please refer to the final publication for the published version.
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A sceptical look at the place that compulsory post-basic maths and modern foreign languages have in the secondary curriculum
Presentation
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This is the video of a presentation and follow-up discussion at UCL Institute of Education on March 8 2016. The meeting was with my colleague Mary Richardson’s students on the MA in Education or MA in Quantitative Methods. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV8BxrDZJMU&feature=youtu.be
Article
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This is a pre-publication version of Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 50, No. 4, 2016Justifying Private SchoolsJOHN WHITE Please refer to the published version when quoting or citing. The paper looks at arguments for and against private schools,first in general and then, at greater length, in their Britishform. Here it looks first at defenc...
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This is the English text, since translated into Korean as the Preface to the 2016 Korean version of my Inventing the Secondary Curriculum (2011)
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UCL IOE blog on a recent article by David Cameron about how we are all now egalitarians.
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Book
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学校何谓?学校何为? 约翰·怀特 内容摘要 英国教育哲学协会出版了一系列探讨学校教育目的小册子,命名为《冲击力》,这篇论文就节选自我为这个刊物所写的文章。 回顾最近以来英国的学校政策方面所发生的事情,我们需要对仅仅基于“学校课程应该围绕着传统的学校学科课程(母语、数学、科学、外语、历史、地理等)来建构”的假设而进行的长期实践进行反思,这一点至关重要。 本文认为,从目前英国的改革举措来看,要想绘制全国性的学校课程计划,其开始起步的原点是与这个问题相关的,那就是“学校究竟应该为何?”,我们首先需要问的是“学校教育的目标应该是什么?”,然后才是去寻找那些合适的、能够实现目标的工具和手段。这些工具和手段也许包括上面列出的部分传统学科项目,但是也可以涵盖一些跨学科的活动、学校的校风、以及校外活动等等...
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对学校考试制度的追问与反思 约翰·怀特 内容摘要 伦敦大学教育学院出版社不久前出版了我的一本书《谁需要考试?向上爬的阶梯还是尽力避开其负面作用的故事》,这篇文章节选了其中的部分内容,其核心是要质疑学校公共考试制度的合理性。在书中的第一章,对公共考试的概念、道德性问题和实证方面的事例等进行了探讨,对考试和测验的本质、给个人带来的痛苦、对课程的约束和限制、大学入学与就业、问责制的作用等进行了阐述。 在《谁需要考试?》一书的第二章简要论述了道德意味上对于“公平、公正”的理解,并提出了这样一个问题,那就是,自从英国1850年开始有大型公共考试的历史以来(特别是从1980年以来),为什么考试制度虽然不断遭到人们的声讨却依然故我地那么强大? 这本书也谈到了东南亚地区的学校考试,在第三章则重点探讨了对考...
Book
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John White’s new interdisciplinary study of private schools in Britain asks if there are good reasons for their continued existence. Drawing on philosophical, historical and recent policy data, it questions well-known objections to them. Its central concern is the danger they pose to a democratic society: their traditional dominion over leadership...
Research
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Seminar presentation at Institute of Education, London on February 12 2014 Abstract Most of this interdisciplinary talk closely follows the first chapter of a book, now (2015) published, called Who needs examinations? A story of climbing ladders and dodging snakes The talk asks whether there are good arguments for keeping external school examinati...
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A critical discussion of school minister Nick Gibb's account of the purposes of education
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This is a reply to six Theory and Research in Education commentators on views I expressed in a 2013 Theory and Research in Education piece about priorities in philosophy of education today. The first section is about a concession to my critics; the second, about various misconceptions in their views. The third section restates my central thesis in...
Article
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This is a reply to six TRE commentators on views I expressed in a 2013 TRE piece about priorities in philosophy of education today. The first section is about a concession to my critics; the second, about various misconceptions in their views. The third section restates my central thesis in favour of a more practical conception of philosophy of edu...
Chapter
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This is the original, pre-submitted, version of a chapter in Copson, A. and Grayling, A.C. (eds.) The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism Oxford: Wiley Blackwell 2015. It argues that it is difficult, if not impossible, to describe a uniquely humanist approach to education, since anything that might be included in it is likely to be acceptable to m...
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A case for for a broad nationally defined core curriculum framework to be set by a curriculum commission at arm’s length from politicians.
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A short account of my views on the place of knowledge in the school curriculum, including defences of alleged misrepresentations of my position by my London Festival of Education co-panellists, Toby Young and Daisy Christodoulou.
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A critique of Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan's new policy on promoting character education in schools
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In the light of recent experience in England, this is an argument for taking the school curriculum out of the hands of ministers and placing it in the hands of an Education Standing Council. This will base the curriculum not on kowtowing to tradition, but begin first with defensible aims, leaving detailed planning to schools.
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A biography of R S Peters
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A discussion of the British government's call for more emphasis on 'fundamental British values'
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A reply to Yong-Seok Seo's argument that there is conceptual space between a religious and a secular point of view. The article does through and rejects the metaphysical case he puts up for this
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We begin by arguing that curriculum development should start with aims rather than, as is typically the case, with subjects. We therefore ask what might be the fundamental aims of school education. We conclude that they are two-fold, namely to enable each learner to lead a life that is personally flourishing and to help others to do so too. These h...
Book
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School examinations do little to test deep understanding, blight the secondary curriculum, cause students great anxiety, pervert the job of teaching, and favour families who can manipulate admission arrangements. Why is it that despite these defects, we cling to an institution which may have been all the rage in the 1860s but has been under fire in...
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A 2000 word Preface (in English) to the Korean translation by Professor Jee Hun Lee and Dr. Hee-Bong Kim of my 2011 book Exploring Well-being in Schools (Kyoyookkwahaksa Press 2014).
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Everyone will agree that education ought to prepare young people to lead a meaningful life, but there are different ways in which this notion can be understood. A religious interpretation has to be distinguished from the secular one on which this paper focuses. Meaningfulness in this non-religious sense is a necessary condition of a life of well-be...
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In 2009 Harvey Siegel edited The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. This paper develops a theme, prompted by reflection on several essays in that volume, about the nature of philosophy of education and its relation to philosophy. Siegel’s view that philosophy of education is a branch of philosophy, is put to the test, largely via a compari...
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This is the English version since translated into Korean as the Preface to the 2013 Korean version of my Exploring Well-being in Schools (2011)
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A short critique of traditional school examinations, especially in the UK, in the light of their historical origins.
Book
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The almost universal practice when designing school curricula is to start with subjects – mathematics, science, music and so on. In this book we argue that this approach starts too far in. If a subject like geography or English is to be included, we need to ask why. What larger educational aims does it help to promote? An aims-based curriculum can...
Conference Paper
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This paper summarises the main argument in Reiss M and White J An Aims-based Curriculum (2013)
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A chapter in Boniwell, I. and David, S. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Happiness OUP 2013
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Michael Reiss and John White propose an aims-based curriculum, a ground-breaking alternative to the standard way of arranging school curricula from the start around familiar largely academic subjects.
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The article consists of a general section looking at changes since the 1960s in the links between philosophy of education and policy‐making, followed by a specific section engaging in topical policy critique. The historical argument claims that policy involvement was far more widespread in our subject before the mid‐1980s than it has been since the...
Presentation
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This is a contribution as an Expert Witness to the RE Council of England and Wales Subject Review of RE in England Phase 1 Nov 2012 In this complex argument, I have made a major distinction between religious education as a school subject and religious education more broadly conceived. As a school subject with a protected place in the curriculum, R...
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A critique of school examinations at 16

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Projects (4)
Project
A large-scale enterprise, looking at [1] possible scenarios for the future of work and leisure in UK and comparable countries [2] what kind of educational system would be best in the light of [1]. Should post-school education be wholly reconceptualised to remove divisions between universities, further education, youth work and adult education? What should happen about examinations? The school curriculum? Pre-school education? Parental education. ....That might be enough for one project - just!
Project
I am now revisiting a topic I wrote about in my 1997 book Education and the End of Work: a new philosophy of work and learning London: Cassell. (Hebrew translation Israel: Massada 2002) See Update 4 in project on Education and the Adequacy of Options. I'm now putting the text of the 1997 book on RG - gradually - chapter by chapter
Project
I'm interested in the widespread use by politicians and some educational theorists of maximising (including optimising) notions about those being educated such as ‘reach their full potential’ or ‘make the best of themselves’ or ‘develop their talents to the full’. I'm particularly intrigued by the injunction that school students should be encouraged to do their best, especially in Doret de Ruyter’s treatment of this.