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Democracy and Education by John Dewey

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without. And the latter state of affairs must obtain when social
relationships are not equitably balanced. For in that case, some
portions of the whole social group will find their aims
determined by an external dictation; their aims will not arise
from the free growth of their own experience, and their nominal
aims will be means to more ulterior ends of others rather than
truly their own.

Our first question is to define the nature of an aim so far as it
falls within an activity, instead of being furnished from
without. We approach the definition by a contrast of mere
results with ends. Any exhibition of energy has results. The
wind blows about the sands of the desert; the position of the
grains is changed. Here is a result, an effect, but not an end.
For there is nothing in the outcome which completes or fulfills
what went before it. There is mere spatial redistribution. One
state of affairs is just as good as any other. Consequently
there is no basis upon which to select an earlier state of
affairs as a beginning, a later as an end, and to consider what
intervenes as a process of transformation and realization.

Consider for example the activities of bees in contrast with the
changes in the sands when the wind blows them about. The results
of the bees' actions may be called ends not because they are
designed or consciously intended, but because they are true
terminations or completions of what has preceded. When the bees
gather pollen and make wax and build cells, each step prepares
the way for the next. When cells are built, the queen lays eggs
in them; when eggs are laid, they are sealed and bees brood them
and keep them at a temperature required to hatch them. When they
are hatched, bees feed the young till they can take care of
themselves. Now we are so familiar with such facts, that we are
apt to dismiss them on the ground that life and instinct are a
kind of miraculous thing anyway. Thus we fail to note what the
essential characteristic of the event is; namely, the
significance of the temporal place and order of each element; the
way each prior event leads into its successor while the successor
takes up what is furnished and utilizes it for some other stage,
until we arrive at the end, which, as it were, summarizes and
finishes off the process. Since aims relate always to results,
the first thing to look to when it is a question of aims, is
whether the work assigned possesses intrinsic continuity. Or is
it a mere serial aggregate of acts, first doing one thing and
then another? To talk about an educational aim when approximately
each act of a pupil is dictated by the teacher, when the only
order in the sequence of his acts is that which comes from the
assignment of lessons and the giving of directions by another, is
to talk nonsense. It is equally fatal to an aim to permit
capricious or discontinuous action in the name of spontaneous
self- expression. An aim implies an orderly and ordered
activity, one in which the order consists in the progressive
completing of a process. Given an activity having a time span
and cumulative growth within the time succession, an aim means
foresight in advance of the end or possible termination. If bees
anticipated the consequences of their activity, if they perceived
their end in imaginative foresight, they would have the primary
element in an aim. Hence it is nonsense to talk about the aim of
education--or any other undertaking--where conditions do not
permit of foresight of results, and do not stimulate a person to
look ahead to see what the outcome of a given activity is to be.
In the next place the aim as a foreseen end gives direction to
the activity; it is not an idle view of a mere spectator, but
influences the steps taken to reach the end. The foresight
functions in three ways. In the first place, it involves careful
observation of the given conditions to see what are the means
available for reaching the end, and to discover the hindrances in
the way. In the second place, it suggests the proper order or
sequence in the use of means. It facilitates an economical
selection and arrangement. In the third place, it makes choice
of alternatives possible. If we can predict the outcome of
acting this way or that, we can then compare the value of the two
courses of action; we can pass judgment upon their relative
desirability. If we know that stagnant water breeds mosquitoes
and that they are likely to carry disease, we can, disliking that
anticipated result, take steps to avert it. Since we do not
anticipate results as mere intellectual onlookers, but as persons
concerned in the outcome, we are partakers in the process which
produces the result. We intervene to bring about this result or

Of course these three points are closely connected with one
another. We can definitely foresee results only as we make
careful scrutiny of present conditions, and the importance of the
outcome supplies the motive for observations. The more adequate
our observations, the more varied is the scene of conditions and
obstructions that presents itself, and the more numerous are the
alternatives between which choice may be made. In turn, the more
numerous the recognized possibilities of the situation, or
alternatives of action, the more meaning does the chosen activity
possess, and the more flexibly controllable is it. Where only a
single outcome has been thought of, the mind has nothing else to
think of; the meaning attaching to the act is limited. One only
steams ahead toward the mark. Sometimes such a narrow course may
be effective. But if unexpected difficulties offer themselves,
one has not as many resources at command as if he had chosen the
same line of action after a broader survey of the possibilities
of the field. He cannot make needed readjustments readily.

The net conclusion is that acting with an aim is all one with
acting intelligently. To foresee a terminus of an act is to have
a basis upon which to observe, to select, and to order objects
and our own capacities. To do these things means to have a mind
-- for mind is precisely intentional purposeful activity
controlled by perception of facts and their relationships to one
another. To have a mind to do a thing is to foresee a future
possibility; it is to have a plan for its accomplishment; it is
to note the means which make the plan capable of execution and
the obstructions in the way, -- or, if it is really a mind to do
the thing and not a vague aspiration -- it is to have a plan
which takes account of resources and difficulties. Mind is
capacity to refer present conditions to future results, and
future consequences to present conditions. And these traits are
just what is meant by having an aim or a purpose. A man is
stupid or blind or unintelligent -- lacking in mind -- just in
the degree in which in any activity he does not know what he is
about, namely, the probable consequences of his acts. A man is
imperfectly intelligent when he contents himself with looser
guesses about the outcome than is needful, just taking a chance
with his luck, or when he forms plans apart from study of the
actual conditions, including his own capacities. Such relative
absence of mind means to make our feelings the measure of what is
to happen. To be intelligent we must "stop, look, listen" in
making the plan of an activity.

To identify acting with an aim and intelligent activity is enough
to show its value -- its function in experience. We are only too
given to making an entity out of the abstract noun
"consciousness." We forget that it comes from the adjective
"conscious." To be conscious is to be aware of what we are about;
conscious signifies the deliberate, observant, planning traits of
activity. Consciousness is nothing which we have which gazes
idly on the scene around one or which has impressions made upon
it by physical things; it is a name for the purposeful quality of
an activity, for the fact that it is directed by an aim. Put the
other way about, to have an aim is to act with meaning, not like
an automatic machine; it is to mean to do something and to
perceive the meaning of things in the light of that intent.

2. The Criteria of Good Aims. We may apply the results of our
discussion to a consideration of the criteria involved in a
correct establishing of aims. (1) The aim set up must be an
outgrowth of existing conditions. It must be based upon a
consideration of what is already going on; upon the resources and
difficulties of the situation. Theories about the proper end of
our activities -- educational and moral theories -- often violate
this principle. They assume ends lying outside our activities;
ends foreign to the concrete makeup of the situation; ends which
issue from some outside source. Then the problem is to bring our
activities to bear upon the realization of these externally
supplied ends. They are something for which we ought to act. In
any case such "aims" limit intelligence; they are not the
expression of mind in foresight, observation, and choice of the
better among alternative possibilities. They limit intelligence
because, given ready-made, they must be imposed by some authority
external to intelligence, leaving to the latter nothing but a
mechanical choice of means.

(2) We have spoken as if aims could be completely formed prior to
the attempt to realize them. This impression must now be
qualified. The aim as it first emerges is a mere tentative
sketch. The act of striving to realize it tests its worth. If
it suffices to direct activity successfully, nothing more is
required, since its whole function is to set a mark in advance;
and at times a mere hint may suffice. But usually -- at least in
complicated situations -- acting upon it brings to light
conditions which had been overlooked. This calls for revision of
the original aim; it has to be added to and subtracted from. An
aim must, then, be flexible; it must be capable of alteration to
meet circumstances. An end established externally to the process
of action is always rigid. Being inserted or imposed from
without, it is not supposed to have a working relationship to the
concrete conditions of the situation. What happens in the course
of action neither confirms, refutes, nor alters it. Such an end
can only be insisted upon. The failure that results from its
lack of adaptation is attributed simply to the perverseness of
conditions, not to the fact that the end is not reasonable under
the circumstances. The value of a legitimate aim, on the
contrary, lies in the fact that we can use it to change
conditions. It is a method for dealing with conditions so as to
effect desirable alterations in them. A farmer who should
passively accept things just as he finds them would make as great
a mistake as he who framed his plans in complete disregard of
what soil, climate, etc., permit. One of the evils of an
abstract or remote external aim in education is that its very
inapplicability in practice is likely to react into a haphazard
snatching at immediate conditions. A good aim surveys the
present state of experience of pupils, and forming a tentative
plan of treatment, keeps the plan constantly in view and yet
modifies it as conditions develop. The aim, in short, is
experimental, and hence constantly growing as it is tested in

(3) The aim must always represent a freeing of activities. The
term end in view is suggestive, for it puts before the mind the
termination or conclusion of some process. The only way in which
we can define an activity is by putting before ourselves the
objects in which it terminates -- as one's aim in shooting is the
target. But we must remember that the object is only a mark or
sign by which the mind specifies the activity one desires to
carry out. Strictly speaking, not the target but hitting the
target is the end in view; one takes aim by means of the target,
but also by the sight on the gun. The different objects which
are thought of are means of directing the activity. Thus one
aims at, say, a rabbit; what he wants is to shoot straight: a
certain kind of activity. Or, if it is the rabbit he wants, it
is not rabbit apart from his activity, but as a factor in
activity; he wants to eat the rabbit, or to show it as evidence
of his marksmanship -- he wants to do something with it. The
doing with the thing, not the thing in isolation, is his end.
The object is but a phase of the active end, -- continuing the
activity successfully. This is what is meant by the phrase, used
above, "freeing activity."

In contrast with fulfilling some process in order that activity
may go on, stands the static character of an end which is imposed
from without the activity. It is always conceived of as fixed;
it is something to be attained and possessed. When one has such
a notion, activity is a mere unavoidable means to something else;
it is not significant or important on its own account. As
compared with the end it is but a necessary evil; something which
must be gone through before one can reach the object which is
alone worth while. In other words, the external idea of the aim
leads to a separation of means from end, while an end which grows
up within an activity as plan for its direction is always both
ends and means, the distinction being only one of convenience.
Every means is a temporary end until we have attained it. Every
end becomes a means of carrying activity further as soon as it is
achieved. We call it end when it marks off the future direction
of the activity in which we are engaged; means when it marks off
the present direction. Every divorce of end from means
diminishes by that much the significance of the activity and
tends to reduce it to a drudgery from which one would escape if
he could. A farmer has to use plants and animals to carry on his
farming activities. It certainly makes a great difference to his
life whether he is fond of them, or whether he regards them
merely as means which he has to employ to get something else in
which alone he is interested. In the former case, his entire
course of activity is significant; each phase of it has its own
value. He has the experience of realizing his end at every
stage; the postponed aim, or end in view, being merely a sight
ahead by which to keep his activity going fully and freely. For
if he does not look ahead, he is more likely to find himself
blocked. The aim is as definitely a means of action as is any
other portion of an activity.

3. Applications in Education. There is nothing peculiar about
educational aims. They are just like aims in any directed
occupation. The educator, like the farmer, has certain things to
do, certain resources with which to do, and certain obstacles
with which to contend. The conditions with which the farmer
deals, whether as obstacles or resources, have their own
structure and operation independently of any purpose of his.
Seeds sprout, rain falls, the sun shines, insects devour, blight
comes, the seasons change. His aim is simply to utilize these
various conditions; to make his activities and their energies
work together, instead of against one another. It would be
absurd if the farmer set up a purpose of farming, without any
reference to these conditions of soil, climate, characteristic of
plant growth, etc. His purpose is simply a foresight of the
consequences of his energies connected with those of the things
about him, a foresight used to direct his movements from day to
day. Foresight of possible consequences leads to more careful
and extensive observation of the nature and performances of the
things he had to do with, and to laying out a plan -- that is, of
a certain order in the acts to be performed.

It is the same with the educator, whether parent or teacher. It
is as absurd for the latter to set up his "own" aims as the
proper objects of the growth of the children as it would be for
the farmer to set up an ideal of farming irrespective of
conditions. Aims mean acceptance of responsibility for the
observations, anticipations, and arrangements required in
carrying on a function -- whether farming or educating. Any aim
is of value so far as it assists observation, choice, and
planning in carrying on activity from moment to moment and hour
to hour; if it gets in the way of the individual's own common
sense (as it will surely do if imposed from without or accepted
on authority) it does harm.

And it is well to remind ourselves that education as such has no
aims. Only persons, parents, and teachers, etc., have aims, not
an abstract idea like education. And consequently their purposes
are indefinitely varied, differing with different children,
changing as children grow and with the growth of experience on
the part of the one who teaches. Even the most valid aims which
can be put in words will, as words, do more harm than good unless
one recognizes that they are not aims, but rather suggestions to
educators as to how to observe, how to look ahead, and how to
choose in liberating and directing the energies of the concrete
situations in which they find themselves. As a recent writer has
said: "To lead this boy to read Scott's novels instead of old
Sleuth's stories; to teach this girl to sew; to root out the
habit of bullying from John's make-up; to prepare this class to
study medicine, -- these are samples of the millions of aims we
have actually before us in the concrete work of education."
Bearing these qualifications in mind, we shall proceed to state
some of the characteristics found in all good educational aims.
(1) An educational aim must be founded upon the intrinsic
activities and needs (including original instincts and acquired
habits) of the given individual to be educated. The tendency of
such an aim as preparation is, as we have seen, to omit existing
powers, and find the aim in some remote accomplishment or
responsibility. In general, there is a disposition to take
considerations which are dear to the hearts of adults and set
them up as ends irrespective of the capacities of those educated.
There is also an inclination to propound aims which are so
uniform as to neglect the specific powers and requirements of an
individual, forgetting that all learning is something which
happens to an individual at a given time and place. The larger
range of perception of the adult is of great value in observing
the abilities and weaknesses of the young, in deciding what they
may amount to. Thus the artistic capacities of the adult exhibit
what certain tendencies of the child are capable of; if we did
not have the adult achievements we should be without assurance as
to the significance of the drawing, reproducing, modeling,
coloring activities of childhood. So if it were not for adult
language, we should not be able to see the import of the babbling
impulses of infancy. But it is one thing to use adult
accomplishments as a context in which to place and survey the
doings of childhood and youth; it is quite another to set them up
as a fixed aim without regard to the concrete activities of those

(2) An aim must be capable of translation into a method of
cooperating with the activities of those undergoing instruction.
It must suggest the kind of environment needed to liberate and to
organize their capacities. Unless it lends itself to the
construction of specific procedures, and unless these procedures
test, correct, and amplify the aim, the latter is worthless.
Instead of helping the specific task of teaching, it prevents the
use of ordinary judgment in observing and sizing up the
situation. It operates to exclude recognition of everything
except what squares up with the fixed end in view. Every rigid
aim just because it is rigidly given seems to render it
unnecessary to give careful attention to concrete conditions.
Since it must apply anyhow, what is the use of noting details
which do not count?

The vice of externally imposed ends has deep roots. Teachers
receive them from superior authorities; these authorities accept
them from what is current in the community. The teachers impose
them upon children. As a first consequence, the intelligence of
the teacher is not free; it is confined to receiving the aims
laid down from above. Too rarely is the individual teacher so
free from the dictation of authoritative supervisor, textbook on
methods, prescribed course of study, etc., that he can let his
mind come to close quarters with the pupil's mind and the subject
matter. This distrust of the teacher's experience is then
reflected in lack of confidence in the responses of pupils. The
latter receive their aims through a double or treble external
imposition, and are constantly confused by the conflict between
the aims which are natural to their own experience at the time
and those in which they are taught to acquiesce. Until the
democratic criterion of the intrinsic significance of every
growing experience is recognized, we shall be intellectually
confused by the demand for adaptation to external aims.

(3) Educators have to be on their guard against ends that are
alleged to be general and ultimate. Every activity, however
specific, is, of course, general in its ramified connections, for
it leads out indefinitely into other things. So far as a general
idea makes us more alive to these connections, it cannot be too
general. But "general" also means "abstract," or detached from
all specific context. And such abstractness means remoteness,
and throws us back, once more, upon teaching and learning as mere
means of getting ready for an end disconnected from the means.
That education is literally and all the time its own reward means
that no alleged study or discipline is educative unless it is
worth while in its own immediate having. A truly general aim
broadens the outlook; it stimulates one to take more consequences
(connections) into account. This means a wider and more flexible
observation of means. The more interacting forces, for example,
the farmer takes into account, the more varied will be his
immediate resources. He will see a greater number of possible
starting places, and a greater number of ways of getting at what
he wants to do. The fuller one's conception of possible future
achievements, the less his present activity is tied down to a
small number of alternatives. If one knew enough, one could
start almost anywhere and sustain his activities continuously and

Understanding then the term general or comprehensive aim simply
in the sense of a broad survey of the field of present
activities, we shall take up some of the larger ends which have
currency in the educational theories of the day, and consider
what light they throw upon the immediate concrete and diversified
aims which are always the educator's real concern. We premise
(as indeed immediately follows from what has been said) that
there is no need of making a choice among them or regarding them
as competitors. When we come to act in a tangible way we have to
select or choose a particular act at a particular time, but any
number of comprehensive ends may exist without competition, since
they mean simply different ways of looking at the same scene.
One cannot climb a number of different mountains simultaneously,
but the views had when different mountains are ascended
supplement one another: they do not set up incompatible,
competing worlds. Or, putting the matter in a slightly different
way, one statement of an end may suggest certain questions and
observations, and another statement another set of questions,
calling for other observations. Then the more general ends we
have, the better. One statement will emphasize what another
slurs over. What a plurality of hypotheses does for the
scientific investigator, a plurality of stated aims may do for
the instructor.

Summary. An aim denotes the result of any natural process
brought to consciousness and made a factor in determining present
observation and choice of ways of acting. It signifies that an
activity has become intelligent. Specifically it means foresight
of the alternative consequences attendant upon acting in a given
situation in different ways, and the use of what is anticipated
to direct observation and experiment. A true aim is thus opposed
at every point to an aim which is imposed upon a process of
action from without. The latter is fixed and rigid; it is not a
stimulus to intelligence in the given situation, but is an
externally dictated order to do such and such things. Instead of
connecting directly with present activities, it is remote,
divorced from the means by which it is to be reached. Instead of
suggesting a freer and better balanced activity, it is a limit
set to activity. In education, the currency of these externally
imposed aims is responsible for the emphasis put upon the notion
of preparation for a remote future and for rendering the work of
both teacher and pupil mechanical and slavish.

Chapter Nine: Natural Development and Social Efficiency as Aims

1. Nature as Supplying the Aim. We have just pointed out the
futility of trying to establish the aim of education--some one
final aim which subordinates all others to itself. We have
indicated that since general aims are but prospective points of
view from which to survey the existing conditions and estimate
their possibilities, we might have any number of them, all
consistent with one another. As matter of fact, a large number
have been stated at different times, all having great local
value. For the statement of aim is a matter of emphasis at a
given time. And we do not emphasize things which do not require
emphasis--that is, such things as are taking care of themselves
fairly well. We tend rather to frame our statement on the basis
of the defects and needs of the contemporary situation; we take
for granted, without explicit statement which would be of no use,
whatever is right or approximately so. We frame our explicit
aims in terms of some alteration to be brought about. It is,
then, DO paradox requiring explanation that a given epoch or
generation tends to emphasize in its conscious projections just
the things which it has least of in actual fact. A time of
domination by authority will call out as response the
desirability of great individual freedom; one of disorganized
individual activities the need of social control as an
educational aim.

The actual and implicit practice and the conscious or stated aim
thus balance each other. At different times such aims as
complete living, better methods of language study, substitution
of things for words, social efficiency, personal culture, social
service, complete development of personality, encyclopedic
knowledge, discipline, a esthetic contemplation, utility, etc.,
have served. The following discussion takes up three statements
of recent influence; certain others have been incidentally
discussed in the previous chapters, and others will be considered
later in a discussion of knowledge and of the values of studies.
We begin with a consideration that education is a process of
development in accordance with nature, taking Rousseau's
statement, which opposed natural to social (See ante, p. 91);
and then pass over to the antithetical conception of social
efficiency, which often opposes social to natural.

(1) Educational reformers disgusted with the conventionality and
artificiality of the scholastic methods they find about them are
prone to resort to nature as a standard. Nature is supposed to
furnish the law and the end of development; ours it is to follow
and conform to her ways. The positive value of this conception
lies in the forcible way in which it calls attention to the
wrongness of aims which do not have regard to the natural
endowment of those educated. Its weakness is the ease with which
natural in the sense of normal is confused with the physical.
The constructive use of intelligence in foresight, and
contriving, is then discounted; we are just to get out of the way
and allow nature to do the work. Since no one has stated in the
doctrine both its truth and falsity better than Rousseau, we
shall turn to him.

"Education," he says, "we receive from three sources--Nature,
men, and things. The spontaneous development of our organs and
capacities constitutes the education of Nature. The use to which
we are taught to put this development constitutes that education
given us by Men. The acquirement of personal experience from
surrounding objects constitutes that of things. Only when these
three kinds of education are consonant and make for the same end,
does a man tend towards his true goal. If we are asked what is
this end, the answer is that of Nature. For since the
concurrence of the three kinds of education is necessary to their
completeness, the kind which is entirely independent of our
control must necessarily regulate us in determining the other
two." Then he defines Nature to mean the capacities and
dispositions which are inborn, "as they exist prior to the
modification due to constraining habits and the influence of the
opinion of others."

The wording of Rousseau will repay careful study. It contains as
fundamental truths as have been uttered about education in
conjunction with a curious twist. It would be impossible to say
better what is said in the first sentences. The three factors of
educative development are (a) the native structure of our bodily
organs and their functional activities; (b) the uses to which the
activities of these organs are put under the influence of other
persons; (c) their direct interaction with the environment. This
statement certainly covers the ground. His other two
propositions are equally sound; namely, (a) that only when the
three factors of education are consonant and cooperative does
adequate development of the individual occur, and (b) that the
native activities of the organs, being original, are basic in
conceiving consonance. But it requires but little reading
between the lines, supplemented by other statements of Rousseau,
to perceive that instead of regarding these three things as
factors which must work together to some extent in order that any
one of them may proceed educatively, he regards them as separate
and independent operations. Especially does he believe that
there is an independent and, as he says, "spontaneous"
development of the native organs and faculties. He thinks that
this development can go on irrespective of the use to which they
are put. And it is to this separate development that education
coming from social contact is to be subordinated. Now there is
an immense difference between a use of native activities in
accord with those activities themselves -- as distinct from
forcing them and perverting them -- and supposing that they have
a normal development apart from any use, which development
furnishes the standard and norm of all learning by use. To recur
to our previous illustration, the process of acquiring language
is a practically perfect model of proper educative growth. The
start is from native activities of the vocal apparatus, organs of
hearing, etc. But it is absurd to suppose that these have an
independent growth of their own, which left to itself would
evolve a perfect speech. Taken literally, Rousseau's principle
would mean that adults should accept and repeat the babblings and
noises of children not merely as the beginnings of the
development of articulate speech -- which they are -- but as
furnishing language itself -- the standard for all teaching of

The point may be summarized by saying that Rousseau was right,
introducing a much-needed reform into education, in holding that
the structure and activities of the organs furnish the conditions
of all teaching of the use of the organs; but profoundly wrong in
intimating that they supply not only the conditions but also the
ends of their development. As matter of fact, the native
activities develop, in contrast with random and capricious
exercise, through the uses to which they are put. And the office
of the social medium is, as we have seen, to direct growth
through putting powers to the best possible use. The instinctive
activities may be called, metaphorically, spontaneous, in the
sense that the organs give a strong bias for a certain sort of
operation, -- a bias so strong that we cannot go contrary to it,
though by trying to go contrary we may pervert, stunt, and
corrupt them. But the notion of a spontaneous normal development
of these activities is pure mythology. The natural, or native,
powers furnish the initiating and limiting forces in all
education; they do not furnish its ends or aims. There is no
learning except from a beginning in unlearned powers, but
learning is not a matter of the spontaneous overflow of the
unlearned powers. Rousseau's contrary opinion is doubtless due
to the fact that he identified God with Nature; to him the
original powers are wholly good, coming directly from a wise and
good creator. To paraphrase the old saying about the country and
the town, God made the original human organs and faculties, man
makes the uses to which they are put. Consequently the
development of the former furnishes the standard to which the
latter must be subordinated. When men attempt to determine the
uses to which the original activities shall be put, they
interfere with a divine plan. The interference by social
arrangements with Nature, God's work, is the primary source of
corruption in individuals.

Rousseau's passionate assertion of the intrinsic goodness of all
natural tendencies was a reaction against the prevalent notion of
the total depravity of innate human nature, and has had a
powerful influence in modifying the attitude towards children's
interests. But it is hardly necessary to say that primitive
impulses are of themselves neither good nor evil, but become one
or the other according to the objects for which they are
employed. That neglect, suppression, and premature forcing of
some instincts at the expense of others, are responsible for many
avoidable ills, there can be no doubt. But the moral is not to
leave them alone to follow their own "spontaneous development,"
but to provide an environment which shall organize them.

Returning to the elements of truth contained in Rousseau's
statements, we find that natural development, as an aim, enables
him to point the means of correcting many evils in current
practices, and to indicate a number of desirable specific aims.
(1) Natural development as an aim fixes attention upon the bodily
organs and the need of health and vigor. The aim of natural
development says to parents and teachers: Make health an aim;
normal development cannot be had without regard to the vigor of
the body--an obvious enough fact and yet one whose due
recognition in practice would almost automatically revolutionize
many of our educational practices. "Nature" is indeed a vague
and metaphorical term, but one thing that "Nature" may be said to
utter is that there are conditions of educational efficiency, and
that till we have learned what these conditions are and have
learned to make our practices accord with them, the noblest and
most ideal of our aims are doomed to suffer -- are verbal and
sentimental rather than efficacious.

(2) The aim of natural development translates into the aim of
respect for physical mobility. In Rousseau's words: "Children
are always in motion; a sedentary life is injurious." When he
says that "Nature's intention is to strengthen the body before
exercising the mind" he hardly states the fact fairly. But if he
had said that nature's "intention" (to adopt his poetical form of
speech) is to develop the mind especially by exercise of the
muscles of the body he would have stated a positive fact. In
other words, the aim of following nature means, in the concrete,
regard for the actual part played by use of the bodily organs in
explorations, in handling of materials, in plays and games.
(3) The general aim translates into the aim of regard for
individual differences among children. Nobody can take the
principle of consideration of native powers into account without
being struck by the fact that these powers differ in different
individuals. The difference applies not merely to their
intensity, but even more to their quality and arrangement. As
Rouseau said: "Each individual is born with a distinctive
temperament. We indiscriminately employ children of different
bents on the same exercises; their education destroys the special
bent and leaves a dull uniformity. Therefore after we have
wasted our efforts in stunting the true gifts of nature we see
the short-lived and illusory brilliance we have substituted die
away, while the natural abilities we have crushed do not

Lastly, the aim of following nature means to note the origin, the
waxing, and waning, of preferences and interests. Capacities bud
and bloom irregularly; there is no even four-abreast development.
We must strike while the iron is hot. Especially precious are
the first dawnings of power. More than we imagine, the ways in
which the tendencies of early childhood are treated fix
fundamental dispositions and condition the turn taken by powers
that show themselves later. Educational concern with the early
years of life -- as distinct from inculcation of useful arts --
dates almost entirely from the time of the emphasis by Pestalozzi
and Froebel, following Rousseau, of natural principles of growth.
The irregularity of growth and its significance is indicated in
the following passage of a student of the growth of the nervous
system. "While growth continues, things bodily and mental are
lopsided, for growth is never general, but is accentuated now at
one spot, now at another. The methods which shall recognize in
the presence of these enormous differences of endowment the
dynamic values of natural inequalities of growth, and utilize
them, preferring irregularity to the rounding out gained by
pruning will most closely follow that which takes place in the
body and thus prove most effective." 1 Observation of natural
tendencies is difficult under conditions of restraint. They show
themselves most readily in a child's spontaneous sayings and
doings, -- that is, in those he engages in when not put at set
tasks and when not aware of being under observation. It does not
follow that these tendencies are all desirable because they are
natural; but it does follow that since they are there, they are
operative and must be taken account of. We must see to it that
the desirable ones have an environment which keeps them active,
and that their activity shall control the direction the others
take and thereby induce the disuse of the latter because they
lead to nothing. Many tendencies that trouble parents when they
appear are likely to be transitory, and sometimes too much direct
attention to them only fixes a child's attention upon them. At
all events, adults too easily assume their own habits and wishes
as standards, and regard all deviations of children's impulses as
evils to be eliminated. That artificiality against which the
conception of following nature is so largely a protest, is the
outcome of attempts to force children directly into the mold of
grown-up standards.

In conclusion, we note that the early history of the idea of
following nature combined two factors which had no inherent
connection with one another. Before the time of Rousseau
educational reformers had been inclined to urge the importance of
education by ascribing practically unlimited power to it. All
the differences between peoples and between classes and persons
among the same people were said to be due to differences of
training, of exercise, and practice. Originally, mind, reason,
understanding is, for all practical purposes, the same in all.
This essential identity of mind means the essential equality of
all and the possibility of bringing them all to the same level.
As a protest against this view, the doctrine of accord with
nature meant a much less formal and abstract view of mind and its
powers. It substituted specific instincts and impulses and
physiological capacities, differing from individual to individual
(just as they differ, as Rousseau pointed out, even in dogs of
the same litter), for abstract faculties of discernment, memory,
and generalization. Upon this side, the doctrine of educative
accord with nature has been reinforced by the development of
modern biology, physiology, and psychology. It means, in effect,
that great as is the significance of nurture, of modification,
and transformation through direct educational effort, nature, or
unlearned capacities, affords the foundation and ultimate
resources for such nurture. On the other hand, the doctrine of
following nature was a political dogma. It meant a rebellion
against existing social institutions, customs, and ideals (See
ante, p. 91). Rousseau's statement that everything is good as
it comes from the hands of the Creator has its signification only
in its contrast with the concluding part of the same sentence:
"Everything degenerates in the hands of man." And again he says:
"Natural man has an absolute value; he is a numerical unit, a
complete integer and has no relation save to himself and to his
fellow man. Civilized man is only a relative unit, the numerator
of a fraction whose value depends upon its dominator, its
relation to the integral body of society. Good political
institutions are those which make a man unnatural." It is upon
this conception of the artificial and harmful character of
organized social life as it now exists 2 that he rested the
notion that nature not merely furnishes prime forces which
initiate growth but also its plan and goal. That evil
institutions and customs work almost automatically to give a
wrong education which the most careful schooling cannot offset is
true enough; but the conclusion is not to education apart from
the environment, but to provide an environment in which native
powers will be put to better uses.

2. Social Efficiency as Aim. A conception which made nature
supply the end of a true education and society the end of an evil
one, could hardly fail to call out a protest. The opposing
emphasis took the form of a doctrine that the business of
education is to supply precisely what nature fails to secure;
namely, habituation of an individual to social control;
subordination of natural powers to social rules. It is not
surprising to find that the value in the idea of social
efficiency resides largely in its protest against the points at
which the doctrine of natural development went astray; while its
misuse comes when it is employed to slur over the truth in that
conception. It is a fact that we must look to the activities and
achievements of associated life to find what the development of
power -- that is to say, efficiency -- means. The error is in
implying that we must adopt measures of subordination rather than
of utilization to secure efficiency. The doctrine is rendered
adequate when we recognize that social efficiency is attained not
by negative constraint but by positive use of native
individual capacities in occupations having a social meaning.
(1) Translated into specific aims, social efficiency indicates
the importance of industrial competency. Persons cannot live
without means of subsistence; the ways in which these means are
employed and consumed have a profound influence upon all the
relationships of persons to one another. If an individual is not
able to earn his own living and that of the children dependent
upon him, he is a drag or parasite upon the activities of others.
He misses for himself one of the most educative experiences of
life. If he is not trained in the right use of the products of
industry, there is grave danger that he may deprave himself and
injure others in his possession of wealth. No scheme of
education can afford to neglect such basic considerations. Yet
in the name of higher and more spiritual ideals, the arrangements
for higher education have often not only neglected them, but
looked at them with scorn as beneath the level of educative
concern. With the change from an oligarchical to a democratic
society, it is natural that the significance of an education
which should have as a result ability to make one's way
economically in the world, and to manage economic resources
usefully instead of for mere display and luxury, should receive

There is, however, grave danger that in insisting upon this end,
existing economic conditions and standards will be accepted as
final. A democratic criterion requires us to develop capacity to
the point of competency to choose and make its own career. This
principle is violated when the attempt is made to fit individuals
in advance for definite industrial callings, selected not on the
basis of trained original capacities, but on that of the wealth
or social status of parents. As a matter of fact, industry at
the present time undergoes rapid and abrupt changes through the
evolution of new inventions. New industries spring up, and old
ones are revolutionized. Consequently an attempt to train for
too specific a mode of efficiency defeats its own purpose. When
the occupation changes its methods, such individuals are left
behind with even less ability to readjust themselves than if they
had a less definite training. But, most of all, the present
industrial constitution of society is, like every society which
has ever existed, full of inequities. It is the aim of
progressive education to take part in correcting unfair privilege
and unfair deprivation, not to perpetuate them. Wherever social
control means subordination of individual activities to class
authority, there is danger that industrial education will be
dominated by acceptance of the status quo. Differences of
economic opportunity then dictate what the future callings of
individuals are to be. We have an unconscious revival of the
defects of the Platonic scheme (ante, p. 89) without its
enlightened method of selection.

(2) Civic efficiency, or good citizenship. It is, of course,
arbitrary to separate industrial competency from capacity in good
citizenship. But the latter term may be used to indicate a
number of qualifications which are vaguer than vocational
ability. These traits run from whatever make an individual a
more agreeable companion to citizenship in the political sense:
it denotes ability to judge men and measures wisely and to take a
determining part in making as well as obeying laws. The aim of
civic efficiency has at least the merit of protecting us from the
notion of a training of mental power at large. It calls
attention to the fact that power must be relative to doing
something, and to the fact that the things which most need to be
done are things which involve one's relationships with others.

Here again we have to be on guard against understanding the aim
too narrowly. An over-definite interpretation would at certain
periods have excluded scientific discoveries, in spite of the
fact that in the last analysis security of social progress
depends upon them. For scientific men would have been thought to
be mere theoretical dreamers, totally lacking in social
efficiency. It must be borne in mind that ultimately social
efficiency means neither more nor less than capacity to share in
a give and take of experience. It covers all that makes one's
own experience more worth while to others, and all that enables
one to participate more richly in the worthwhile experiences of
others. Ability to produce and to enjoy art, capacity for
recreation, the significant utilization of leisure, are more
important elements in it than elements conventionally associated
oftentimes with citizenship. In the broadest sense, social
efficiency is nothing less than that socialization of mind which
is actively concerned in making experiences more communicable; in
breaking down the barriers of social stratification which make
individuals impervious to the interests of others. When social
efficiency is confined to the service rendered by overt acts, its
chief constituent (because its only guarantee) is omitted, --
intelligent sympathy or good will. For sympathy as a desirable
quality is something more than mere feeling; it is a cultivated
imagination for what men have in common and a rebellion at
whatever unnecessarily divides them. What is sometimes called a
benevolent interest in others may be but an unwitting mask for an
attempt to dictate to them what their good shall be, instead of
an endeavor to free them so that they may seek and find the good
of their own choice. Social efficiency, even social service, are
hard and metallic things when severed from an active
acknowledgment of the diversity of goods which life may afford to
different persons, and from faith in the social utility of
encouraging every individual to make his own choice intelligent.

3. Culture as Aim. Whether or not social efficiency is an aim
which is consistent with culture turns upon these considerations.
Culture means at least something cultivated, something ripened;
it is opposed to the raw and crude. When the "natural" is
identified with this rawness, culture is opposed to what is
called natural development. Culture is also something personal;
it is cultivation with respect to appreciation of ideas and art
and broad human interests. When efficiency is identified with a
narrow range of acts, instead of with the spirit and meaning of
activity, culture is opposed to efficiency. Whether called
culture or complete development of personality, the outcome is
identical with the true meaning of social efficiency whenever
attention is given to what is unique in an individual--and he
would not be an individual if there were not something
incommensurable about him. Its opposite is the mediocre, the
average. Whenever distinctive quality is developed, distinction
of personality results, and with it greater promise for a social
service which goes beyond the supply in quantity of material
commodities. For how can there be a society really worth serving
unless it is constituted of individuals of significant personal

The fact is that the opposition of high worth of personality to
social efficiency is a product of a feudally organized society
with its rigid division of inferior and superior. The latter are
supposed to have time and opportunity to develop themselves as
human beings; the former are confined to providing external
products. When social efficiency as measured by product or
output is urged as an ideal in a would-be democratic society, it
means that the depreciatory estimate of the masses characteristic
of an aristocratic community is accepted and carried over. But
if democracy has a moral and ideal meaning, it is that a social
return be demanded from all and that opportunity for development
of distinctive capacities be afforded all. The separation of the
two aims in education is fatal to democracy; the adoption of the
narrower meaning of efficiency deprives it of its essential

The aim of efficiency (like any educational aim) must be included
within the process of experience. When it is measured by
tangible external products, and not by the achieving of a
distinctively valuable experience, it becomes materialistic.
Results in the way of commodities which may be the outgrowth of
an efficient personality are, in the strictest sense, by-products
of education: by-products which are inevitable and important, but
nevertheless by-products. To set up an external aim strengthens
by reaction the false conception of culture which identifies it
with something purely "inner." And the idea of perfecting an
"inner" personality is a sure sign of social divisions. What is
called inner is simply that which does not connect with
others -- which is not capable of free and full communication.
What is termed spiritual culture has usually been futile, with
something rotten about it, just because it has been conceived as
a thing which a man might have internally -- and therefore
exclusively. What one is as a person is what one is as
associated with others, in a free give and take of intercourse.
This transcends both the efficiency which consists in supplying
products to others and the culture which is an exclusive
refinement and polish.

Any individual has missed his calling, farmer, physician,
teacher, student, who does not find that the accomplishments of
results of value to others is an accompaniment of a process of
experience inherently worth while. Why then should it be thought
that one must take his choice between sacrificing himself to
doing useful things for others, or sacrificing them to pursuit of
his own exclusive ends, whether the saving of his own soul or the
building of an inner spiritual life and personality? What happens
is that since neither of these things is persistently possible,
we get a compromise and an alternation. One tries each course by
turns. There is no greater tragedy than that so much of the
professedly spiritual and religious thought of the world has
emphasized the two ideals of self-sacrifice and spiritual
self-perfecting instead of throwing its weight against this
dualism of life. The dualism is too deeply established to be
easily overthrown; for that reason, it is the particular task of
education at the present time to struggle in behalf of an aim in
which social efficiency and personal culture are synonyms instead
of antagonists.

Summary. General or comprehensive aims are points of view for
surveying the specific problems of education. Consequently it is
a test of the value of the manner in which any large end is
stated to see if it will translate readily and consistently into
the procedures which are suggested by another. We have applied
this test to three general aims: Development according to nature,
social efficiency, and culture or personal mental enrichment. In
each case we have seen that the aims when partially stated come
into conflict with each other. The partial statement of natural
development takes the primitive powers in an alleged spontaneous
development as the end-all. From this point of view training
which renders them useful to others is an abnormal constraint;
one which profoundly modifies them through deliberate nurture is
corrupting. But when we recognize that natural activities mean
native activities which develop only through the uses in which
they are nurtured, the conflict disappears. Similarly a social
efficiency which is defined in terms of rendering external
service to others is of necessity opposed to the aim of enriching
the meaning of experience, while a culture which is taken to
consist in an internal refinement of a mind is opposed to a
socialized disposition. But social efficiency as an educational
purpose should mean cultivation of power to join freely and fully
in shared or common activities. This is impossible without
culture, while it brings a reward in culture, because one cannot
share in intercourse with others without learning -- without
getting a broader point of view and perceiving things of which
one would otherwise be ignorant. And there is perhaps no better
definition of culture than that it is the capacity for constantly
expanding the range and accuracy of one's perception of

1 Donaldson, Growth of Brain, p. 356.

2 We must not forget that Rousseau had the idea of a radically
different sort of society, a fraternal society whose end should
be identical with the good of all its members, which he thought
to be as much better than existing states as these are worse than
the state of nature.

Chapter Ten: Interest and Discipline

1. The Meaning of the Terms. We have already noticed the
difference in the attitude of a spectator and of an agent or
participant. The former is indifferent to what is going on; one
result is just as good as another, since each is just something
to look at. The latter is bound up with what is going on; its
outcome makes a difference to him. His fortunes are more or less
at stake in the issue of events. Consequently he does whatever
he can to influence the direction present occurrences take. One
is like a man in a prison cell watching the rain out of the
window; it is all the same to him. The other is like a man who
has planned an outing for the next day which continuing rain will
frustrate. He cannot, to be sure, by his present reactions
affect to-morrow's weather, but he may take some steps which will
influence future happenings, if only to postpone the proposed
picnic. If a man sees a carriage coming which may run over him,
if he cannot stop its movement, he can at least get out of the
way if he foresees the consequence in time. In many instances,
he can intervene even more directly. The attitude of a
participant in the course of affairs is thus a double one: there
is solicitude, anxiety concerning future consequences, and a
tendency to act to assure better, and avert worse, consequences.
There are words which denote this attitude: concern, interest.
These words suggest that a person is bound up with the
possibilities inhering in objects; that he is accordingly on the
lookout for what they are likely to do to him; and that, on the
basis of his expectation or foresight, he is eager to act so as
to give things one turn rather than another. Interest and aims,
concern and purpose, are necessarily connected. Such words as
aim, intent, end, emphasize the results which are wanted and
striven for; they take for granted the personal attitude of
solicitude and attentive eagerness. Such words as interest,
affection, concern, motivation, emphasize the bearing of what is
foreseen upon the individual's fortunes, and his active desire to
act to secure a possible result. They take for granted the
objective changes. But the difference is but one of emphasis;
the meaning that is shaded in one set of words is illuminated in
the other. What is anticipated is objective and impersonal;
to-morrow's rain; the possibility of being run over. But for an
active being, a being who partakes of the consequences instead of
standing aloof from them, there is at the same time a personal
response. The difference imaginatively foreseen makes a present
difference, which finds expression in solicitude and effort.
While such words as affection, concern, and motive indicate an
attitude of personal preference, they are always attitudes toward
objects -- toward what is foreseen. We may call the phase of
objective foresight intellectual, and the phase of personal
concern emotional and volitional, but there is no separation in
the facts of the situation.

Such a separation could exist only if the personal attitudes ran
their course in a world by themselves. But they are always
responses to what is going on in the situation of which they are
a part, and their successful or unsuccessful expression depends
upon their interaction with other changes. Life activities
flourish and fail only in connection with changes of the
environment. They are literally bound up with these changes; our
desires, emotions, and affections are but various ways in which
our doings are tied up with the doings of things and persons
about us. Instead of marking a purely personal or subjective
realm, separated from the objective and impersonal, they indicate
the non-existence of such a separate world. They afford
convincing evidence that changes in things are not alien to the
activities of a self, and that the career and welfare of the self
are bound up with the movement of persons and things. Interest,
concern, mean that self and world are engaged with each other in
a developing situation.

The word interest, in its ordinary usage, expresses (i) the whole
state of active development, (ii) the objective results that are
foreseen and wanted, and (iii) the personal emotional

(I) An occupation, employment, pursuit, business is often
referred to as an interest. Thus we say that a man's interest is
politics, or journalism, or philanthropy, or
archaeology, or collecting Japanese prints, or banking.

(ii) By an interest we also mean the point at which an object
touches or engages a man; the point where it influences him. In
some legal transactions a man has to prove "interest" in order to
have a standing at court. He has to show that some proposed step
concerns his affairs. A silent partner has an interest in a
business, although he takes no active part in its conduct because
its prosperity or decline affects his profits and liabilities.

(iii) When we speak of a man as interested in this or that the
emphasis falls directly upon his personal attitude. To be
interested is to be absorbed in, wrapped up in, carried away by,
some object. To take an interest is to be on the alert, to care
about, to be attentive. We say of an interested person both that
he has lost himself in some affair and that he has found himself
in it. Both terms express the engrossment of the self in an

When the place of interest in education is spoken of in a
depreciatory way, it will be found that the second of the
meanings mentioned is first exaggerated and then isolated.
Interest is taken to mean merely the effect of an object upon
personal advantage or disadvantage, success or failure.
Separated from any objective development of affairs, these are
reduced to mere personal states of pleasure or pain.
Educationally, it then follows that to attach importance to
interest means to attach some feature of seductiveness to
material otherwise indifferent; to secure attention and effort by
offering a bribe of pleasure. This procedure is properly
stigmatized as "soft" pedagogy; as a "soup-kitchen" theory of

But the objection is based upon the fact -- or assumption -- that
the forms of skill to be acquired and the subject matter to be
appropriated have no interest on their own account: in other
words, they are supposed to be irrelevant to the normal
activities of the pupils. The remedy is not in finding fault
with the doctrine of interest, any more than it is to search for
some pleasant bait that may be hitched to the alien material. It
is to discover objects and modes of action, which are connected
with present powers. The function of this material in engaging
activity and carrying it on consistently and continuously is its
interest. If the material operates in this way, there is no call
either to hunt for devices which will make it interesting or to
appeal to arbitrary, semi-coerced effort.

The word interest suggests, etymologically, what is between, --
that which connects two things otherwise distant. In education,
the distance covered may be looked at as temporal. The fact that
a process takes time to mature is so obvious a fact that we
rarely make it explicit. We overlook the fact that in growth
there is ground to be covered between an initial stage of process
and the completing period; that there is something intervening.
In learning, the present powers of the pupil are the initial
stage; the aim of the teacher represents the remote limit.
Between the two lie means -- that is middle conditions: -- acts
to be performed; difficulties to be overcome; appliances to be
used. Only through them, in the literal time sense, will the
initial activities reach a satisfactory consummation.

These intermediate conditions are of interest precisely because
the development of existing activities into the foreseen and
desired end depends upon them. To be means for the achieving of
present tendencies, to be "between" the agent and his end, to be
of interest, are different names for the same thing. When
material has to be made interesting, it signifies that as
presented, it lacks connection with purposes and present power:
or that if the connection be there, it is not perceived. To make
it interesting by leading one to realize the connection that
exists is simply good sense; to make it interesting by extraneous
and artificial inducements deserves all the bad names which have
been applied to the doctrine of interest in education.

So much for the meaning of the term interest. Now for that of
discipline. Where an activity takes time, where many means and
obstacles lie between its initiation and completion, deliberation
and persistence are required. It is obvious that a very large
part of the everyday meaning of will is precisely the deliberate
or conscious disposition to persist and endure in a planned
course of action in spite of difficulties and contrary
solicitations. A man of strong will, in the popular usage of the
words, is a man who is neither fickle nor half-hearted in
achieving chosen ends. His ability is executive; that is, he
persistently and energetically strives to execute or carry out
his aims. A weak will is unstable as water.

Clearly there are two factors in will. One has to do with the
foresight of results, the other with the depth of hold the
foreseen outcome has upon the person.

(I) Obstinacy is persistence but it is not strength of volition.
Obstinacy may be mere animal inertia and insensitiveness. A man
keeps on doing a thing just because he has got started, not
because of any clearly thought-out purpose. In fact, the
obstinate man generally declines (although he may not be quite
aware of his refusal) to make clear to himself what his proposed
end is; he has a feeling that if he allowed himself to get a
clear and full idea of it, it might not be worth while.
Stubbornness shows itself even more in reluctance to criticize
ends which present themselves than it does in persistence and
energy in use of means to achieve the end. The really executive
man is a man who ponders his ends, who makes his ideas of the
results of his actions as clear and full as possible. The people
we called weak-willed or self-indulgent always deceive themselves
as to the consequences of their acts. They pick out some feature
which is agreeable and neglect all attendant circumstances. When
they begin to act, the disagreeable results they ignored begin to
show themselves. They are discouraged, or complain of being
thwarted in their good purpose by a hard fate, and shift to some
other line of action. That the primary difference between strong
and feeble volition is intellectual, consisting in the degree of
persistent firmness and fullness with which consequences are
thought out, cannot be over-emphasized.

(ii) There is, of course, such a thing as a speculative tracing
out of results. Ends are then foreseen, but they do not lay deep
hold of a person. They are something to look at and for
curiosity to play with rather than something to achieve. There
is no such thing as over-intellectuality, but there is such a
thing as a one-sided intellectuality. A person "takes it out" as
we say in considering the consequences of proposed lines of
action. A certain flabbiness of fiber prevents the contemplated
object from gripping him and engaging him in action. And most
persons are naturally diverted from a proposed course of action
by unusual, unforeseen obstacles, or by presentation of
inducements to an action that is directly more agreeable.

A person who is trained to consider his actions, to undertake
them deliberately, is in so far forth disciplined. Add to this
ability a power to endure in an intelligently chosen course in
face of distraction, confusion, and difficulty, and you have the
essence of discipline. Discipline means power at command;
mastery of the resources available for carrying through the
action undertaken. To know what one is to do and to move to do
it promptly and by use of the requisite means is to be
disciplined, whether we are thinking of an army or a mind.
Discipline is positive. To cow the spirit, to subdue
inclination, to compel obedience, to mortify the flesh, to make a
subordinate perform an uncongenial task -- these things are or
are not disciplinary according as they do or do not tend to the
development of power to recognize what one is about and to
persistence in accomplishment.

It is hardly necessary to press the point that interest and
discipline are connected, not opposed.

(i) Even the more purely intellectual phase of trained power --
apprehension of what one is doing as exhibited in consequences --
is not possible without interest. Deliberation will be
perfunctory and superficial where there is no interest. Parents
and teachers often complain -- and correctly -- that children "do
not want to hear, or want to understand." Their minds are not
upon the subject precisely because it does not touch them; it
does not enter into their concerns. This is a state of things
that needs to be remedied, but the remedy is not in the use of
methods which increase indifference and aversion. Even punishing
a child for inattention is one way of trying to make him realize
that the matter is not a thing of complete unconcern; it is one
way of arousing "interest," or bringing about a sense of
connection. In the long run, its value is measured by whether it
supplies a mere physical excitation to act in the way desired by
the adult or whether it leads the child "to think"--that is, to
reflect upon his acts and impregnate them with aims.

(ii) That interest is requisite for executive persistence is even
more obvious. Employers do not advertise for workmen who are not
interested in what they are doing. If one were engaging a lawyer
or a doctor, it would never occur to one to reason that the
person engaged would stick to his work more conscientiously if it
was so uncongenial to him that he did it merely from a sense of
obligation. Interest measures -- or rather is -- the depth of
the grip which the foreseen end has upon one, moving one to act
for its realization.

2. The Importance of the Idea of Interest in Education.
Interest represents the moving force of objects -- whether
perceived or presented in imagination -- in any experience having
a purpose. In the concrete, the value of recognizing the dynamic
place of interest in an educative development is that it leads to
considering individual children in their specific capabilities,
needs, and preferences. One who recognizes the importance of
interest will not assume that all minds work in the same way
because they happen to have the same teacher and textbook.
Attitudes and methods of approach and response vary with the
specific appeal the same material makes, this appeal itself
varying with difference of natural aptitude, of past experience,
of plan of life, and so on. But the facts of interest also
supply considerations of general value to the philosophy of
education. Rightly understood, they put us on our guard against
certain conceptions of mind and of subject matter which have had
great vogue in philosophic thought in the past, and which
exercise a serious hampering influence upon the conduct of
instruction and discipline. Too frequently mind is set over the
world of things and facts to be known; it is regarded as
something existing in isolation, with mental states and
operations that exist independently. Knowledge is then regarded
as an external application of purely mental existences to the
things to be known, or else as a result of the impressions which
this outside subject matter makes on mind, or as a combination of
the two. Subject matter is then regarded as something complete
in itself; it is just something to be learned or known, either by
the voluntary application of mind to it or through the
impressions it makes on mind.

The facts of interest show that these conceptions are mythical.
Mind appears in experience as ability to respond to present
stimuli on the basis of anticipation of future possible
consequences, and with a view to controlling the kind of
consequences that are to take place. The things, the subject
matter known, consist of whatever is recognized as having a
bearing upon the anticipated course of events, whether assisting
or retarding it. These statements are too formal to be very
intelligible. An illustration may clear up their significance.
You are engaged in a certain occupation, say writing with a
typewriter. If you are an expert, your formed habits take care
of the physical movements and leave your thoughts free to
consider your topic. Suppose, however, you are not skilled, or
that, even if you are, the machine does not work well. You then
have to use intelligence. You do not wish to strike the keys at
random and let the consequences be what they may; you wish to
record certain words in a given order so as to make sense. You
attend to the keys, to what you have written, to your movements,
to the ribbon or the mechanism of the machine. Your attention is
not distributed indifferently and miscellaneously to any and
every detail. It is centered upon whatever has a bearing upon
the effective pursuit of your occupation. Your look is ahead,
and you are concerned to note the existing facts because and in
so far as they are factors in the achievement of the result
intended. You have to find out what your resources are, what
conditions are at command, and what the difficulties and
obstacles are. This foresight and this survey with reference to
what is foreseen constitute mind. Action that does not involve
such a forecast of results and such an examination of means and
hindrances is either a matter of habit or else it is blind. In
neither case is it intelligent. To be vague and uncertain as to
what is intended and careless in observation of conditions of its
realization is to be, in that degree, stupid or partially

If we recur to the case where mind is not concerned with the
physical manipulation of the instruments but with what one
intends to write, the case is the same. There is an activity in
process; one is taken up with the development of a theme. Unless
one writes as a phonograph talks, this means intelligence;
namely, alertness in foreseeing the various conclusions to which
present data and considerations are tending, together with
continually renewed observation and recollection to get hold of
the subject matter which bears upon the conclusions to be
reached. The whole attitude is one of concern with what is to
be, and with what is so far as the latter enters into the
movement toward the end. Leave out the direction which depends
upon foresight of possible future results, and there is no
intelligence in present behavior. Let there be imaginative
forecast but no attention to the conditions upon which its
attainment depends, and there is self-deception or idle
dreaming -- abortive intelligence.

If this illustration is typical, mind is not a name for something
complete by itself; it is a name for a course of action in so far
as that is intelligently directed; in so far, that is to say, as
aims, ends, enter into it, with selection of means to further the
attainment of aims. Intelligence is not a peculiar possession
which a person owns; but a person is intelligent in so far as the
activities in which he plays a part have the qualities mentioned.
Nor are the activities in which a person engages, whether
intelligently or not, exclusive properties of himself; they are
something in which he engages and partakes. Other things, the
independent changes of other things and persons, cooperate and
hinder. The individual's act may be initial in a course of
events, but the outcome depends upon the interaction of his
response with energies supplied by other agencies. Conceive mind
as anything but one factor partaking along with others in the
production of consequences, and it becomes meaningless.

The problem of instruction is thus that of finding material which
will engage a person in specific activities having an aim or
purpose of moment or interest to him, and dealing with things not
as gymnastic appliances but as conditions for the attainment of
ends. The remedy for the evils attending the doctrine of formal
discipline previously spoken of, is not to be found by
substituting a doctrine of specialized disciplines, but by
reforming the notion of mind and its training. Discovery of
typical modes of activity, whether play or useful occupations, in
which individuals are concerned, in whose outcome they recognize
they have something at stake, and which cannot be carried through
without reflection and use of judgment to select material of
observation and recollection, is the remedy. In short, the root
of the error long prevalent in the conception of training of mind
consists in leaving out of account movements of things to future
results in which an individual shares, and in the direction of
which observation, imagination, and memory are enlisted. It
consists in regarding mind as complete in itself, ready to be
directly applied to a present material.

In historic practice the error has cut two ways. On one hand, it
has screened and protected traditional studies and methods of
teaching from intelligent criticism and needed revisions. To say
that they are "disciplinary" has safeguarded them from all
inquiry. It has not been enough to show that they were of no use
in life or that they did not really contribute to the cultivation
of the self. That they were "disciplinary" stifled every
question, subdued every doubt, and removed the subject from the
realm of rational discussion. By its nature, the allegation
could not be checked up. Even when discipline did not accrue as
matter of fact, when the pupil even grew in laxity of application
and lost power of intelligent self-direction, the fault lay with
him, not with the study or the methods of teaching. His failure
was but proof that he needed more discipline, and thus afforded a
reason for retaining the old methods. The responsibility was
transferred from the educator to the pupil because the material
did not have to meet specific tests; it did not have to be shown
that it fulfilled any particular need or served any specific end.
It was designed to discipline in general, and if it failed, it
was because the individual was unwilling to be disciplined.
In the other direction, the tendency was towards a negative
conception of discipline, instead of an identification of it with
growth in constructive power of achievement. As we have already
seen, will means an attitude toward the future, toward the
production of possible consequences, an attitude involving effort
to foresee clearly and comprehensively the probable results of
ways of acting, and an active identification with some
anticipated consequences. Identification of will, or effort,
with mere strain, results when a mind is set up, endowed with
powers that are only to be applied to existing material. A
person just either will or will not apply himself to the matter
in hand. The more indifferent the subject matter, the less
concern it has for the habits and preferences of the individual,
the more demand there is for an effort to bring the mind to bear
upon it--and hence the more discipline of will. To attend to
material because there is something to be done in which the
person is concerned is not disciplinary in this view; not even if
it results in a desirable increase of constructive power.
Application just for the sake of application, for the sake of
training, is alone disciplinary. This is more likely to occur if
the subject matter presented is uncongenial, for then there is no
motive (so it is supposed) except the acknowledgment of duty or
the value of discipline. The logical result is expressed with
literal truth in the words of an American humorist: "It makes no
difference what you teach a boy so long as he doesn't like it."

The counterpart of the isolation of mind from activities dealing
with objects to accomplish ends is isolation of the subject
matter to be learned. In the traditional schemes of education,
subject matter means so much material to be studied. Various
branches of study represent so many independent branches, each
having its principles of arrangement complete within itself.
History is one such group of facts; algebra another; geography
another, and so on till we have run through the entire
curriculum. Having a ready- made existence on their own account,
their relation to mind is exhausted in what they furnish it to
acquire. This idea corresponds to the conventional practice in
which the program of school work, for the day, month, and
successive years, consists of "studies" all marked off from one
another, and each supposed to be complete by itself -- for
educational purposes at least.

Later on a chapter is devoted to the special consideration of the
meaning of the subject matter of instruction. At this point, we
need only to say that, in contrast with the traditional theory,
anything which intelligence studies represents things in the part
which they play in the carrying forward of active lines of
interest. Just as one "studies" his typewriter as part of the
operation of putting it to use to effect results, so with any
fact or truth. It becomes an object of study -- that is, of
inquiry and reflection -- when it figures as a factor to be
reckoned with in the completion of a course of events in which
one is engaged and by whose outcome one is affected. Numbers are
not objects of study just because they are numbers already
constituting a branch of learning called mathematics, but because
they represent qualities and relations of the world in which our
action goes on, because they are factors upon which the
accomplishment of our purposes depends. Stated thus broadly, the
formula may appear abstract. Translated into details, it means
that the act of learning or studying is artificial and
ineffective in the degree in which pupils are merely presented
with a lesson to be learned. Study is effectual in the degree in
which the pupil realizes the place of the numerical truth he is
dealing with in carrying to fruition activities in which he is
concerned. This connection of an object and a topic with the
promotion of an activity having a purpose is the first and the
last word of a genuine theory of interest in education.

3. Some Social Aspects of the Question. While the theoretical
errors of which we have been speaking have their expressions in
the conduct of schools, they are themselves the outcome of
conditions of social life. A change confined to the theoretical
conviction of educators will not remove the difficulties, though
it should render more effective efforts to modify social
conditions. Men's fundamental attitudes toward the world are
fixed by the scope and qualities of the activities in which they
partake. The ideal of interest is exemplified in the artistic
attitude. Art is neither merely internal nor merely external;
merely mental nor merely physical. Like every mode of action, it
brings about changes in the world. The changes made by some
actions (those which by contrast may be called mechanical) are
external; they are shifting things about. No ideal reward, no
enrichment of emotion and intellect, accompanies them. Others
contribute to the maintenance of life, and to its external
adornment and display. Many of our existing social activities,
industrial and political, fall in these two classes. Neither the
people who engage in them, nor those who are directly affected by
them, are capable of full and free interest in their work.
Because of the lack of any purpose in the work for the one doing
it, or because of the restricted character of its aim,
intelligence is not adequately engaged. The same conditions
force many people back upon themselves. They take refuge in an
inner play of sentiment and fancies. They are aesthetic but not
artistic, since their feelings and ideas are turned upon
themselves, instead of being methods in acts which modify
conditions. Their mental life is sentimental; an enjoyment of an
inner landscape. Even the pursuit of science may become an
asylum of refuge from the hard conditions of life -- not a
temporary retreat for the sake of recuperation and clarification
in future dealings with the world. The very word art may become
associated not with specific transformation of things, making
them more significant for mind, but with stimulations of
eccentric fancy and with emotional indulgences. The separation
and mutual contempt of the "practical" man and the man of theory
or culture, the divorce of fine and industrial arts, are
indications of this situation. Thus interest and mind are either
narrowed, or else made perverse. Compare what was said in an
earlier chapter about the one-sided meanings which have come to
attach to the ideas of efficiency and of culture.

This state of affairs must exist so far as society is organized
on a basis of division between laboring classes and leisure
classes. The intelligence of those who do things becomes hard in
the unremitting struggle with things; that of those freed from
the discipline of occupation becomes luxurious and effeminate.
Moreover, the majority of human beings still lack economic
freedom. Their pursuits are fixed by accident and necessity of
circumstance; they are not the normal expression of their own
powers interacting with the needs and resources of the
environment. Our economic conditions still relegate many men to
a servile status. As a consequence, the intelligence of those in
control of the practical situation is not liberal. Instead of
playing freely upon the subjugation of the world for human ends,
it is devoted to the manipulation of other men for ends that are
non-human in so far as they are exclusive.

This state of affairs explains many things in our historic
educational traditions. It throws light upon the clash of aims
manifested in different portions of the school system; the
narrowly utilitarian character of most elementary education, and
the narrowly disciplinary or cultural character of most higher
education. It accounts for the tendency to isolate intellectual
matters till knowledge is scholastic, academic, and
professionally technical, and for the widespread conviction that
liberal education is opposed to the requirements of an education
which shall count in the vocations of life. But it also helps
define the peculiar problem of present education. The school
cannot immediately escape from the ideals set by prior social
conditions. But it should contribute through the type of
intellectual and emotional disposition which it forms to the
improvement of those conditions. And just here the true
conceptions of interest and discipline are full of significance.
Persons whose interests have been enlarged and intelligence
trained by dealing with things and facts in active occupations
having a purpose (whether in play or work) will be those most
likely to escape the alternatives of an academic and aloof
knowledge and a hard, narrow, and merely "practical" practice.
To organize education so that natural active tendencies shall be
fully enlisted in doing something, while seeing to it that the
doing requires observation, the acquisition of information, and
the use of a constructive imagination, is what most needs to be
done to improve social conditions. To oscillate between drill
exercises that strive to attain efficiency in outward doing
without the use of intelligence, and an accumulation of knowledge
that is supposed to be an ultimate end in itself, means that
education accepts the present social conditions as final, and
thereby takes upon itself the responsibility for perpetuating
them. A reorganization of education so that learning takes place
in connection with the intelligent carrying forward of purposeful
activities is a slow work. It can only be accomplished
piecemeal, a step at a time. But this is not a reason for
nominally accepting one educational philosophy and accommodating
ourselves in practice to another. It is a challenge to undertake
the task of reorganization courageously and to keep at it

Summary. Interest and discipline are correlative aspects of
activity having an aim. Interest means that one is identified
with the objects which define the activity and which furnish the
means and obstacles to its realization. Any activity with an aim
implies a distinction between an earlier incomplete phase and
later completing phase; it implies also intermediate steps. To
have an interest is to take things as entering into such a
continuously developing situation, instead of taking them in
isolation. The time difference between the given incomplete
state of affairs and the desired fulfillment exacts effort in
transformation, it demands continuity of attention and endurance.
This attitude is what is practically meant by will. Discipline
or development of power of continuous attention is its fruit.
The significance of this doctrine for the theory of education is
twofold. On the one hand it protects us from the notion that
mind and mental states are something complete in themselves,
which then happen to be applied to some ready-made objects and
topics so that knowledge results. It shows that mind and
intelligent or purposeful engagement in a course of action into
which things enter are identical. Hence to develop and train
mind is to provide an environment which induces such activity.
On the other side, it protects us from the notion that subject
matter on its side is something isolated and independent. It
shows that subject matter of learning is identical with all the
objects, ideas, and principles which enter as resources or
obstacles into the continuous intentional pursuit of a course of
action. The developing course of action, whose end and
conditions are perceived, is the unity which holds together what
are often divided into an independent mind on one side and an
independent world of objects and facts on the other.

Chapter Eleven: Experience and Thinking

1. The Nature of Experience. The nature of experience can be
understood only by noting that it includes an active and a
passive element peculiarly combined. On the active hand,
experience is trying -- a meaning which is made explicit in the
connected term experiment. On the passive, it is undergoing.
When we experience something we act upon it, we do something with
it; then we suffer or undergo the consequences. We do something
to the thing and then it does something to us in return: such is
the peculiar combination. The connection of these two phases of
experience measures the fruitfulness or value of the experience.
Mere activity does not constitute experience. It is dispersive,
centrifugal, dissipating. Experience as trying involves change,
but change is meaningless transition unless it is consciously
connected with the return wave of consequences which flow from
it. When an activity is continued into the undergoing of
consequences, when the change made by action is reflected back
into a change made in us, the mere flux is loaded with
significance. We learn something. It is not experience when a
child merely sticks his finger into a flame; it is experience
when the movement is connected with the pain which he undergoes
in consequence. Henceforth the sticking of the finger into flame
means a burn. Being burned is a mere physical change, like the
burning of a stick of wood, if it is not perceived as a
consequence of some other action. Blind and capricious impulses
hurry us on heedlessly from one thing to another. So far as this
happens, everything is writ in water. There is none of that
cumulative growth which makes an experience in any vital sense of
that term. On the other hand, many things happen to us in the
way of pleasure and pain which we do not connect with any prior
activity of our own. They are mere accidents so far as we are
concerned. There is no before or after to such experience; no
retrospect nor outlook, and consequently no meaning. We get
nothing which may be carried over to foresee what is likely to
happen next, and no gain in ability to adjust ourselves to what
is coming--no added control. Only by courtesy can such an
experience be called experience. To "learn from experience" is
to make a backward and forward connection between what we do to
things and what we enjoy or suffer from things in consequence.
Under such conditions, doing becomes a trying; an experiment with
the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes
instruction--discovery of the connection of things.

Two conclusions important for education follow. (1) Experience
is primarily an active-passive affair; it is not primarily
cognitive. But (2) the measure of the value of an experience
lies in the perception of relationships or continuities to which
it leads up. It includes cognition in the degree in which it is
cumulative or amounts to something, or has meaning. In schools,
those under instruction are too customarily looked upon as
acquiring knowledge as theoretical spectators, minds which
appropriate knowledge by direct energy of intellect. The very
word pupil has almost come to mean one who is engaged not in
having fruitful experiences but in absorbing knowledge directly.
Something which is called mind or consciousness is severed from
the physical organs of activity. The former is then thought to
be purely intellectual and cognitive; the latter to be an
irrelevant and intruding physical factor. The intimate union of
activity and undergoing its consequences which leads to
recognition of meaning is broken; instead we have two fragments:
mere bodily action on one side, and meaning directly grasped by
"spiritual" activity on the other.

It would be impossible to state adequately the evil results which
have flowed from this dualism of mind and body, much less to
exaggerate them. Some of the more striking effects, may,
however, be enumerated. (a) In part bodily activity becomes an
intruder. Having nothing, so it is thought, to do with mental
activity, it becomes a distraction, an evil to be contended with.
For the pupil has a body, and brings it to school along with his
mind. And the body is, of necessity, a wellspring of energy; it
has to do something. But its activities, not being utilized in
occupation with things which yield significant results, have to
be frowned upon. They lead the pupil away from the lesson with
which his "mind" ought to be occupied; they are sources of
mischief. The chief source of the "problem of discipline" in
schools is that the teacher has often to spend the larger part of
the time in suppressing the bodily activities which take the mind
away from its material. A premium is put on physical quietude;
on silence, on rigid uniformity of posture and movement; upon a
machine-like simulation of the attitudes of intelligent interest.
The teachers' business is to hold the pupils up to these
requirements and to punish the inevitable deviations which occur.

The nervous strain and fatigue which result with both teacher and
pupil are a necessary consequence of the abnormality of the
situation in which bodily activity is divorced from the
perception of meaning. Callous indifference and explosions from
strain alternate. The neglected body, having no organized
fruitful channels of activity, breaks forth, without knowing why
or how, into meaningless boisterousness, or settles into equally
meaningless fooling -- both very different from the normal play
of children. Physically active children become restless and
unruly; the more quiescent, so-called conscientious ones spend
what energy they have in the negative task of keeping their
instincts and active tendencies suppressed, instead of in a
positive one of constructive planning and execution; they are
thus educated not into responsibility for the significant and
graceful use of bodily powers, but into an enforced duty not to
give them free play. It may be seriously asserted that a chief
cause for the remarkable achievements of Greek education was that
it was never misled by false notions into an attempted separation
of mind and body.

(b) Even, however, with respect to the lessons which have to be
learned by the application of "mind," some bodily activities have
to be used. The senses -- especially the eye and ear -- have to
be employed to take in what the book, the map, the blackboard,
and the teacher say. The lips and vocal organs, and the hands,
have to be used to reproduce in speech and writing what has been
stowed away. The senses are then regarded as a kind of
mysterious conduit through which information is conducted from
the external world into the mind; they are spoken of as gateways
and avenues of knowledge. To keep the eyes on the book and the
ears open to the teacher's words is a mysterious source of
intellectual grace. Moreover, reading, writing, and
figuring -- important school arts -- demand muscular or motor
training. The muscles of eye, hand, and vocal organs accordingly
have to be trained to act as pipes for carrying knowledge back
out of the mind into external action. For it happens that using
the muscles repeatedly in the same way fixes in them an
automatic tendency to repeat.

The obvious result is a mechanical use of the bodily activities
which (in spite of the generally obtrusive and interfering
character of the body in mental action) have to be employed more
or less. For the senses and muscles are used not as organic
participants in having an instructive experience, but as external
inlets and outlets of mind. Before the child goes to school, he
learns with his hand, eye, and ear, because they are organs of
the process of doing something from which meaning results. The
boy flying a kite has to keep his eye on the kite, and has to
note the various pressures of the string on his hand. His senses
are avenues of knowledge not because external facts are somehow
"conveyed" to the brain, but because they are used in doing
something with a purpose. The qualities of seen and touched
things have a bearing on what is done, and are alertly perceived;
they have a meaning. But when pupils are expected to use their
eyes to note the form of words, irrespective of their meaning, in
order to reproduce them in spelling or reading, the resulting
training is simply of isolated sense organs and muscles. It is
such isolation of an act from a purpose which makes it
mechanical. It is customary for teachers to urge children to
read with expression, so as to bring out the meaning. But if
they originally learned the sensory- motor technique of reading
-- the ability to identify forms and to reproduce the sounds they
stand for -- by methods which did not call for attention to
meaning, a mechanical habit was established which makes it
difficult to read subsequently with intelligence. The vocal
organs have been trained to go their own way automatically in
isolation; and meaning cannot be tied on at will. Drawing,
singing, and writing may be taught in the same mechanical way;
for, we repeat, any way is mechanical which narrows down the
bodily activity so that a separation of body from mind -- that
is, from recognition of meaning -- is set up. Mathematics, even
in its higher branches, when undue emphasis is put upon the
technique of calculation, and science, when laboratory exercises
are given for their own sake, suffer from the same evil.

(c) On the intellectual side, the separation of "mind" from
direct occupation with things throws emphasis on things at the
expense of relations or connections. It is altogether too common
to separate perceptions and even ideas from judgments. The
latter are thought to come after the former in order to compare
them. It is alleged that the mind perceives things apart from
relations; that it forms ideas of them in isolation from their
connections -- with what goes before and comes after. Then
judgment or thought is called upon to combine the separated items
of "knowledge" so that their resemblance or causal connection
shall be brought out. As matter of fact, every perception and
every idea is a sense of the bearings, use, and cause, of a
thing. We do not really know a chair or have an idea of it by
inventorying and enumerating its various isolated qualities, but
only by bringing these qualities into connection with something
else -- the purpose which makes it a chair and not a table; or
its difference from the kind of chair we are accustomed to, or
the "period" which it represents, and so on. A wagon is not
perceived when all its parts are summed up; it is the
characteristic connection of the parts which makes it a wagon.
And these connections are not those of mere physical
juxtaposition; they involve connection with the animals that draw
it, the things that are carried on it, and so on. Judgment is
employed in the perception; otherwise the perception is mere
sensory excitation or else a recognition of the result of a prior
judgment, as in the case of familiar objects.

Words, the counters for ideals, are, however, easily taken for
ideas. And in just the degree in which mental activity is
separated from active concern with the world, from doing
something and connecting the doing with what is undergone, words,
symbols, come to take the place of ideas. The substitution is
the more subtle because some meaning is recognized. But we are
very easily trained to be content with a minimum of meaning, and
to fail to note how restricted is our perception of the relations
which confer significance. We get so thoroughly used to a kind
of pseudo-idea, a half perception, that we are not aware how
half-dead our mental action is, and how much keener and more
extensive our observations and ideas would be if we formed them
under conditions of a vital experience which required us to use
judgment: to hunt for the connections of the thing dealt with.
There is no difference of opinion as to the theory of the matter.
All authorities agree that that discernment of relationships is
the genuinely intellectual matter; hence, the educative matter.
The failure arises in supposing that relationships can become
perceptible without experience -- without that conjoint trying
and undergoing of which we have spoken. It is assumed that
"mind" can grasp them if it will only give attention, and that
this attention may be given at will irrespective of the
situation. Hence the deluge of half-observations, of verbal
ideas, and unassimilated "knowledge" which afflicts the world.
An ounce of experience is better than a ton of theory simply
because it is only in experience that any theory has vital and
verifiable significance. An experience, a very humble
experience, is capable of generating and carrying any amount of
theory (or intellectual content), but a theory apart from an
experience cannot be definitely grasped even as theory. It tends
to become a mere verbal formula, a set of catchwords used to
render thinking, or genuine theorizing, unnecessary and
impossible. Because of our education we use words, thinking they
are ideas, to dispose of questions, the disposal being in reality
simply such an obscuring of perception as prevents us from seeing
any longer the difficulty.

2. Reflection in Experience. Thought or reflection, as we have
already seen virtually if not explicitly, is the discernment of
the relation between what we try to do and what happens in
consequence. No experience having a meaning is possible without
some element of thought. But we may contrast two types of
experience according to the proportion of reflection found in
them. All our experiences have a phase of "cut and try" in them
-- what psychologists call the method of trial and error. We
simply do something, and when it fails, we do something else, and
keep on trying till we hit upon something which works, and then
we adopt that method as a rule of thumb measure in subsequent
procedure. Some experiences have very little else in them than
this hit and miss or succeed process. We see that a certain way
of acting and a certain consequence are connected, but we do not
see how they are. We do not see the details of the connection;
the links are missing. Our discernment is very gross. In other
cases we push our observation farther. We analyze to see just
what lies between so as to bind together cause and effect,
activity and consequence. This extension of our insight makes
foresight more accurate and comprehensive. The action which
rests simply upon the trial and error method is at the mercy of
circumstances; they may change so that the act performed does not
operate in the way it was expected to. But if we know in detail
upon what the result depends, we can look to see whether the
required conditions are there. The method extends our practical
control. For if some of the conditions are missing, we may, if
we know what the needed antecedents for an effect are, set to
work to supply them; or, if they are such as to produce
undesirable effects as well, we may eliminate some of the
superfluous causes and economize effort.

In discovery of the detailed connections of our activities and
what happens in consequence, the thought implied in cut and try
experience is made explicit. Its quantity increases so that its
proportionate value is very different. Hence the quality of the
experience changes; the change is so significant that we may call
this type of experience reflective -- that is, reflective par
excellence. The deliberate cultivation of this phase of thought
constitutes thinking as a distinctive experience. Thinking, in
other words, is the intentional endeavor to discover specific
connections between something which we do and the consequences
which result, so that the two become continuous. Their
isolation, and consequently their purely arbitrary going
together, is canceled; a unified developing situation takes its
place. The occurrence is now understood; it is explained; it is
reasonable, as we say, that the thing should happen as it does.

Thinking is thus equivalent to an explicit rendering of the
intelligent element in our experience. It makes it possible to
act with an end in view. It is the condition of our having aims.
As soon as an infant begins to expect he begins to use something
which is now going on as a sign of something to follow; he is, in
however simple a fashion, judging. For he takes one thing as
evidence of something else, and so recognizes a relationship.
Any future development, however elaborate it may be, is only an
extending and a refining of this simple act of inference. All
that the wisest man can do is to observe what is going on more
widely and more minutely and then select more carefully from what
is noted just those factors which point to something to happen.
The opposites, once more, to thoughtful action are routine and
capricious behavior. The former accepts what has been customary
as a full measure of possibility and omits to take into account
the connections of the particular things done. The latter makes
the momentary act a measure of value, and ignores the connections
of our personal action with the energies of the environment. It
says, virtually, "things are to be just as I happen to like them
at this instant," as routine says in effect "let things continue
just as I have found them in the past." Both refuse to
acknowledge responsibility for the future consequences which flow
from present action. Reflection is the acceptance of such

The starting point of any process of thinking is something going
on, something which just as it stands is incomplete or
unfulfilled. Its point, its meaning lies literally in what it is
going to be, in how it is going to turn out. As this is written,
the world is filled with the clang of contending armies. For an
active participant in the war, it is clear that the momentous
thing is the issue, the future consequences, of this and that
happening. He is identified, for the time at least, with the
issue; his fate hangs upon the course things are taking. But
even for an onlooker in a neutral country, the significance of
every move made, of every advance here and retreat there, lies in
what it portends. To think upon the news as it comes to us is to
attempt to see what is indicated as probable or possible
regarding an outcome. To fill our heads, like a scrapbook, with
this and that item as a finished and done-for thing, is not to
think. It is to turn ourselves into a piece of registering
apparatus. To consider the bearing of the occurrence upon what
may be, but is not yet, is to think. Nor will the reflective
experience be different in kind if we substitute distance in time
for separation in space. Imagine the war done with, and a future
historian giving an account of it. The episode is, by
assumption, past. But he cannot give a thoughtful account of the
war save as he preserves the time sequence; the meaning of each
occurrence, as he deals with it, lies in what was future for it,
though not for the historian. To take it by itself as a complete
existence is to take it unreflectively. Reflection also implies
concern with the issue -- a certain sympathetic identification of
our own destiny, if only dramatic, with the outcome of the course
of events. For the general in the war, or a common soldier, or a
citizen of one of the contending nations, the stimulus to
thinking is direct and urgent. For neutrals, it is indirect and
dependent upon imagination. But the flagrant partisanship of
human nature is evidence of the intensity of the tendency to
identify ourselves with one possible course of events, and to
reject the other as foreign. If we cannot take sides in overt
action, and throw in our little weight to help determine the
final balance, we take sides emotionally and imaginatively. We
desire this or that outcome. One wholly indifferent to the
outcome does not follow or think about what is happening at all.
From this dependence of the act of thinking upon a sense of
sharing in the consequences of what goes on, flows one of the
chief paradoxes of thought. Born in partiality, in order to
accomplish its tasks it must achieve a certain detached
impartiality. The general who allows his hopes and desires to
affect his observations and interpretations of the existing
situation will surely make a mistake in calculation. While hopes
and fears may be the chief motive for a thoughtful following of
the war on the part of an onlooker in a neutral country, he too
will think ineffectively in the degree in which his preferences
modify the stuff of his observations and reasonings. There is,
however, no incompatibility between the fact that the occasion of
reflection lies in a personal sharing in what is going on and the
fact that the value of the reflection lies upon keeping one's
self out of the data. The almost insurmountable difficulty of
achieving this detachment is evidence that thinking originates in
situations where the course of thinking is an actual part of the
course of events and is designed to influence the result. Only
gradually and with a widening of the area of vision through a
growth of social sympathies does thinking develop to include what
lies beyond our direct interests: a fact of great significance
for education.

To say that thinking occurs with reference to situations which
are still going on, and incomplete, is to say that thinking
occurs when things are uncertain or doubtful or problematic.
Only what is finished, completed, is wholly assured. Where there
is reflection there is suspense. The object of thinking is to
help reach a conclusion, to project a possible termination on the
basis of what is already given. Certain other facts about
thinking accompany this feature. Since the situation in which
thinking occurs is a doubtful one, thinking is a process of
inquiry, of looking into things, of investigating. Acquiring is
always secondary, and instrumental to the act of inquiring. It
is seeking, a quest, for something that is not at hand. We
sometimes talk as if "original research" were a peculiar
prerogative of scientists or at least of advanced students. But
all thinking is research, and all research is native, original,
with him who carries it on, even if everybody else in the world
already is sure of what he is still looking for.

It also follows that all thinking involves a risk. Certainty
cannot be guaranteed in advance. The invasion of the unknown is
of the nature of an adventure; we cannot be sure in advance. The
conclusions of thinking, till confirmed by the event, are,
accordingly, more or less tentative or hypothetical. Their
dogmatic assertion as final is unwarranted, short of the issue,
in fact. The Greeks acutely raised the question: How can we
learn? For either we know already what we are after, or else we
do not know. In neither case is learning possible; on the first
alternative because we know already; on the second, because we do
not know what to look for, nor if, by chance, we find it can we
tell that it is what we were after. The dilemma makes no
provision for coming to know, for learning; it assumes either
complete knowledge or complete ignorance. Nevertheless the
twilight zone of inquiry, of thinking, exists. The possibility
of hypothetical conclusions, of tentative results, is the fact
which the Greek dilemma overlooked. The perplexities of the
situation suggest certain ways out. We try these ways, and
either push our way out, in which case we know we have found what
we were looking for, or the situation gets darker and more
confused--in which case, we know we are still ignorant.
Tentative means trying out, feeling one's way along
provisionally. Taken by itself, the Greek argument is a nice
piece of formal logic. But it is also true that as long as men
kept a sharp disjunction between knowledge and ignorance, science
made only slow and accidental advance. Systematic advance in
invention and discovery began when men recognized that they could
utilize doubt for purposes of inquiry by forming conjectures to
guide action in tentative explorations, whose development would
confirm, refute, or modify the guiding conjecture. While the
Greeks made knowledge more than learning, modern science makes
conserved knowledge only a means to learning, to discovery. To
recur to our illustration. A commanding general cannot base his
actions upon either absolute certainty or absolute ignorance. He
has a certain amount of information at hand which is, we will
assume, reasonably trustworthy. He then infers certain
prospective movements, thus assigning meaning to the bare facts
of the given situation. His inference is more or less dubious
and hypothetical. But he acts upon it. He develops a plan of
procedure, a method of dealing with the situation. The
consequences which directly follow from his acting this way
rather than that test and reveal the worth of his reflections.
What he already knows functions and has value in what he learns.
But will this account apply in the case of the one in a neutral
country who is thoughtfully following as best he can the progress
of events? In form, yes, though not of course in content. It is
self-evident that his guesses about the future indicated by
present facts, guesses by which he attempts to supply meaning to
a multitude of disconnected data, cannot be the basis of a method
which shall take effect in the campaign. That is not his
problem. But in the degree in which he is actively thinking, and
not merely passively following the course of events, his
tentative inferences will take effect in a method of procedure
appropriate to his situation. He will anticipate certain future
moves, and will be on the alert to see whether they happen or
not. In the degree in which he is intellectually concerned, or
thoughtful, he will be actively on the lookout; he will take
steps which although they do not affect the campaign, modify in
some degree his subsequent actions. Otherwise his later "I told
you so" has no intellectual quality at all; it does not mark any
testing or verification of prior thinking, but only a coincidence
that yields emotional satisfaction -- and includes a large factor
of self-deception. The case is comparable to that of an
astronomer who from given data has been led to foresee (infer) a
future eclipse. No matter how great the mathematical
probability, the inference is hypothetical -- a matter of
probability. 1 The hypothesis as to the date and position of the
anticipated eclipse becomes the material of forming a method of
future conduct. Apparatus is arranged; possibly an expedition is
made to some far part of the globe. In any case, some active
steps are taken which actually change some physical conditions.
And apart from such steps and the consequent modification of the
situation, there is no completion of the act of thinking. It
remains suspended. Knowledge, already attained knowledge,
controls thinking and makes it fruitful.

So much for the general features of a reflective experience.
They are (i) perplexity, confusion, doubt, due to the fact that
one is implicated in an incomplete situation whose full character
is not yet determined; (ii) a conjectural anticipation -- a
tentative interpretation of the given elements, attributing to

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