Philosophers of education ask: Who should be educated? What should be taught? Who gets to decide? The questions of philosophy of education involve issues of meaning and values, questions that are not fully answerable through scientific methods.
Common topics in philosophy of education concern the nature of knowledge, mind, culture, learning, justice, and democracy as these topics relate to education, schools, and human development.
The methods of philosophy involve the interpretive strategies often associated with humanistic inquiry: close reading of classical and contemporary texts, logical and ethical analysis, and historical contextualization. More generally, philosophers of education make connections among the different ideas circulating in the past and present intellectual worlds.
History of education is concerned with understanding and interpreting the origins, change, and continuity in the intellectual movements, institutions, and critical problems of education.
Historians of education study: the history of ideas as it informs educational processes and policy; the rise of mass schooling and higher education in the West and across the globe; the role of education in the construction of difference based upon race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality; and historical perspectives on contemporary educational issues and debates.
The methods of historical study are inductive, requiring close study of original records of particular situations. Hence, they are complementary to the methods of philosophical study.
It is important for students of history to understand the intellectual movements and ideas that have influenced educational processes and for students of philosophy to understand how philosophical questions and areas of inquiry have emerged within specific social and cultural contexts over time. Consequently, students receive a strong foundation in both the philosophy and history of education before pursuing further specialization in one or the other if they so choose.
Scholars trained in philosophy and history of education pursue careers in schools, colleges and universities; government agencies; and various non-profit institutions.