This paper has been structured into 3 parts. The 1st part will define the concept of praxis and the definition given by academics in this subject. The 2nd part will explain and showcase its application within the learning and leadership environment of one organization. The last part, integrates my understanding of praxis and its influence on my experiences. I am a product of Kurt Hahn’s philosophies and my values would also have been sharpened and influenced through the influence of his methodology in developing a whole person.
Definition of Praxis
Peter’s 1976, provided a few broad definition about education. I intend to highlight his overviews as it shows a stark similarity towards the ideals that Kurt Hahn wholly believed, in his pioneering effort in building schools that bucked the trends of conventional educational system during the period of 1920’s and the Outward Bound Schools that were built using his educational ideals. Peter’s view, encapsulated the processes of education as:
- Instruction and learning by experience
- Teaching and learning by experience
- The transmission of critical thought
Peters also added that the tasks or processes are relative to the achievements of the learner. The fundamental task of the teacher, consists in the employment of various “tools” or methods to get the learning process going. This is in stark similarity to the methodologies practiced by Kurt Hahn, who incorporated adventure learning and craftsmanship, in the Gordonston school that he spearheaded in Scotland. Peters strongly viewed that to learn something is to succeed in some aspects. The achievement must be that of the learner. In retrospect to explain, the meaning of Praxis,I will site examples against a learning environment where, this concept will be viewed as a hindrance and liability. I will feature this experience in the preceding paragraphs.
The elements and the 4 features inherent in the practitioner of Praxis would entail the following;
1. Theory: A postulation to understand the unruly world by abstracting data, generalizing these hypothesis
2. Technology: Use of techniques to apply the theory postulated
3. Praxis: Aristotle definition of Praxis, involved an element of purposeful human conduct and guided by purposes, actions, morals, emotions, values as well as the facts of science of the case. He also included, ethical action in a political context in a broad definition.
4. To Hodgkinson, praxis implies, a moment of conscious reflection in the first moment and inherent action and commitment to follow on the second.
Kurt Hahn’s views and its application in Gordonston school
Ethically, the schools personified, moral obligations and considerations. Kurt Hahn, could have made Gordonston schools exclusive for just the rich and the elite. Instead, the grading fees, were tailored to the incomes of the parents. The stadium that the school used was opened to the young people of Morayshire, where the school was located. Even when his life was at stake he remained true to his ideals. In Salem, Germany, when Hitler, emerged as the leader of Germany advocating Nazism, Kurt Hahn, wrote an open letter, asking members of the alumni, of Salem to break away with the SS military regime. In 1933, this act of criticism in an open letter to Hitler led to his imprisonment; his life only to be saved through the intervention of world leaders at that time. It showed his tenacity, to stand up and account for his ideals even at the cost of an imminent death.
Application of Praxis in the context of an organization
The above example featuring Kurt Hahn and his role in developing young people through experiences that incorporate elements of adventure and reflection, in my opinion shows an application of “praxis”. I attended the Outward Bound School’s 21 days program as a young cadet officer in 1990. As part of the officer cadet’s course, we were required to complete this mandatory program at OBS. At the start of this program, as participants we had to relinquish what ever money we had and undertake an oath that we will abide by the rules. In the land expedition, I met army officers in a remote Island, from whom I borrowed $10, to buy cakes and snacks for my group. I remembered munching away half a cake in glee. When we completed the 21 days program, we had to undertake the same oath to affirm that we had abided by the rules before we were allowed to sign on the log book and accept the OBS badge of achievement. In a group of 50 Officer cadets and Police scholars,
3 cadets did not take this oath. I was one of them and we were hauled away to the warden’s office after that. We had since completed 7 months of our Officer’s Cadets program and I had laid my officer’s rank on the line and it did not matter as I was not about to lie. This was a profound experience for me. We knew that we will be kicked out of Officers Cadet school due to one moment of indiscretion. We were not kicked out, instead, we had a very concerned warden who hauled in the instructors and evaluated our actions that we confessed. The warden insisted that we sign the log book and I was given the prized badge which I carried in my wallet in years to come. I had spent 21 days in outward bound school, their credo, “To serve, to strive and not to yield” became my personal mission statement as well.
The concept of praxis though complex, must satisfy the 4 features indicated in the definition by Aristotle. It must have an element of purposeful human conduct, guided by actions morals and emotions. The experiences of Kurt Hahn and his work in education speaks for itself and is a testimony. Kurt Hahn’s values and his academic credentials would have laid the foundations for a praxis practitioner to support his views with social science, facts and data, using them to make hypothesis, propelling his views on educating the young men. The application of praxis, is also dependent upon the stance taken by the recipient’s of such concepts. In the 1930s to Hitler, his views were not acceptable at all. They countered Nazism and for that Kurt Hahn was placed in prison. Praxis as an application in the context of the society or organizations requires ethical, moral and political considerations with the firm focus in creating an environment for purposeful conduct. This will have been vividly depicted in the work and contributions of Kurt Hahn.
Ebnu Etheris, MA.(IDT), B.Ed&Trn (HRD)