Pedagogy for the galaxy

Carl Rogers


Carl Rogers (1902–1987)

A founder of humanistic psychology, Rogers devoted his life to counseling, education, psychotherapy and conflict resolution. The idea for Rogers philosophy arrived via observation of organisms as simple as sea weed and fungus. One event in particular initiated the basis for his theory and occurred while Rogers was observing very rough surf continually pounding a sapling that was growing on a rocky outcrop. It was here that Rogers began to consider the life force in all organisms. The life force, for example, finds weeds growing through cracks in cement, saplings that grow and eventually split boulders and animals surviving in the harshest of conditions. Rogers began to perceive that humans too, despite appearing to sometimes live at odds with this life force, all had the potential to self actualize. He states “There is one central source of energy in the human organism; that it is a function of the whole organism rather than some portion of it; and it is best conceptualized as a tendency toward fulfillment, toward actualization, towards the maintenance and enhancement of the organism” (Mischel, Shoda and Smith, 2004, p. 185).

To make people aware of this tendency, that is to help them help themselves, Rogers developed counseling methods that were radically different from anything that was happening in the field of psychotherapy at the time. The Rogerian counseling method involves creating a meaningful relationship with the patient. The therapist must be honest, empathetic and non-judgemental. Rogers doesn’t seek to cure, treat or change a person. Instead, he asks, how can he provide a relationship which that person can use for personal growth.


Basis Tenets of Rogerian Philosophy.

   ● All people are intrinsically good.

   ● People have an innate motivation to develop their potentials (Rogers calls this the ‘self actualizing’ tendency).

   ● People intrinsically value self regard (things like love, nurturance, affection).

   ● People value positive self regard (things like self esteem, self worth and positive self image).


Rogers also applied his philosophy to schools and the field of education.

Rogers developed the idea that a counselor needs focus on three aspects of the counselor/client relationship that would, at the very least, guarantee some positive development in his subjects. These are:

 1)     Being genuine and honest with the client.

2)     Having empathy.

3)     Being respectful and accepting of the client.


Rogers views the relationships created between people to be of the utmost importance to our personal and social development. We can self actualize if left to our own devices but we will be more successful and creatively move forward if we engage in genuine relationships founded on honesty, empathy and non-judgement.

(to find out how we can use humanism as teachers see section under T.E.T.)


Carl Rogers and Humanist Education


This is a comprehensive summary of Rogers view on education, and is available on the internet.  It is Chapter 5 of Patterson's Foundations for a theory of Instruction and Educational Psychology.  It is available from the following website:



 Mishel, W., Shoda, Y. and Smith, R.E. (2004) Introduction to Psychology. 7th Edition.

                United States of America: John Wiley & Sons Inc.


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