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Democracy and Education by John Dewey

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organic conditions affects the physiological structures which are
involved in thinking. But this fact only indicates the need of
persistent care to see to it that the function of intelligence is
invoked to its maximum possibility. The short-sighted method
which falls back on mechanical routine and repetition to secure
external efficiency of habit, motor skill without accompanying
thought, marks a deliberate closing in of surroundings upon

3. The Educational Bearings of the Conception of Development.
We have had so far but little to say in this chapter about
education. We have been occupied with the conditions and
implications of growth. If our conclusions are justified, they
carry with them, however, definite educational consequences.
When it is said that education is development, everything depends
upon how development is conceived. Our net conclusion is that
life is development, and that developing, growing, is life.
Translated into its educational equivalents, that means (i) that
the educational process has no end beyond itself; it is its own
end; and that (ii) the educational process is one of continual
reorganizing, reconstructing, transforming.

1. Development when it is interpreted in comparative terms, that
is, with respect to the special traits of child and adult life,
means the direction of power into special channels: the formation
of habits involving executive skill, definiteness of interest,
and specific objects of observation and thought. But the
comparative view is not final. The child has specific powers; to
ignore that fact is to stunt or distort the organs upon which his
growth depends. The adult uses his powers to transform his
environment, thereby occasioning new stimuli which redirect his
powers and keep them developing. Ignoring this fact means
arrested development, a passive accommodation. Normal child and
normal adult alike, in other words, are engaged in growing. The
difference between them is not the difference between growth and
no growth, but between the modes of growth appropriate to
different conditions. With respect to the development of powers
devoted to coping with specific scientific and economic problems
we may say the child should be growing in manhood. With respect
to sympathetic curiosity, unbiased responsiveness, and openness
of mind, we may say that the adult should be growing in
childlikeness. One statement is as true as the other.

Three ideas which have been criticized, namely, the merely
privative nature of immaturity, static adjustment to a fixed
environment, and rigidity of habit, are all connected with a
false idea of growth or development, -- that it is a movement
toward a fixed goal. Growth is regarded as having an end,
instead of being an end. The educational counterparts of the
three fallacious ideas are first, failure to take account of the
instinctive or native powers of the young; secondly, failure to
develop initiative in coping with novel situations; thirdly, an
undue emphasis upon drill and other devices which secure
automatic skill at the expense of personal perception. In all
cases, the adult environment is accepted as a standard for the
child. He is to be brought up to it.

Natural instincts are either disregarded or treated as nuisances
-- as obnoxious traits to be suppressed, or at all events to be
brought into conformity with external standards. Since
conformity is the aim, what is distinctively individual in a
young person is brushed aside, or regarded as a source of
mischief or anarchy. Conformity is made equivalent to
uniformity. Consequently, there are induced lack of interest in
the novel, aversion to progress, and dread of the uncertain and
the unknown. Since the end of growth is outside of and beyond
the process of growing, external agents have to be resorted to to
induce movement toward it. Whenever a method of education is
stigmatized as mechanical, we may be sure that external pressure
is brought to bear to reach an external end.

2. Since in reality there is nothing to which growth is relative
save more growth, there is nothing to which education is
subordinate save more education. It is a commonplace to say that
education should not cease when one leaves school. The point of
this commonplace is that the purpose of school education is to
insure the continuance of education by organizing the powers that
insure growth. The inclination to learn from life itself and to
make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the
process of living is the finest product of schooling.

When we abandon the attempt to define immaturity by means of
fixed comparison with adult accomplishments, we are compelled to
give up thinking of it as denoting lack of desired traits.
Abandoning this notion, we are also forced to surrender our habit
of thinking of instruction as a method of supplying this lack by
pouring knowledge into a mental and moral hole which awaits
filling. Since life means growth, a living creature lives as
truly and positively at one stage as at another, with the same
intrinsic fullness and the same absolute claims. Hence education
means the enterprise of supplying the conditions which insure
growth, or adequacy of life, irrespective of age. We first look
with impatience upon immaturity, regarding it as something to be
got over as rapidly as possible. Then the adult formed by such
educative methods looks back with impatient regret upon childhood
and youth as a scene of lost opportunities and wasted powers.
This ironical situation will endure till it is recognized that
living has its own intrinsic quality and that the business of
education is with that quality. Realization that life is growth
protects us from that so-called idealizing of childhood which in
effect is nothing but lazy indulgence. Life is not to be
identified with every superficial act and interest. Even though
it is not always easy to tell whether what appears to be mere
surface fooling is a sign of some nascent as yet untrained power,
we must remember that manifestations are not to be accepted as
ends in themselves. They are signs of possible growth. They are
to be turned into means of development, of carrying power
forward, not indulged or cultivated for their own sake.
Excessive attention to surface phenomena (even in the way of
rebuke as well as of encouragement) may lead to their fixation
and thus to arrested development. What impulses are moving
toward, not what they have been, is the important thing for
parent and teacher. The true principle of respect for immaturity
cannot be better put than in the words of Emerson: "Respect the
child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his
solitude. But I hear the outcry which replies to this
suggestion: Would you verily throw up the reins of public and
private discipline; would you leave the young child to the mad
career of his own passions and whimsies, and call this anarchy a
respect for the child's nature? I answer, -- Respect the child,
respect him to the end, but also respect yourself.... The two
points in a boy's training are, to keep his naturel and train off
all but that; to keep his naturel, but stop off his uproar,
fooling, and horseplay; keep his nature and arm it with knowledge
in the very direction in which it points." And as Emerson goes on
to show this reverence for childhood and youth instead of opening
up an easy and easy-going path to the instructors, "involves at
once, immense claims on the time, the thought, on the life of the
teacher. It requires time, use, insight, event, all the great
lessons and assistances of God; and only to think of using it
implies character and profoundness."

Summary. Power to grow depends upon need for others and
plasticity. Both of these conditions are at their height in
childhood and youth. Plasticity or the power to learn from
experience means the formation of habits. Habits give control
over the environment, power to utilize it for human purposes.
Habits take the form both of habituation, or a general and
persistent balance of organic activities with the surroundings,
and of active capacities to readjust activity to meet new
conditions. The former furnishes the background of growth; the
latter constitute growing. Active habits involve thought,
invention, and initiative in applying capacities to new aims.
They are opposed to routine which marks an arrest of growth.
Since growth is the characteristic of life, education is all one
with growing; it has no end beyond itself. The criterion of the
value of school education is the extent in which it creates a
desire for continued growth and supplies means for making the
desire effective in fact.

1 Intimations of its significance are found in a number of
writers, but John Fiske, in his Excursions of an Evolutionist, is
accredited with its first systematic exposition.

2 This conception is, of course, a logical correlate of the
conceptions of the external relation of stimulus and response,
considered in the last chapter, and of the negative conceptions
of immaturity and plasticity noted in this chapter.

Chapter Five: Preparation, Unfolding, and Formal Discipline

1. Education as Preparation. We have laid it down that the
educative process is a continuous process of growth, having as
its aim at every stage an added capacity of growth. This
conception contrasts sharply with other ideas which have
influenced practice. By making the contrast explicit, the
meaning of the conception will be brought more clearly to light.
The first contrast is with the idea that education is a process
of preparation or getting ready. What is to be prepared for is,
of course, the responsibilities and privileges of adult life.
Children are not regarded as social members in full and regular
standing. They are looked upon as candidates; they are placed on
the waiting list. The conception is only carried a little
farther when the life of adults is considered as not having
meaning on its own account, but as a preparatory probation for
"another life." The idea is but another form of the notion of the
negative and privative character of growth already criticized;
hence we shall not repeat the criticisms, but pass on to the evil
consequences which flow from putting education on this basis.
In the first place, it involves loss of impetus. Motive power is
not utilized. Children proverbially live in the present; that is
not only a fact not to be evaded, but it is an excellence. The
future just as future lacks urgency and body. To get ready for
something, one knows not what nor why, is to throw away the
leverage that exists, and to seek for motive power in a vague
chance. Under such circumstances, there is, in the second place,
a premium put on shilly-shallying and procrastination. The
future prepared for is a long way off; plenty of time will
intervene before it becomes a present. Why be in a hurry about
getting ready for it? The temptation to postpone is much
increased because the present offers so many wonderful
opportunities and proffers such invitations to adventure.
Naturally attention and energy go to them; education accrues
naturally as an outcome, but a lesser education than if the full
stress of effort had been put upon making conditions as educative
as possible. A third undesirable result is the substitution of a
conventional average standard of expectation and requirement for
a standard which concerns the specific powers of the individual
under instruction. For a severe and definite judgment based upon
the strong and weak points of the individual is substituted a
vague and wavering opinion concerning what youth may be expected,
upon the average, to become in some more or less remote future;
say, at the end of the year, when promotions are to take place,
or by the time they are ready to go to college or to enter upon
what, in contrast with the probationary stage, is regarded as the
serious business of life. It is impossible to overestimate the
loss which results from the deflection of attention from the
strategic point to a comparatively unproductive point. It fails
most just where it thinks it is succeeding -- in getting a
preparation for the future.

Finally, the principle of preparation makes necessary recourse on
a large scale to the use of adventitious motives of pleasure and
pain. The future having no stimulating and directing power when
severed from the possibilities of the present, something must be
hitched on to it to make it work. Promises of reward and threats
of pain are employed. Healthy work, done for present reasons and
as a factor in living, is largely unconscious. The stimulus
resides in the situation with which one is actually confronted.
But when this situation is ignored, pupils have to be told that
if they do not follow the prescribed course penalties will
accrue; while if they do, they may expect, some time in the
future, rewards for their present sacrifices. Everybody knows
how largely systems of punishment have had to be resorted to by
educational systems which neglect present possibilities in behalf
of preparation for a future. Then, in disgust with the harshness
and impotency of this method, the pendulum swings to the opposite
extreme, and the dose of information required against some later
day is sugar-coated, so that pupils may be fooled into taking
something which they do not care for.

It is not of course a question whether education should prepare
for the future. If education is growth, it must progressively
realize present possibilities, and thus make individuals better
fitted to cope with later requirements. Growing is not something
which is completed in odd moments; it is a continuous leading
into the future. If the environment, in school and out, supplies
conditions which utilize adequately the present capacities of the
immature, the future which grows out of the present is surely
taken care of. The mistake is not in attaching importance to
preparation for future need, but in making it the mainspring of
present effort. Because the need of preparation for a
continually developing life is great, it is imperative that every
energy should be bent to making the present experience as rich
and significant as possible. Then as the present merges
insensibly into the future, the future is taken care of.

2. Education as Unfolding. There is a conception of education
which professes to be based upon the idea of development. But it
takes back with one hand what it proffers with the other.
Development is conceived not as continuous growing, but as the
unfolding of latent powers toward a definite goal. The goal is
conceived of as completion, -perfection. Life at any stage short
of attainment of this goal is merely an unfolding toward it.
Logically the doctrine is only a variant of the preparation
theory. Practically the two differ in that the adherents of the
latter make much of the practical and professional duties for
which one is preparing, while the developmental doctrine speaks
of the ideal and spiritual qualities of the principle which is

The conception that growth and progress are just approximations
to a final unchanging goal is the last infirmity of the mind in
its transition from a static to a dynamic understanding of life.
It simulates the style of the latter. It pays the tribute of
speaking much of development, process, progress. But all of
these operations are conceived to be merely transitional; they
lack meaning on their own account. They possess significance
only as movements toward something away from what is now going
on. Since growth is just a movement toward a completed being,
the final ideal is immobile. An abstract and indefinite future
is in control with all which that connotes in depreciation of
present power and opportunity.

Since the goal of perfection, the standard of development, is
very far away, it is so beyond us that, strictly speaking, it is
unattainable. Consequently, in order to be available for present
guidance it must be translated into something which stands for
it. Otherwise we should be compelled to regard any and every
manifestation of the child as an unfolding from within, and hence
sacred. Unless we set up some definite criterion representing
the ideal end by which to judge whether a given attitude or act
is approximating or moving away, our sole alternative is to
withdraw all influences of the environment lest they interfere
with proper development. Since that is not practicable, a
working substitute is set up. Usually, of course, this is some
idea which an adult would like to have a child acquire.
Consequently, by "suggestive questioning" or some other
pedagogical device, the teacher proceeds to "draw out" from the
pupil what is desired. If what is desired is obtained, that is
evidence that the child is unfolding properly. But as the pupil
generally has no initiative of his own in this direction, the
result is a random groping after what is wanted, and the
formation of habits of dependence upon the cues furnished by
others. Just because such methods simulate a true principle and
claim to have its sanction they may do more harm than would
outright "telling," where, at least, it remains with the child
how much will stick.

Within the sphere of philosophic thought there have been two
typical attempts to provide a working representative of the
absolute goal. Both start from the conception of a whole -- an
absolute -- which is "immanent" in human life. The perfect or
complete ideal is not a mere ideal; it is operative here and now.
But it is present only implicitly, "potentially," or in an
enfolded condition. What is termed development is the gradual
making explicit and outward of what is thus wrapped up. Froebel
and Hegel, the authors of the two philosophic schemes referred
to, have different ideas of the path by which the progressive
realization of manifestation of the complete principle is
effected. According to Hegel, it is worked out through a series
of historical institutions which embody the different factors in
the Absolute. According to Froebel, the actuating force is the
presentation of symbols, largely mathematical, corresponding to
the essential traits of the Absolute. When these are presented
to the child, the Whole, or perfection, sleeping within him, is
awakened. A single example may indicate the method. Every one
familiar with the kindergarten is acquainted with the circle in
which the children gather. It is not enough that the circle is a
convenient way of grouping the children. It must be used
"because it is a symbol of the collective life of mankind in
general." Froebel's recognition of the significance of the native
capacities of children, his loving attention to them, and his
influence in inducing others to study them, represent perhaps the
most effective single force in modern educational theory in
effecting widespread acknowledgment of the idea of growth. But
his formulation of the notion of development and his organization
of devices for promoting it were badly hampered by the fact that
he conceived development to be the unfolding of a ready-made
latent principle. He failed to see that growing is growth,
developing is development, and consequently placed the emphasis
upon the completed product. Thus he set up a goal which meant
the arrest of growth, and a criterion which is not applicable to
immediate guidance of powers, save through translation into
abstract and symbolic formulae.

A remote goal of complete unfoldedness is, in technical
philosophic language, transcendental. That is, it is something
apart from direct experience and perception. So far as
experience is concerned, it is empty; it represents a vague
sentimental aspiration rather than anything which can be
intelligently grasped and stated. This vagueness must be
compensated for by some a priori formula. Froebel made the
connection between the concrete facts of experience and the
transcendental ideal of development by regarding the former as
symbols of the latter. To regard known things as symbols,
according to some arbitrary a priori formula -- and every a
priori conception must be arbitrary -- is an invitation to
romantic fancy to seize upon any analogies which appeal to it and
treat them as laws. After the scheme of symbolism has been
settled upon, some definite technique must be invented by which
the inner meaning of the sensible symbols used may be brought
home to children. Adults being the formulators of the symbolism
are naturally the authors and controllers of the technique. The
result was that Froebel's love of abstract symbolism often got
the better of his sympathetic insight; and there was substituted
for development as arbitrary and externally imposed a scheme of
dictation as the history of instruction has ever seen.

With Hegel the necessity of finding some working concrete
counterpart of the inaccessible Absolute took an institutional,
rather than symbolic, form. His philosophy, like Froebel's,
marks in one direction an indispensable contribution to a valid
conception of the process of life. The weaknesses of an abstract
individualistic philosophy were evident to him; he saw the
impossibility of making a clean sweep of historical institutions,
of treating them as despotisms begot in artifice and nurtured in
fraud. In his philosophy of history and society culminated the
efforts of a whole series of German writers -- Lessing, Herder,
Kant, Schiller, Goethe -- to appreciate the nurturing influence
of the great collective institutional products of humanity. For
those who learned the lesson of this movement, it was henceforth
impossible to conceive of institutions or of culture as
artificial. It destroyed completely -- in idea, not in fact --
the psychology that regarded "mind" as a ready-made possession of
a naked individual by showing the significance of "objective
mind" -- language, government, art, religion -- in the formation
of individual minds. But since Hegel was haunted by the
conception of an absolute goal, he was obliged to arrange
institutions as they concretely exist, on a stepladder of
ascending approximations. Each in its time and place is
absolutely necessary, because a stage in the self-realizing
process of the absolute mind. Taken as such a step or stage, its
existence is proof of its complete rationality, for it is an
integral element in the total, which is Reason. Against
institutions as they are, individuals have no spiritual rights;
personal development, and nurture, consist in obedient
assimilation of the spirit of existing institutions. Conformity,
not transformation, is the essence of education. Institutions
change as history shows; but their change, the rise and fall of
states, is the work of the "world-spirit." Individuals, save the
great "heroes" who are the chosen organs of the world-spirit,
have no share or lot in it. In the later nineteenth century,
this type of idealism was amalgamated with the doctrine of
biological evolution.

"Evolution" was a force working itself out to its own end. As
against it, or as compared with it, the conscious ideas and
preference of individuals are impotent. Or, rather, they are but
the means by which it works itself out. Social progress is an
"organic growth," not an experimental selection. Reason is all
powerful, but only Absolute Reason has any power.

The recognition (or rediscovery, for the idea was familiar to the
Greeks) that great historic institutions are active factors in
the intellectual nurture of mind was a great contribution to
educational philosophy. It indicated a genuine advance beyond
Rousseau, who had marred his assertion that education must be a
natural development and not something forced or grafted upon
individuals from without, by the notion that social conditions
are not natural. But in its notion of a complete and
all-inclusive end of development, the Hegelian theory swallowed
up concrete individualities, though magnifying The Individual in
the abstract. Some of Hegel's followers sought to reconcile the
claims of the Whole and of individuality by the conception of
society as an organic whole, or organism. That social
organization is presupposed in the adequate exercise of
individual capacity is not to be doubted. But the social
organism, interpreted after the relation of the organs of the
body to each other and to the whole body, means that each
individual has a certain limited place and function, requiring to
be supplemented by the place and functions of the other organs.
As one portion of the bodily tissue is differentiated so that it
can be the hand and the hand only, another, the eye, and so on,
all taken together making the organism, so one individual is
supposed to be differentiated for the exercise of the mechanical
operations of society, another for those of a statesman, another
for those of a scholar, and so on. The notion of "organism" is
thus used to give a philosophic sanction to class distinctions in
social organization--a notion which in its educational
application again means external dictation instead of growth.

3. Education as Training of Faculties. A theory which has had
great vogue and which came into existence before the notion of
growth had much influence is known as the theory of "formal
discipline." It has in view a correct ideal; one outcome of
education should be the creation of specific powers of
accomplishment. A trained person is one who can do the chief
things which it is important for him to do better than he could
without training: "better" signifying greater ease, efficiency,
economy, promptness, etc. That this is an outcome of education
was indicated in what was said about habits as the product of
educative development. But the theory in question takes, as it
were, a short cut; it regards some powers (to be presently named)
as the direct and conscious aims of instruction, and not simply
as the results of growth. There is a definite number of powers
to be trained, as one might enumerate the kinds of strokes which
a golfer has to master. Consequently education should get
directly at the business of training them. But this implies that
they are already there in some untrained form; otherwise their
creation would have to be an indirect product of other activities
and agencies. Being there already in some crude form, all that
remains is to exercise them in constant and graded repetitions,
and they will inevitably be refined and perfected. In the phrase
"formal discipline" as applied to this conception, "discipline"
refers both to the outcome of trained power and to the method of
training through repeated exercise.

The forms of powers in question are such things as the faculties
of perceiving, retaining, recalling, associating, attending,
willing, feeling, imagining, thinking, etc., which are then
shaped by exercise upon material presented. In its classic form,
this theory was expressed by Locke. On the one hand, the outer
world presents the material or content of knowledge through
passively received sensations. On the other hand, the mind has
certain ready powers, attention, observation, retention,
comparison, abstraction, compounding, etc. Knowledge results if
the mind discriminates and combines things as they are united and
divided in nature itself. But the important thing for education
is the exercise or practice of the faculties of the mind till
they become thoroughly established habitudes. The analogy
constantly employed is that of a billiard player or gymnast, who
by repeated use of certain muscles in a uniform way at last
secures automatic skill. Even the faculty of thinking was to be
formed into a trained habit by repeated exercises in making and
combining simple distinctions, for which, Locke thought,
mathematics affords unrivaled opportunity.

Locke's statements fitted well into the dualism of his day. It
seemed to do justice to both mind and matter, the individual and
the world. One of the two supplied the matter of knowledge and
the object upon which mind should work. The other supplied
definite mental powers, which were few in number and which might
be trained by specific exercises. The scheme appeared to give
due weight to the subject matter of knowledge, and yet it
insisted that the end of education is not the bare reception and
storage of information, but the formation of personal powers of
attention, memory, observation, abstraction, and generalization.
It was realistic in its emphatic assertion that all material
whatever is received from without; it was idealistic in that
final stress fell upon the formation of intellectual powers. It
was objective and impersonal in its assertion that the individual
cannot possess or generate any true ideas on his own account; it
was individualistic in placing the end of education in the
perfecting of certain faculties possessed at the outset by the
individual. This kind of distribution of values expressed with
nicety the state of opinion in the generations following upon
Locke. It became, without explicit reference to Locke, a
common-place of educational theory and of psychology.
Practically, it seemed to provide the educator with definite,
instead of vague, tasks. It made the elaboration of a technique
of instruction relatively easy. All that was necessary was to
provide for sufficient practice of each of the powers. This
practice consists in repeated acts of attending, observing,
memorizing, etc. By grading the difficulty of the acts, making
each set of repetitions somewhat more difficult than the set
which preceded it, a complete scheme of instruction is evolved.
There are various ways, equally conclusive, of criticizing this
conception, in both its alleged foundations and in its
educational application. (1) Perhaps the most direct mode of
attack consists in pointing out that the supposed original
faculties of observation, recollection, willing, thinking, etc.,
are purely mythological. There are no such ready-made powers
waiting to be exercised and thereby trained. There are, indeed,
a great number of original native tendencies, instinctive modes
of action, based on the original connections of neurones in the
central nervous system. There are impulsive tendencies of the
eyes to follow and fixate light; of the neck muscles to turn
toward light and sound; of the hands to reach and grasp; and turn
and twist and thump; of the vocal apparatus to make sounds; of
the mouth to spew out unpleasant substances; to gag and to curl
the lip, and so on in almost indefinite number. But these
tendencies (a) instead of being a small number sharply marked off
from one another, are of an indefinite variety, interweaving with
one another in all kinds of subtle ways. (b) Instead of being
latent intellectual powers, requiring only exercise for their
perfecting, they are tendencies to respond in certain ways to
changes in the environment so as to bring about other changes.
Something in the throat makes one cough; the tendency is to eject
the obnoxious particle and thus modify the subsequent stimulus.
The hand touches a hot thing; it is impulsively, wholly
unintellectually, snatched away. But the withdrawal alters the
stimuli operating, and tends to make them more consonant with the
needs of the organism. It is by such specific changes of organic
activities in response to specific changes in the medium that
that control of the environment of which we have spoken (see
ante, p. 24) is effected. Now all of our first seeings and
hearings and touchings and smellings and tastings are of this
kind. In any legitimate sense of the words mental or
intellectual or cognitive, they are lacking in these qualities,
and no amount of repetitious exercise could bestow any
intellectual properties of observation, judgment, or intentional
action (volition) upon them.

(2) Consequently the training of our original impulsive
activities is not a refinement and perfecting achieved by
"exercise" as one might strengthen a muscle by practice. It
consists rather (a) in selecting from the diffused responses
which are evoked at a given time those which are especially
adapted to the utilization of the stimulus. That is to say,
among the reactions of the body in general

occur upon stimulation of the eye by light, all except those
which are specifically adapted to reaching, grasping, and
manipulating the object effectively are gradually eliminated--or
else no training occurs. As we have already noted, the primary
reactions, with a very few exceptions are too diffused and
general to be practically of much use in the case of the human
infant. Hence the identity of training with selective response.
(Compare p. 25.) (b) Equally important is the specific
coordination of different factors of response which takes place.
There is not merely a selection of the hand reactions which
effect grasping, but of the particular visual stimuli which call
out just these reactions and no others, and an establishment of
connection between the two. But the coordinating does not stop
here. Characteristic temperature reactions may take place when
the object is grasped. These will also be brought in; later, the
temperature reaction may be connected directly with the optical
stimulus, the hand reaction being suppressed--as a bright flame,
independent of close contact, may steer one away. Or the child
in handling the object pounds with it, or crumples it, and a
sound issues. The ear response is then brought into the system
of response. If a certain sound (the conventional name) is made
by others and accompanies the activity, response of both ear and
the vocal apparatus connected with auditory stimulation will also
become an associated factor in the complex response. 2

(3) The more specialized the adjustment of response and stimulus
to each other (for, taking the sequence of activities into
account, the stimuli are adapted to reactions as well as
reactions to stimuli) the more rigid and the less generally
available is the training secured. In equivalent language, less
intellectual or educative quality attaches to the training. The
usual way of stating this fact is that the more specialized the
reaction, the less is the skill acquired in practicing and
perfecting it transferable to other modes of behavior. According
to the orthodox theory of formal discipline, a pupil in studying
his spelling lesson acquires, besides ability to spell those
particular words, an increase of power of observation, attention,
and recollection which may be employed whenever these powers are
needed. As matter of fact, the more he confines himself to
noticing and fixating the forms of words, irrespective of
connection with other things (such as the meaning of the words,
the context in which they are habitually used, the derivation and
classification of the verbal form, etc.) the less likely is he to
acquire an ability which can be used for anything except the mere
noting of verbal visual forms. He may not even be increasing his
ability to make accurate distinctions among geometrical forms, to
say nothing of ability to observe in general. He is merely
selecting the stimuli supplied by the forms of the letters and
the motor reactions of oral or written reproduction. The scope
of coordination (to use our prior terminology) is extremely
limited. The connections which are employed in other
observations and recollections (or reproductions) are
deliberately eliminated when the pupil is exercised merely upon
forms of letters and words. Having been excluded, they cannot be
restored when needed. The ability secured to observe and to
recall verbal forms is not available for perceiving and recalling
other things. In the ordinary phraseology, it is not
transferable. But the wider the context--that is to say, the
more varied the stimuli and responses coordinated--the more the
ability acquired is available for the effective performance of
other acts; not, strictly speaking, because there is any
"transfer," but because the wide range of factors employed in the
specific act is equivalent to a broad range of activity, to a
flexible, instead of to a narrow and rigid, coordination.
(4) Going to the root of the matter, the fundamental fallacy of
the theory is its dualism; that is to say, its separation of
activities and capacities from subject matter. There is no such
thing as an ability to see or hear or remember in general; there
is only the ability to see or hear or remember something. To
talk about training a power, mental or physical, in general,
apart from the subject matter involved in its exercise, is
nonsense. Exercise may react upon circulation, breathing, and
nutrition so as to develop vigor or strength, but this reservoir
is available for specific ends only by use in connection with the
material means which accomplish them. Vigor will enable a man to
play tennis or golf or to sail a boat better than he would if he
were weak. But only by employing ball and racket, ball and club,
sail and tiller, in definite ways does he become expert in any
one of them; and expertness in one secures expertness in another
only so far as it is either a sign of aptitude for fine muscular
coordinations or as the same kind of coordination is involved in
all of them. Moreover, the difference between the training of
ability to spell which comes from taking visual forms in a narrow
context and one which takes them in connection with the
activities required to grasp meaning, such as context,
affiliations of descent, etc., may be compared to the difference
between exercises in the gymnasium with pulley weights to
"develop" certain muscles, and a game or sport. The former is
uniform and mechanical; it is rigidly specialized. The latter is
varied from moment to moment; no two acts are quite alike; novel
emergencies have to be met; the coordinations forming have to be
kept flexible and elastic. Consequently, the training is much
more "general"; that is to say, it covers a wider territory and
includes more factors. Exactly the same thing holds of special
and general education of the mind.

A monotonously uniform exercise may by practice give great skill
in one special act; but the skill is limited to that act, be it
bookkeeping or calculations in logarithms or experiments in
hydrocarbons. One may be an authority in a particular field and
yet of more than usually poor judgment in matters not closely
allied, unless the training in the special field has been of a
kind to ramify into the subject matter of the other fields.
(5) Consequently, such powers as observation, recollection,
judgment, esthetic taste, represent organized results of the
occupation of native active tendencies with certain subject
matters. A man does not observe closely and fully by pressing a
button for the observing faculty to get to work (in other words
by "willing" to observe); but if he has something to do which can
be accomplished successfully only through intensive and extensive
use of eye and hand, he naturally observes. Observation is an
outcome, a consequence, of the interaction of sense organ and
subject matter. It will vary, accordingly, with the subject
matter employed.

It is consequently futile to set up even the ulterior development
of faculties of observation, memory, etc., unless we have first
determined what sort of subject matter we wish the pupil to
become expert in observing and recalling and for what purpose.
And it is only repeating in another form what has already been
said, to declare that the criterion here must be social. We want
the person to note and recall and judge those things which make
him an effective competent member of the group in which he is
associated with others. Otherwise we might as well set the pupil
to observing carefully cracks on the wall and set him to
memorizing meaningless lists of words in an unknown tongue--which
is about what we do in fact when we give way to the doctrine of
formal discipline. If the observing habits of a botanist or
chemist or engineer are better habits than those which are thus
formed, it is because they deal with subject matter which is more
significant in life. In concluding this portion of the
discussion, we note that the distinction between special and
general education has nothing to do with the transferability of
function or power. In the literal sense, any transfer is
miraculous and impossible. But some activities are broad; they
involve a coordination of many factors. Their development
demands continuous alternation and readjustment. As conditions
change, certain factors are subordinated, and others which had
been of minor importance come to the front. There is constant
redistribution of the focus of the action, as is seen in the
illustration of a game as over against pulling a fixed weight by
a series of uniform motions. Thus there is practice in prompt
making of new combinations with the focus of activity shifted to
meet change in subject matter. Wherever an activity is broad in
scope (that is, involves the coordinating of a large variety of
sub-activities), and is constantly and unexpectedly obliged to
change direction in its progressive development, general
education is bound to result. For this is what "general" means;
broad and flexible. In practice, education meets these
conditions, and hence is general, in the degree in which it takes
account of social relationships. A person may become expert in
technical philosophy, or philology, or mathematics or engineering
or financiering, and be inept and ill-advised in his action and
judgment outside of his specialty. If however his concern with
these technical subject matters has been connected with human
activities having social breadth, the range of active responses
called into play and flexibly integrated is much wider.
Isolation of subject matter from a social context is the chief
obstruction in current practice to securing a general training of
mind. Literature, art, religion, when thus dissociated, are just
as narrowing as the technical things which the professional
upholders of general education strenuously oppose.

Summary. The conception that the result of the educative process
is capacity for further education stands in contrast with some
other ideas which have profoundly influenced practice. The first
contrasting conception considered is that of preparing or getting
ready for some future duty or privilege. Specific evil effects
were pointed out which result from the fact that this aim diverts
attention of both teacher and taught from the only point to which
it may be fruitfully directed -- namely, taking advantage of the
needs and possibilities of the immediate present. Consequently
it defeats its own professed purpose. The notion that education
is an unfolding from within appears to have more likeness to the
conception of growth which has been set forth. But as worked out
in the theories of Froebel and Hegel, it involves ignoring the
interaction of present organic tendencies with the present
environment, just as much as the notion of preparation. Some
implicit whole is regarded as given ready-made and the
significance of growth is merely transitory; it is not an end in
itself, but simply a means of making explicit what is already
implicit. Since that which is not explicit cannot be made
definite use of, something has to be found to represent it.
According to Froebel, the mystic symbolic value of certain
objects and acts (largely mathematical) stand for the Absolute
Whole which is in process of unfolding. According to Hegel,
existing institutions are its effective actual representatives.
Emphasis upon symbols and institutions tends to divert perception
from the direct growth of experience in richness of meaning.
Another influential but defective theory is that which conceives
that mind has, at birth, certain mental faculties or powers, such
as perceiving, remembering, willing, judging, generalizing,
attending, etc., and that education is the training of these
faculties through repeated exercise. This theory treats subject
matter as comparatively external and indifferent, its value
residing simply in the fact that it may occasion exercise of the
general powers. Criticism was directed upon this separation of
the alleged powers from one another and from the material upon
which they act. The outcome of the theory in practice was shown
to be an undue emphasis upon the training of narrow specialized
modes of skill at the expense of initiative, inventiveness, and
readaptability -- qualities which depend upon the broad and
consecutive interaction of specific activities with one another.
1 As matter of fact, the interconnection is so great, there are
so many paths of construction, that every stimulus brings about
some change in all of the organs of response. We are accustomed
however to ignore most of these modifications of the total
organic activity, concentrating upon that one which is most
specifically adapted to the most urgent stimulus of the moment.
2 This statement should be compared with what was said earlier
about the sequential ordering of responses (p. 25). It is
merely a more explicit statement of the way in which that
consecutive arrangement occurs.

Chapter Six: Education as Conservative and Progressive

1. Education as Formation. We now come to a type of theory
which denies the existence of faculties and emphasizes the unique
role of subject matter in the development of mental and
moral disposition. According to it, education is neither a
process of unfolding from within nor is it a training of
faculties resident in mind itself. It is rather the formation of
mind by setting up certain associations or connections of content
by means of a subject matter presented from without. Education
proceeds by instruction taken in a strictly literal sense, a
building into the mind from without. That education is formative
of mind is not questioned; it is the conception already
propounded. But formation here has a technical meaning dependent
upon the idea of something operating from without. Herbart is
the best historical representative of this type of theory. He
denies absolutely the existence of innate faculties. The mind is
simply endowed with the power of producing various qualities in
reaction to the various realities which act upon it. These
qualitatively different reactions are called presentations
(Vorstellungen). Every presentation once called into being
persists; it may be driven below the "threshold" of consciousness
by new and stronger presentations, produced by the reaction of
the soul to new material, but its activity continues by its own
inherent momentum, below the surface of consciousness. What are
termed faculties -- attention, memory, thinking, perception, even
the sentiments, are arrangements, associations, and
complications, formed by the interaction of these submerged
presentations with one another and with new presentations.
Perception, for example, is the complication of presentations
which result from the rise of old presentations to greet and
combine with new ones; memory is the evoking of an old
presentation above the threshold of consciousness by getting
entangled with another presentation, etc. Pleasure is the result
of reinforcement among the independent activities of
presentations; pain of their pulling different ways, etc.

The concrete character of mind consists, then, wholly of the
various arrangements formed by the various presentations in their
different qualities. The "furniture" of the mind is the mind.
Mind is wholly a matter of "contents." The educational
implications of this doctrine are threefold.

(1) This or that kind of mind is formed by the use of objects
which evoke this or that kind of reaction and which produce this
or that arrangement among the reactions called out. The
formation of mind is wholly a matter of the presentation of the
proper educational materials.

(2) Since the earlier presentations constitute the "apperceiving
organs" which control the assimilation of new presentations,
their character is all important. The effect of new
presentations is to reinforce groupings previously formed. The
business of the educator is, first, to select the proper material
in order to fix the nature of the original reactions, and,
secondly, to arrange the sequence of subsequent presentations on
the basis of the store of ideas secured by prior transactions.
The control is from behind, from the past, instead of, as in the
unfolding conception, in the ultimate goal.

(3) Certain formal steps of all method in teaching may be laid
down. Presentation of new subject matter is obviously the
central thing, but since knowing consists in the way in which
this interacts with the contents already submerged below
consciousness, the first thing is the step of "preparation," --
that is, calling into special activity and getting above the
floor of consciousness those older presentations which are to
assimilate the new one. Then after the presentation, follow the
processes of interaction of new and old; then comes the
application of the newly formed content to the performance of
some task. Everything must go through this course; consequently
there is a perfectly uniform method in instruction in all
subjects for all pupils of all ages.

Herbart's great service lay in taking the work of teaching out of
the region of routine and accident. He brought it into the
sphere of conscious method; it became a conscious business with a
definite aim and procedure, instead of being a compound of casual
inspiration and subservience to tradition. Moreover, everything
in teaching and discipline could be specified, instead of our
having to be content with vague and more or less mystic
generalities about ultimate ideals and speculative spiritual
symbols. He abolished the notion of ready-made faculties, which
might be trained by exercise upon any sort of material, and made
attention to concrete subject matter, to the content,
all-important. Herbart undoubtedly has had a greater influence
in bringing to the front questions connected with the material of
study than any other educational philosopher. He stated problems
of method from the standpoint of their connection with subject
matter: method having to do with the manner and sequence of
presenting new subject matter to insure its proper interaction
with old.

The fundamental theoretical defect of this view lies in ignoring
the existence in a living being of active and specific functions
which are developed in the redirection and combination which
occur as they are occupied with their environment. The theory
represents the Schoolmaster come to his own. This fact expresses
at once its strength and its weakness. The conception that the
mind consists of what has been taught, and that the importance of
what has been taught consists in its availability for further
teaching, reflects the pedagogue's view of life. The philosophy
is eloquent about the duty of the teacher in instructing pupils;
it is almost silent regarding his privilege of learning. It
emphasizes the influence of intellectual environment upon the
mind; it slurs over the fact that the environment involves a
personal sharing in common experiences. It exaggerates beyond
reason the possibilities of consciously formulated and used
methods, and underestimates the role of vital, unconscious,
attitudes. It insists upon the old, the past, and passes lightly
over the operation of the genuinely novel and unforeseeable. It
takes, in brief, everything educational into account save its
essence, -- vital energy seeking opportunity for effective
exercise. All education forms character, mental and moral, but
formation consists in the selection and coordination of native
activities so that they may utilize the subject matter of the
social environment. Moreover, the formation is not only a
formation of native activities, but it takes place through them.
It is a process of reconstruction, reorganization.

2. Education as Recapitulation and Retrospection. A peculiar
combination of the ideas of development and formation from
without has given rise to the recapitulation theory of education,
biological and cultural. The individual develops, but his proper
development consists in repeating in orderly stages the past
evolution of animal life and human history. The former
recapitulation occurs physiologically; the latter should be made
to occur by means of education. The alleged biological truth
that the individual in his growth from the simple embryo to
maturity repeats the history of the evolution of animal life in
the progress of forms from the simplest to the most complex (or
expressed technically, that ontogenesis parallels phylogenesis)
does not concern us, save as it is supposed to afford scientific
foundation for cultural recapitulation of the past. Cultural
recapitulation says, first, that children at a certain age are in
the mental and moral condition of savagery; their instincts are
vagrant and predatory because their ancestors at one time lived
such a life. Consequently (so it is concluded) the proper
subject matter of their education at this time is the
material -- especially the literary material of myths, folk-tale,
and song -- produced by humanity in the analogous stage. Then
the child passes on to something corresponding, say, to the
pastoral stage, and so on till at the time when he is ready to
take part in contemporary life, he arrives at the present epoch
of culture.

In this detailed and consistent form, the theory, outside of a
small school in Germany (followers of Herbart for the most part),
has had little currency. But the idea which underlies it is
that education is essentially retrospective; that it looks
primarily to the past and especially to the literary products of
the past, and that mind is adequately formed in the degree in
which it is patterned upon the spiritual heritage of the past.
This idea has had such immense influence upon higher instruction
especially, that it is worth examination in its extreme

In the first place, its biological basis is fallacious.
Embyronic growth of the human infant preserves, without doubt,
some of the traits of lower forms of life. But in no respect is
it a strict traversing of past stages. If there were any strict
"law" of repetition, evolutionary development would clearly not
have taken place. Each new generation would simply have repeated
its predecessors' existence. Development, in short, has taken
place by the entrance of shortcuts and alterations in the prior
scheme of growth. And this suggests that the aim of education is
to facilitate such short-circuited growth. The great advantage
of immaturity, educationally speaking, is that it enables us to
emancipate the young from the need of dwelling in an outgrown
past. The business of education is rather to liberate the young
from reviving and retraversing the past than to lead them to a
recapitulation of it. The social environment of the young is
constituted by the presence and action of the habits of thinking
and feeling of civilized men. To ignore the directive influence
of this present environment upon the young is simply to abdicate
the educational function. A biologist has said: "The history of
development in different animals . . . offers to us . . . a
series of ingenious, determined, varied but more or less
unsuccessful efforts to escape from the necessity of
recapitulating, and to substitute for the ancestral method a more
direct method." Surely it would be foolish if education did not
deliberately attempt to facilitate similar efforts in conscious
experience so that they become increasingly successful.

The two factors of truth in the conception may easily be
disentangled from association with the false context which
perverts them. On the biological side we have simply the fact
that any infant starts with precisely the assortment of impulsive
activities with which he does start, they being blind, and many
of them conflicting with one another, casual, sporadic, and
unadapted to their immediate environment. The other point is
that it is a part of wisdom to utilize the products of past
history so far as they are of help for the future. Since they
represent the results of prior experience, their value for future
experience may, of course, be indefinitely great. Literatures
produced in the past are, so far as men are now in possession and
use of them, a part of the present environment of individuals;
but there is an enormous difference between availing ourselves of
them as present resources and taking them as standards and
patterns in their retrospective character.

(1) The distortion of the first point usually comes about through
misuse of the idea of heredity. It is assumed that heredity
means that past life has somehow predetermined the main traits of
an individual, and that they are so fixed that little serious
change can be introduced into them. Thus taken, the influence of
heredity is opposed to that of the environment, and the efficacy
of the latter belittled. But for educational purposes heredity
means neither more nor less than the original endowment of an
individual. Education must take the being as he is; that a
particular individual has just such and such an equipment of
native activities is a basic fact. That they were produced in
such and such a way, or that they are derived from one's
ancestry, is not especially important for the educator, however
it may be with the biologist, as compared with the fact that they
now exist. Suppose one had to advise or direct a person
regarding his inheritance of property. The fallacy of assuming
that the fact it is an inheritance, predetermines its future use,
is obvious. The advisor is concerned with making the best use of
what is there -- putting it at work under the most favorable
conditions. Obviously he cannot utilize what is not there;
neither can the educator. In this sense, heredity is a limit of
education. Recognition of this fact prevents the waste of energy
and the irritation that ensue from the too prevalent habit of
trying to make by instruction something out of an individual
which he is not naturally fitted to become. But the doctrine
does not determine what use shall be made of the capacities which
exist. And, except in the case of the imbecile, these original
capacities are much more varied and potential, even in the case
of the more stupid, than we as yet know properly how to utilize.
Consequently, while a careful study of the native aptitudes and
deficiencies of an individual is always a preliminary necessity,
the subsequent and important step is to furnish an environment
which will adequately function whatever activities are present.
The relation of heredity and environment is well expressed in the
case of language. If a being had no vocal organs from which
issue articulate sounds, if he had no auditory or other sense-
receptors and no connections between the two sets of apparatus,
it would be a sheer waste of time to try to teach him to
converse. He is born short in that respect, and education must
accept the limitation. But if he has this native equipment, its
possession in no way guarantees that he will ever talk any
language or what language he will talk. The environment in which
his activities occur and by which they are carried into execution
settles these things. If he lived in a dumb unsocial environment
where men refused to talk to one another and used only that
minimum of gestures without which they could not get along, vocal
language would be as unachieved by him as if he had no vocal
organs. If the sounds which he makes occur in a medium of
persons speaking the Chinese language, the activities which make
like sounds will be selected and coordinated. This illustration
may be applied to the entire range of the educability of any
individual. It places the heritage from the past in its right
connection with the demands and opportunities of the present.

(2) The theory that the proper subject matter of instruction is
found in the culture-products of past ages (either in general, or
more specifically in the particular literatures which were
produced in the culture epoch which is supposed to correspond
with the stage of development of those taught) affords another
instance of that divorce between the process and product of
growth which has been criticized. To keep the process alive, to
keep it alive in ways which make it easier to keep it alive in
the future, is the function of educational subject matter. But
an individual can live only in the present. The present is not
just something which comes after the past; much less something
produced by it. It is what life is in leaving the past behind
it. The study of past products will not help us understand the
present, because the present is not due to the products, but to
the life of which they were the products. A knowledge of the
past and its heritage is of great significance when it enters
into the present, but not otherwise. And the mistake of making
the records and remains of the past the main material of
education is that it cuts the vital connection of present and
past, and tends to make the past a rival of the present and the
present a more or less futile imitation of the past. Under such
circumstances, culture becomes an ornament and solace; a refuge
and an asylum. Men escape from the crudities of the present to
live in its imagined refinements, instead of using what the past
offers as an agency for ripening these crudities. The present,
in short, generates the problems which lead us to search the past
for suggestion, and which supplies meaning to what we find when
we search. The past is the past precisely because it does not
include what is characteristic in the present. The moving
present includes the past on condition that it uses the past to
direct its own movement. The past is a great resource for the
imagination; it adds a new dimension to life, but OD condition
that it be seen as the past of the present, and not as another
and disconnected world. The principle which makes little of the
present act of living and operation of growing, the only thing
always present, naturally looks to the past because the future
goal which it sets up is remote and empty. But having turned its
back upon the present, it has no way of returning to it laden
with the spoils of the past. A mind that is adequately sensitive
to the needs and occasions of the present actuality will have the
liveliest of motives for interest in the background of the
present, and will never have to hunt for a way back because it
will never have lost connection.

3. Education as Reconstruction. In its contrast with the ideas
both of unfolding of latent powers from within, and of the
formation from without, whether by physical nature or by the
cultural products of the past, the ideal of growth results in the
conception that education is a constant reorganizing or
reconstructing of experience. It has all the time an immediate
end, and so far as activity is educative, it reaches that
end -- the direct transformation of the quality of experience.
Infancy, youth, adult life, -- all stand on the same educative
level in the sense that what is really learned at any and every
stage of experience constitutes the value of that experience, and
in the sense that it is the chief business of life at every point
to make living thus contribute to an enrichment of its own
perceptible meaning.

We thus reach a technical definition of education: It is that
reconstruction or reorganization of experience which adds to the
meaning of experience, and which increases ability to direct the
course of subsequent experience. (1) The increment of meaning
corresponds to the increased perception of the connections and
continuities of the activities in which we are engaged. The
activity begins in an impulsive form; that is, it is blind. It
does not know what it is about; that is to say, what are its
interactions with other activities. An activity which brings
education or instruction with it makes one aware of some of the
connections which had been imperceptible. To recur to our simple
example, a child who reaches for a bright light gets burned.
Henceforth he knows that a certain act of touching in connection
with a certain act of vision (and vice-versa) means heat and
pain; or, a certain light means a source of heat. The acts by
which a scientific man in his laboratory learns more about flame
differ no whit in principle. By doing certain things, he makes
perceptible certain connections of heat with other things, which
had been previously ignored. Thus his acts in relation to these
things get more meaning; he knows better what he is doing or "is
about" when he has to do with them; he can intend consequences
instead of just letting them happen -- all synonymous ways of
saying the same thing. At the same stroke, the flame has gained
in meaning; all that is known about combustion, oxidation, about
light and temperature, may become an intrinsic part of its
intellectual content.

(2) The other side of an educative experience is an added power
of subsequent direction or control. To say that one knows what
he is about, or can intend certain consequences, is to say, of
course, that he can better anticipate what is going to happen;
that he can, therefore, get ready or prepare in advance so as to
secure beneficial consequences and avert undesirable ones. A
genuinely educative experience, then, one in which instruction is
conveyed and ability increased, is contradistinguished from a
routine activity on one hand, and a capricious activity on the
other. (a) In the latter one "does not care what happens"; one
just lets himself go and avoids connecting the consequences of
one's act (the evidences of its connections with other things)
with the act. It is customary to frown upon such aimless random
activity, treating it as willful mischief or carelessness or
lawlessness. But there is a tendency to seek the cause of such
aimless activities in the youth's own disposition, isolated from
everything else. But in fact such activity is explosive, and due
to maladjustment with surroundings. Individuals act capriciously
whenever they act under external dictation, or from being told,
without having a purpose of their own or perceiving the bearing
of the deed upon other acts. One may learn by doing something
which he does not understand; even in the most intelligent
action, we do much which we do not mean, because the largest
portion of the connections of the act we consciously intend are
not perceived or anticipated. But we learn only because after
the act is performed we note results which we had not noted
before. But much work in school consists in setting up rules by
which pupils are to act of such a sort that even after pupils
have acted, they are not led to see the connection between the
result -- say the answer -- and the method pursued. So far as
they are concerned, the whole thing is a trick and a kind of
miracle. Such action is essentially capricious, and leads to
capricious habits. (b) Routine action, action which is
automatic, may increase skill to do a particular thing. In so
far, it might be said to have an educative effect. But it does
not lead to new perceptions of bearings and connections; it
limits rather than widens the meaning-horizon. And since the
environment changes and our way of acting has to be modified in
order successfully to keep a balanced connection with things, an
isolated uniform way of acting becomes disastrous at some
critical moment. The vaunted "skill" turns out gross ineptitude.

The essential contrast of the idea of education as continuous
reconstruction with the other one-sided conceptions which have
been criticized in this and the previous chapter is that it
identifies the end (the result) and the process. This is
verbally self-contradictory, but only verbally. It means that
experience as an active process occupies time and that its later
period completes its earlier portion; it brings to light
connections involved, but hitherto unperceived. The later
outcome thus reveals the meaning of the earlier, while the
experience as a whole establishes a bent or disposition toward
the things possessing this meaning. Every such continuous
experience or activity is educative, and all education resides in
having such experiences.

It remains only to point out (what will receive more ample
attention later) that the reconstruction of experience may be
social as well as personal. For purposes of simplification we
have spoken in the earlier chapters somewhat as if the education
of the immature which fills them with the spirit of the social
group to which they belong, were a sort of catching up of the
child with the aptitudes and resources of the adult group. In
static societies, societies which make the maintenance of
established custom their measure of value, this conception
applies in the main. But not in progressive communities. They
endeavor to shape the experiences of the young so that instead of
reproducing current habits, better habits shall be formed, and
thus the future adult society be an improvement on their own.
Men have long had some intimation of the extent to which
education may be consciously used to eliminate obvious social
evils through starting the young on paths which shall not produce
these ills, and some idea of the extent in which education may be
made an instrument of realizing the better hopes of men. But we
are doubtless far from realizing the potential efficacy of
education as a constructive agency of improving society, from
realizing that it represents not only a development of children
and youth but also of the future society of which they will be
the constituents.

Summary. Education may be conceived either retrospectively or
prospectively. That is to say, it may be treated as process of
accommodating the future to the past, or as an utilization of the
past for a resource in a developing future. The former finds its
standards and patterns in what has gone before. The mind may be
regarded as a group of contents resulting from having certain
things presented. In this case, the earlier presentations
constitute the material to which the later are to be assimilated.
Emphasis upon the value of the early experiences of immature
beings is most important, especially because of the tendency to
regard them as of little account. But these experiences do not
consist of externally presented material, but of interaction of
native activities with the environment which progressively
modifies both the activities and the environment. The defect of
the Herbartian theory of formation through presentations
consists in slighting this constant interaction and change.
The same principle of criticism applies to theories which find
the primary subject matter of study in the cultural products --
especially the literary products -- of man's history. Isolated
from their connection with the present environment in which
individuals have to act, they become a kind of rival and
distracting environment. Their value lies in their use to
increase the meaning of the things with which we have actively to
do at the present time. The idea of education advanced in these
chapters is formally summed up in the idea of continuous
reconstruction of experience, an idea which is marked off from
education as preparation for a remote future, as unfolding, as
external formation, and as recapitulation of the past.

Chapter Seven: The Democratic Conception in Education

For the most part, save incidentally, we have hitherto been
concerned with education as it may exist in any social group. We
have now to make explicit the differences in the spirit,
material, and method of education as it operates in different
types of community life. To say that education is a social
function, securing direction and development in the immature
through their participation in the life of the group to which
they belong, is to say in effect that education will vary with
the quality of life which prevails in a group. Particularly is
it true that a society which not only changes but-which has the
ideal of such change as will improve it, will have different
standards and methods of education from one which aims simply at
the perpetuation of its own customs. To make the general ideas
set forth applicable to our own educational practice, it is,
therefore, necessary to come to closer quarters with the nature
of present social life.

1. The Implications of Human Association. Society is one word,
but many things. Men associate together in all kinds of ways and
for all kinds of purposes. One man is concerned in a multitude
of diverse groups, in which his associates may be quite
different. It often seems as if they had nothing in common
except that they are modes of associated life. Within every
larger social organization there are numerous minor groups: not
only political subdivisions, but industrial, scientific,
religious, associations. There are political parties with
differing aims, social sets, cliques, gangs, corporations,
partnerships, groups bound closely together by ties of blood, and
so on in endless variety. In many modern states and in some
ancient, there is great diversity of populations, of varying
languages, religions, moral codes, and traditions. From this
standpoint, many a minor political unit, one of our large cities,
for example, is a congeries of loosely associated societies,
rather than an inclusive and permeating community of action and
thought. (See ante, p. 20.)

The terms society, community, are thus ambiguous. They have both
a eulogistic or normative sense, and a descriptive sense; a
meaning de jure and a meaning de facto. In social philosophy,
the former connotation is almost always uppermost. Society is
conceived as one by its very nature. The qualities which
accompany this unity, praiseworthy community of purpose and
welfare, loyalty to public ends, mutuality of sympathy, are
emphasized. But when we look at the facts which the term denotes
instead of confining our attention to its intrinsic connotation,
we find not unity, but a plurality of societies, good and bad.
Men banded together in a criminal conspiracy, business
aggregations that prey upon the public while serving it,
political machines held together by the interest of plunder, are
included. If it is said that such organizations are not
societies because they do not meet the ideal requirements of the
notion of society, the answer, in part, is that the conception of
society is then made so "ideal" as to be of no use, having no
reference to facts; and in part, that each of these
organizations, no matter how opposed to the interests of other
groups, has something of the praiseworthy qualities of "Society"
which hold it together. There is honor among thieves, and a band
of robbers has a common interest as respects its members. Gangs
are marked by fraternal feeling, and narrow cliques by intense
loyalty to their own codes. Family life may be marked by
exclusiveness, suspicion, and jealousy as to those without, and
yet be a model of amity and mutual aid within. Any education
given by a group tends to socialize its members, but the quality
and value of the socialization depends upon the habits and aims
of the group. Hence, once more, the need of a measure for the
worth of any given mode of social life. In seeking this measure,
we have to avoid two extremes. We cannot set up, out of our
heads, something we regard as an ideal society. We must base our
conception upon societies which actually exist, in order to have
any assurance that our ideal is a practicable one. But, as we
have just seen, the ideal cannot simply repeat the traits which
are actually found. The problem is to extract the desirable
traits of forms of community life which actually exist, and
employ them to criticize undesirable features and suggest
improvement. Now in any social group whatever, even in a gang of
thieves, we find some interest held in common, and we find a
certain amount of interaction and cooperative intercourse with
other groups. From these two traits we derive our standard. How
numerous and varied are the interests which are consciously
shared? How full and free is the interplay with other forms of
association? If we apply these considerations to, say, a criminal
band, we find that the ties which consciously hold the members
together are few in number, reducible almost to a common interest
in plunder; and that they are of such a nature as to isolate the
group from other groups with respect to give and take of the
values of life. Hence, the education such a society gives is
partial and distorted. If we take, on the other hand, the kind
of family life which illustrates the standard, we find that there
are material, intellectual, aesthetic interests in which all
participate and that the progress of one member has worth for the
experience of other members -- it is readily communicable -- and
that the family is not an isolated whole, but enters intimately
into relationships with business groups, with schools, with all
the agencies of culture, as well as with other similar groups,
and that it plays a due part in the political organization and in
return receives support from it. In short, there are many
interests consciously communicated and shared; and there are
varied and free points of contact with other modes of

I. Let us apply the first element in this criterion to a
despotically governed state. It is not true there is no common
interest in such an organization between governed and governors.
The authorities in command must make some appeal to the native
activities of the subjects, must call some of their powers into
play. Talleyrand said that a government could do everything with
bayonets except sit on them. This cynical declaration is at
least a recognition that the bond of union is not merely one of
coercive force. It may be said, however, that the activities
appealed to are themselves unworthy and degrading -- that such a
government calls into functioning activity simply capacity for
fear. In a way, this statement is true. But it overlooks the
fact that fear need not be an undesirable factor in experience.
Caution, circumspection, prudence, desire to foresee future
events so as to avert what is harmful, these desirable traits are
as much a product of calling the impulse of fear into play as is
cowardice and abject submission. The real difficulty is that the
appeal to fear is isolated. In evoking dread and hope of
specific tangible reward -- say comfort and ease -- many other
capacities are left untouched. Or rather, they are affected, but
in such a way as to pervert them. Instead of operating on their
own account they are reduced to mere servants of attaining
pleasure and avoiding pain.

This is equivalent to saying that there is no extensive number of
common interests; there is no free play back and forth among the
members of the social group. Stimulation and response are
exceedingly one-sided. In order to have a large number of values
in common, all the members of the group must have an equable
opportunity to receive and to take from others. There must be a
large variety of shared undertakings and experiences. Otherwise,
the influences which educate some into masters, educate others
into slaves. And the experience of each party loses in meaning,
when the free interchange of varying modes of life-experience is
arrested. A separation into a privileged and a subject-class
prevents social endosmosis. The evils thereby affecting the
superior class are less material and less perceptible, but
equally real. Their culture tends to be sterile, to be turned
back to feed on itself; their art becomes a showy display and
artificial; their wealth luxurious; their knowledge
overspecialized; their manners fastidious rather than humane.

Lack of the free and equitable intercourse which springs from a
variety of shared interests makes intellectual stimulation
unbalanced. Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty
means challenge to thought. The more activity is restricted to a
few definite lines -- as it is when there are rigid class lines
preventing adequate interplay of experiences -- the more action
tends to become routine on the part of the class at a
disadvantage, and capricious, aimless, and explosive on the part
of the class having the materially fortunate position. Plato
defined a slave as one who accepts from another the purposes
which control his conduct. This condition obtains even where
there is no slavery in the legal sense. It is found wherever men
are engaged in activity which is socially serviceable, but whose
service they do not understand and have no personal interest in.
Much is said about scientific management of work. It is a narrow
view which restricts the science which secures efficiency of
operation to movements of the muscles. The chief opportunity for
science is the discovery of the relations of a man to his
work--including his relations to others who take part -- which
will enlist his intelligent interest in what he is doing.
Efficiency in production often demands division of labor. But it
is reduced to a mechanical routine unless workers see the
technical, intellectual, and social relationships involved in
what they do, and engage in their work because of the motivation
furnished by such perceptions. The tendency to reduce such
things as efficiency of activity and scientific management to
purely technical externals is evidence of the one-sided
stimulation of thought given to those in control of industry --
those who supply its aims. Because of their lack of all-round
and well-balanced social interest, there is not sufficient
stimulus for attention to the human factors and relationships in
industry. Intelligence is narrowed to the factors concerned with
technical production and marketing of goods. No doubt, a very
acute and intense intelligence in these narrow lines can be
developed, but the failure to take into account the significant
social factors means none the less an absence of mind, and a
corresponding distortion of emotional life. II. This
illustration (whose point is to be extended to all associations
lacking reciprocity of interest) brings us to our second point.
The isolation and exclusiveness of a gang or clique brings its
antisocial spirit into relief. But this same spirit is found
wherever one group has interests "of its own" which shut it out
from full interaction with other groups, so that its prevailing
purpose is the protection of what it has got, instead of
reorganization and progress through wider relationships. It
marks nations in their isolation from one another; families which
seclude their domestic concerns as if they had no connection with
a larger life; schools when separated from the interest of home
and community; the divisions of rich and poor; learned and
unlearned. The essential point is that isolation makes for
rigidity and formal institutionalizing of life, for static and
selfish ideals within the group. That savage tribes regard
aliens and enemies as synonymous is not accidental. It springs
from the fact that they have identified their experience with
rigid adherence to their past customs. On such a basis it is
wholly logical to fear intercourse with others, for such contact
might dissolve custom. It would certainly occasion
reconstruction. It is a commonplace that an alert and expanding
mental life depends upon an enlarging range of contact with the
physical environment. But the principle applies even more
significantly to the field where we are apt to ignore it -- the
sphere of social contacts. Every expansive era in the history of
mankind has coincided with the operation of factors which have
tended to eliminate distance between peoples and classes
previously hemmed off from one another. Even the alleged
benefits of war, so far as more than alleged, spring from the
fact that conflict of peoples at least enforces intercourse
between them and thus accidentally enables them to learn from one
another, and thereby to expand their horizons. Travel, economic
and commercial tendencies, have at present gone far to break down
external barriers; to bring peoples and classes into closer and
more perceptible connection with one another. It remains for the
most part to secure the intellectual and emotional significance
of this physical annihilation of space.

2. The Democratic Ideal. The two elements in our criterion both
point to democracy. The first signifies not only more numerous
and more varied points of shared common interest, but greater
reliance upon the recognition of mutual interests as a factor in
social control. The second means not only freer interaction
between social groups (once isolated so far as intention could
keep up a separation) but change in social habit -- its
continuous readjustment through meeting the new situations
produced by varied intercourse. And these two traits are
precisely what characterize the democratically constituted

Upon the educational side, we note first that the realization of
a form of social life in which interests are mutually
interpenetrating, and where progress, or readjustment, is an
important consideration, makes a democratic community more
interested than other communities have cause to be in deliberate
and systematic education. The devotion of democracy to education
is a familiar fact. The superficial explanation is that a
government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be successful
unless those who elect and who obey their governors are educated.
Since a democratic society repudiates the principle of external
authority, it must find a substitute in voluntary disposition and
interest; these can be created only by education. But there is a
deeper explanation. A democracy is more than a form of
government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of
conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the
number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each
has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider
the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is
equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race,
and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full
import of their activity. These more numerous and more varied
points of contact denote a greater diversity of stimuli to which
an individual has to respond; they consequently put a premium on
variation in his action. They secure a liberation of powers
which remain suppressed as long as the incitations to action are
partial, as they must be in a group which in its exclusiveness
shuts out many interests.

The widening of the area of shared concerns, and the liberation
of a greater diversity of personal capacities which characterize
a democracy, are not of course the product of deliberation and
conscious effort. On the contrary, they were caused by the
development of modes of manufacture and commerce, travel,
migration, and intercommunication which flowed from the command
of science over natural energy. But after greater
individualization on one hand, and a broader community of
interest on the other have come into existence, it is a matter of
deliberate effort to sustain and extend them. Obviously a
society to which stratification into separate classes would be
fatal, must see to it that intellectual opportunities are
accessible to all on equable and easy terms. A society marked
off into classes need he specially attentive only to the
education of its ruling elements. A society which is mobile,
which is full of channels for the distribution of a change
occurring anywhere, must see to it that its members are educated
to personal initiative and adaptability. Otherwise, they will be
overwhelmed by the changes in which they are caught and whose
significance or connections they do not perceive. The result
will be a confusion in which a few will appropriate to themselves
the results of the blind and externally directed activities of

3. The Platonic Educational Philosophy. Subsequent chapters
will be devoted to making explicit the implications of the
democratic ideas in education. In the remaining portions of this
chapter, we shall consider the educational theories which have
been evolved in three epochs when the social import of education
was especially conspicuous. The first one to be considered is
that of Plato. No one could better express than did he the fact
that a society is stably organized when each individual is doing
that for which he has aptitude by nature in such a way as to be
useful to others (or to contribute to the whole to which he
belongs); and that it is the business of education to discover
these aptitudes and progressively to train them for social use.
Much which has been said so far is borrowed from what Plato first
consciously taught the world. But conditions which he could not
intellectually control led him to restrict these ideas in their
application. He never got any conception of the indefinite
plurality of activities which may characterize an individual and
a social group, and consequently limited his view to a limited
number of classes of capacities and of social arrangements.
Plato's starting point is that the organization of society
depends ultimately upon knowledge of the end of existence. If we
do not know its end, we shall be at the mercy of accident and
caprice. Unless we know the end, the good, we shall have no
criterion for rationally deciding what the possibilities are
which should be promoted, nor how social arrangements are to be
ordered. We shall have no conception of the proper limits and
distribution of activities -- what he called justice -- as a
trait of both individual and social organization. But how is the
knowledge of the final and permanent good to be achieved? In
dealing with this question we come upon the seemingly insuperable
obstacle that such knowledge is not possible save in a just and
harmonious social order. Everywhere else the mind is distracted
and misled by false valuations and false perspectives. A
disorganized and factional society sets up a number of different
models and standards. Under such conditions it is impossible for
the individual to attain consistency of mind. Only a complete
whole is fully self-consistent. A society which rests upon the
supremacy of some factor over another irrespective of its
rational or proportionate claims, inevitably leads thought
astray. It puts a premium on certain things and slurs over
others, and creates a mind whose seeming unity is forced and
distorted. Education proceeds ultimately from the patterns
furnished by institutions, customs, and laws. Only in a just
state will these be such as to give the right education; and only
those who have rightly trained minds will be able to recognize
the end, and ordering principle of things. We seem to be caught
in a hopeless circle. However, Plato suggested a way out. A few
men, philosophers or lovers of wisdom -- or truth -- may by study
learn at least in outline the proper patterns of true existence.
If a powerful ruler should form a state after these patterns,
then its regulations could be preserved. An education could be
given which would sift individuals, discovering what they were
good for, and supplying a method of assigning each to the work in
life for which his nature fits him. Each doing his own part, and
never transgressing, the order and unity of the whole would be

It would be impossible to find in any scheme of philosophic
thought a more adequate recognition on one hand of the
educational significance of social arrangements and, on the
other, of the dependence of those arrangements upon the means
used to educate the young. It would be impossible to find a
deeper sense of the function of education in discovering and
developing personal capacities, and training them so that they
would connect with the activities of others. Yet the society in
which the theory was propounded was so undemocratic that Plato
could not work out a solution for the problem whose terms he
clearly saw.

While he affirmed with emphasis that the place of the individual
in society should not be determined by birth or wealth or any
conventional status, but by his own nature as discovered in the
process of education, he had no perception of the uniqueness of
individuals. For him they fall by nature into classes, and into
a very small number of classes at that. Consequently the testing
and sifting function of education only shows to which one of
three classes an individual belongs. There being no recognition
that each individual constitutes his own class, there could be no
recognition of the infinite diversity of active tendencies and
combinations of tendencies of which an individual is capable.
There were only three types of faculties or powers in the
individual's constitution. Hence education would soon reach a
static limit in each class, for only diversity makes change and

In some individuals, appetites naturally dominate; they are
assigned to the laboring and trading class, which expresses and
supplies human wants. Others reveal, upon education, that over
and above appetites, they have a generous, outgoing, assertively
courageous disposition. They become the citizen-subjects of the
state; its defenders in war; its internal guardians in peace.
But their limit is fixed by their lack of reason, which is a
capacity to grasp the universal. Those who possess this are
capable of the highest kind of education, and become in time the
legislators of the state -- for laws are the universals which
control the particulars of experience. Thus it is not true that
in intent, Plato subordinated the individual to the social whole.
But it is true that lacking the perception of the uniqueness of
every individual, his incommensurability with others, and
consequently not recognizing that a society might change and yet
be stable, his doctrine of limited powers and classes came in net
effect to the idea of the subordination of individuality. We
cannot better Plato's conviction that an individual is happy and
society well organized when each individual engages in those
activities for which he has a natural equipment, nor his
conviction that it is the primary office of education to discover
this equipment to its possessor and train him for its effective
use. But progress in knowledge has made us aware of the
superficiality of Plato's lumping of individuals and their
original powers into a few sharply marked-off classes; it has
taught us that original capacities are indefinitely numerous and
variable. It is but the other side of this fact to say that in
the degree in which society has become democratic, social
organization means utilization of the specific and variable
qualities of individuals, not stratification by classes.
Although his educational philosophy was revolutionary, it was
none the less in bondage to static ideals. He thought that
change or alteration was evidence of lawless flux; that true
reality was unchangeable. Hence while he would radically change
the existing state of society, his aim was to construct a state
in which change would subsequently have no place. The final end
of life is fixed; given a state framed with this end in view, not
even minor details are to be altered. Though they might not be
inherently important, yet if permitted they would inure the minds
of men to the idea of change, and hence be dissolving and
anarchic. The breakdown of his philosophy is made apparent in
the fact that he could not trust to gradual improvements in
education to bring about a better society which should then
improve education, and so on indefinitely. Correct education
could not come into existence until an ideal state existed, and
after that education would be devoted simply to its conservation.
For the existence of this state he was obliged to trust to some
happy accident by which philosophic wisdom should happen to
coincide with possession of ruling power in the state.

4. The "Individualistic" Ideal of the Eighteenth Century. In
the eighteenth-century philosophy we find ourselves in a very
different circle of ideas. "Nature" still means something
antithetical to existing social organization; Plato exercised a
great influence upon Rousseau. But the voice of nature now
speaks for the diversity of individual talent and for the need of
free development of individuality in all its variety. Education
in accord with nature furnishes the goal and the method of
instruction and discipline. Moreover, the native or original
endowment was conceived, in extreme cases, as nonsocial or even
as antisocial. Social arrangements were thought of as mere
external expedients by which these nonsocial individuals might
secure a greater amount of private happiness for themselves.
Nevertheless, these statements convey only an inadequate idea of
the true significance of the movement. In reality its chief
interest was in progress and in social progress. The seeming
antisocial philosophy was a somewhat transparent mask for an
impetus toward a wider and freer society -- toward cosmopolitanism.
The positive ideal was humanity. In membership in humanity, as
distinct from a state, man's capacities would be liberated; while
in existing political organizations his powers were hampered and
distorted to meet the requirements and selfish interests of the
rulers of the state. The doctrine of extreme individualism was
but the counterpart, the obverse, of ideals of the indefinite
perfectibility of man and of a social organization having a scope
as wide as humanity. The emancipated individual was to become
the organ and agent of a comprehensive and progressive society.

The heralds of this gospel were acutely conscious of the evils of
the social estate in which they found themselves. They
attributed these evils to the limitations imposed upon the free
powers of man. Such limitation was both distorting and
corrupting. Their impassioned devotion to emancipation of life
from external restrictions which operated to the exclusive
advantage of the class to whom a past feudal system consigned
power, found intellectual formulation in a worship of nature. To
give "nature" full swing was to replace an artificial, corrupt,
and inequitable social order by a new and better kingdom of
humanity. Unrestrained faith in Nature as both a model and a
working power was strengthened by the advances of natural
science. Inquiry freed from prejudice and artificial restraints
of church and state had revealed that the world is a scene of
law. The Newtonian solar system, which expressed the reign of
natural law, was a scene of wonderful harmony, where every force
balanced with every other. Natural law would accomplish the same
result in human relations, if men would only get rid of the
artificial man-imposed coercive restrictions.

Education in accord with nature was thought to be the first step
in insuring this more social society. It was plainly seen that
economic and political limitations were ultimately dependent upon
limitations of thought and feeling. The first step in freeing
men from external chains was to emancipate them from the internal
chains of false beliefs and ideals. What was called social life,
existing institutions, were too false and corrupt to be intrusted
with this work. How could it be expected to undertake it when
the undertaking meant its own destruction? "Nature" must then be
the power to which the enterprise was to be left. Even the
extreme sensationalistic theory of knowledge which was current
derived itself from this conception. To insist that mind is
originally passive and empty was one way of glorifying the
possibilities of education. If the mind was a wax tablet to be
written upon by objects, there were no limits to the possibility
of education by means of the natural environment. And since the
natural world of objects is a scene of harmonious "truth," this
education would infallibly produce minds filled with the truth.

5. Education as National and as Social. As soon as the first
enthusiasm for freedom waned, the weakness of the theory upon the
constructive side became obvious. Merely to leave everything to
nature was, after all, but to negate the very idea of education;
it was to trust to the accidents of circumstance. Not only was
some method required but also some positive organ, some
administrative agency for carrying on the process of instruction.
The "complete and harmonious development of all powers," having
as its social counterpart an enlightened and progressive
humanity, required definite organization for its realization.
Private individuals here and there could proclaim the gospel;
they could not execute the work. A Pestalozzi could try
experiments and exhort philanthropically inclined persons having
wealth and power to follow his example. But even Pestalozzi saw
that any effective pursuit of the new educational ideal required
the support of the state. The realization of the new education
destined to produce a new society was, after all, dependent upon
the activities of existing states. The movement for the
democratic idea inevitably became a movement for publicly
conducted and administered schools.

So far as Europe was concerned, the historic situation identified
the movement for a state-supported education with the
nationalistic movement in political life -- a fact of
incalculable significance for subsequent movements. Under the
influence of German thought in particular, education became a
civic function and the civic function was identified with the
realization of the ideal of the national state. The "state" was
substituted for humanity; cosmopolitanism gave way to
nationalism. To form the citizen, not the "man," became the aim
of education. 1 The historic situation to which reference is
made is the after-effects of the Napoleonic conquests, especially
in Germany. The German states felt (and subsequent events
demonstrate the correctness of the belief) that systematic
attention to education was the best means of recovering and
maintaining their political integrity and power. Externally they
were weak and divided. Under the leadership of Prussian
statesmen they made this condition a stimulus to the development
of an extensive and thoroughly grounded system of public

This change in practice necessarily brought about a change in
theory. The individualistic theory receded into the background.
The state furnished not only the instrumentalities of public
education but also its goal. When the actual practice was such
that the school system, from the elementary grades through the
university faculties, supplied the patriotic citizen and soldier
and the future state official and administrator and furnished the
means for military, industrial, and political defense and
expansion, it was impossible for theory not to emphasize the aim
of social efficiency. And with the immense importance attached
to the nationalistic state, surrounded by other competing and
more or less hostile states, it was equally impossible to
interpret social efficiency in terms of a vague cosmopolitan
humanitarianism. Since the maintenance of a particular national
sovereignty required subordination of individuals to the superior
interests of the state both in military defense and in struggles
for international supremacy in commerce, social efficiency was
understood to imply a like subordination. The educational
process was taken to be one of disciplinary training rather than
of personal development. Since, however, the ideal of culture as
complete development of personality persisted, educational
philosophy attempted a reconciliation of the two ideas. The
reconciliation took the form of the conception of the "organic"
character of the state. The individual in his isolation is
nothing; only in and through an absorption of the aims and
meaning of organized institutions does he attain true
personality. What appears to be his subordination to political
authority and the demand for sacrifice of himself to the commands
of his superiors is in reality but making his own the objective
reason manifested in the state -- the only way in which he can
become truly rational. The notion of development which we have
seen to be characteristic of institutional idealism (as in the
Hegelian philosophy) was just such a deliberate effort to combine
the two ideas of complete realization of personality and
thoroughgoing "disciplinary" subordination to existing
institutions. The extent of the transformation of educational
philosophy which occurred in Germany in the generation occupied
by the struggle against Napoleon for national independence, may
be gathered from Kant, who well expresses the earlier
individual-cosmopolitan ideal. In his treatise on Pedagogics,
consisting of lectures given in the later years of the eighteenth
century, he defines education as the process by which man becomes
man. Mankind begins its history submerged in nature -- not as
Man who is a creature of reason, while nature furnishes only
instinct and appetite. Nature offers simply the germs which
education is to develop and perfect. The peculiarity of truly
human life is that man has to create himself by his own voluntary
efforts; he has to make himself a truly moral, rational, and free
being. This creative effort is carried on by the educational
activities of slow generations. Its acceleration depends upon
men consciously striving to educate their successors not for the
existing state of affairs but so as to make possible a future
better humanity. But there is the great difficulty. Each
generation is inclined to educate its young so as to get along in
the present world instead of with a view to the proper end of
education: the promotion of the best possible realization of
humanity as humanity. Parents educate their children so that
they may get on; princes educate their subjects as instruments of
their own purposes.

Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?
We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their
private capacity. "All culture begins with private men and
spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons
of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal
of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of
human nature to its end possible. Rulers are simply interested
in such training as will make their subjects better tools for
their own intentions." Even the subsidy by rulers of privately
conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers'
interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is
best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the
schools, wish to draw their plans. We have in this view an
express statement of the points characteristic of the eighteenth
century individualistic cosmopolitanism. The full development of
private personality is identified with the aims of humanity as a
whole and with the idea of progress. In addition we have an
explicit fear of the hampering influence of a state-conducted and
state-regulated education upon the attainment of these ideas.
But in less than two decades after this time, Kant's philosophic
successors, Fichte and Hegel, elaborated the idea that the chief
function of the state is educational; that in particular the
regeneration of Germany is to be accomplished by an education
carried on in the interests of the state, and that the private
individual is of necessity an egoistic, irrational being,
enslaved to his appetites and to circumstances unless he submits
voluntarily to the educative discipline of state institutions and
laws. In this spirit, Germany was the first country to undertake
a public, universal, and compulsory system of education extending
from the primary school through the university, and to submit to
jealous state regulation and supervision all private educational
enterprises. Two results should stand out from this brief
historical survey. The first is that such terms as the
individual and the social conceptions of education are quite
meaningless taken at large, or apart from their context. Plato
had the ideal of an education which should equate individual
realization and social coherency and stability. His situation
forced his ideal into the notion of a society organized in
stratified classes, losing the individual in the class. The
eighteenth century educational philosophy was highly
individualistic in form, but this form was inspired by a noble
and generous social ideal: that of a society organized to include
humanity, and providing for the indefinite perfectibility of
mankind. The idealistic philosophy of Germany in the early
nineteenth century endeavored again to equate the ideals of a
free and complete development of cultured personality with social
discipline and political subordination. It made the national
state an intermediary between the realization of private
personality on one side and of humanity on the other.
Consequently, it is equally possible to state its animating
principle with equal truth either in the classic terms of
"harmonious development of all the powers of personality" or in
the more recent terminology of "social efficiency." All this
reinforces the statement which opens this chapter: The conception
of education as a social process and function has no definite
meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind.
These considerations pave the way for our second conclusion. One
of the fundamental problems of education in and for a democratic
society is set by the conflict of a nationalistic and a wider
social aim. The earlier cosmopolitan and "humanitarian"
conception suffered both from vagueness and from lack of definite
organs of execution and agencies of administration. In Europe,
in the Continental states particularly, the new idea of the
importance of education for human welfare and progress was
captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose
social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim
of education and its national aim were identified, and the result
was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.

This confusion corresponds to the existing situation of human
intercourse. On the one hand, science, commerce, and art
transcend national boundaries. They are largely international in
quality and method. They involve interdependencies and
cooperation among the peoples inhabiting different countries. At
the same time, the idea of national sovereignty has never been as
accentuated in politics as it is at the present time. Each
nation lives in a state of suppressed hostility and incipient war
with its neighbors. Each is supposed to be the supreme judge of
its own interests, and it is assumed as matter of course that
each has interests which are exclusively its own. To question
this is to question the very idea of national sovereignty which
is assumed to be basic to political practice and political
science. This contradiction (for it is nothing less) between the
wider sphere of associated and mutually helpful social life and
the narrower sphere of exclusive and hence potentially hostile
pursuits and purposes, exacts of educational theory a clearer
conception of the meaning of "social" as a function and test of
education than has yet been attained. Is it possible for an
educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet
the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted,
constrained, and corrupted? Internally, the question has to face
the tendencies, due to present economic conditions, which split
society into classes some of which are made merely tools for the
higher culture of others. Externally, the question is concerned
with the reconciliation of national loyalty, of patriotism, with
superior devotion to the things which unite men in common ends,
irrespective of national political boundaries. Neither phase of
the problem can be worked out by merely negative means. It is
not enough to see to it that education is not actively used as an
instrument to make easier the exploitation of one class by
another. School facilities must be secured of such amplitude and
efficiency as will in fact and not simply in name discount the
effects of economic inequalities, and secure to all the wards of
the nation equality of equipment for their future careers.
Accomplishment of this end demands not only adequate
administrative provision of school facilities, and such
supplementation of family resources as will enable youth to take
advantage of them, but also such modification of traditional
ideals of culture, traditional subjects of study and traditional
methods of teaching and discipline as will retain all the youth
under educational influences until they are equipped to be
masters of their own economic and social careers. The ideal may
seem remote of execution, but the democratic ideal of education
is a farcical yet tragic delusion except as the ideal more and
more dominates our public system of education. The same
principle has application on the side of the considerations which
concern the relations of one nation to another. It is not enough
to teach the horrors of war and to avoid everything which would
stimulate international jealousy and animosity. The emphasis
must be put upon whatever binds people together in cooperative
human pursuits and results, apart from geographical limitations.
The secondary and provisional character of national sovereignty
in respect to the fuller, freer, and more fruitful association
and intercourse of all human beings with one another must be
instilled as a working disposition of mind. If these
applications seem to be remote from a consideration of the
philosophy of education, the impression shows that the meaning of
the idea of education previously developed has not been
adequately grasped. This conclusion is bound up with the very
idea of education as a freeing of individual capacity in a
progressive growth directed to social aims. Otherwise a
democratic criterion of education can only be inconsistently

Summary. Since education is a social process, and there are many
kinds of societies, a criterion for educational criticism and
construction implies a particular social ideal. The two points
selected by which to measure the worth of a form of social life
are the extent in which the interests of a group are shared by
all its members, and the fullness and freedom with which it
interacts with other groups. An undesirable society, in other
words, is one which internally and externally sets up barriers to
free intercourse and communication of experience. A society
which makes provision for participation in its good of all its
members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of
its institutions through interaction of the different forms of
associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must
have a type of education which gives individuals a personal
interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of
mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder.
Three typical historic philosophies of education were considered
from this point of view. The Platonic was found to have an ideal
formally quite similar to that stated, but which was compromised
in its working out by making a class rather than an individual
the social unit. The so-called individualism of the eighteenth-
century enlightenment was found to involve the notion of a
society as broad as humanity, of whose progress the individual
was to be the organ. But it lacked any agency for securing the
development of its ideal as was evidenced in its falling back
upon Nature. The institutional idealistic philosophies of the
nineteenth century supplied this lack by making the national
state the agency, but in so doing narrowed the conception of the
social aim to those who were members of the same political unit,
and reintroduced the idea of the subordination of the individual
to the institution. 1 There is a much neglected strain in
Rousseau tending intellectually in this direction. He opposed
the existing state of affairs on the ground that it formed
neither the citizen nor the man. Under existing conditions, he
preferred to try for the latter rather than for the former. But
there are many sayings of his which point to the formation of the
citizen as ideally the higher, and which indicate that his own
endeavor, as embodied in the Emile, was simply the best makeshift
the corruption of the times permitted him to sketch.

Chapter Eight: Aims in Education

1. The Nature of an Aim.

The account of education given in our earlier chapters virtually
anticipated the results reached in a discussion of the purport of
education in a democratic community. For it assumed that the aim
of education is to enable individuals to continue their education
-- or that the object and reward of learning is continued
capacity for growth. Now this idea cannot be applied to all the
members of a society except where intercourse of man with man is
mutual, and except where there is adequate provision for the
reconstruction of social habits and institutions by means of wide
stimulation arising from equitably distributed interests. And
this means a democratic society. In our search for aims in
education, we are not concerned, therefore, with finding an end
outside of the educative process to which education is
subordinate. Our whole conception forbids. We are rather
concerned with the contrast which exists when aims belong within
the process in which they operate and when they are set up from

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