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Democracy and Education by John Dewey

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I have tried to make this the most accurate text possible but I
am sure that there are still mistakes. Please feel free to email
me any errors or mistakes that you find. Citing the Chapter and
paragraph. Haradda@aol.com and davidr@inconnect.com are my email
addresses for now. David Reed

I would like to dedicate this etext to my mother who was a
elementary school teacher for more years than I can remember.

Democracy and Education
by John Dewey

Chapter One: Education as a Necessity of Life
Chapter Two: Education as a Social Function
Chapter Three: Education as Direction
Chapter Four: Education as Growth
Chapter Five: Preparation, Unfolding, and Formal Discipline
Chapter Six: Education as Conservative and Progressive
Chapter Seven: The Democratic Conception in Education
Chapter Eight: Aims in Education
Chapter Nine: Natural Development and Social Efficiency as Aims
Chapter Ten: Interest and Discipline
Chapter Eleven: Experience and Thinking
Chapter Twelve: Thinking in Education
Chapter Thirteen: The Nature of Method
Chapter Fourteen: The Nature of Subject Matter
Chapter Fifteen: Play and Work in the Curriculum
Chapter Sixteen: The Significance of Geography and History
Chapter Seventeen: Science in the Course of Study
Chapter Eighteen: Educational Values
Chapter Nineteen: Labor and Leisure
Chapter Twenty: Intellectual and Practical Studies
Chapter Twenty-one: Physical and Social Studies: Naturalism and
Chapter Twenty-two: The Individual and the World
Chapter Twenty-Three: Vocational Aspects of Education
Chapter Twenty-four: Philosophy of Education
Chapter Twenty-five: Theories of Knowledge
Chapter Twenty-six: Theories of Morals

Chapter One: Education as a Necessity of Life

1. Renewal of Life by Transmission. The most notable
distinction between living and inanimate things is that the
former maintain themselves by renewal. A stone when struck
resists. If its resistance is greater than the force of the blow
struck, it remains outwardly unchanged. Otherwise, it is
shattered into smaller bits. Never does the stone attempt to
react in such a way that it may maintain itself against the blow,
much less so as to render the blow a contributing factor to its
own continued action. While the living thing may easily be
crushed by superior force, it none the less tries to turn the
energies which act upon it into means of its own further
existence. If it cannot do so, it does not just split into
smaller pieces (at least in the higher forms of life), but loses
its identity as a living thing.

As long as it endures, it struggles to use surrounding energies
in its own behalf. It uses light, air, moisture, and the
material of soil. To say that it uses them is to say that it
turns them into means of its own conservation. As long as it is
growing, the energy it expends in thus turning the environment to
account is more than compensated for by the return it gets: it
grows. Understanding the word "control" in this sense, it may be
said that a living being is one that subjugates and controls for
its own continued activity the energies that would otherwise use
it up. Life is a self-renewing process through action upon the

In all the higher forms this process cannot be kept up
indefinitely. After a while they succumb; they die. The
creature is not equal to the task of indefinite self-renewal.
But continuity of the life process is not dependent upon the
prolongation of the existence of any one individual.
Reproduction of other forms of life goes on in continuous
sequence. And though, as the geological record shows, not merely
individuals but also species die out, the life process continues
in increasingly complex forms. As some species die out, forms
better adapted to utilize the obstacles against which they
struggled in vain come into being. Continuity of life means
continual readaptation of the environment to the needs of living

We have been speaking of life in its lowest terms -- as a
physical thing. But we use the word "Life" to denote the whole
range of experience, individual and racial. When we see a book
called the Life of Lincoln we do not expect to find within its
covers a treatise on physiology. We look for an account of
social antecedents; a description of early surroundings, of the
conditions and occupation of the family; of the chief episodes in
the development of character; of signal struggles and
achievements; of the individual's hopes, tastes, joys and
sufferings. In precisely similar fashion we speak of the life of
a savage tribe, of the Athenian people, of the American nation.
"Life" covers customs, institutions, beliefs, victories and
defeats, recreations and occupations.

We employ the word "experience" in the same pregnant sense. And
to it, as well as to life in the bare physiological sense, the
principle of continuity through renewal applies. With the
renewal of physical existence goes, in the case of human beings,
the recreation of beliefs, ideals, hopes, happiness, misery, and
practices. The continuity of any experience, through renewing of
the social group, is a literal fact. Education, in its broadest
sense, is the means of this social continuity of life. Every one
of the constituent elements of a social group, in a modern city
as in a savage tribe, is born immature, helpless, without
language, beliefs, ideas, or social standards. Each individual,
each unit who is the carrier of the life-experience of his group,
in time passes away. Yet the life of the group goes on.

The primary ineluctable facts of the birth and death of each one
of the constituent members in a social group determine the
necessity of education. On one hand, there is the contrast
between the immaturity of the new-born members of the group --
its future sole representatives -- and the maturity of the adult
members who possess the knowledge and customs of the group. On
the other hand, there is the necessity that these immature
members be not merely physically preserved in adequate numbers,
but that they be initiated into the interests, purposes,
information, skill, and practices of the mature members:
otherwise the group will cease its characteristic life. Even in
a savage tribe, the achievements of adults are far beyond what
the immature members would be capable of if left to themselves.
With the growth of civilization, the gap between the original
capacities of the immature and the standards and customs of the
elders increases. Mere physical growing up, mere mastery of the
bare necessities of subsistence will not suffice to reproduce the
life of the group. Deliberate effort and the taking of
thoughtful pains are required. Beings who are born not only
unaware of, but quite indifferent to, the aims and habits of the
social group have to be rendered cognizant of them and actively
interested. Education, and education alone, spans the gap.

Society exists through a process of transmission quite as much as
biological life. This transmission occurs by means of
communication of habits of doing, thinking, and feeling from the
older to the younger. Without this communication of ideals,
hopes, expectations, standards, opinions, from those members of
society who are passing out of the group life to those who are
coming into it, social life could not survive. If the members
who compose a society lived on continuously, they might educate
the new-born members, but it would be a task directed by personal
interest rather than social need. Now it is a work of

If a plague carried off the members of a society all at once, it
is obvious that the group would be permanently done for. Yet the
death of each of its constituent members is as certain as if an
epidemic took them all at once. But the graded difference in
age, the fact that some are born as some die, makes possible
through transmission of ideas and practices the constant
reweaving of the social fabric. Yet this renewal is not
automatic. Unless pains are taken to see that genuine and
thorough transmission takes place, the most civilized group will
relapse into barbarism and then into savagery. In fact, the
human young are so immature that if they were left to themselves
without the guidance and succor of others, they could not acquire
the rudimentary abilities necessary for physical existence. The
young of human beings compare so poorly in original efficiency
with the young of many of the lower animals, that even the powers
needed for physical sustentation have to be acquired under
tuition. How much more, then, is this the case with respect to
all the technological, artistic, scientific, and moral
achievements of humanity!

2. Education and Communication. So obvious, indeed, is the
necessity of teaching and learning for the continued existence of
a society that we may seem to be dwelling unduly on a truism.
But justification is found in the fact that such emphasis is a
means of getting us away from an unduly scholastic and formal
notion of education. Schools are, indeed, one important method
of the transmission which forms the dispositions of the immature;
but it is only one means, and, compared with other agencies, a
relatively superficial means. Only as we have grasped the
necessity of more fundamental and persistent modes of tuition can
we make sure of placing the scholastic methods in their true

Society not only continues to exist by transmission, by
communication, but it may fairly be said to exist in
transmission, in communication. There is more than a verbal tie
between the words common, community, and communication. Men live
in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common;
and communication is the way in which they come to possess things
in common. What they must have in common in order to form a
community or society are aims, beliefs, aspirations, knowledge--a
common understanding -- like-mindedness as the

sociologists say. Such things cannot be passed physically from
one to another, like bricks; they cannot be shared as persons
would share a pie by dividing it into physical pieces. The
communication which insures participation in a common
understanding is one which secures similar emotional and
intellectual dispositions -- like ways of responding to
expectations and requirements.

Persons do not become a society by living in physical proximity,
any more than a man ceases to be socially influenced by being so
many feet or miles removed from others. A book or a letter may
institute a more intimate association between human beings
separated thousands of miles from each other than exists between
dwellers under the same roof. Individuals do not even compose a
social group because they all work for a common end. The parts
of a machine work with a maximum of cooperativeness for a common
result, but they do not form a community. If, however, they were
all cognizant of the common end and all interested in it so that
they regulated their specific activity in view of it, then they
would form a community. But this would involve communication.
Each would have to know what the other was about and would have
to have some way of keeping the other informed as to his own
purpose and progress. Consensus demands communication.

We are thus compelled to recognize that within even the most
social group there are many relations which are not as yet
social. A large number of human relationships in any social
group are still upon the machine-like plane. Individuals use one
another so as to get desired results, without reference to the
emotional and intellectual disposition and consent of those used.
Such uses express physical superiority, or superiority of
position, skill, technical ability, and command of tools,
mechanical or fiscal. So far as the relations of parent and
child, teacher and pupil, employer and employee, governor and
governed, remain upon this level, they form no true social group,
no matter how closely their respective activities touch one
another. Giving and taking of orders modifies action and
results, but does not of itself effect a sharing of purposes, a
communication of interests.

Not only is social life identical with communication, but all
communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative.
To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and
changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and
felt and in so far, meagerly or amply, has his own attitude
modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected. Try
the experiment of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some
experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated,
and you will find your own attitude toward your experience
changing; otherwise you resort to expletives and ejaculations.
The experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated.
To formulate requires getting outside of it, seeing it as another
would see it, considering what points of contact it has with the
life of another so that it may be got into such form that he can
appreciate its meaning. Except in dealing with commonplaces and
catch phrases one has to assimilate, imaginatively, something of
another's experience in order to tell him intelligently of one's
own experience. All communication is like art. It may fairly be
said, therefore, that any social arrangement that remains vitally
social, or vitally shared, is educative to those who participate
in it. Only when it becomes cast in a mold and runs in a routine
way does it lose its educative power.

In final account, then, not only does social life demand teaching
and learning for its own permanence, but the very process of
living together educates. It enlarges and enlightens experience;
it stimulates and enriches imagination; it creates responsibility
for accuracy and vividness of statement and thought. A man
really living alone (alone mentally as well as physically) would
have little or no occasion to reflect upon his past experience to
extract its net meaning. The inequality of achievement between
the mature and the immature not only necessitates teaching the
young, but the necessity of this teaching gives an immense
stimulus to reducing experience to that order and form which will
render it most easily communicable and hence most usable.

3. The Place of Formal Education. There is, accordingly, a
marked difference between the education which every one gets from
living with others, as long as he really lives instead of just
continuing to subsist, and the deliberate educating of the young.
In the former case the education is incidental; it is natural and
important, but it is not the express reason of the association.
While it may be said, without exaggeration, that the measure of
the worth of any social institution, economic, domestic,
political, legal, religious, is its effect in enlarging and
improving experience; yet this effect is not a part of its
original motive, which is limited and more immediately practical.
Religious associations began, for example, in the desire to
secure the favor of overruling powers and to ward off evil
influences; family life in the desire to gratify appetites and
secure family perpetuity; systematic labor, for the most part,
because of enslavement to others, etc. Only gradually was the
by-product of the institution, its effect upon the quality and
extent of conscious life, noted, and only more gradually still
was this effect considered as a directive factor in the conduct
of the institution. Even today, in our industrial life, apart
from certain values of industriousness and thrift, the
intellectual and emotional reaction of the forms of human
association under which the world's work is carried on receives
little attention as compared with physical output.

But in dealing with the young, the fact of association itself as
an immediate human fact, gains in importance. While it is easy
to ignore in our contact with them the effect of our acts upon
their disposition, or to subordinate that educative effect to
some external and tangible result, it is not so easy as in
dealing with adults. The need of training is too evident; the
pressure to accomplish a change in their attitude and habits is
too urgent to leave these consequences wholly out of account.
Since our chief business with them is to enable them to share in
a common life we cannot help considering whether or no we are
forming the powers which will secure this ability. If humanity
has made some headway in realizing that the ultimate value of
every institution is its distinctively human effect -- its effect
upon conscious experience -- we may well believe that this lesson
has been learned largely through dealings with the young.

We are thus led to distinguish, within the broad educational
process which we have been so far considering, a more formal kind
of education -- that of direct tuition or schooling. In
undeveloped social groups, we find very little formal teaching
and training. Savage groups mainly rely for instilling needed
dispositions into the young upon the same sort of association
which keeps adults loyal to their group. They have no special
devices, material, or institutions for teaching save in
connection with initiation ceremonies by which the youth are
inducted into full social membership. For the most part, they
depend upon children learning the customs of the adults,
acquiring their emotional set and stock of ideas, by sharing in
what the elders are doing. In part, this sharing is direct,
taking part in the occupations of adults and thus serving an
apprenticeship; in part, it is indirect, through the dramatic
plays in which children reproduce the actions of grown-ups and
thus learn to know what they are like. To savages it would seem
preposterous to seek out a place where nothing but learning was
going on in order that one might learn.

But as civilization advances, the gap between the capacities of
the young and the concerns of adults widens. Learning by direct
sharing in the pursuits of grown-ups becomes increasingly
difficult except in the case of the less advanced occupations.
Much of what adults do is so remote in space and in meaning that
playful imitation is less and less adequate to reproduce its
spirit. Ability to share effectively in adult activities thus
depends upon a prior training given with this end in view.
Intentional agencies -- schools--and explicit material -- studies
-- are devised. The task of teaching certain things is delegated
to a special group of persons.

Without such formal education, it is not possible to transmit all
the resources and achievements of a complex society. It also
opens a way to a kind of experience which would not be accessible
to the young, if they were left to pick up their training in
informal association with others, since books and the symbols of
knowledge are mastered.

But there are conspicuous dangers attendant upon the transition
from indirect to formal education. Sharing in actual pursuit,
whether directly or vicariously in play, is at least personal and
vital. These qualities compensate, in some measure, for the
narrowness of available opportunities. Formal instruction, on
the contrary, easily becomes remote and dead -- abstract and
bookish, to use the ordinary words of depreciation. What
accumulated knowledge exists in low grade societies is at least
put into practice; it is transmuted into character; it exists
with the depth of meaning that attaches to its coming within
urgent daily interests.

But in an advanced culture much which has to be learned is stored
in symbols. It is far from translation into familiar acts and
objects. Such material is relatively technical and superficial.
Taking the ordinary standard of reality as a measure, it is
artificial. For this measure is connection with practical
concerns. Such material exists in a world by itself,
unassimilated to ordinary customs of thought and expression.
There is the standing danger that the material of formal
instruction will be merely the subject matter of the schools,
isolated from the subject matter of life- experience. The
permanent social interests are likely to be lost from view.
Those which have not been carried over into the structure of
social life, but which remain largely matters of technical
information expressed in symbols, are made conspicuous in
schools. Thus we reach the ordinary notion of education: the
notion which ignores its social necessity and its identity with
all human association that affects conscious life, and which
identifies it with imparting information about remote matters and
the conveying of learning through verbal signs: the acquisition
of literacy.

Hence one of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of
education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance
between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the
intentional, modes of education. When the acquiring of
information and of technical intellectual skill do not influence
the formation of a social disposition, ordinary vital experience
fails to gain in meaning, while schooling, in so far, creates
only "sharps" in learning -- that is, egoistic specialists. To
avoid a split between what men consciously know because they are
aware of having learned it by a specific job of learning, and
what they unconsciously know because they have absorbed it in the
formation of their characters by intercourse with others, becomes
an increasingly delicate task with every development of special

Summary. It is the very nature of life to strive to continue in
being. Since this continuance can be secured only by constant
renewals, life is a self-renewing process. What nutrition and
reproduction are to physiological life, education is to social
life. This education consists primarily in transmission through
communication. Communication is a process of sharing experience
till it becomes a common possession. It modifies the disposition
of both the parties who partake in it. That the ulterior
significance of every mode of human association lies in the
contribution which it makes to the improvement of the quality of
experience is a fact most easily recognized in dealing with the
immature. That is to say, while every social arrangement is
educative in effect, the educative effect first becomes an
important part of the purpose of the association in connection
with the association of the older with the younger. As societies
become more complex in structure and resources, the need of
formal or intentional teaching and learning increases. As formal
teaching and training grow in extent, there is the danger of
creating an undesirable split between the experience gained in
more direct associations and what is acquired in school. This
danger was never greater than at the present time, on account of
the rapid growth in the last few centuries of knowledge and
technical modes of skill.

Chapter Two: Education as a Social Function

1. The Nature and Meaning of Environment. We have seen that a
community or social group sustains itself through continuous
self-renewal, and that this renewal takes place by means of the
educational growth of the immature members of the group. By
various agencies, unintentional and designed, a society
transforms uninitiated and seemingly alien beings into robust
trustees of its own resources and ideals. Education is thus a
fostering, a nurturing, a cultivating, process. All of these
words mean that it implies attention to the conditions of growth.
We also speak of rearing, raising, bringing up -- words which
express the difference of level which education aims to cover.
Etymologically, the word education means just a process of
leading or bringing up. When we have the outcome of the process
in mind, we speak of education as shaping, forming, molding
activity -- that is, a shaping into the standard form of social
activity. In this chapter we are concerned with the general
features of the way in which a social group brings up its
immature members into its own social form.

Since what is required is a transformation of the quality of
experience till it partakes in the interests, purposes, and ideas
current in the social group, the problem is evidently not one of
mere physical forming. Things can be physically transported in
space; they may be bodily conveyed. Beliefs and aspirations
cannot be physically extracted and inserted. How then are they
communicated? Given the impossibility of direct contagion or
literal inculcation, our problem is to discover the method by
which the young assimilate the point of view of the old, or the
older bring the young into like-mindedness with themselves.
The answer, in general formulation, is: By means of the action of
the environment in calling out certain responses. The required
beliefs cannot be hammered in; the needed attitudes cannot be
plastered on. But the particular medium in which an individual
exists leads him to see and feel one thing rather than another;
it leads him to have certain plans in order that he may act
successfully with others; it strengthens some beliefs and weakens
others as a condition of winning the approval of others. Thus it
gradually produces in him a certain system of behavior, a certain
disposition of action. The words "environment," "medium" denote
something more than surroundings which encompass an individual.
They denote the specific continuity of the surroundings with his
own active tendencies. An inanimate being is, of course,
continuous with its surroundings; but the environing
circumstances do not, save metaphorically, constitute an
environment. For the inorganic being is not concerned in the
influences which affect it. On the other hand, some things which
are remote in space and time from a living creature, especially a
human creature, may form his environment even more truly than
some of the things close to him. The things with which a man
varies are his genuine environment. Thus the activities of the
astronomer vary with the stars at which he gazes or about which
he calculates. Of his immediate surroundings, his telescope is
most intimately his environment. The environment of an
antiquarian, as an antiquarian, consists of the remote epoch of
human life with which he is concerned, and the relics,
inscriptions, etc., by which he establishes connections with that

In brief, the environment consists of those conditions that
promote or hinder, stimulate or inhibit, the characteristic
activities of a living being. Water is the environment of a fish
because it is necessary to the fish's activities -- to its life.
The north pole is a significant element in the environment of an
arctic explorer, whether he succeeds in reaching it or not,
because it defines his activities, makes them what they
distinctively are. Just because life signifies not bare passive
existence (supposing there is such a thing), but a way of acting,
environment or medium signifies what enters into this activity as
a sustaining or frustrating condition.

2. The Social Environment. A being whose activities are
associated with others has a social environment. What he does
and what he can do depend upon the expectations, demands,
approvals, and condemnations of others. A being connected with
other beings cannot perform his own activities without taking the
activities of others into account. For they are the
indispensable conditions of the realization of his tendencies.
When he moves he stirs them and reciprocally. We might as well
try to imagine a business man doing business, buying and selling,
all by himself, as to conceive it possible to define the
activities of an individual in terms of his isolated actions.
The manufacturer moreover is as truly socially guided in his
activities when he is laying plans in the privacy of his own
counting house as when he is buying his raw material or selling
his finished goods. Thinking and feeling that have to do with
action in association with others is as much a social mode of
behavior as is the most overt cooperative or hostile act.

What we have more especially to indicate is how the social medium
nurtures its immature members. There is no great difficulty in
seeing how it shapes the external habits of action. Even dogs
and horses have their actions modified by association with human
beings; they form different habits because human beings are
concerned with what they do. Human beings control animals by
controlling the natural stimuli which influence them; by creating
a certain environment in other words. Food, bits and bridles,
noises, vehicles, are used to direct the ways in which the
natural or instinctive responses of horses occur. By operating
steadily to call out certain acts, habits are formed which
function with the same uniformity as the original stimuli. If a
rat is put in a maze and finds food only by making a given number
of turns in a given sequence, his activity is gradually modified
till he habitually takes that course rather than another when he
is hungry.

Human actions are modified in a like fashion. A burnt child
dreads the fire; if a parent arranged conditions so that every
time a child touched a certain toy he got burned, the child would
learn to avoid that toy as automatically as he avoids touching
fire. So far, however, we are dealing with what may be called
training in distinction from educative teaching. The changes
considered are in outer action rather than in mental and
emotional dispositions of behavior. The distinction is not,
however, a sharp one. The child might conceivably generate in
time a violent antipathy, not only to that particular toy, but to
the class of toys resembling it. The aversion might even persist
after he had forgotten about the original burns; later on he
might even invent some reason to account for his seemingly
irrational antipathy. In some cases, altering the external habit
of action by changing the environment to affect the stimuli to
action will also alter the mental disposition concerned in the
action. Yet this does not always happen; a person trained to
dodge a threatening blow, dodges automatically with no
corresponding thought or emotion. We have to find, then, some
differentia of training from education.

A clew may be found in the fact that the horse does not really
share in the social use to which his action is put. Some one
else uses the horse to secure a result which is advantageous by
making it advantageous to the horse to perform the act -- he gets
food, etc. But the horse, presumably, does not get any new
interest. He remains interested in food, not in the service he
is rendering. He is not a partner in a shared activity. Were he
to become a copartner, he would, in engaging in the conjoint
activity, have the same interest in its accomplishment which
others have. He would share their ideas and emotions.

Now in many cases -- too many cases -- the activity of the
immature human being is simply played upon to secure habits which
are useful. He is trained like an animal rather than educated
like a human being. His instincts remain attached to their
original objects of pain or pleasure. But to get happiness or to
avoid the pain of failure he has to act in a way agreeable to
others. In other cases, he really shares or participates in the
common activity. In this case, his original impulse is modified.
He not merely acts in a way agreeing with the actions of others,
but, in so acting, the same ideas and emotions are aroused in him
that animate the others. A tribe, let us say, is warlike. The
successes for which it strives, the achievements upon which it
sets store, are connected with fighting and victory. The
presence of this medium incites bellicose exhibitions in a boy,
first in games, then in fact when he is strong enough. As he
fights he wins approval and advancement; as he refrains, he is
disliked, ridiculed, shut out from favorable recognition. It is
not surprising that his original belligerent tendencies and
emotions are strengthened at the expense of others, and that his
ideas turn to things connected with war. Only in this way can he
become fully a recognized member of his group. Thus his mental
habitudes are gradually assimilated to those of his group.

If we formulate the principle involved in this illustration, we
shall perceive that the social medium neither implants certain
desires and ideas directly, nor yet merely establishes certain
purely muscular habits of action, like "instinctively" winking or
dodging a blow. Setting up conditions which stimulate certain
visible and tangible ways of acting is the first step. Making
the individual a sharer or partner in the associated activity so
that he feels its success as his success, its failure as his
failure, is the completing step. As soon as he is possessed by
the emotional attitude of the group, he will be alert to
recognize the special ends at which it aims and the means
employed to secure success. His beliefs and ideas, in other
words, will take a form similar to those of others in the group.
He will also achieve pretty much the same stock of knowledge
since that knowledge is an ingredient of his habitual pursuits.

The importance of language in gaining knowledge is doubtless the
chief cause of the common notion that knowledge may be passed
directly from one to another. It almost seems as if all we have
to do to convey an idea into the mind of another is to convey a
sound into his ear. Thus imparting knowledge gets assimilated to
a purely physical process. But learning from language will be
found, when analyzed, to confirm the principle just laid down.
It would probably be admitted with little hesitation that a child
gets the idea of, say, a hat by using it as other persons do; by
covering the head with it, giving it to others to wear, having it
put on by others when going out, etc. But it may be asked how
this principle of shared activity applies to getting through
speech or reading the idea of, say, a Greek helmet, where no
direct use of any kind enters in. What shared activity is there
in learning from books about the discovery of America?

Since language tends to become the chief instrument of learning
about many things, let us see how it works. The baby begins of
course with mere sounds, noises, and tones having no meaning,
expressing, that is, no idea. Sounds are just one kind of
stimulus to direct response, some having a soothing effect,
others tending to make one jump, and so on. The sound h-a-t
would remain as meaningless as a sound in Choctaw, a seemingly
inarticulate grunt, if it were not uttered in connection with an
action which is participated in by a number of people. When the
mother is taking the infant out of doors, she says "hat" as she
puts something on the baby's head. Being taken out becomes an
interest to the child; mother and child not only go out with each
other physically, but both are concerned in the going out; they
enjoy it in common. By conjunction with the other factors in
activity the sound "hat" soon gets the same meaning for the child
that it has for the parent; it becomes a sign of the activity
into which it enters. The bare fact that language consists of
sounds which are mutually intelligible is enough of itself to
show that its meaning depends upon connection with a shared

In short, the sound h-a-t gains meaning in precisely the same way
that the thing "hat" gains it, by being used in a given way. And
they acquire the same meaning with the child which they have with
the adult because they are used in a common experience by both.
The guarantee for the same manner of use is found in the fact
that the thing and the sound are first employed in a joint
activity, as a means of setting up an active connection between
the child and a grownup. Similar ideas or meanings spring up
because both persons are engaged as partners in an action where
what each does depends upon and influences what the other does.
If two savages were engaged in a joint hunt for game, and a
certain signal meant "move to the right" to the one who uttered
it, and "move to the left" to the one who heard it, they
obviously could not successfully carry on their hunt together.
Understanding one another means that objects, including sounds,
have the same value for both with respect to carrying on a common

After sounds have got meaning through connection with other
things employed in a joint undertaking, they can be used in
connection with other like sounds to develop new meanings,
precisely as the things for which they stand are combined. Thus
the words in which a child learns about, say, the Greek helmet
originally got a meaning (or were understood) by use in an action
having a common interest and end. They now arouse a new meaning
by inciting the one who hears or reads to rehearse imaginatively
the activities in which the helmet has its use. For the time
being, the one who understands the words "Greek helmet" becomes
mentally a partner with those who used the helmet. He engages,
through his imagination, in a shared activity. It is not easy to
get the full meaning of words. Most persons probably stop with
the idea that "helmet" denotes a queer kind of headgear a people
called the Greeks once wore. We conclude, accordingly, that the
use of language to convey and acquire ideas is an extension and
refinement of the principle that things gain meaning by being
used in a shared experience or joint action; in no sense does it
contravene that principle. When words do not enter as factors
into a shared situation, either overtly or imaginatively, they
operate as pure physical stimuli, not as having a meaning or
intellectual value. They set activity running in a given groove,
but there is no accompanying conscious purpose or meaning. Thus,
for example, the plus sign may be a stimulus to perform the act
of writing one number under another and adding the numbers, but
the person performing the act will operate much as an automaton
would unless he realizes the meaning of what he does.

3. The Social Medium as Educative. Our net result thus far is
that social environment forms the mental and emotional
disposition of behavior in individuals by engaging them in
activities that arouse and strengthen certain impulses, that have
certain purposes and entail certain consequences. A child
growing up in a family of musicians will inevitably have whatever
capacities he has in music stimulated, and, relatively,
stimulated more than other impulses which might have been
awakened in another environment. Save as he takes an interest in
music and gains a certain competency in it, he is "out of it"; he
is unable to share in the life of the group to which he belongs.
Some kinds of participation in the life of those with whom the
individual is connected are inevitable; with respect to them, the
social environment exercises an educative or formative influence
unconsciously and apart from any set purpose.

In savage and barbarian communities, such direct participation
(constituting the indirect or incidental education of which we
have spoken) furnishes almost the sole influence for rearing the
young into the practices and beliefs of the group. Even in
present-day societies, it furnishes the basic nurture of even the
most insistently schooled youth. In accord with the interests
and occupations of the group, certain things become objects of
high esteem; others of aversion. Association does not create
impulses or affection and dislike, but it furnishes the objects
to which they attach themselves. The way our group or class does
things tends to determine the proper objects of attention, and
thus to prescribe the directions and limits of observation and
memory. What is strange or foreign (that is to say outside the
activities of the groups) tends to be morally forbidden and
intellectually suspect. It seems almost incredible to us, for
example, that things which we know very well could have escaped
recognition in past ages. We incline to account for it by
attributing congenital stupidity to our forerunners and by
assuming superior native intelligence on our own part. But the
explanation is that their modes of life did not call for
attention to such facts, but held their minds riveted to other
things. Just as the senses require sensible objects to stimulate
them, so our powers of observation, recollection, and imagination
do not work spontaneously, but are set in motion by the demands
set up by current social occupations. The main texture of
disposition is formed, independently of schooling, by such
influences. What conscious, deliberate teaching can do is at
most to free the capacities thus formed for fuller exercise, to
purge them of some of their grossness, and to furnish objects
which make their activity more productive of meaning.

While this "unconscious influence of the environment" is so
subtle and pervasive that it affects every fiber of character and
mind, it may be worth while to specify a few directions in which
its effect is most marked. First, the habits of language.
Fundamental modes of speech, the bulk of the vocabulary, are
formed in the ordinary intercourse of life, carried on not as a
set means of instruction but as a social necessity. The babe
acquires, as we well say, the mother tongue. While speech habits
thus contracted may be corrected or even displaced by conscious
teaching, yet, in times of excitement, intentionally acquired
modes of speech often fall away, and individuals relapse into
their really native tongue. Secondly, manners. Example is
notoriously more potent than precept. Good manners come, as we
say, from good breeding or rather are good breeding; and breeding
is acquired by habitual action, in response to habitual stimuli,
not by conveying information. Despite the never ending play of
conscious correction and instruction, the surrounding atmosphere
and spirit is in the end the chief agent in forming manners. And
manners are but minor morals. Moreover, in major morals,
conscious instruction is likely to be efficacious only in the
degree in which it falls in with the general "walk and
conversation" of those who constitute the child's social
environment. Thirdly, good taste and esthetic appreciation. If
the eye is constantly greeted by harmonious objects, having
elegance of form and color, a standard of taste naturally grows
up. The effect of a tawdry, unarranged, and over-decorated
environment works for the deterioration of taste, just as meager
and barren surroundings starve out the desire for beauty.
Against such odds, conscious teaching can hardly do more than
convey second-hand information as to what others think. Such
taste never becomes spontaneous and personally engrained, but
remains a labored reminder of what those think to whom one has
been taught to look up. To say that the deeper standards of
judgments of value are framed by the situations into which a
person habitually enters is not so much to mention a fourth
point, as it is to point out a fusion of those already mentioned.
We rarely recognize the extent in which our conscious estimates
of what is worth while and what is not, are due to standards of
which we are not conscious at all. But in general it may be said
that the things which we take for granted without inquiry or
reflection are just the things which determine our conscious
thinking and decide our conclusions. And these habitudes which
lie below the level of reflection are just those which have been
formed in the constant give and take of relationship with others.

4. The School as a Special Environment. The chief importance of
this foregoing statement of the educative process which goes on
willy-nilly is to lead us to note that the only way in which
adults consciously control the kind of education which the
immature get is by controlling the environment in which they act,
and hence think and feel. We never educate directly, but
indirectly by means of the environment. Whether we permit chance
environments to do the work, or whether we design environments
for the purpose makes a great difference. And any environment is
a chance environment so far as its educative influence is
concerned unless it has been deliberately regulated with
reference to its educative effect. An intelligent home differs
from an unintelligent one chiefly in that the habits of life and
intercourse which prevail are chosen, or at least colored, by the
thought of their bearing upon the development of children. But
schools remain, of course, the typical instance of environments
framed with express reference to influencing the mental and moral
disposition of their members.

Roughly speaking, they come into existence when social traditions
are so complex that a considerable part of the social store is
committed to writing and transmitted through written symbols.
Written symbols are even more artificial or conventional than
spoken; they cannot be picked up in accidental intercourse with
others. In addition, the written form tends to select and record
matters which are comparatively foreign to everyday life. The
achievements accumulated from generation to generation are
deposited in it even though some of them have fallen temporarily
out of use. Consequently as soon as a community depends to any
considerable extent upon what lies beyond its own territory and
its own immediate generation, it must rely upon the set agency of
schools to insure adequate transmission of all its resources. To
take an obvious illustration: The life of the ancient Greeks and
Romans has profoundly influenced our own, and yet the ways in
which they affect us do not present themselves on the surface of
our ordinary experiences. In similar fashion, peoples still
existing, but remote in space, British, Germans, Italians,
directly concern our own social affairs, but the nature of the
interaction cannot be understood without explicit statement and
attention. In precisely similar fashion, our daily associations
cannot be trusted to make clear to the young the part played in
our activities by remote physical energies, and by invisible
structures. Hence a special mode of social intercourse is
instituted, the school, to care for such matters.

This mode of association has three functions sufficiently
specific, as compared with ordinary associations of life, to be
noted. First, a complex civilization is too complex to be
assimilated in toto. It has to be broken up into portions, as it
were, and assimilated piecemeal, in a gradual and graded way.
The relationships of our present social life are so numerous and
so interwoven that a child placed in the most favorable position
could not readily share in many of the most important of them.
Not sharing in them, their meaning would not be communicated to
him, would not become a part of his own mental disposition.
There would be no seeing the trees because of the forest.
Business, politics, art, science, religion, would make all at
once a clamor for attention; confusion would be the outcome. The
first office of the social organ we call the school is to provide
a simplified environment. It selects the features which are
fairly fundamental and capable of being responded to by the
young. Then it establishes a progressive order, using the
factors first acquired as means of gaining insight into what is
more complicated.

In the second place, it is the business of the school environment
to eliminate, so far as possible, the unworthy features of the
existing environment from influence upon mental habitudes. It
establishes a purified medium of action. Selection aims not only
at simplifying but at weeding out what is undesirable. Every
society gets encumbered with what is trivial, with dead wood from
the past, and with what is positively perverse. The school has
the duty of omitting such things from the environment which it
supplies, and thereby doing what it can to counteract their
influence in the ordinary social environment. By selecting the
best for its exclusive use, it strives to reinforce the power of
this best. As a society becomes more enlightened, it realizes
that it is responsible not to transmit and conserve the whole of
its existing achievements, but only such as make for a better
future society. The school is its chief agency for the
accomplishment of this end.

In the third place, it is the office of the school environment to
balance the various elements in the social environment, and to
see to it that each individual gets an opportunity to escape from
the limitations of the social group in which he was born, and to
come into living contact with a broader environment. Such words
as "society" and "community" are likely to be misleading, for
they have a tendency to make us think there is a single thing
corresponding to the single word. As a matter of fact, a modern
society is many societies more or less loosely connected. Each
household with its immediate extension of friends makes a
society; the village or street group of playmates is a community;
each business group, each club, is another. Passing beyond these
more intimate groups, there is in a country like our own a
variety of races, religious affiliations, economic divisions.
Inside the modern city, in spite of its nominal political unity,
there are probably more communities, more differing customs,
traditions, aspirations, and forms of government or control, than
existed in an entire continent at an earlier epoch.

Each such group exercises a formative influence on the active
dispositions of its members. A clique, a club, a gang, a Fagin's
household of thieves, the prisoners in a jail, provide educative
environments for those who enter into their collective or
conjoint activities, as truly as a church, a labor union, a
business partnership, or a political party. Each of them is a
mode of associated or community life, quite as much as is a
family, a town, or a state. There are also communities whose
members have little or no direct contact with one another, like
the guild of artists, the republic of letters, the members of the
professional learned class scattered over the face of the earth.
For they have aims in common, and the activity of each member is
directly modified by knowledge of what others are doing.

In the olden times, the diversity of groups was largely a
geographical matter. There were many societies, but each, within
its own territory, was comparatively homogeneous. But with the
development of commerce, transportation, intercommunication, and
emigration, countries like the United States are composed of a
combination of different groups with different traditional
customs. It is this situation which has, perhaps more than any
other one cause, forced the demand for an educational institution
which shall provide something like a homogeneous and balanced
environment for the young. Only in this way can the centrifugal
forces set up by juxtaposition of different groups within one and
the same political unit be counteracted. The intermingling in
the school of youth of different races, differing religions, and
unlike customs creates for all a new and broader environment.
Common subject matter accustoms all to a unity of outlook upon a
broader horizon than is visible to the members of any group while
it is isolated. The assimilative force of the American public
school is eloquent testimony to the efficacy of the common and
balanced appeal.

The school has the function also of coordinating within the
disposition of each individual the diverse influences of the
various social environments into which he enters. One code
prevails in the family; another, on the street; a third, in the
workshop or store; a fourth, in the religious association. As a
person passes from one of the environments to another, he is
subjected to antagonistic pulls, and is in danger of being split
into a being having different standards of judgment and emotion
for different occasions. This danger imposes upon the school a
steadying and integrating office.

Summary. The development within the young of the attitudes and
dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of
a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs,
emotions, and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary
of the environment. The environment consists of the sum total of
conditions which are concerned in the execution of the activity
characteristic of a living being. The social environment
consists of all the activities of fellow beings that are bound up
in the carrying on of the activities of any one of its members.
It is truly educative in its effect in the degree in which an
individual shares or participates in some conjoint activity. By
doing his share in the associated activity, the individual
appropriates the purpose which actuates it, becomes familiar with
its methods and subject matters, acquires needed skill, and is
saturated with its emotional spirit.

The deeper and more intimate educative formation of disposition
comes, without conscious intent, as the young gradually partake
of the activities of the various groups to which they may belong.
As a society becomes more complex, however, it is found necessary
to provide a special social environment which shall especially
look after nurturing the capacities of the immature. Three of
the more important functions of this special environment are:
simplifying and ordering the factors of the disposition it is
wished to develop; purifying and idealizing the existing social
customs; creating a wider and better balanced environment than
that by which the young would be likely, if left to themselves,
to be influenced.

Chapter Three: Education as Direction

1. The Environment as Directive.

We now pass to one of the special forms which the general
function of education assumes: namely, that of direction,
control, or guidance. Of these three words, direction, control,
and guidance, the last best conveys the idea of assisting through
cooperation the natural capacities of the individuals guided;
control conveys rather the notion of an energy brought to bear
from without and meeting some resistance from the one controlled;
direction is a more neutral term and suggests the fact that the
active tendencies of those directed are led in a certain
continuous course, instead of dispersing aimlessly. Direction
expresses the basic function, which tends at one extreme to
become a guiding assistance and at another, a regulation or
ruling. But in any case, we must carefully avoid a meaning
sometimes read into the term "control." It is sometimes assumed,
explicitly or unconsciously, that an individual's tendencies are
naturally purely individualistic or egoistic, and thus
antisocial. Control then denotes the process by which he is
brought to subordinate his natural impulses to public or common
ends. Since, by conception, his own nature is quite alien to
this process and opposes it rather than helps it, control has in
this view a flavor of coercion or compulsion about it. Systems
of government and theories of the state have been built upon this
notion, and it has seriously affected educational ideas and
practices. But there is no ground for any such view.
Individuals are certainly interested, at times, in having their
own way, and their own way may go contrary to the ways of others.
But they are also interested, and chiefly interested upon the
whole, in entering into the activities of others and taking part
in conjoint and cooperative doings. Otherwise, no such thing as
a community would be possible. And there would not even be any
one interested in furnishing the policeman to keep a semblance of
harmony unless he thought that thereby he could gain some
personal advantage. Control, in truth, means only an emphatic
form of direction of powers, and covers the regulation gained by
an individual through his own efforts quite as much as that
brought about when others take the lead.

In general, every stimulus directs activity. It does not simply
excite it or stir it up, but directs it toward an object. Put
the other way around, a response is not just a re-action, a
protest, as it were, against being disturbed; it is, as the word
indicates, an answer. It meets the stimulus, and corresponds
with it. There is an adaptation of the stimulus and response to
each other. A light is the stimulus to the eye to see something,
and the business of the eye is to see. If the eyes are open and
there is light, seeing occurs; the stimulus is but a condition of
the fulfillment of the proper function of the organ, not an
outside interruption. To some extent, then, all direction or
control is a guiding of activity to its own end; it is an
assistance in doing fully what some organ is already tending to

This general statement needs, however, to be qualified in two
respects. In the first place, except in the case of a small
number of instincts, the stimuli to which an immature human being
is subject are not sufficiently definite to call out, in the
beginning, specific responses. There is always a great deal of
superfluous energy aroused. This energy may be wasted, going
aside from the point; it may also go against the successful
performance of an act. It does harm by getting in the way.
Compare the behavior of a beginner in riding a bicycle with that
of the expert. There is little axis of direction in the energies
put forth; they are largely dispersive and centrifugal.
Direction involves a focusing and fixating of action in order
that it may be truly a response, and this requires an elimination
of unnecessary and confusing movements. In the second place,
although no activity can be produced in which the person does not
cooperate to some extent, yet a response may be of a kind which
does not fit into the sequence and continuity of action. A
person boxing may dodge a particular blow successfully, but in
such a way as to expose himself the next instant to a still
harder blow. Adequate control means that the successive acts are
brought into a continuous order; each act not only meets its
immediate stimulus but helps the acts which follow.

In short, direction is both simultaneous and successive. At a
given time, it requires that, from all the tendencies that are
partially called out, those be selected which center energy upon
the point of need. Successively, it requires that each act be
balanced with those which precede and come after, so that order
of activity is achieved. Focusing and ordering are thus the two
aspects of direction, one spatial, the other temporal. The first
insures hitting the mark; the second keeps the balance required
for further action. Obviously, it is not possible to separate
them in practice as we have distinguished them in idea. Activity
must be centered at a given time in such a way as to prepare for
what comes next. The problem of the immediate response is
complicated by one's having to be on the lookout for future

Two conclusions emerge from these general statements. On the one
hand, purely external direction is impossible. The environment
can at most only supply stimuli to call out responses. These
responses proceed from tendencies already possessed by the
individual. Even when a person is frightened by threats into
doing something, the threats work only because the person has an
instinct of fear. If he has not, or if, though having it, it is
under his own control, the threat has no more influence upon him
than light has in causing a person to see who has no eyes. While
the customs and rules of adults furnish stimuli which direct as
well as evoke the activities of the young, the young, after all,
participate in the direction which their actions finally take.
In the strict sense, nothing can be forced upon them or into
them. To overlook this fact means to distort and pervert human
nature. To take into account the contribution made by the
existing instincts and habits of those directed is to direct them
economically and wisely. Speaking accurately, all direction is
but re-direction; it shifts the activities already going on into
another channel. Unless one is cognizant of the energies which
are already in operation, one's attempts at direction will almost
surely go amiss.

On the other hand, the control afforded by the customs and
regulations of others may be short-sighted. It may accomplish
its immediate effect, but at the expense of throwing the
subsequent action of the person out of balance. A threat may,
for example, prevent a person from doing something to which he is
naturally inclined by arousing fear of disagreeable consequences
if he persists. But he may be left in the position which exposes
him later on to influences which will lead him to do even worse
things. His instincts of cunning and slyness may be aroused, so
that things henceforth appeal to him on the side of evasion and
trickery more than would otherwise have been the case. Those
engaged in directing the actions of others are always in danger
of overlooking the importance of the sequential development of
those they direct.

2. Modes of Social Direction. Adults are naturally most
conscious of directing the conduct of others when they are
immediately aiming so to do. As a rule, they have such an aim
consciously when they find themselves resisted; when others are
doing things they do not wish them to do. But the more permanent
and influential modes of control are those which operate from
moment to moment continuously without such deliberate intention
on our part.

1. When others are not doing what we would like them to or are
threatening disobedience, we are most conscious of the need of
controlling them and of the influences by which they are
controlled. In such cases, our control becomes most direct, and
at this point we are most likely to make the mistakes just spoken
of. We are even likely to take the influence of superior force
for control, forgetting that while we may lead a horse to water
we cannot make him drink; and that while we can shut a man up in
a penitentiary we cannot make him penitent. In all such cases of
immediate action upon others, we need to discriminate between
physical results and moral results. A person may be in such a
condition that forcible feeding or enforced confinement is
necessary for his own good. A child may have to be snatched with
roughness away from a fire so that he shall not be burnt. But no
improvement of disposition, no educative effect, need follow. A
harsh and commanding tone may be effectual in keeping a child
away from the fire, and the same desirable physical effect will
follow as if he had been snatched away. But there may be no more
obedience of a moral sort in one case than in the other. A man
can be prevented from breaking into other persons' houses by
shutting him up, but shutting him up may not alter his
disposition to commit burglary. When we confuse a physical with
an educative result, we always lose the chance of enlisting the
person's own participating disposition in getting the result
desired, and thereby of developing within him an intrinsic and
persisting direction in the right way.

In general, the occasion for the more conscious acts of control
should be limited to acts which are so instinctive or impulsive
that the one performing them has no means of foreseeing their
outcome. If a person cannot foresee the consequences of his act,
and is not capable of understanding what he is told about its
outcome by those with more experience, it is impossible for him
to guide his act intelligently. In such a state, every act is
alike to him. Whatever moves him does move him, and that is all
there is to it. In some cases, it is well to permit him to
experiment, and to discover the consequences for himself in order
that he may act intelligently next time under similar
circumstances. But some courses of action are too discommoding
and obnoxious to others to allow of this course being pursued.
Direct disapproval is now resorted to. Shaming, ridicule,
disfavor, rebuke, and punishment are used. Or contrary
tendencies in the child are appealed to to divert him from his
troublesome line of behavior. His sensitiveness to approbation,
his hope of winning favor by an agreeable act, are made use of to
induce action in another direction.

2. These methods of control are so obvious (because so
intentionally employed) that it would hardly be worth while to
mention them if it were not that notice may now be taken, by way
of contrast, of the other more important and permanent mode of
control. This other method resides in the ways in which persons,
with whom the immature being is associated, use things; the
instrumentalities with which they accomplish their own ends. The
very existence of the social medium in which an individual lives,
moves, and has his being is the standing effective agency of
directing his activity.

This fact makes it necessary for us to examine in greater detail
what is meant by the social environment. We are given to
separating from each other the physical and social environments
in which we live. The separation is responsible on one hand for
an exaggeration of the moral importance of the more direct or
personal modes of control of which we have been speaking; and on
the other hand for an exaggeration, in current psychology and
philosophy, of the intellectual possibilities of contact with a
purely physical environment. There is not, in fact, any such
thing as the direct influence of one human being on another apart
from use of the physical environment as an intermediary. A
smile, a frown, a rebuke, a word of warning or encouragement, all
involve some physical change. Otherwise, the attitude of one
would not get over to alter the attitude of another.
Comparatively speaking, such modes of influence may be regarded
as personal. The physical medium is reduced to a mere means of
personal contact. In contrast with such direct modes of mutual
influence, stand associations in common pursuits involving the
use of things as means and as measures of results. Even if the
mother never told her daughter to help her, or never rebuked her
for not helping, the child would be subjected to direction in her
activities by the mere fact that she was engaged, along with the
parent, in the household life. Imitation, emulation, the need of
working together, enforce control.

If the mother hands the child something needed, the latter must
reach the thing in order to get it. Where there is giving there
must be taking. The way the child handles the thing after it is
got, the use to which it is put, is surely influenced by the fact
that the child has watched the mother. When the child sees the
parent looking for something, it is as natural for it also to
look for the object and to give it over when it finds it, as it
was, under other circumstances, to receive it. Multiply such an
instance by the thousand details of daily intercourse, and one
has a picture of the most permanent and enduring method of giving
direction to the activities of the young.

In saying this, we are only repeating what was said previously
about participating in a joint activity as the chief way of
forming disposition. We have explicitly added, however, the
recognition of the part played in the joint activity by the use
of things. The philosophy of learning has been unduly dominated
by a false psychology. It is frequently stated that a person
learns by merely having the qualities of things impressed upon
his mind through the gateway of the senses. Having received a
store of sensory impressions, association or some power of mental
synthesis is supposed to combine them into ideas--into things
with a meaning. An object, stone, orange, tree, chair, is
supposed to convey different impressions of color, shape, size,
hardness, smell, taste, etc., which aggregated together
constitute the characteristic meaning of each thing. But as
matter of fact, it is the characteristic use to which the thing
is put, because of its specific qualities, which supplies the
meaning with which it is identified. A chair is a thing which is
put to one use; a table, a thing which is employed for another
purpose; an orange is a thing which costs so much, which is grown
in warm climes, which is eaten, and when eaten has an agreeable
odor and refreshing taste, etc.

The difference between an adjustment to a physical stimulus and a
mental act is that the latter involves response to a thing in its
meaning; the former does not. A noise may make me jump without
my mind being implicated. When I hear a noise and run and get
water and put out a blaze, I respond intelligently; the sound
meant fire, and fire meant need of being extinguished. I bump
into a stone, and kick it to one side purely physically. I put
it to one side for fear some one will stumble upon it,
intelligently; I respond to a meaning which the thing has. I am
startled by a thunderclap whether I recognize it or not -- more
likely, if I do not recognize it. But if I say, either out loud
or to myself, that is thunder, I respond to the disturbance as a
meaning. My behavior has a mental quality. When things have a
meaning for us, we mean (intend, propose) what we do: when they
do not, we act blindly, unconsciously, unintelligently.

In both kinds of responsive adjustment, our activities are
directed or controlled. But in the merely blind response,
direction is also blind. There may be training, but there is no
education. Repeated responses to recurrent stimuli may fix a
habit of acting in a certain way. All of us have many habits of
whose import we are quite unaware, since they were formed without
our knowing what we were about. Consequently they possess us,
rather than we them. They move us; they control us. Unless we
become aware of what they accomplish, and pass judgment upon the
worth of the result, we do not control them. A child might be
made to bow every time he met a certain person by pressure on his
neck muscles, and bowing would finally become automatic. It
would not, however, be an act of recognition or deference on his
part, till he did it with a certain end in view -- as having a
certain meaning. And not till he knew what he was about and
performed the act for the sake of its meaning could he be said to
be "brought up" or educated to act in a certain way. To have an
idea of a thing is thus not just to get certain sensations from
it. It is to be able to respond to the thing in view of its
place in an inclusive scheme of action; it is to foresee the
drift and probable consequence of the action of the thing upon us
and of our action upon it. To have the same ideas about things
which others have, to be like-minded with them, and thus to be
really members of a social group, is therefore to attach the same
meanings to things and to acts which others attach. Otherwise,
there is no common understanding, and no community life. But in
a shared activity, each person refers what he is doing to what
the other is doing and vice-versa. That is, the activity of each
is placed in the same inclusive situation. To pull at a rope at
which others happen to be pulling is not a shared or conjoint
activity, unless the pulling is done with knowledge that others
are pulling and for the sake of either helping or hindering what
they are doing. A pin may pass in the course of its manufacture
through the hands of many persons. But each may do his part
without knowledge of what others do or without any reference to
what they do; each may operate simply for the sake of a separate
result--his own pay. There is, in this case, no common
consequence to which the several acts are referred, and hence no
genuine intercourse or association, in spite of juxtaposition,
and in spite of the fact that their respective doings contribute
to a single outcome. But if each views the consequences of his
own acts as having a bearing upon what others are doing and takes
into account the consequences of their behavior upon himself,
then there is a common mind; a common intent in behavior. There
is an understanding set up between the different contributors;
and this common understanding controls the action of each.
Suppose that conditions were so arranged that one person
automatically caught a ball and then threw it to another person
who caught and automatically returned it; and that each so acted
without knowing where the ball came from or went to. Clearly,
such action would be without point or meaning. It might be
physically controlled, but it would not be socially directed.
But suppose that each becomes aware of what the other is doing,
and becomes interested in the other's action and thereby
interested in what he is doing himself as connected with the
action of the other. The behavior of each would then be
intelligent; and socially intelligent and guided. Take one more
example of a less imaginary kind. An infant is hungry, and cries
while food is prepared in his presence. If he does not connect
his own state with what others are doing, nor what they are doing
with his own satisfaction, he simply reacts with increasing
impatience to his own increasing discomfort. He is physically
controlled by his own organic state. But when he makes a back
and forth reference, his whole attitude changes. He takes an
interest, as we say; he takes note and watches what others are
doing. He no longer reacts just to his own hunger, but behaves
in the light of what others are doing for its prospective
satisfaction. In that way, he also no longer just gives way to
hunger without knowing it, but he notes, or recognizes, or
identifies his own state. It becomes an object for him. His
attitude toward it becomes in some degree intelligent. And in
such noting of the meaning of the actions of others and of his
own state, he is socially directed.

It will be recalled that our main proposition had two sides. One
of them has now been dealt with: namely, that physical things do
not influence mind (or form ideas and beliefs) except as they are
implicated in action for prospective consequences. The other
point is persons modify one another's dispositions only through
the special use they make of physical conditions. Consider first
the case of so-called expressive movements to which others are
sensitive; blushing, smiling, frowning, clinching of fists,
natural gestures of all kinds. In themselves, these are not
expressive. They are organic parts of a person's attitude. One
does not blush to show modesty or embarrassment to others, but
because the capillary circulation alters in response to stimuli.
But others use the blush, or a slightly perceptible tightening of
the muscles of a person with whom they are associated, as a sign
of the state in which that person finds himself, and as an
indication of what course to pursue. The frown signifies an
imminent rebuke for which one must prepare, or an uncertainty and
hesitation which one must, if possible, remove by saying or doing
something to restore confidence. A man at some distance is
waving his arms wildly. One has only to preserve an attitude of
detached indifference, and the motions of the other person will
be on the level of any remote physical change which we happen to
note. If we have no concern or interest, the waving of the arms
is as meaningless to us as the gyrations of the arms of a
windmill. But if interest is aroused, we begin to participate.
We refer his action to something we are doing ourselves or that
we should do. We have to judge the meaning of his act in order
to decide what to do. Is he beckoning for help? Is he warning us
of an explosion to be set off, against which we should guard
ourselves? In one case, his action means to run toward him; in
the other case, to run away. In any case, it is the change he
effects in the physical environment which is a sign to us of how
we should conduct ourselves. Our action is socially controlled
because we endeavor to refer what we are to do to the same
situation in which he is acting.

Language is, as we have already seen (ante, p. 15) a case of this
joint reference of our own action and that of another to a common
situation. Hence its unrivaled significance as a means of social
direction. But language would not be this efficacious instrument
were it not that it takes place upon a background of coarser and
more tangible use of physical means to accomplish results. A
child sees persons with whom he lives using chairs, hats, tables,
spades, saws, plows, horses, money in certain ways. If he has
any share at all in what they are doing, he is led thereby to use
things in the same way, or to use other things in a way which
will fit in. If a chair is drawn up to a table, it is a sign
that he is to sit in it; if a person extends his right hand, he
is to extend his; and so on in a never ending stream of detail.
The prevailing habits of using the products of human art and the
raw materials of nature constitute by all odds the deepest and
most pervasive mode of social control. When children go to
school, they already have "minds" -- they have knowledge and
dispositions of judgment which may be appealed to through the use
of language. But these "minds" are the organized habits of
intelligent response which they have previously required by
putting things to use in connection with the way other persons
use things. The control is inescapable; it saturates
disposition. The net outcome of the discussion is that the
fundamental means of control is not personal but intellectual.
It is not "moral" in the sense that a person is moved by direct
personal appeal from others, important as is this method at
critical junctures. It consists in the habits of understanding,
which are set up in using objects in correspondence with others,
whether by way of cooperation and assistance or rivalry and
competition. Mind as a concrete thing is precisely the power to
understand things in terms of the use made of them; a socialized
mind is the power to understand them in terms of the use to which
they are turned in joint or shared situations. And mind in this
sense is the method of social control.

3. Imitation and Social Psychology. We have already noted the
defects of a psychology of learning which places the individual
mind naked, as it were, in contact with physical objects, and
which believes that knowledge, ideas, and beliefs accrue from
their interaction. Only comparatively recently has the
predominating influence of association with fellow beings in the
formation of mental and moral disposition been perceived. Even
now it is usually treated as a kind of adjunct to an alleged
method of learning by direct contact with things, and as merely
supplementing knowledge of the physical world with knowledge of
persons. The purport of our discussion is that such a view makes
an absurd and impossible separation between persons and things.
Interaction with things may form habits of external adjustment.
But it leads to activity having a meaning and conscious intent
only when things are used to produce a result. And the only way
one person can modify the mind of another is by using physical
conditions, crude or artificial, so as to evoke some answering
activity from him. Such are our two main conclusions. It is
desirable to amplify and enforce them by placing them in contrast
with the theory which uses a psychology of supposed direct
relationships of human beings to one another as an adjunct to the
psychology of the supposed direct relation of an individual to
physical objects. In substance, this so-called social psychology
has been built upon the notion of imitation. Consequently, we
shall discuss the nature and role of imitation in the formation
of mental disposition.

According to this theory, social control of individuals rests
upon the instinctive tendency of individuals to imitate or copy
the actions of others. The latter serve as models. The
imitative instinct is so strong that the young devote themselves
to conforming to the patterns set by others and reproducing them
in their own scheme of behavior. According to our theory, what
is here called imitation is a misleading name for partaking with
others in a use of things which leads to consequences of common
interest. The basic error in the current notion of imitation is
that it puts the cart before the horse. It takes an effect for
the cause of the effect. There can be no doubt that individuals
in forming a social group are like-minded; they understand one
another. They tend to act with the same controlling ideas,
beliefs, and intentions, given similar circumstances. Looked at
from without, they might be said to be engaged in "imitating" one
another. In the sense that they are doing much the same sort of
thing in much the same sort of way, this would be true enough.
But "imitation" throws no light upon why they so act; it repeats
the fact as an explanation of itself. It is an explanation of
the same order as the famous saying that opium puts men to sleep
because of its dormitive power.

Objective likeness of acts and the mental satisfaction found in
being in conformity with others are baptized by the name
imitation. This social fact is then taken for a psychological
force, which produced the likeness. A considerable portion of
what is called imitation is simply the fact that persons being
alike in structure respond in the same way to like stimuli.
Quite independently of imitation, men on being insulted get angry
and attack the insulter. This statement may be met by citing the
undoubted fact that response to an insult takes place in
different ways in groups having different customs. In one group,
it may be met by recourse to fisticuffs, in another by a
challenge to a duel, in a third by an exhibition of contemptuous
disregard. This happens, so it is said, because the model set
for imitation is different. But there is no need to appeal to
imitation. The mere fact that customs are different means that
the actual stimuli to behavior are different. Conscious
instruction plays a part; prior approvals and disapprovals have a
large influence. Still more effective is the fact that unless an
individual acts in the way current in his group, he is literally
out of it. He can associate with others on intimate and equal
terms only by behaving in the way in which they behave. The
pressure that comes from the fact that one is let into the group
action by acting in one way and shut out by acting in another way
is unremitting. What is called the effect of imitation is mainly
the product of conscious instruction and of the selective
influence exercised by the unconscious confirmations and
ratifications of those with whom one associates.

Suppose that some one rolls a ball to a child; he catches it and
rolls it back, and the game goes on. Here the stimulus is not
just the sight of the ball, or the sight of the other rolling it.
It is the situation -- the game which is playing. The response
is not merely rolling the ball back; it is rolling it back so
that the other one may catch and return it, -- that the game may
continue. The "pattern" or model is not the action of the other
person. The whole situation requires that each should adapt his
action in view of what the other person has done and is to do.
Imitation may come in but its role is subordinate. The child has
an interest on his own account; he wants to keep it going. He
may then note how the other person catches and holds the ball in
order to improve his own acts. He imitates the means of doing,
not the end or thing to be done. And he imitates the means
because he wishes, on his own behalf, as part of his own
initiative, to take an effective part in the game. One has only
to consider how completely the child is dependent from his
earliest days for successful execution of his purposes upon
fitting his acts into those of others to see what a premium is
put upon behaving as others behave, and of developing an
understanding of them in order that he may so behave. The
pressure for likemindedness in action from this source is so
great that it is quite superfluous to appeal to imitation. As
matter of fact, imitation of ends, as distinct from imitation of
means which help to reach ends, is a superficial and transitory
affair which leaves little effect upon disposition. Idiots are
especially apt at this kind of imitation; it affects outward acts
but not the meaning of their performance. When we find children
engaging in this sort of mimicry, instead of encouraging them (as
we would do if it were an important means of social control) we
are more likely to rebuke them as apes, monkeys, parrots, or copy
cats. Imitation of means of accomplishment is, on the other
hand, an intelligent act. It involves close observation, and
judicious selection of what will enable one to do better
something which he already is trying to do. Used for a purpose,
the imitative instinct may, like any other instinct, become a
factor in the development of effective action.

This excursus should, accordingly, have the effect of reinforcing
the conclusion that genuine social control means the formation of
a certain mental disposition; a way of understanding objects,
events, and acts which enables one to participate effectively in
associated activities. Only the friction engendered by meeting
resistance from others leads to the view that it takes place by
forcing a line of action contrary to natural inclinations. Only
failure to take account of the situations in which persons are
mutually concerned (or interested in acting responsively to one
another) leads to treating imitation as the chief agent in
promoting social control.

4. Some Applications to Education. Why does a savage group
perpetuate savagery, and a civilized group civilization?
Doubtless the first answer to occur to mind is because savages
are savages; being of low-grade intelligence and perhaps
defective moral sense. But careful study has made it doubtful
whether their native capacities are appreciably inferior to those
of civilized man. It has made it certain that native differences
are not sufficient to account for the difference in culture. In
a sense the mind of savage peoples is an effect, rather than a
cause, of their backward institutions. Their social activities
are such as to restrict their objects of attention and interest,
and hence to limit the stimuli to mental development. Even as
regards the objects that come within the scope of attention,
primitive social customs tend to arrest observation and
imagination upon qualities which do not fructify in the mind.
Lack of control of natural forces means that a scant number of
natural objects enter into associated behavior. Only a small
number of natural resources are utilized and they are not worked
for what they are worth. The advance of civilization means that
a larger number of natural forces and objects have been
transformed into instrumentalities of action, into means for
securing ends. We start not so much with superior capacities as
with superior stimuli for evocation and direction of our
capacities. The savage deals largely with crude stimuli; we have
weighted stimuli. Prior human efforts have made over natural
conditions. As they originally existed they were indifferent to
human endeavors. Every domesticated plant and animal, every
tool, every utensil, every appliance, every manufactured article,
every esthetic decoration, every work of art means a
transformation of conditions once hostile or indifferent to
characteristic human activities into friendly and favoring
conditions. Because the activities of children today are
controlled by these selected and charged stimuli, children are
able to traverse in a short lifetime what the race has needed
slow, tortured ages to attain. The dice have been loaded by all
the successes which have preceded.

Stimuli conducive to economical and effective response, such as
our system of roads and means of transportation, our ready
command of heat, light, and electricity, our ready-made machines
and apparatus for every purpose, do not, by themselves or in
their aggregate, constitute a civilization. But the uses to
which they are put are civilization, and without the things the
uses would be impossible. Time otherwise necessarily devoted to
wresting a livelihood from a grudging environment and securing a
precarious protection against its inclemencies is freed. A body
of knowledge is transmitted, the legitimacy of which is
guaranteed by the fact that the physical equipment in which it is
incarnated leads to results that square with the other facts of
nature. Thus these appliances of art supply a protection,
perhaps our chief protection, against a recrudescence of these
superstitious beliefs, those fanciful myths and infertile
imaginings about nature in which so much of the best intellectual
power of the past has been spent. If we add one other factor,
namely, that such appliances be not only used, but used in the
interests of a truly shared or associated life, then the
appliances become the positive resources of civilization. If
Greece, with a scant tithe of our material resources, achieved a
worthy and noble intellectual and artistic career, it is because
Greece operated for social ends such resources as it had.
But whatever the situation, whether one of barbarism or
civilization, whether one of stinted control of physical forces,
or of partial enslavement to a mechanism not yet made tributary
to a shared experience, things as they enter into action furnish
the educative conditions of daily life and direct the formation
of mental and moral disposition.

Intentional education signifies, as we have already seen, a
specially selected environment, the selection being made on the
basis of materials and method specifically promoting growth in
the desired direction. Since language represents the physical
conditions that have been subjected to the maximum transformation
in the interests of social life -- physical things which have
lost their original quality in becoming social tools -- it is
appropriate that language should play a large part compared with
other appliances. By it we are led to share vicariously in past
human experience, thus widening and enriching the experience of
the present. We are enabled, symbolically and imaginatively, to
anticipate situations. In countless ways, language condenses
meanings that record social outcomes and presage social
outlooks. So significant is it of a liberal share in what is
worth while in life that unlettered and uneducated have become
almost synonymous.

The emphasis in school upon this particular tool has, however,
its dangers -- dangers which are not theoretical but exhibited in
practice. Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by
pouring in, learning by a passive absorption, are universally
condemned, that they are still so entrenched in practice? That
education is not an affair of "telling" and being told, but an
active and constructive process, is a principle almost as
generally violated in practice as conceded in theory. Is not
this deplorable situation due to the fact that the doctrine is
itself merely told? It is preached; it is lectured; it is written
about. But its enactment into practice requires that the school
environment be equipped with agencies for doing, with tools and
physical materials, to an extent rarely attained. It requires
that methods of instruction and administration be modified to
allow and to secure direct and continuous occupations with
things. Not that the use of language as an educational resource
should lessen; but that its use should be more vital and fruitful
by having its normal connection with shared activities. "These
things ought ye to have done, and not to have left the others
undone." And for the school "these things" mean equipment with
the instrumentalities of cooperative or joint activity.

For when the schools depart from the educational conditions
effective in the out-of-school environment, they necessarily
substitute a bookish, a pseudo-intellectual spirit for a social
spirit. Children doubtless go to school to learn, but it has yet
to be proved that learning occurs most adequately when it is made
a separate conscious business. When treating it as a business of
this sort tends to preclude the social sense which comes from
sharing in an activity of common concern and value, the effort at
isolated intellectual learning contradicts its own aim. We may
secure motor activity and sensory excitation by keeping an
individual by himself, but we cannot thereby get him to
understand the meaning which things have in the life of which he
is a part. We may secure technical specialized ability in
algebra, Latin, or botany, but not the kind of intelligence which
directs ability to useful ends. Only by engaging in a joint
activity, where one person's use of material and tools is
consciously referred to the use other persons are making of their
capacities and appliances, is a social direction of disposition

Summary. The natural or native impulses of the young do not
agree with the life-customs of the group into which they are
born. Consequently they have to be directed or guided. This
control is not the same thing as physical compulsion; it consists
in centering the impulses acting at any one time upon some
specific end and in introducing an order of continuity into the
sequence of acts. The action of others is always influenced by
deciding what stimuli shall call out their actions. But in some
cases as in commands, prohibitions, approvals, and disapprovals,
the stimuli proceed from persons with a direct view to
influencing action. Since in such cases we are most conscious of
controlling the action of others, we are likely to exaggerate the
importance of this sort of control at the expense of a more
permanent and effective method. The basic control resides in the
nature of the situations in which the young take part. In social
situations the young have to refer their way of acting to what
others are doing and make it fit in. This directs their action
to a common result, and gives an understanding common to the
participants. For all mean the same thing, even when performing
different acts. This common understanding of the means and ends
of action is the essence of social control. It is indirect, or
emotional and intellectual, not direct or personal. Moreover it
is intrinsic to the disposition of the person, not external and
coercive. To achieve this internal control through identity of
interest and understanding is the business of education. While
books and conversation can do much, these agencies are usually
relied upon too exclusively. Schools require for their full
efficiency more opportunity for conjoint activities in which
those instructed take part, so that they may acquire a social
sense of their own powers and of the materials and appliances

Chapter Four: Education as Growth

1. The Conditions of Growth.

In directing the activities of the young, society determines its
own future in determining that of the young. Since the young at
a given time will at some later date compose the society of that
period, the latter's nature will largely turn upon the direction
children's activities were given at an earlier period. This
cumulative movement of action toward a later result is what is
meant by growth.

The primary condition of growth is immaturity. This may seem to
be a mere truism -- saying that a being can develop only in some
point in which he is undeveloped. But the prefix "im" of the
word immaturity means something positive, not a mere void or
lack. It is noteworthy that the terms "capacity" and
"potentiality" have a double meaning, one sense being negative,
the other positive. Capacity may denote mere receptivity, like
the capacity of a quart measure. We may mean by potentiality a
merely dormant or quiescent state -- a capacity to become
something different under external influences. But we also mean
by capacity an ability, a power; and by potentiality potency,
force. Now when we say that immaturity means the possibility of
growth, we are not referring to absence of powers which may exist
at a later time; we express a force positively present -- the
ability to develop.

Our tendency to take immaturity as mere lack, and growth as
something which fills up the gap between the immature and the
mature is due to regarding childhood comparatively, instead of
intrinsically. We treat it simply as a privation because we are
measuring it by adulthood as a fixed standard. This fixes
attention upon what the child has not, and will not have till he
becomes a man. This comparative standpoint is legitimate enough
for some purposes, but if we make it final, the question arises
whether we are not guilty of an overweening presumption.
Children, if they could express themselves articulately and
sincerely, would tell a different tale; and there is excellent
adult authority for the conviction that for certain moral and
intellectual purposes adults must become as little children.
The seriousness of the assumption of the negative quality of the
possibilities of immaturity is apparent when we reflect that it
sets up as an ideal and standard a static end. The fulfillment
of growing is taken to mean an accomplished growth: that is to
say, an Ungrowth, something which is no longer growing. The
futility of the assumption is seen in the fact that every adult
resents the imputation of having no further possibilities of
growth; and so far as he finds that they are closed to him mourns
the fact as evidence of loss, instead of falling back on the
achieved as adequate manifestation of power. Why an unequal
measure for child and man?

Taken absolutely, instead of comparatively, immaturity designates
a positive force or ability, -- the pouter to grow. We do not
have to draw out or educe positive activities from a child, as
some educational doctrines would have it. Where there is life,
there are already eager and impassioned activities. Growth is
not something done to them; it is something they do. The
positive and constructive aspect of possibility gives the key to
understanding the two chief traits of immaturity, dependence and

(1) It sounds absurd to hear dependence spoken of as something
positive, still more absurd as a power. Yet if helplessness were
all there were in dependence, no development could ever take
place. A merely impotent being has to be carried, forever, by
others. The fact that dependence is accompanied by growth in
ability, not by an ever increasing lapse into parasitism,
suggests that it is already something constructive. Being merely
sheltered by others would not promote growth. For

(2) it would only build a wall around impotence. With reference
to the physical world, the child is helpless. He lacks at birth
and for a long time thereafter power to make his way physically,
to make his own living. If he had to do that by himself, he
would hardly survive an hour. On this side his helplessness is
almost complete. The young of the brutes are immeasurably his
superiors. He is physically weak and not able to turn the
strength which he possesses to coping with the physical

1. The thoroughgoing character of this helplessness suggests,
however, some compensating power. The relative ability of the
young of brute animals to adapt themselves fairly well to
physical conditions from an early period suggests the fact that
their life is not intimately bound up with the life of those
about them. They are compelled, so to speak, to have physical
gifts because they are lacking in social gifts. Human infants,
on the other hand, can get along with physical incapacity just
because of their social capacity. We sometimes talk and think as
if they simply happened to be physically in a social environment;
as if social forces exclusively existed in the adults who take
care of them, they being passive recipients. If it were said
that children are themselves marvelously endowed with power to
enlist the cooperative attention of others, this would be thought
to be a backhanded way of saying that others are marvelously
attentive to the needs of children. But observation shows that
children are gifted with an equipment of the first order for
social intercourse. Few grown-up persons retain all of the
flexible and sensitive ability of children to vibrate
sympathetically with the attitudes and doings of those about
them. Inattention to physical things (going with incapacity to
control them) is accompanied by a corresponding intensification
of interest and attention as to the doings of people. The native
mechanism of the child and his impulses all tend to facile social
responsiveness. The statement that children, before adolescence,
are egotistically self-centered, even if it were true, would not
contradict the truth of this statement. It would simply indicate
that their social responsiveness is employed on their own behalf,
not that it does not exist. But the statement is not true as
matter of fact. The facts which are cited in support of the
alleged pure egoism of children really show the intensity and
directness with which they go to their mark. If the ends which
form the mark seem narrow and selfish to adults, it is only
because adults (by means of a similar engrossment in their day)
have mastered these ends, which have consequently ceased to
interest them. Most of the remainder of children's alleged
native egoism is simply an egoism which runs counter to an
adult's egoism. To a grown-up person who is too absorbed in his
own affairs to take an interest in children's affairs, children
doubtless seem unreasonably engrossed in their own affairs.

From a social standpoint, dependence denotes a power rather than
a weakness; it involves interdependence. There is always a
danger that increased personal independence will decrease the
social capacity of an individual. In making him more
self-reliant, it may make him more self-sufficient; it may lead
to aloofness and indifference. It often makes an individual so
insensitive in his relations to others as to develop an illusion
of being really able to stand and act alone -- an unnamed form of
insanity which is responsible for a large part of the remediable
suffering of the world.

2. The specific adaptability of an immature creature for growth
constitutes his plasticity. This is something quite different
from the plasticity of putty or wax. It is not a capacity to
take on change of form in accord with external pressure. It lies
near the pliable elasticity by which some persons take on the
color of their surroundings while retaining their own bent. But
it is something deeper than this. It is essentially the ability
to learn from experience; the power to retain from one experience
something which is of avail in coping with the difficulties of a
later situation. This means power to modify actions on the basis
of the results of prior experiences, the power to develop
dispositions. Without it, the acquisition of habits is

It is a familiar fact that the young of the higher animals, and
especially the human young, have to learn to utilize their
instinctive reactions. The human being is born with a greater
number of instinctive tendencies than other animals. But the
instincts of the lower animals perfect themselves for appropriate
action at an early period after birth, while most of those of the
human infant are of little account just as they stand. An
original specialized power of adjustment secures immediate
efficiency, but, like a railway ticket, it is good for one route
only. A being who, in order to use his eyes, ears, hands, and
legs, has to experiment in making varied combinations of their
reactions, achieves a control that is flexible and varied. A
chick, for example, pecks accurately at a bit of food in a few
hours after hatching. This means that definite coordinations of
activities of the eyes in seeing and of the body and head in
striking are perfected in a few trials. An infant requires about
six months to be able to gauge with approximate accuracy the
action in reaching which will coordinate with his visual
activities; to be able, that is, to tell whether he can reach a
seen object and just how to execute the reaching. As a result,
the chick is limited by the relative perfection of its original
endowment. The infant has the advantage of the multitude of
instinctive tentative reactions and of the experiences that
accompany them, even though he is at a temporary disadvantage
because they cross one another. In learning an action, instead
of having it given ready-made, one of necessity learns to vary
its factors, to make varied combinations of them, according to
change of circumstances. A possibility of continuing progress is
opened up by the fact that in learning one act, methods are
developed good for use in other situations. Still more important
is the fact that the human being acquires a habit of learning.
He learns to learn.

The importance for human life of the two facts of dependence and
variable control has been summed up in the doctrine of the
significance of prolonged infancy. 1 This prolongation is
significant from the standpoint of the adult members of the group
as well as from that of the young. The presence of dependent and
learning beings is a stimulus to nurture and affection. The need
for constant continued care was probably a chief means in
transforming temporary cohabitations into permanent unions. It
certainly was a chief influence in forming habits of affectionate
and sympathetic watchfulness; that constructive interest in the
well-being of others which is essential to associated life.
Intellectually, this moral development meant the introduction of
many new objects of attention; it stimulated foresight and
planning for the future. Thus there is a reciprocal influence.
Increasing complexity of social life requires a longer period of
infancy in which to acquire the needed powers; this prolongation
of dependence means prolongation of plasticity, or power of
acquiring variable and novel modes of control. Hence it provides
a further push to social progress.

2. Habits as Expressions of Growth. We have already noted that
plasticity is the capacity to retain and carry over from prior
experience factors which modify subsequent activities. This
signifies the capacity to acquire habits, or develop definite
dispositions. We have now to consider the salient features of
habits. In the first place, a habit is a form of executive
skill, of efficiency in doing. A habit means an ability to use
natural conditions as means to ends. It is an active control of
the environment through control of the organs of action. We are
perhaps apt to emphasize the control of the body at the expense
of control of the environment. We think of walking, talking,
playing the piano, the specialized skills characteristic of the
etcher, the surgeon, the bridge-builder, as if they were simply
ease, deftness, and accuracy on the part of the organism. They
are that, of course; but the measure of the value of these
qualities lies in the economical and effective control of the
environment which they secure. To be able to walk is to have
certain properties of nature at our disposal--and so with all
other habits.

Education is not infrequently defined as consisting in the
acquisition of those habits that effect an adjustment of an
individual and his environment. The definition expresses an
essential phase of growth. But it is essential that adjustment
be understood in its active sense of control of means for
achieving ends. If we think of a habit simply as a change
wrought in the organism, ignoring the fact that this change
consists in ability to effect subsequent changes in the
environment, we shall be led to think of "adjustment" as a
conformity to environment as wax conforms to the seal which
impresses it. The environment is thought of as something fixed,
providing in its fixity the end and standard of changes taking
place in the organism; adjustment is just fitting ourselves to
this fixity of external conditions. 2 Habit as habituation is
indeed something relatively passive; we get used to our
surroundings -- to our clothing, our shoes, and gloves; to the
atmosphere as long as it is fairly equable; to our daily
associates, etc. Conformity to the environment, a change wrought
in the organism without reference to ability to modify
surroundings, is a marked trait of such habituations. Aside from
the fact that we are not entitled to carry over the traits of
such adjustments (which might well be called accommodations, to
mark them off from active adjustments) into habits of active use
of our surroundings, two features of habituations are worth
notice. In the first place, we get used to things by first using

Consider getting used to a strange city. At first, there is
excessive stimulation and excessive and ill-adapted response.
Gradually certain stimuli are selected because of their
relevancy, and others are degraded. We can say either that we do
not respond to them any longer, or more truly that we have
effected a persistent response to them -- an equilibrium of
adjustment. This means, in the second place, that this enduring
adjustment supplies the background upon which are made specific
adjustments, as occasion arises. We are never interested in
changing the whole environment; there is much that we take for
granted and accept just as it already is. Upon this background
our activities focus at certain points in an endeavor to
introduce needed changes. Habituation is thus our adjustment to
an environment which at the time we are not concerned with
modifying, and which supplies a leverage to our active habits.
Adaptation, in fine, is quite as much adaptation of the
environment to our own activities as of our activities to the
environment. A savage tribe manages to live on a desert plain.
It adapts itself. But its adaptation involves a maximum of
accepting, tolerating, putting up with things as they are, a
maximum of passive acquiescence, and a minimum of active control,
of subjection to use. A civilized people enters upon the scene.
It also adapts itself. It introduces irrigation; it searches the
world for plants and animals that will flourish under such
conditions; it improves, by careful selection, those which are
growing there. As a consequence, the wilderness blossoms as a
rose. The savage is merely habituated; the civilized man has
habits which transform the environment.

The significance of habit is not exhausted, however, in its
executive and motor phase. It means formation of intellectual
and emotional disposition as well as an increase in ease,
economy, and efficiency of action. Any habit marks an
inclination -- an active preference and choice for the conditions
involved in its exercise. A habit does not wait, Micawber-like,
for a stimulus to turn up so that it may get busy; it actively
seeks for occasions to pass into full operation. If its
expression is unduly blocked, inclination shows itself in
uneasiness and intense craving. A habit also marks an
intellectual disposition. Where there is a habit, there is
acquaintance with the materials and equipment to which action is
applied. There is a definite way of understanding the situations
in which the habit operates. Modes of thought, of observation
and reflection, enter as forms of skill and of desire into the
habits that make a man an engineer, an architect, a physician, or
a merchant. In unskilled forms of labor, the intellectual
factors are at minimum precisely because the habits involved are
not of a high grade. But there are habits of judging and
reasoning as truly as of handling a tool, painting a picture, or
conducting an experiment. Such statements are, however,
understatements. The habits of mind involved in habits of the
eye and hand supply the latter with their significance. Above
all, the intellectual element in a habit fixes the relation of
the habit to varied and elastic use, and hence to continued
growth. We speak of fixed habits. Well, the phrase may mean
powers so well established that their possessor always has them
as resources when needed. But the phrase is also used to mean
ruts, routine ways, with loss of freshness, open- mindedness, and
originality. Fixity of habit may mean that something has a fixed
hold upon us, instead of our having a free hold upon things.
This fact explains two points in a common notion about habits:
their identification with mechanical and external modes of action
to the neglect of mental and moral attitudes, and the tendency to
give them a bad meaning, an identification with "bad habits."
Many a person would feel surprised to have his aptitude in his
chosen profession called a habit, and would naturally think of
his use of tobacco, liquor, or profane language as typical of the
meaning of habit. A habit is to him something which has a hold
on him, something not easily thrown off even though judgment
condemn it.

Habits reduce themselves to routine ways of acting, or degenerate
into ways of action to which we are enslaved just in the degree
in which intelligence is disconnected from them. Routine habits
are unthinking habits: "bad" habits are habits so severed from
reason that they are opposed to the conclusions of conscious
deliberation and decision. As we have seen, the acquiring of
habits is due to an original plasticity of our natures: to our
ability to vary responses till we find an appropriate and
efficient way of acting. Routine habits, and habits that possess
us instead of our possessing them, are habits which put an end to
plasticity. They mark the close of power to vary. There can be
no doubt of the tendency of organic plasticity, of the
physiological basis, to lessen with growing years. The
instinctively mobile and eagerly varying action of childhood, the
love of new stimuli and new developments, too easily passes into
a "settling down," which means aversion to change and a resting
on past achievements. Only an environment which secures the full
use of intelligence in the process of forming habits can
counteract this tendency. Of course, the same hardening of the

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