Michael Parsons grew up in England. He took his first degree (BA, with Honors) in English Language and Literature from Oxford University (Brasenose College: 1955-58) and then taught English in secondary school for several years.
Subsequently, he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. degree in Philosophy and Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana, where his major professor was Harry Broudy. He taught at the University of Utah for many years, winding up as Professor, Chair of the Department of Educational Studies, and Associate Dean for Teacher Education. His teaching was primarily in the philosophy of education, moral education and aesthetic education.
During this time at the University of Utah, he became a citizen of the United States. He published a book titled How We Understand Art: a Cognitive Development Account of Aesthetic Judgment (Cambridge University Press, 1987), which advances an account of aesthetic development, modeled on Kohlberg's studies of moral development. It details the ways in which art is an expression of personal insights and of social values.
In 1987, Parsons moved to the Ohio State University, as Professor and Chairperson of the department. Since that time, he has written on teaching and learning in art, postmodernism, the philosophy of art and children's understanding of these subjects. He published a book, jointly with Gene Blocker of Ohio University, on teaching the philosophy of art titled Aesthetics and Education (University of Illinois Press, 1993).
Dr. Parsons is currently a Visiting Research Professor of art education at the University of Ilinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Parsons' interest in the philosophy of art can be described by the intersections of neo-pragmatism, hermeneutics and postmodernism. He is interested in school reform, curriculum integrated through the arts, issues of interpretation and assessment, cognitive development in the arts. He is also interested in international developments in art education and cross-national partnerships.