After locating CTCA within the theories of Vygotsky and Ausubel, it is now for us to look at the philosophical base of the approach. I am sure you are wondering why we need to situate CTCA within a philosophy. Wonder no more! There are two main reasons. First, it is in line with the age-long tradition based on the belief that no knowledge is absolutely new. Since others have walked the way before, directly or indirectly, it is important to state the theme (psychological or philosophical) behind which the emerging new knowledge (CTCA in this case) will queue.
The second reason is that philosophies provide important guidepost for steering our thoughts on a subject. By stating the philosophical underpinning of CTCA, we are able to see the worldview and frame of mind that guides the CTCA process. The next question that I suspect you are anxious to ask is “what if we do not provide the theoretical and philosophical frameworks of CTCA, what damage would have been done?” No “serious” damage would have been done if you find the theoretical and philosophical frameworks of CTCA missing in this book or in a report of a study using the approach. However, because of the need to be compliant with the age-old tradition of scholarship, omitting the theory and philosophy bases of CTCA is unacceptable. So, this section is devoted to the philosophical framework of CTCA. Since CTCA is largely built around the teaching and learning of STEM, much of the discussion will be framed around the philosophies of science.
Survey of major philosophies of science
We begin with what philosophy is. Please take a minute to come up with your definition of philosophy. I am sure you have what is commonly called your philosophy of life. You also have your views on religion, human existence and the like. You may have also heard of philosophers like Aristotle and Plato and perhaps also of Kuhn, Popper and others. African philosophers like Awolowo, Du Bois, Kodjo-Grandvaux Bachir Diagne Ndikumana, Wiredu and Appiah may also have caught your attention. For the purpose of this book, we will take philosophy to be a way of thinking about the world and the search for wisdom relating to the universe, and society. We can also take it to be the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. Philosophers ask such questions as (a) what is the nature of the universe? (b) what is the nature of knowledge; (c) what is the purpose of life? As you can see, these questions are as old as humanity.
Since humans started walking the earth, thoughts on these and other questions have led to the emergence of five branches of philosophy. These are epistemology – the study of “knowledge”; metaphysics- the study of “reality”; ethics -the study of moral value, right and wrong; logic -the study of right reasoning; and aesthetics- the study of art and beauty.
Let us go back in time to see some of the early philosophers. One of the earliest in the Western tradition is Thales of Miletus (c. 624 – 546 B.C.). He was an early pre-Socratic philosopher, mathematician and astronomer from the Greek city of Miletus in Ionia (modern-day Turkey). He was one of the so-called seven sages of Greece.
Fast tracking to relatively recent times and narrowing to science and technology, we can see a very shortlist of some of the major philosophers of science and their postulates as:
1. Karl Popper – science is not about finding confirming evidence for a theory, but about striving hard to find disconfirming evidence.
2. Thomas Kuhn – science is not a continuous piling of one new fact upon existing ones, but a series of revolutions, in which a whole world-view is replaced with another.
3. Pierre Duhem – experimental test of individual parts of a theory are not possible; any “critical experiment” is one of a whole interlocking set of assumptions and theories.
4. Paul Feyerabend – there is no scientific method, no rules, most theories are a bit wrong, science doesn’t approach “truth” in any sense, and this is all fine.
5. Rudolf Carnap – anything meaningful can (and should) be reduced to phenomena plus logical structure
6. Francis Bacon – the true inductive scientific method is only fully described in my books, the vast majority of which I never got around to writing.
CTCA’s philosophical framework
After the quick reviews of philosophers of science, it is now time to pitch the tent of CTCA on one or more of these philosophies. CTCA is deeply rooted in culture, technology and context and the interphase among the three. The relevant philosophies are those espoused by Kwame Nkrumah (ethnophilosophy) for culture, Martin Heidegger (technophilosophy) for technology and Michael Williams (contextualism) for contextual basis of CTCA.
Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972): Kwame Nkrumah was born on 21 September 1909. He was a Ghanaian politician and revolutionary. He was the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana, having led the Gold Coast to independence from Britain in 1957. He was an influential advocate of pan-Africanism. He died on 27 April 1972 at the age of 62.
Ethnophilosophy is the study of indigenous philosophical systems. It is based on the position that a specific culture (like that of the Igbo or Yoruba in Nigeria) can have a philosophy that is not applicable and accessible to all peoples and cultures in the world and at the same time have some commonalities with other cultures anywhere in the world. The term ethno-philosophy was first used by Kwame Nkrumah and was coined by Pauline Houtondji who viewed it as a combination of ethnography and philosophy. Ethnophilosophy, closely related to Nkrumah’s consciencism or his Nkrumaism, interprets the collective worldviews of African peoples, their myths and folklores as a constitutive part of African philosophy. While it is essentially the study of ethnic Africans and their way of life, its tenets find application in other indigenous cultures.
It has long been a vexed and warped speculation that Africans, indeed other non-western cultures lack “culture” and history. This is based on the false premise that Africans were exposed to education only when the missionaries (such as Anglican, Wesleyan or Catholic), colonial settlers and Arab traders interacted with the indigenous people. Before persons from the geographical east and the west came to Africa, the indigenous peoples of Africa were educated in the sense of possessing knowledge and skills with which they lived their lives. The study of ethno-philosophy aids Africans and other non-Western people to know that they are rational thinkers and are not inferior since such arguments made by Westerners are unmistakably false (Cronshaw, Hamilton, Onyura, & Winston 2006) Indigenous knowledge is now widely recognised as a potent element in the education delivery system (UNESCO, 2005).
How is CTCA hinged on ethnophilosophy? Ethnophilosophy is seen as an item of communal property rather than an activity for the individual. CTCA draws from beliefs and practices of indigenous communities for the purpose of scaffolding such practices when learning science, indeed, any subject matter.
The philosophy of the techno component of CTCA can be rooted in the Heideggerian philosophy. Technology, according to Heidegger must be understood as “a way of revealing” (Heidegger 1977, 12). In his view, even though he philosophised long before the rapid advances we are now witnessing in technology, what we call “reality”, is not given the same way in all times and all cultures. “Reality” is not something absolute that human beings can ever know once and for all; it is relative in the most literal sense of the word – it exists only in relations. Reality ‘in itself’, therefore, is inaccessible for human beings. For Heidegger, technology embodies a specific way of revealing the world, a revealing in which humans take power over reality. Technology reveals the world as raw material, available for production and manipulation.
According to Heidegger, in our ‘age of technology’ reality can only be present as a raw material (as a ‘standing reserve’). This technological understanding of ‘being’, according to Heidegger, is to be seen as the ultimate danger. Every attempt to climb out of technology throws us back in. The only way out for Heidegger is “the will not to will”. We need to open up the possibility of relying on technologies while not becoming enslaved to them and seeing them as manifestations of an understanding of being
Heidegger is concerned with questioning the essence of technology and in particular, modern technology, which he understands as something different to older, pre-industrialised forms of technology. He suggests that there are two dominant ways of understanding technology. One is instrumental, to view it as a means to an end, while the other is to see it as human activity. He thinks they belong together. The difference, to put it crudely, is that our technological relationship with nature was once as one of steward but now is one of both master and slave. The purpose of questioning technology is therefore to break the chains of technology and be free, not in the absence of technology but through a better understanding of its essence and meaning. CTCA is rested on this philosophical premise.
We move on to the “context” element of CTCA where the philosophical framework is contextualism. Contextualism argues that our actions, utterances, or expressions and learning can only be understood relative to that context. Contextualist views hold that philosophically controversial concepts, such as “meaning P”, “knowing that P”, “having a reason to A”, and possibly even “being true” or “being right” only have meaning relative to a specified context. In ethics, “contextualist” views are often closely associated with situational ethics, or with moral relativism. The main tenet of contextualist epistemology is that knowledge attributions are context-sensitive, and the truth values of “know” depend on the context in which it is used. Contemporary contextualists include Michael Blome-Tillmann, Michael Williams, Stewart Cohen, Keith DeRose, David Lewis, Gail Stine, and George Mattey.