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Eyes opened to the big picture

David Budge, writing about James Tooley (TES, September 12), stated that James's "own area of specialism - the philosophy of education - has often been criticised for its lack of relevance to the classroom'. We really should nail this one.

In the 1960s and 1970s there were understandable complaints about the large place that our discipline had in initial teacher education, especially the PGCE. Philosophers of education were themselves often to the fore in pressing for a more practically-based PGCE course, on the grounds that in such a short course such a heavy emphasis on theory was unjustified.

But none of this means that philosophy of education is irrelevant to the classroom. At the in-service, rather than pre-service, level the opportunities it gives teachers to reflect on the wider horizons of their job have never been challenged. And in the field of educational policy its influence has been felt for the last 30 years, from the Plowden Report to the national curriculum - pressure for which was initiated by philosophers of education in the early 1970s - to the SCAA Forum on Values today.

JOHN WHITE

Professor of philosophy of education Institute of Education University of London 20 Bedford Way London WC1

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