Can There Be a Science of Education?

Edward George Rozycki, Dissertation (Ed.D.) Abstract
Temple University, 1973


edited 11/18/12

See, Long Abstract of Human Behavior: Measurement ... ;
Measurability and Educational Concerns ; also
The Philosophical Foundations of Human Cognition


Chapter I: Can Science Help?

The authority of putative experts in Education rests substantially on a host of untenable philosophical assumptions. Technical terms from other disciplines are pressed into service and are misleadingly overextended, metaphors at best. Terms such as reinforcer, measure, functional relation will be shown to be misused in educational contexts.

For purposes of argument a conception of science is examined which seeks an analysis of behavior as a function of environmental or other variables. The relevance of findings in the behavioral and social sciences rests on the unexamined presumption that such a functional analysis is possible. This possibility will be examined.

Chapter II: Perspectives - The Identification of Behavior.

Models of description and identification are presented which go beyond the restrictions expressed in the philosophical assumptions exposed in Chapter I. Descriptions need not be restricted to properties "inherent in" that described. The term, "property," may itself be a cover for the theorist's philosophical commitments. The identification of human behavior is not coherently conceivable on the model of applying a definition.

Definitions are not uniform in type and defeasible concepts are used in a manner that differs significantly from that of a definiendum.

Chapter III: Measurement.

A functional analysis of behavior requires the definition and partitioning of the set of all possible act-types. But voluntary behavior cannot be identified with such a partitioned set. Thus, voluntary behavior is not functionally analyzable.

It follows that it is neither measurable, in general, nor probabilizable.

Our almost exclusive concern in Education is the treatment of voluntary behavior. Such cannot be dealt with "scientifically," i.e., in a manner which requires the prediction or control of individual acts. Nor can the notion of voluntary behavior be abandoned, for the normative base in terms of which educational decisions are made derives from the distinction between voluntary and involuntary behavior.

Chapter IV: The Causes of Behavior.

If 'cause' and 'effect' are conceived of as a functional relation between variables, then since there is no general voluntary-behavior-variable, voluntary behavior is not caused.

If 'cause' is conceived as that through which something else is controlled or affected, then there is considerable incongruence between our ordinary ways of controlling and affecting things and those considered to derive from more technical notions of causation, e.g., as a unidirectional covariance among contingently related entities.

If 'cause' is conceived of as some state of affairs sufficient to produce some-other contingently related state of affairs, then, since voluntary act-types are defeasible, i.e., they are not predicated on the basis of sufficient conditions, they are not caused.

Traits of character cannot be adequately dealt with as dispositional terms of the sort, "elastic," "magnetic," and the like. Nor do complex causal-loop ("feedback") models adequately explicate the notions of motive and p-urpose.

A science of Education cannot hope to achieve the prediction and control of individual acts -- these are not well-definable. The possibility remains open, however, that traits of character, the identification of which does not rest solely on that of individual acts, may be determined by environmental or other circumstances.

Chapter V: Science and Education.

There is every reason for skepticism concerning the role of psychology and the social sciences in the solution of educational problems, given their present orientation toward human action. A prominent example is given: despite his great influence, the authority with which B. F. Skinner addresses educational matters rests on either untenable philosophical assumptions, unsupported assertions or conceptual error. What is mistaken for science in Education is Scientism.