Pragmatism is yet another school of thoughts that has influenced the educational system especially in Nigeria. This school of philosophy has been given different names. Some of these names are: pragmatism, instrumentalism, functionalism and experimentalism. These terms are not meant to confuse but to prepare you for reading other books on philosophy.
Pragmatism entails upholding what is practicable rather than theories and ideals. Instrumentalism on the other has to do with acting as an instrument or means while functionalism is being able to serve a practical purpose, use, or function and experimentalism shows reliance on experiment.
Pragmatists agree with realists that this physical world is real. But unlike realists, they do not agree that the laws of nature cannot change. On the contrary, they believe that whatever is real I subject to change and so we must be prepared to change the way we do things. They believe that man determines what is real to him. A pragmatic thinker, William James argues that every educated individual has a right to create his own reality. Other pragmatic thinkers are John Dewey and C. S. Pierce.
With regards to knowledge, pragmatists believe that the mind is active and always want to find out things. It is not passive. Since the world is constantly changing, man should not just be an on-looker or an observer. He can and should play a part in bringing about this change in the area of knowledge by trying out things (carrying out experiments). This is why John Dewey maintains that true knowledge can only be gained through scientific methods. This he also refers to as the "method of intelligence". He believes that anything that cannot be proved by scientific method does not exist. For the pragmatists, knowledge I growth and nothing but growth.
On the concept of values, whereas idealists and realists believe that values remained fixed or permanent, the pragmatists say that values are neither fixed or permanent nor universal. These values change with time and place and should therefore be constantly reviewed. This means that no particular law should be seen as binding on everyone at all times. For example, the law which says, "do not kill", according to them, should not be rigidly followed or obeyed. They believe that in certain circumstances, it might right to kill to save innocent lives or defend one's self. To them, value is decided by it's usefulness. The test for anything is whether it works out well or not.