Positivism Influence On Education

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Positivism can be defined as an approach to the study of society that relies specifically on scientific evidence, such as experiments and statistics, to reveal a true nature of how society operates. (1)
Discussion on Positivism will be incomplete without reference to the work of Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) who has been described as the first sociologist. In His work, he described three stages which he believed the society has gone through, namely; Theological, Metaphysical, and Scientific or positive.
In the theological phase, he believed that the societal influence of man was referenced to God. In the Metaphysical phase, he stated that people believed that their universal rights are more important than the authority of any human ruler.
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Psychology: positivism played a major role in the development of operationalism, through which the concept of operational definition came about in the 19th century. (8)
Economics: researchers in the field of economics emulated the methodological assumptions of classical positivism but only with a de facto fashion. This is because most economists do not concern themselves with matters of epistemology. (9)
In some other fields, such as history, positivism concepts are not fully accepted. For example, in historiography, it has been argued that history differ from science subjects in that most of what is studied in history are not quantifiable and an attempt to quantify is believed to result in lost of precision. It was also argued that the experimental and mathematical models used in science are not applicable to history and that it is not possible to formulate general laws in history. (10)
How positivism can be used in at the school
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Max Horkheimer, argued that, positivism falsely represented human social actions in that it failed to appreciate the extent to which some of the social facts did not exist but where themselves a product of socially and historically mediated human consciousness. He also argued that the representation of social reality was conservative and it only helps to support the status quo rather than challenging it.(11)
2. Positivism was criticised for its ‘reductionism’ that all processes are reducible to physical, physiological and chemical events, that, social processes are reducible to relationships between and actions of individuals and that; biological organisms are reducible to physical systems. (12)
3. According to John Dudovskiy, the criticism levelled against positivism are as follows; (i) reliance on experience as a valid source of knowledge (ii) assumption that all types of processes can be perceived as a certain variation of actions of individuals or relationships between individuals and that (iii) reliance of status quo, thus resulting in research finding that lacks insight into in-depth issues
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