A philosophical analysis of open-mindedness as an educational ideal

No Thumbnail Available
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Open-mindedness is conceived by many educators as an educational ideal. With the widespread popularization of liberal education in the middle of the 20th century, open- mindedness as an ideal in education started to get more attention (Newman et al., 1996). However, open-mindedness became more essential ideal in education with the work of philosopher of education John Dewey (1859-1952), as a consequence of his notion of education as a continuous process of personal growth. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), also, reinforces the importance of open-mindedness and its place in education (Russell, 2014). In Russell’s words "there are certain qualities which are very desirable, and which [...] should result from intellectual education; but they should result as needed in learning [...] Among such qualities the chief seems to me: curiosity, open-mindedness” (Russell, 2014, p. 158). In the last few decades, William Hare was one of the most important educational theorists who advocated and defended open-mindedness as "an intellectual virtue and educational ideal” (Hare, 2009, p. 6). The importance of open-mindedness for education has been explained in terms of its benefits for both students and teachers in several aspects, but most importantly in its epistemic and moral aspects. With respect to students, one way to explain the importance of open- mindedness is by understanding its role in promoting students' intellectual well-being. According to Russell, open-mindedness is "essential to the successful pursuit of knowledge” (Russell, 2014, p. 158). This effect of open-mindedness can be explained in terms of its role in “inspiring and guiding us in a certain direction by revealing to us the shortcomings in our present efforts, in this case with respect to belief formation and iii revision” (Hare, 2009, p. 5). That’s why he encourages teachers to “dislodge any tendency students might have to accept ideas on the basis of sheer authority or favored status” (Hare, 2000, p. 92). The importance of open-mindedness as an ideal in education is not restricted to only students, but also extends to include teachers. Teaching teachers to be open- minded has been seen by educational theorists as "a way to facilitate teachers’ well- being and then pupils’ well-being” (Mavropoulou, 2017, p. 110). Open-mindedness would help teachers as knowers to improve their own status as knowers which should make them a better source of knowledge to students, and more able to cope with constantly changing educational environment and practices (Hare, 2006). Also, open- mindedness has been conceived as an important trait that helps teachers to be more just in treating their students, it helps teachers to give more opportunities to students in order to improve their educational experience. Moreover, it has been argued that open- mindedness is an important virtue that a teacher should cultivate, because she is "to set an example of genuine inquiry and open discussion, and thereby create an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable in expressing and developing their own ideas” (Hare, 2006, p. 7). Thus, an open-minded teacher enhances "both the knowledge and virtue of her students ... by behaving as an exemplar" (Moran, 2011, 221). However, those benefits of open-mindedness have faced some challenges recently. For example, Carter and Gorden (2014) argue that the connection between truth and open-mindedness is highly contingent. According to these arguments, close- mindedness could be conducive to truths as much as open-mindedness. Another example, Peter (2020) argues that sometimes teachers would be more able to improve iv students’ learning outcomes by being closed-minded about some beliefs. These challenges jeopardize open-mindedness as an educational ideal. I claim that skepticism about the value of open-mindedness is rooted, at least in part, in our inadequate und