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Democracy and Education by John Dewey

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them a tendency to effect certain consequences; (iii) a careful
survey (examination, inspection, exploration, analysis) of all
attainable consideration which will define and clarify the
problem in hand; (iv) a consequent elaboration of the tentative
hypothesis to make it more precise and more consistent, because
squaring with a wider range of facts; (v) taking one stand upon
the projected hypothesis as a plan of action which is applied to
the existing state of affairs: doing something overtly to bring
about the anticipated result, and thereby testing the hypothesis.
It is the extent and accuracy of steps three and four which mark
off a distinctive reflective experience from one on the trial and
error plane. They make thinking itself into an experience.
Nevertheless, we never get wholly beyond the trial and error
situation. Our most elaborate and rationally consistent thought
has to be tried in the world and thereby tried out. And since it
can never take into account all the connections, it can never
cover with perfect accuracy all the consequences. Yet a
thoughtful survey of conditions is so careful, and the guessing
at results so controlled, that we have a right to mark off the
reflective experience from the grosser trial and error forms of

Summary. In determining the place of thinking in experience we
first noted that experience involves a connection of doing or
trying with something which is undergone in consequence. A
separation of the active doing phase from the passive undergoing
phase destroys the vital meaning of an experience. Thinking is
the accurate and deliberate instituting of connections between
what is done and its consequences. It notes not only that they
are connected, but the details of the connection. It makes
connecting links explicit in the form of relationships. The
stimulus to thinking is found when we wish to determine the
significance of some act, performed or to be performed. Then we
anticipate consequences. This implies that the situation as it
stands is, either in fact or to us, incomplete and hence
indeterminate. The projection of consequences means a proposed
or tentative solution. To perfect this hypothesis, existing
conditions have to be carefully scrutinized and the implications
of the hypothesis developed -- an operation called reasoning.
Then the suggested solution -- the idea or theory -- has to be
tested by acting upon it. If it brings about certain
consequences, certain determinate changes, in the world, it is
accepted as valid. Otherwise it is modified, and another trial
made. Thinking includes all of these steps, -- the sense of a
problem, the observation of conditions, the formation and
rational elaboration of a suggested conclusion, and the active
experimental testing. While all thinking results in knowledge,
ultimately the value of knowledge is subordinate to its use in
thinking. For we live not in a settled and finished world, but
in one which is going on, and where our main task is prospective,
and where retrospect -- and all knowledge as distinct from
thought is retrospect -- is of value in the solidity, security,
and fertility it affords our dealings with the future.

1 It is most important for the practice of science that men in
many cases can calculate the degree of probability and the amount
of probable error involved, but that does alter the features of
the situation as described. It refines them.

Chapter Twelve: Thinking in Education

1. The Essentials of Method. No one doubts, theoretically, the
importance of fostering in school good habits of thinking. But
apart from the fact that the acknowledgment is not so great in
practice as in theory, there is not adequate theoretical
recognition that all which the school can or need do for pupils,
so far as their minds are concerned (that is, leaving out certain
specialized muscular abilities), is to develop their ability to
think. The parceling out of instruction among various ends such
as acquisition of skill (in reading, spelling, writing, drawing,
reciting); acquiring information (in history and geography), and
training of thinking is a measure of the ineffective way in which
we accomplish all three. Thinking which is not connected with
increase of efficiency in action, and with learning more about
ourselves and the world in which we live, has something the
matter with it just as thought (See ante, p. 147). And skill
obtained apart from thinking is not connected with any sense of
the purposes for which it is to be used. It consequently leaves
a man at the mercy of his routine habits and of the authoritative
control of others, who know what they are about and who are not
especially scrupulous as to their means of achievement. And
information severed from thoughtful action is dead, a
mind-crushing load. Since it simulates knowledge and thereby
develops the poison of conceit, it is a most powerful obstacle to
further growth in the grace of intelligence. The sole direct
path to enduring improvement in the methods of instruction and
learning consists in centering upon the conditions which exact,
promote, and test thinking. Thinking is the method of
intelligent learning, of learning that employs and rewards mind.
We speak, legitimately enough, about the method of thinking, but
the important thing to bear in mind about method is that
thinking is method, the method of intelligent experience in the
course which it takes.

I. The initial stage of that developing experience which is
called thinking is experience. This remark may sound like a
silly truism. It ought to be one; but unfortunately it is not.
On the contrary, thinking is often regarded both in philosophic
theory and in educational practice as something cut off from
experience, and capable of being cultivated in isolation. In
fact, the inherent limitations of experience are often urged as
the sufficient ground for attention to thinking. Experience is
then thought to be confined to the senses and appetites; to a
mere material world, while thinking proceeds from a higher
faculty (of reason), and is occupied with spiritual or at least
literary things. So, oftentimes, a sharp distinction is made
between pure mathematics as a peculiarly fit subject matter of
thought (since it has nothing to do with physical existences) and
applied mathematics, which has utilitarian but not mental value.

Speaking generally, the fundamental fallacy in methods of
instruction lies in supposing that experience on the part of
pupils may be assumed. What is here insisted upon is the
necessity of an actual empirical situation as the initiating
phase of thought. Experience is here taken as previously
defined: trying to do something and having the thing perceptibly
do something to one in return. The fallacy consists in supposing
that we can begin with ready-made subject matter of arithmetic,
or geography, or whatever, irrespective of some direct personal
experience of a situation. Even the kindergarten and Montessori
techniques are so anxious to get at intellectual distinctions,
without "waste of time," that they tend to ignore -- or reduce --
the immediate crude handling of the familiar material of
experience, and to introduce pupils at once to material which
expresses the intellectual distinctions which adults have made.
But the first stage of contact with any new material, at whatever
age of maturity, must inevitably be of the trial and error sort.
An individual must actually try, in play or work, to do something
with material in carrying out his own impulsive activity, and
then note the interaction of his energy and that of the material
employed. This is what happens when a child at first begins to
build with blocks, and it is equally what happens when a
scientific man in his laboratory begins to experiment with
unfamiliar objects.

Hence the first approach to any subject in school, if thought is
to be aroused and not words acquired, should be as unscholastic
as possible. To realize what an experience, or empirical
situation, means, we have to call to mind the sort of situation
that presents itself outside of school; the sort of occupations
that interest and engage activity in ordinary life. And careful
inspection of methods which are permanently successful in formal
education, whether in arithmetic or learning to read, or studying
geography, or learning physics or a foreign language, will reveal
that they depend for their efficiency upon the fact that they go
back to the type of the situation which causes reflection out of
school in ordinary life. They give the pupils something to do,
not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to
demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections;
learning naturally results.

That the situation should be of such a nature as to arouse
thinking means of course that it should suggest something to do
which is not either routine or capricious--something, in other
words, presenting what is new (and hence uncertain or
problematic) and yet sufficiently connected with existing habits
to call out an effective response. An effective response means
one which accomplishes a perceptible result, in distinction from
a purely haphazard activity, where the consequences cannot be
mentally connected with what is done. The most significant
question which can be asked, accordingly, about any situation or
experience proposed to induce learning is what quality of problem
it involves.

At first thought, it might seem as if usual school methods
measured well up to the standard here set. The giving of
problems, the putting of questions, the assigning of tasks, the
magnifying of difficulties, is a large part of school work. But
it is indispensable to discriminate between genuine and simulated
or mock problems. The following questions may aid in making such
discrimination. (a) Is there anything but a problem? Does the
question naturally suggest itself within some situation or
personal experience? Or is it an aloof thing, a problem only for
the purposes of conveying instruction in some school topic? Is it
the sort of trying that would arouse observation and engage
experimentation outside of school? (b) Is it the pupil's own
problem, or is it the teacher's or textbook's problem, made a
problem for the pupil only because he cannot get the required
mark or be promoted or win the teacher's approval, unless he
deals with it? Obviously, these two questions overlap. They are
two ways of getting at the same point: Is the experience a
personal thing of such a nature as inherently to stimulate and
direct observation of the connections involved, and to lead to
inference and its testing? Or is it imposed from without, and is
the pupil's problem simply to meet the external requirement?
Such questions may give us pause in deciding upon the extent to
which current practices are adapted to develop reflective habits.
The physical equipment and arrangements of the average schoolroom
are hostile to the existence of real situations of experience.
What is there similar to the conditions of everyday life which
will generate difficulties? Almost everything testifies to the
great premium put upon listening, reading, and the reproduction
of what is told and read. It is hardly possible to overstate the
contrast between such conditions and the situations of active
contact with things and persons in the home, on the playground,
in fulfilling of ordinary responsibilities of life. Much of it
is not even comparable with the questions which may arise in the
mind of a boy or girl in conversing with others or in reading
books outside of the school. No one has ever explained why
children are so full of questions outside of the school (so that
they pester grown-up persons if they get any encouragement), and
the conspicuous absence of display of curiosity about the subject
matter of school lessons. Reflection on this striking contrast
will throw light upon the question of how far customary school
conditions supply a context of experience in which problems
naturally suggest themselves. No amount of improvement in the
personal technique of the instructor will wholly remedy this
state of things. There must be more actual material, more stuff,
more appliances, and more opportunities for doing things, before
the gap can be overcome. And where children are engaged in doing
things and in discussing what arises in the course of their
doing, it is found, even with comparatively indifferent modes of
instruction, that children's inquiries are spontaneous and
numerous, and the proposals of solution advanced, varied, and

As a consequence of the absence of the materials and occupations
which generate real problems, the pupil's problems are not his;
or, rather, they are his only as a pupil, not as a human being.
Hence the lamentable waste in carrying over such expertness as is
achieved in dealing with them to the affairs of life beyond the
schoolroom. A pupil has a problem, but it is the problem of
meeting the peculiar requirements set by the teacher. His
problem becomes that of finding out what the teacher wants, what
will satisfy the teacher in recitation and examination and
outward deportment. Relationship to subject matter is no longer
direct. The occasions and material of thought are not found in
the arithmetic or the history or geography itself, but in
skillfully adapting that material to the teacher's requirements.
The pupil studies, but unconsciously to himself the objects of
his study are the conventions and standards of the school system
and school authority, not the nominal "studies." The thinking
thus evoked is artificially one-sided at the best. At its worst,
the problem of the pupil is not how to meet the requirements of
school life, but how to seem to meet them -- or, how to come near
enough to meeting them to slide along without an undue amount of
friction. The type of judgment formed by these devices is not a
desirable addition to character. If these statements give too
highly colored a picture of usual school methods, the
exaggeration may at least serve to illustrate the point: the need
of active pursuits, involving the use of material to accomplish
purposes, if there are to be situations which normally generate
problems occasioning thoughtful inquiry.

II. There must be data at command to supply the considerations
required in dealing with the specific difficulty which has
presented itself. Teachers following a "developing" method
sometimes tell children to think things out for themselves as if
they could spin them out of their own heads. The material of
thinking is not thoughts, but actions, facts, events, and the
relations of things. In other words, to think effectively one
must have had, or now have, experiences which will furnish him
resources for coping with the difficulty at hand. A difficulty
is an indispensable stimulus to thinking, but not all
difficulties call out thinking. Sometimes they overwhelm and
submerge and discourage. The perplexing situation must be
sufficiently like situations which have already been dealt with
so that pupils will have some control of the meanings of handling
it. A large part of the art of instruction lies in making the
difficulty of new problems large enough to challenge thought, and
small enough so that, in addition to the confusion naturally
attending the novel elements, there shall be luminous familiar
spots from which helpful suggestions may spring.

In one sense, it is a matter of indifference by what
psychological means the subject matter for reflection is
provided. Memory, observation, reading, communication, are all
avenues for supplying data. The relative proportion to be
obtained from each is a matter of the specific features of the
particular problem in hand. It is foolish to insist upon
observation of objects presented to the senses if the student is
so familiar with the objects that he could just as well recall
the facts independently. It is possible to induce undue and
crippling dependence upon sense-presentations. No one can carry
around with him a museum of all the things whose properties will
assist the conduct of thought. A well-trained mind is one that
has a maximum of resources behind it, so to speak, and that is
accustomed to go over its past experiences to see what they
yield. On the other hand, a quality or relation of even a
familiar object may previously have been passed over, and be just
the fact that is helpful in dealing with the question. In this
case direct observation is called for. The same principle
applies to the use to be made of observation on one hand and of
reading and "telling" on the other. Direct observation is
naturally more vivid and vital. But it has its limitations; and
in any case it is a necessary part of education that one should
acquire the ability to supplement the narrowness of his
immediately personal experiences by utilizing the experiences of
others. Excessive reliance upon others for data (whether got
from reading or listening) is to be depreciated. Most
objectionable of all is the probability that others, the book or
the teacher, will supply solutions ready-made, instead of giving
material that the student has to adapt and apply to the question
in hand for himself.

There is no inconsistency in saying that in schools there is
usually both too much and too little information supplied by
others. The accumulation and acquisition of information for
purposes of reproduction in recitation and examination is made
too much of. "Knowledge," in the sense of information, means the
working capital, the indispensable resources, of further inquiry;
of finding out, or learning, more things. Frequently it is
treated as an end itself, and then the goal becomes to heap it up
and display it when called for. This static, cold-storage ideal
of knowledge is inimical to educative development. It not only
lets occasions for thinking go unused, but it swamps thinking.
No one could construct a house on ground cluttered with
miscellaneous junk. Pupils who have stored their "minds" with
all kinds of material which they have never put to intellectual
uses are sure to be hampered when they try to think. They have
no practice in selecting what is appropriate, and no criterion to
go by; everything is on the same dead static level. On the other
hand, it is quite open to question whether, if information
actually functioned in experience through use in application to
the student's own purposes, there would not be need of more
varied resources in books, pictures, and talks than are usually
at command.

III. The correlate in thinking of facts, data, knowledge already
acquired, is suggestions, inferences, conjectured meanings,
suppositions, tentative explanations:--ideas, in short. Careful
observation and recollection determine what is given, what is
already there, and hence assured. They cannot furnish what is
lacking. They define, clarify, and locate the question; they
cannot supply its answer. Projection, invention, ingenuity,
devising come in for that purpose. The data arouse suggestions,
and only by reference to the specific data can we pass upon the
appropriateness of the suggestions. But the suggestions run
beyond what is, as yet, actually given in experience. They
forecast possible results, things to do, not facts (things
already done). Inference is always an invasion of the unknown, a
leap from the known.

In this sense, a thought (what a thing suggests but is not as it
is presented) is creative, -- an incursion into the novel. It
involves some inventiveness. What is suggested must, indeed, be
familiar in some context; the novelty, the inventive devising,
clings to the new light in which it is seen, the different use to
which it is put. When Newton thought of his theory of
gravitation, the creative aspect of his thought was not found in
its materials. They were familiar; many of them commonplaces --
sun, moon, planets, weight, distance, mass, square of numbers.
These were not original ideas; they were established facts. His
originality lay in the use to which these familiar acquaintances
were put by introduction into an unfamiliar context. The same is
true of every striking scientific discovery, every great
invention, every admirable artistic production. Only silly folk
identify creative originality with the extraordinary and
fanciful; others recognize that its measure lies in putting
everyday things to uses which had not occurred to others. The
operation is novel, not the materials out of which it is

The educational conclusion which follows is that all thinking is
original in a projection of considerations which have not been
previously apprehended. The child of three who discovers what
can be done with blocks, or of six who finds out what he can make
by putting five cents and five cents together, is really a
discoverer, even though everybody else in the world knows it.
There is a genuine increment of experience; not another item
mechanically added on, but enrichment by a new quality. The
charm which the spontaneity of little children has for
sympathetic observers is due to perception of this intellectual
originality. The joy which children themselves experience is the
joy of intellectual constructiveness -- of creativeness, if the
word may be used without misunderstanding. The educational moral
I am chiefly concerned to draw is not, however, that teachers
would find their own work less of a grind and strain if school
conditions favored learning in the sense of discovery and not in
that of storing away what others pour into them; nor that it
would be possible to give even children and youth the delights of
personal intellectual productiveness -- true and important as are
these things. It is that no thought, no idea, can possibly be
conveyed as an idea from one person to another. When it is told,
it is, to the one to whom it is told, another given fact, not an
idea. The communication may stimulate the other person to
realize the question for himself and to think out a like idea, or
it may smother his intellectual interest and suppress his dawning
effort at thought. But what he directly gets cannot be an idea.
Only by wrestling with the conditions of the problem at first
hand, seeking and finding his own way out, does he think. When
the parent or teacher has provided the conditions which stimulate
thinking and has taken a sympathetic attitude toward the
activities of the learner by entering into a common or conjoint
experience, all has been done which a second party can do to
instigate learning. The rest lies with the one directly
concerned. If he cannot devise his own solution (not of course
in isolation, but in correspondence with the teacher and other
pupils) and find his own way out he will not learn, not even if
he can recite some correct answer with one hundred per cent
accuracy. We can and do supply ready-made "ideas" by the
thousand; we do not usually take much pains to see that the one
learning engages in significant situations where his own
activities generate, support, and clinch ideas -- that is,
perceived meanings or connections. This does not mean that the
teacher is to stand off and look on; the alternative to
furnishing ready-made subject matter and listening to the
accuracy with which it is reproduced is not quiescence, but
participation, sharing, in an activity. In such shared activity,
the teacher is a learner, and the learner is, without knowing it,
a teacher -- and upon the whole, the less consciousness there is,
on either side, of either giving or receiving instruction, the
better. IV. Ideas, as we have seen, whether they be humble
guesses or dignified theories, are anticipations of possible
solutions. They are anticipations of some continuity or
connection of an activity and a consequence which has not as yet
shown itself. They are therefore tested by the operation of
acting upon them. They are to guide and organize further
observations, recollections, and experiments. They are
intermediate in learning, not final. All educational reformers,
as we have had occasion to remark, are given to attacking the
passivity of traditional education. They have opposed pouring in
from without, and absorbing like a sponge; they have attacked
drilling in material as into hard and resisting rock. But it is
not easy to secure conditions which will make the getting of an
idea identical with having an experience which widens and makes
more precise our contact with the environment. Activity, even
self-activity, is too easily thought of as something merely
mental, cooped up within the head, or finding expression only
through the vocal organs.

While the need of application of ideas gained in study is
acknowledged by all the more successful methods of instruction,
the exercises in application are sometimes treated as devices for
fixing what has already been learned and for getting greater
practical skill in its manipulation. These results are genuine
and not to be despised. But practice in applying what has been
gained in study ought primarily to have an intellectual quality.
As we have already seen, thoughts just as thoughts are
incomplete. At best they are tentative; they are suggestions,
indications. They are standpoints and methods for dealing with
situations of experience. Till they are applied in these
situations they lack full point and reality. Only application
tests them, and only testing confers full meaning and a sense of
their reality. Short of use made of them, they tend to segregate
into a peculiar world of their own. It may be seriously
questioned whether the philosophies (to which reference has been
made in section 2 of chapter X) which isolate mind and set it
over against the world did not have their origin in the fact that
the reflective or theoretical class of men elaborated a large
stock of ideas which social conditions did not allow them to act
upon and test. Consequently men were thrown back into their own
thoughts as ends in themselves.

However this may be, there can be no doubt that a peculiar
artificiality attaches to much of what is learned in schools. It
can hardly be said that many students consciously think of the
subject matter as unreal; but it assuredly does not possess for
them the kind of reality which the subject matter of their vital
experiences possesses. They learn not to expect that sort of
reality of it; they become habituated to treating it as having
reality for the purposes of recitations, lessons, and
examinations. That it should remain inert for the experiences of
daily life is more or less a matter of course. The bad effects
are twofold. Ordinary experience does not receive the enrichment
which it should; it is not fertilized by school learning. And
the attitudes which spring from getting used to and accepting
half-understood and ill-digested material weaken vigor and
efficiency of thought.

If we have dwelt especially on the negative side, it is for the
sake of suggesting positive measures adapted to the effectual
development of thought. Where schools are equipped with
laboratories, shops, and gardens, where dramatizations, plays,
and games are freely used, opportunities exist for reproducing
situations of life, and for acquiring and applying information
and ideas in the carrying forward of progressive experiences.
Ideas are not segregated, they do not form an isolated island.
They animate and enrich the ordinary course of life. Information
is vitalized by its function; by the place it occupies in
direction of action. The phrase "opportunities exist" is used
purposely. They may not be taken advantage of; it is possible to
employ manual and constructive activities in a physical way, as
means of getting just bodily skill; or they may be used almost
exclusively for "utilitarian," i.e., pecuniary, ends. But the
disposition on the part of upholders of "cultural" education to
assume that such activities are merely physical or professional
in quality, is itself a product of the philosophies which isolate
mind from direction of the course of experience and hence from
action upon and with things. When the "mental" is regarded as a
self-contained separate realm, a counterpart fate befalls bodily
activity and movements. They are regarded as at the best mere
external annexes to mind. They may be necessary for the
satisfaction of bodily needs and the attainment of external
decency and comfort, but they do not occupy a necessary place in
mind nor enact an indispensable role in the completion of
thought. Hence they have no place in a liberal education--i.e.,
one which is concerned with the interests of intelligence. If
they come in at all, it is as a concession to the material needs
of the masses. That they should be allowed to invade the
education of the elite is unspeakable. This conclusion follows
irresistibly from the isolated conception of mind, but by the
same logic it disappears when we perceive what mind really is --
namely, the purposive and directive factor in the
development of experience. While it is desirable that all
educational institutions should be equipped so as to give
students an opportunity for acquiring and testing ideas and
information in active pursuits typifying important social
situations, it will, doubtless, be a long time before all of them
are thus furnished. But this state of affairs does not afford
instructors an excuse for folding their hands and persisting in
methods which segregate school knowledge. Every recitation in
every subject gives an opportunity for establishing cross
connections between the subject matter of the lesson and the
wider and more direct experiences of everyday life. Classroom
instruction falls into three kinds. The least desirable treats
each lesson as an independent whole. It does not put upon the
student the responsibility of finding points of contact between
it and other lessons in the same subject, or other subjects of
study. Wiser teachers see to it that the student is
systematically led to utilize his earlier lessons to help
understand the present one, and also to use the present to throw
additional light upon what has already been acquired. Results
are better, but school subject matter is still isolated. Save by
accident, out-of-school experience is left in its crude and
comparatively irreflective state. It is not subject to the
refining and expanding influences of the more accurate and
comprehensive material of direct instruction. The latter is not
motivated and impregnated with a sense of reality by being
intermingled with the realities of everyday life. The best type
of teaching bears in mind the desirability of affecting this
interconnection. It puts the student in the habitual attitude of
finding points of contact and mutual bearings.

Summary. Processes of instruction are unified in the degree in
which they center in the production of good habits of thinking.
While we may speak, without error, of the method of thought, the
important thing is that thinking is the method of an educative
experience. The essentials of method are therefore identical
with the essentials of reflection. They are first that the pupil
have a genuine situation of experience -- that there be a
continuous activity in which he is interested for its own sake;
secondly, that a genuine problem develop within this situation as
a stimulus to thought; third, that he possess the information and
make the observations needed to deal with it; fourth, that
suggested solutions occur to him which he shall be responsible
for developing in an orderly way; fifth, that he have opportunity
and occasion to test his ideas by application, to make their
meaning clear and to discover for himself their validity.

Chapter Thirteen: The Nature of Method

1. The Unity of Subject Matter and Method.

The trinity of school topics is subject matter, methods, and
administration or government. We have been concerned with the
two former in recent chapters. It remains to disentangle them
from the context in which they have been referred to, and discuss
explicitly their nature. We shall begin with the topic of
method, since that lies closest to the considerations of the last
chapter. Before taking it up, it may be well, however, to call
express attention to one implication of our theory; the
connection of subject matter and method with each other. The
idea that mind and the world of things and persons are two
separate and independent realms -- a theory which philosophically
is known as dualism -- carries with it the conclusion that method
and subject matter of instruction are separate affairs. Subject
matter then becomes a ready-made systematized classification of
the facts and principles of the world of nature and man. Method
then has for its province a consideration of the ways in which
this antecedent subject matter may be best presented to and
impressed upon the mind; or, a consideration of the ways in which
the mind may be externally brought to bear upon the matter so as
to facilitate its acquisition and possession. In theory, at
least, one might deduce from a science of the mind as something
existing by itself a complete theory of methods of learning, with
no knowledge of the subjects to which the methods are to be
applied. Since many who are actually most proficient in various
branches of subject matter are wholly innocent of these methods,
this state of affairs gives opportunity for the retort that
pedagogy, as an alleged science of methods of the mind in
learning, is futile; -- a mere screen for concealing the
necessity a teacher is under of profound and accurate
acquaintance with the subject in hand.

But since thinking is a directed movement of subject matter to a
completing issue, and since mind is the deliberate and
intentional phase of the process, the notion of any such split is
radically false. The fact that the material of a science is
organized is evidence that it has already been subjected to
intelligence; it has been methodized, so to say. Zoology as a
systematic branch of knowledge represents crude, scattered facts
of our ordinary acquaintance with animals after they have been
subjected to careful examination, to deliberate supplementation,
and to arrangement to bring out connections which assist
observation, memory, and further inquiry. Instead of furnishing
a starting point for learning, they mark out a consummation.
Method means that arrangement of subject matter which makes it
most effective in use. Never is method something outside of the

How about method from the standpoint of an individual who is
dealing with subject matter? Again, it is not something external.
It is simply an effective treatment of material -- efficiency
meaning such treatment as utilizes the material (puts it to a
purpose) with a minimum of waste of time and energy. We can
distinguish a way of acting, and discuss it by itself; but the
way exists only as way-of-dealing-with-material. Method is not
antithetical to subject matter; it is the effective direction of
subject matter to desired results. It is antithetical to random
and ill-considered action, -- ill-considered signifying

The statement that method means directed movement of subject
matter towards ends is formal. An illustration may give it
content. Every artist must have a method, a technique, in doing
his work. Piano playing is not hitting the keys at random. It
is an orderly way of using them, and the order is not something
which exists ready- made in the musician's hands or brain prior
to an activity dealing with the piano. Order is found in the
disposition of acts which use the piano and the hands and brain
so as to achieve the result intended. It is the action of the
piano directed to accomplish the purpose of the piano as a
musical instrument. It is the same with "pedagogical" method.
The only difference is that the piano is a mechanism constructed
in advance for a single end; while the material of study is
capable of indefinite uses. But even in this regard the
illustration may apply if we consider the infinite variety of
kinds of music which a piano may produce, and the variations in
technique required in the different musical results secured.
Method in any case is but an effective way of employing some
material for some end.

These considerations may be generalized by going back to the
conception of experience. Experience as the perception of the
connection between something tried and something undergone in
consequence is a process. Apart from effort to control the
course which the process takes, there is no distinction of
subject matter and method. There is simply an activity which
includes both what an individual does and what the environment
does. A piano player who had perfect mastery of his instrument
would have no occasion to distinguish between his contribution
and that of the piano. In well-formed, smooth-running functions
of any sort, -- skating, conversing, hearing music, enjoying a
landscape, -- there is no consciousness of separation of the
method of the person and of the subject matter. In whole-hearted
play and work there is the same phenomenon.

When we reflect upon an experience instead of just having it, we
inevitably distinguish between our own attitude and the objects
toward which we sustain the attitude. When a man is eating, he
is eating food. He does not divide his act into eating and food.
But if he makes a scientific investigation of the act, such a
discrimination is the first thing he would effect. He would
examine on the one hand the properties of the nutritive material,
and on the other hand the acts of the organism in appropriating
and digesting. Such reflection upon experience gives rise to a
distinction of what we experience (the experienced) and the
experiencing -- the how. When we give names to this distinction
we have subject matter and method as our terms. There is the
thing seen, heard, loved, hated, imagined, and there is the act
of seeing, hearing, loving, hating, imagining, etc.

This distinction is so natural and so important for certain
purposes, that we are only too apt to regard it as a separation
in existence and not as a distinction in thought. Then we make a
division between a self and the environment or world. This
separation is the root of the dualism of method and subject
matter. That is, we assume that knowing, feeling, willing, etc.,
are things which belong to the self or mind in its isolation, and
which then may be brought to bear upon an independent subject
matter. We assume that the things which belong in isolation to
the self or mind have their own laws of operation irrespective of
the modes of active energy of the object. These laws are
supposed to furnish method. It would be no less absurd to
suppose that men can eat without eating something, or that the
structure and movements of the jaws, throat muscles, the
digestive activities of stomach, etc., are not what they are
because of the material with which their activity is engaged.
Just as the organs of the organism are a continuous part of the
very world in which food materials exist, so the capacities of
seeing, hearing, loving, imagining are intrinsically connected
with the subject matter of the world. They are more truly ways
in which the environment enters into experience and functions
there than they are independent acts brought to bear upon things.
Experience, in short, is not a combination of mind and world,
subject and object, method and subject matter, but is a single
continuous interaction of a great diversity (literally countless
in number) of energies.

For the purpose of controlling the course or direction which the
moving unity of experience takes we draw a mental distinction
between the how and the what. While there is no way of walking
or of eating or of learning over and above the actual walking,
eating, and studying, there are certain elements in the act which
give the key to its more effective control. Special attention to
these elements makes them more obvious to perception (letting
other factors recede for the time being from conspicuous
recognition). Getting an idea of how the experience proceeds
indicates to us what factors must be secured or modified in order
that it may go on more successfully. This is only a somewhat
elaborate way of saying that if a man watches carefully the
growth of several plants, some of which do well and some of which
amount to little or nothing, he may be able to detect the special
conditions upon which the prosperous development of a plant
depends. These conditions, stated in an orderly sequence, would
constitute the method or way or manner of its growth. There is
no difference between the growth of a plant and the prosperous
development of an experience. It is not easy, in either case, to
seize upon just the factors which make for its best movement.
But study of cases of success and failure and minute and
extensive comparison, helps to seize upon causes. When we have
arranged these causes in order, we have a method of procedure or
a technique.

A consideration of some evils in education that flow from the
isolation of method from subject matter will make the point more

(I) In the first place, there is the neglect (of which we have
spoken) of concrete situations of experience. There can be no
discovery of a method without cases to be studied. The method is
derived from observation of what actually happens, with a view to
seeing that it happen better next time. But in instruction and
discipline, there is rarely sufficient opportunity for children
and youth to have the direct normal experiences from which
educators might derive an idea of method or order of best
development. Experiences are had under conditions of such
constraint that they throw little or no light upon the normal
course of an experience to its fruition. "Methods" have then to
be authoritatively recommended to teachers, instead of being an
expression of their own intelligent observations. Under such
circumstances, they have a mechanical uniformity, assumed to be
alike for all minds. Where flexible personal experiences are
promoted by providing an environment which calls out directed
occupations in work and play, the methods ascertained will vary
with individuals -- for it is certain that each individual has
something characteristic in his way of going at things.

(ii) In the second place, the notion of methods isolated from
subject matter is responsible for the false conceptions of
discipline and interest already noted. When the effective way of
managing material is treated as something ready-made apart from
material, there are just three possible ways in which to
establish a relationship lacking by assumption. One is to
utilize excitement, shock of pleasure, tickling the palate.
Another is to make the consequences of not attending painful; we
may use the menace of harm to motivate concern with the alien
subject matter. Or a direct appeal may be made to the person to
put forth effort without any reason. We may rely upon immediate
strain of "will." In practice, however, the latter method is
effectual only when instigated by fear of unpleasant results.
(iii) In the third place, the act of learning is made a direct
and conscious end in itself. Under normal conditions, learning
is a product and reward of occupation with subject matter.
Children do not set out, consciously, to learn walking or
talking. One sets out to give his impulses for communication and
for fuller intercourse with others a show. He learns in
consequence of his direct activities. The better methods of
teaching a child, say, to read, follow the same road. They do
not fix his attention upon the fact that he has to learn
something and so make his attitude self-conscious and
constrained. They engage his activities, and in the process of
engagement he learns: the same is true of the more successful
methods in dealing with number or whatever. But when the subject
matter is not used in carrying forward impulses and habits to
significant results, it is just something to be learned. The
pupil's attitude to it is just that of having to learn it.
Conditions more unfavorable to an alert and concentrated response
would be hard to devise. Frontal attacks are even more wasteful
in learning than in war. This does not mean, however, that
students are to be seduced unaware into preoccupation with
lessons. It means that they shall be occupied with them for real
reasons or ends, and not just as something to be learned. This
is accomplished whenever the pupil perceives the place occupied
by the subject matter in the fulfilling of some experience.

(iv) In the fourth place, under the influence of the conception
of the separation of mind and material, method tends to be
reduced to a cut and dried routine, to following mechanically
prescribed steps. No one can tell in how many schoolrooms
children reciting in arithmetic or grammar are compelled to go
through, under the alleged sanction of method, certain
preordained verbal formulae. Instead of being encouraged to
attack their topics directly, experimenting with methods that
seem promising and learning to discriminate by the consequences
that accrue, it is assumed that there is one fixed method to be
followed. It is also naively assumed that if the pupils make
their statements and explanations in a certain form of
"analysis," their mental habits will in time conform. Nothing
has brought pedagogical theory into greater disrepute than the
belief that it is identified with handing out to teachers recipes
and models to be followed in teaching. Flexibility and
initiative in dealing with problems are characteristic of any
conception to which method is a way of managing material to
develop a conclusion. Mechanical rigid woodenness is an
inevitable corollary of any theory which separates mind from
activity motivated by a purpose.

2. Method as General and as Individual. In brief, the method of
teaching is the method of an art, of action intelligently
directed by ends. But the practice of a fine art is far from
being a matter of extemporized inspirations. Study of the
operations and results of those in the past who have greatly
succeeded is essential. There is always a tradition, or schools
of art, definite enough to impress beginners, and often to take
them captive. Methods of artists in every branch depend upon
thorough acquaintance with materials and tools; the painter must
know canvas, pigments, brushes, and the technique of
manipulation of all his appliances. Attainment of this knowledge
requires persistent and concentrated attention to objective
materials. The artist studies the progress of his own attempts
to see what succeeds and what fails. The assumption that there
are no alternatives between following ready-made rules and
trusting to native gifts, the inspiration of the moment and
undirected "hard work," is contradicted by the procedures of
every art.

Such matters as knowledge of the past, of current technique, of
materials, of the ways in which one's own best results are
assured, supply the material for what may be called general
method. There exists a cumulative body of fairly stable methods
for reaching results, a body authorized by past experience and by
intellectual analysis, which an individual ignores at his peril.
As was pointed out in the discussion of habit-forming (ante, p.
49), there is always a danger that these methods will become
mechanized and rigid, mastering an agent instead of being powers
at command for his own ends. But it is also true that the
innovator who achieves anything enduring, whose work is more than
a passing sensation, utilizes classic methods more than may
appear to himself or to his critics. He devotes them to new
uses, and in so far transforms them.

Education also has its general methods. And if the application
of this remark is more obvious in the case of the teacher than of
the pupil, it is equally real in the case of the latter. Part of
his learning, a very important part, consists in becoming master
of the methods which the experience of others has shown to be
more efficient in like cases of getting knowledge. 1 These
general methods are in no way opposed to individual initiative
and originality -- to personal ways of doing things. On the
contrary they are reinforcements of them. For there is radical
difference between even the most general method and a prescribed
rule. The latter is a direct guide to action; the former
operates indirectly through the enlightenment it supplies as to
ends and means. It operates, that is to say, through
intelligence, and not through conformity to orders externally
imposed. Ability to use even in a masterly way an established
technique gives no warranty of artistic work, for the latter also
depends upon an animating idea.

If knowledge of methods used by others does not directly tell us
what to do, or furnish ready-made models, how does it operate?
What is meant by calling a method intellectual? Take the case of
a physician. No mode of behavior more imperiously demands
knowledge of established modes of diagnosis and treatment than
does his. But after all, cases are like, not identical. To be
used intelligently, existing practices, however authorized they
may be, have to be adapted to the exigencies of particular cases.
Accordingly, recognized procedures indicate to the physician what
inquiries to set on foot for himself, what measures to try. They
are standpoints from which to carry on investigations; they
economize a survey of the features of the particular case by
suggesting the things to be especially looked into. The
physician's own personal attitudes, his own ways (individual
methods) of dealing with the situation in which he is concerned,
are not subordinated to the general principles of procedure, but
are facilitated and directed by the latter. The instance may
serve to point out the value to the teacher of a knowledge of the
psychological methods and the empirical devices found useful in
the past. When they get in the way of his own common sense, when
they come between him and the situation in which he has to act,
they are worse than useless. But if he has acquired them as
intellectual aids in sizing up the needs, resources, and
difficulties of the unique experiences in which he engages, they
are of constructive value. In the last resort, just because
everything depends upon his own methods of response, much depends
upon how far he can utilize, in making his own response, the
knowledge which has accrued in the experience of others. As
already intimated, every word of this account is directly
applicable also to the method of the pupil, the way of learning.
To suppose that students, whether in the primary school or in the
university, can be supplied with models of method to be followed
in acquiring and expounding a subject is to fall into a
self-deception that has lamentable consequences. (See ante, p.
169.) One must make his own reaction in any case. Indications of
the standardized or general methods used in like cases by
others--particularly by those who are already experts--are of
worth or of harm according as they make his personal reaction
more intelligent or as they induce a person to dispense with
exercise of his own judgment. If what was said earlier (See p.
159) about originality of thought seemed overstrained, demanding
more of education than the capacities of average human nature
permit, the difficulty is that we lie under the incubus of a
superstition. We have set up the notion of mind at large, of
intellectual method that is the same for all. Then we regard
individuals as differing in the quantity of mind with which they
are charged. Ordinary persons are then expected to be ordinary.
Only the exceptional are allowed to have originality. The
measure of difference between the average student and the genius
is a measure of the absence of originality in the former. But
this notion of mind in general is a fiction. How one person's
abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of
the teacher's business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is
required is that every individual shall have opportunities to
employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind,
individual method, originality (these are convertible terms)
signify the quality of purposive or directed action. If we act
upon this conviction, we shall secure more originality even by
the conventional standard than now develops. Imposing an alleged
uniform general method upon everybody breeds mediocrity in all
but the very exceptional. And measuring originality by deviation
from the mass breeds eccentricity in them. Thus we stifle the
distinctive quality of the many, and save in rare instances
(like, say, that of Darwin) infect the rare geniuses with an
unwholesome quality.

3. The Traits of Individual Method. The most general features
of the method of knowing have been given in our chapter on
thinking. They are the features of the reflective situation:
Problem, collection and analysis of data, projection and
elaboration of suggestions or ideas, experimental application and
testing; the resulting conclusion or judgment. The specific
elements of an individual's method or way of attack upon a
problem are found ultimately in his native tendencies and his
acquired habits and interests. The method of one will vary from
that of another (and properly vary) as his original instinctive
capacities vary, as his past experiences and his preferences
vary. Those who have already studied these matters are in
possession of information which will help teachers in
understanding the responses different pupils make, and help them
in guiding these responses to greater efficiency. Child-study,
psychology, and a knowledge of social environment supplement the
personal acquaintance gained by the teacher. But methods remain
the personal concern, approach, and attack of an individual, and
no catalogue can ever exhaust their diversity of form and tint.

Some attitudes may be named, however,-which are central in
effective intellectual ways of dealing with subject matter.
Among the most important are directness, open-mindedness,
single-mindedness (or whole-heartedness), and responsibility.

1. It is easier to indicate what is meant by directness through
negative terms than in positive ones. Self-consciousness,
embarrassment, and constraint are its menacing foes. They
indicate that a person is not immediately concerned with subject
matter. Something has come between which deflects concern to
side issues. A self-conscious person is partly thinking about
his problem and partly about what others think of his
performances. Diverted energy means loss of power and confusion
of ideas. Taking an attitude is by no means identical with being
conscious of one's attitude. The former is spontaneous, naive,
and simple. It is a sign of whole-souled relationship between a
person and what he is dealing with. The latter is not of
necessity abnormal. It is sometimes the easiest way of
correcting a false method of approach, and of improving the
effectiveness of the means one is employing, -- as golf players,
piano players, public speakers, etc., have occasionally to give
especial attention to their position and movements. But this
need is occasional and temporary. When it is effectual a person
thinks of himself in terms of what is to be done, as one means
among others of the realization of an end -- as in the case of a
tennis player practicing to get the "feel" of a stroke. In
abnormal cases, one thinks of himself not as part of the agencies
of execution, but as a separate object -- as when the player
strikes an attitude thinking of the impression it will make upon
spectators, or is worried because of the impression he fears his
movements give rise to.

Confidence is a good name for what is intended by the term
directness. It should not be confused, however, with
self-confidence which may be a form of self-consciousness--or of
"cheek." Confidence is not a name for what one thinks or feels
about his attitude it is not reflex. It denotes the
straightforwardness with which one goes at what he has to do. It
denotes not conscious trust in the efficacy of one's powers but
unconscious faith in the possibilities of the situation. It
signifies rising to the needs of the situation. We have already
pointed out (See p. 169) the objections to making students
emphatically aware of the fact that they are studying or
learning. Just in the degree in which they are induced by the
conditions to be so aware, they are not studying and learning.
They are in a divided and complicated attitude. Whatever methods
of a teacher call a pupil's attention off from what he has to do
and transfer it to his own attitude towards what he is doing
impair directness of concern and action. Persisted in, the pupil
acquires a permanent tendency to fumble, to gaze about aimlessly,
to look for some clew of action beside that which the subject
matter supplies. Dependence upon extraneous suggestions and
directions, a state of foggy confusion, take the place of that
sureness with which children (and grown-up people who have not
been sophisticated by "education") confront the situations of

2. Open-mindedness. Partiality is, as we have seen, an
accompaniment of the existence of interest, since this means
sharing, partaking, taking sides in some movement. All the more
reason, therefore, for an attitude of mind which actively
welcomes suggestions and relevant information from all sides. In
the chapter on Aims it was shown that foreseen ends are factors
in the development of a changing situation. They are the means
by which the direction of action is controlled. They are
subordinate to the situation, therefore, not the situation to
them. They are not ends in the sense of finalities to which
everything must be bent and sacrificed. They are, as foreseen,
means of guiding the development of a situation. A target is not
the future goal of shooting; it is the centering factor in a
present shooting. Openness of mind means accessibility of mind
to any and every consideration that will throw light upon the
situation that needs to be cleared up, and that will help
determine the consequences of acting this way or that.
Efficiency in accomplishing ends which have been settled upon as
unalterable can coexist with a narrowly opened mind. But
intellectual growth means constant expansion of horizons and
consequent formation of new purposes and new responses. These
are impossible without an active disposition to welcome points of
view hitherto alien; an active desire to entertain considerations
which modify existing purposes. Retention of capacity to grow is
the reward of such intellectual hospitality. The worst thing
about stubbornness of mind, about prejudices, is that they arrest
development; they shut the mind off from new stimuli.
Open-mindedness means retention of the childlike attitude;
closed-mindedness means premature intellectual old age.

Exorbitant desire for uniformity of procedure and for prompt
external results are the chief foes which the open-minded
attitude meets in school. The teacher who does not permit and
encourage diversity of operation in dealing with questions is
imposing intellectual blinders upon pupils -- restricting their
vision to the one path the teacher's mind happens to approve.
Probably the chief cause of devotion to rigidity of method is,
however, that it seems to promise speedy, accurately measurable,
correct results. The zeal for "answers" is the explanation of
much of the zeal for rigid and mechanical methods. Forcing and
overpressure have the same origin, and the same result upon alert
and varied intellectual interest.

Open-mindedness is not the same as empty-mindedness. To hang out
a sign saying "Come right in; there is no one at home" is not the
equivalent of hospitality. But there is a kind of passivity,
willingness to let experiences accumulate and sink in and ripen,
which is an essential of development. Results (external answers
or solutions) may be hurried; processes may not be forced. They
take their own time to mature. Were all instructors to realize
that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct
answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less
than a revolution in teaching would be worked.

3. Single-mindedness. So far as the word is concerned, much
that was said under the head of "directness" is applicable. But
what the word is here intended to convey is completeness of
interest, unity of purpose; the absence of suppressed but
effectual ulterior aims for which the professed aim is but a
mask. It is equivalent to mental integrity. Absorption,
engrossment, full concern with subject matter for its own sake,
nurture it. Divided interest and evasion destroy it.

Intellectual integrity, honesty, and sincerity are at bottom not
matters of conscious purpose but of quality of active response.
Their acquisition is fostered of course by conscious intent, but
self-deception is very easy. Desires are urgent. When the
demands and wishes of others forbid their direct expression they
are easily driven into subterranean and deep channels. Entire
surrender, and wholehearted adoption of the course of action
demanded by others are almost impossible. Deliberate revolt or
deliberate attempts to deceive others may result. But the more
frequent outcome is a confused and divided state of interest in
which one is fooled as to one's own real intent. One tries to
serve two masters at once. Social instincts, the strong desire
to please others and get their approval, social training, the
general sense of duty and of authority, apprehension of penalty,
all lead to a half-hearted effort to conform, to "pay attention
to the lesson," or whatever the requirement is. Amiable
individuals want to do what they are expected to do. Consciously
the pupil thinks he is doing this. But his own desires are not
abolished. Only their evident exhibition is suppressed. Strain
of attention to what is hostile to desire is irksome; in spite of
one's conscious wish, the underlying desires determine the main
course of thought, the deeper emotional responses. The mind
wanders from the nominal subject and devotes itself to what is
intrinsically more desirable. A systematized divided attention
expressing the duplicity of the state of desire is the result.
One has only to recall his own experiences in school or at the
present time when outwardly employed in actions which do not
engage one's desires and purposes, to realize how prevalent is
this attitude of divided attention -- double-mindedness. We are
so used to it that we take it for granted that a considerable
amount of it is necessary. It may be; if so, it is the more
important to face its bad intellectual effects. Obvious is the
loss of energy of thought immediately available when one is
consciously trying (or trying to seem to try) to attend to one
matter, while unconsciously one's imagination is spontaneously
going out to more congenial affairs. More subtle and more
permanently crippling to efficiency of intellectual activity is a
fostering of habitual self-deception, with the confused sense of
reality which accompanies it. A double standard of reality, one
for our own private and more or less concealed interests, and
another for public and acknowledged concerns, hampers, in most of
us, integrity and completeness of mental action. Equally serious
is the fact that a split is set up between conscious thought and
attention and impulsive blind affection and desire. Reflective
dealings with the material of instruction is constrained and
half-hearted; attention wanders. The topics to which it wanders
are unavowed and hence intellectually illicit; transactions with
them are furtive. The discipline that comes from regulating
response by deliberate inquiry having a purpose fails; worse than
that, the deepest concern and most congenial enterprises of the
imagination (since they center about the things dearest to
desire) are casual, concealed. They enter into action in ways
which are unacknowledged. Not subject to rectification by
consideration of consequences, they are demoralizing.

School conditions favorable to this division of mind between
avowed, public, and socially responsible undertakings, and
private, ill-regulated, and suppressed indulgences of thought are
not hard to find. What is sometimes called "stern discipline,"
i.e., external coercive pressure, has this tendency. Motivation
through rewards extraneous to the thing to be done has a like
effect. Everything that makes schooling merely preparatory (See
ante, p. 55) works in this direction. Ends being beyond the
pupil's present grasp, other agencies have to be found to procure
immediate attention to assigned tasks. Some responses are
secured, but desires and affections not enlisted must find other
outlets. Not less serious is exaggerated emphasis upon drill
exercises designed to produce skill in action, independent of any
engagement of thought -- exercises have no purpose but the
production of automatic skill. Nature abhors a mental vacuum.
What do teachers imagine is happening to thought and emotion when
the latter get no outlet in the things of immediate activity?
Were they merely kept in temporary abeyance, or even only
calloused, it would not be a matter of so much moment. But they
are not abolished; they are not suspended; they are not
suppressed--save with reference to the task in question. They
follow their own chaotic and undisciplined course. What is
native, spontaneous, and vital in mental reaction goes unused and
untested, and the habits formed are such that these qualities
become less and less available for public and avowed ends.

4. Responsibility. By responsibility as an element in
intellectual attitude is meant the disposition to consider in
advance the probable consequences of any projected step and
deliberately to accept them: to accept them in the sense of
taking them into account, acknowledging them in action, not
yielding a mere verbal assent. Ideas, as we have seen, are
intrinsically standpoints and methods for bringing about a
solution of a perplexing situation; forecasts calculated to
influence responses. It is only too easy to think that one
accepts a statement or believes a suggested truth when one has
not considered its implications; when one has made but a cursory
and superficial survey of what further things one is committed to
by acceptance. Observation and recognition, belief and assent,
then become names for lazy acquiescence in what is externally

It would be much better to have fewer facts and truths in
instruction -- that is, fewer things supposedly accepted, -- if a
smaller number of situations could be intellectually worked out
to the point where conviction meant something real -- some
identification of the self with the type of conduct demanded by
facts and foresight of results. The most permanent bad results
of undue complication of school subjects and congestion of school
studies and lessons are not the worry, nervous strain, and
superficial acquaintance that follow (serious as these are), but
the failure to make clear what is involved in really knowing and
believing a thing. Intellectual responsibility means severe
standards in this regard. These standards can be built up only
through practice in following up and acting upon the meaning of
what is acquired.

Intellectual thoroughness is thus another name for the attitude
we are considering. There is a kind of thoroughness which is
almost purely physical: the kind that signifies mechanical and
exhausting drill upon all the details of a subject. Intellectual
thoroughness is seeing a thing through. It depends upon a unity
of purpose to which details are subordinated, not upon presenting
a multitude of disconnected details. It is manifested in the
firmness with which the full meaning of the purpose is developed,
not in attention, however "conscientious" it may be, to the steps
of action externally imposed and directed.

Summary. Method is a statement of the way the subject matter of
an experience develops most effectively and fruitfully. It is
derived, accordingly, from observation of the course of
experiences where there is no conscious distinction of personal
attitude and manner from material dealt with. The assumption
that method is something separate is connected with the notion of
the isolation of mind and self from the world of things. It
makes instruction and learning formal, mechanical, constrained.
While methods are individualized, certain features of the normal
course of an experience to its fruition may be discriminated,
because of the fund of wisdom derived from prior experiences and
because of general similarities in the materials dealt with from
time to time. Expressed in terms of the attitude of the
individual the traits of good method are straightforwardness,
flexible intellectual interest or open-minded will to learn,
integrity of purpose, and acceptance of responsibility for the
consequences of one's activity including thought.

1 This point is developed below in a discussion of what are
termed psychological and logical methods respectively. See p.

Chapter Fourteen: The Nature of Subject Matter

1. Subject Matter of Educator and of Learner. So far as the
nature of subject matter in principle is concerned, there is
nothing to add to what has been said (See ante, p. 134). It
consists of the facts observed, recalled, read, and talked about,
and the ideas suggested, in course of a development of a
situation having a purpose. This statement needs to be rendered
more specific by connecting it with the materials of school
instruction, the studies which make up the curriculum. What is
the significance of our definition in application to reading,
writing, mathematics, history, nature study, drawing, singing,
physics, chemistry, modern and foreign languages, and so on?
Let us recur to two of the points made earlier in our discussion.
The educator's part in the enterprise of education is to furnish
the environment which stimulates responses and directs the
learner's course. In last analysis, all that the educator can do
is modify stimuli so that response will as surely as is possible
result in the formation of desirable intellectual and emotional
dispositions. Obviously studies or the subject matter of the
curriculum have intimately to do with this business of supplying
an environment. The other point is the necessity of a social
environment to give meaning to habits formed. In what we have
termed informal education, subject matter is carried directly in
the matrix of social intercourse. It is what the persons with
whom an individual associates do and say. This fact gives a clew
to the understanding of the subject matter of formal or
deliberate instruction. A connecting link is found in the
stories, traditions, songs, and liturgies which accompany the
doings and rites of a primitive social group. They represent the
stock of meanings which have been precipitated out of previous
experience, which are so prized by the group as to be identified
with their conception of their own collective life. Not being
obviously a part of the skill exhibited in the daily occupations
of eating, hunting, making war and peace, constructing rugs,
pottery, and baskets, etc., they are consciously impressed upon
the young; often, as in the initiation ceremonies, with intense
emotional fervor. Even more pains are consciously taken to
perpetuate the myths, legends, and sacred verbal formulae of the
group than to transmit the directly useful customs of the group
just because they cannot be picked up, as the latter can be in
the ordinary processes of association.

As the social group grows more complex, involving a greater
number of acquired skills which are dependent, either in fact or
in the belief of the group, upon standard ideas deposited from
past experience, the content of social life gets more definitely
formulated for purposes of instruction. As we have previously
noted, probably the chief motive for consciously dwelling upon
the group life, extracting the meanings which are regarded as
most important and systematizing them in a coherent arrangement,
is just the need of instructing the young so as to perpetuate
group life. Once started on this road of selection, formulation,
and organization, no definite limit exists. The invention of
writing and of printing gives the operation an immense impetus.
Finally, the bonds which connect the subject matter of school
study with the habits and ideals of the social group are
disguised and covered up. The ties are so loosened that it often
appears as if there were none; as if subject matter existed
simply as knowledge on its own independent behoof, and as if
study were the mere act of mastering it for its own sake,
irrespective of any social values. Since it is highly important
for practical reasons to counter-act this tendency (See ante, p.
8) the chief purposes of our theoretical discussion are to make
clear the connection which is so readily lost from sight, and to
show in some detail the social content and function of the chief
constituents of the course of study.

The points need to be considered from the standpoint of
instructor and of student. To the former, the significance of a
knowledge of subject matter, going far beyond the present
knowledge of pupils, is to supply definite standards and to
reveal to him the possibilities of the crude activities of the
immature. (i) The material of school studies translates into
concrete and detailed terms the meanings of current social life
which it is desirable to transmit. It puts clearly before the
instructor the essential ingredients of the culture to be
perpetuated, in such an organized form as to protect him from the
haphazard efforts he would be likely to indulge in if the
meanings had not been standardized. (ii) A knowledge of the
ideas which have been achieved in the past as the outcome of
activity places the educator in a position to perceive the
meaning of the seeming impulsive and aimless reactions of the
young, and to provide the stimuli needed to direct them so that
they will amount to something. The more the educator knows of
music the more he can perceive the possibilities of the inchoate
musical impulses of a child. Organized subject matter represents
the ripe fruitage of experiences like theirs, experiences
involving the same world, and powers and needs similar to theirs.
It does not represent perfection or infallible wisdom; but it is
the best at command to further new experiences which may, in some
respects at least, surpass the achievements embodied in existing
knowledge and works of art.

From the standpoint of the educator, in other words, the various
studies represent working resources, available capital. Their
remoteness from the experience of the young is not, however,
seeming; it is real. The subject matter of the learner is not,
therefore, it cannot be, identical with the formulated, the
crystallized, and systematized subject matter of the adult; the
material as found in books and in works of art, etc. The latter
represents the possibilities of the former; not its existing
state. It enters directly into the activities of the expert and
the educator, not into that of the beginner, the learner.
Failure to bear in mind the difference in subject matter from the
respective standpoints of teacher and student is responsible for
most of the mistakes made in the use of texts and other
expressions of preexistent knowledge.

The need for a knowledge of the constitution and functions, in
the concrete, of human nature is great just because the teacher's
attitude to subject matter is so different from that of the
pupil. The teacher presents in actuality what the pupil
represents only in posse. That is, the teacher already knows the
things which the student is only learning. Hence the problem of
the two is radically unlike. When engaged in the direct act of
teaching, the instructor needs to have subject matter at his
fingers' ends; his attention should be upon the attitude and
response of the pupil. To understand the latter in its interplay
with subject matter is his task, while the pupil's mind,
naturally, should be not on itself but on the topic in hand. Or
to state the same point in a somewhat different manner: the
teacher should be occupied not with subject matter in itself but
in its interaction with the pupils' present needs and capacities.
Hence simple scholarship is not enough. In fact, there are
certain features of scholarship or mastered subject matter --
taken by itself -- which get in the way of effective teaching
unless the instructor's habitual attitude is one of concern with
its interplay in the pupil's own experience. In the first place,
his knowledge extends indefinitely beyond the range of the
pupil's acquaintance. It involves principles which are beyond
the immature pupil's understanding and interest. In and of
itself, it may no more represent the living world of the pupil's
experience than the astronomer's knowledge of Mars represents a
baby's acquaintance with the room in which he stays. In the
second place, the method of organization of the material of
achieved scholarship differs from that of the beginner. It is
not true that the experience of the young is unorganized -- that
it consists of isolated scraps. But it is organized in
connection with direct practical centers of interest. The
child's home is, for example, the organizing center of his
geographical knowledge. His own movements about the locality,
his journeys abroad, the tales of his friends, give the ties
which hold his items of information together. But the geography
of the geographer, of the one who has already developed the
implications of these smaller experiences, is organized on the
basis of the relationship which the various facts bear to one
another -- not the relations which they bear to his house, bodily
movements, and friends. To the one who is learned, subject
matter is extensive, accurately defined, and logically
interrelated. To the one who is learning, it is fluid, partial,
and connected through his personal occupations. 1 The problem of
teaching is to keep the experience of the student moving in the
direction of what the expert already knows. Hence the need that
the teacher know both subject matter and the characteristic needs
and capacities of the student.

2. The Development of Subject Matter in the Learner. It is
possible, without doing violence to the facts, to mark off three
fairly typical stages in the growth of subject matter in the
experience of the learner. In its first estate, knowledge exists
as the content of intelligent ability -- power to do. This kind
of subject matter, or known material, is expressed in familiarity
or acquaintance with things. Then this material gradually is
surcharged and deepened through communicated knowledge or
information. Finally, it is enlarged and worked over into
rationally or logically organized material -- that of the one
who, relatively speaking, is expert in the subject.

I. The knowledge which comes first to persons, and that remains
most deeply ingrained, is knowledge of how to do; how to walk,
talk, read, write, skate, ride a bicycle, manage a machine,
calculate, drive a horse, sell goods, manage people, and so on
indefinitely. The popular tendency to regard instinctive acts
which are adapted to an end as a sort of miraculous knowledge,
while unjustifiable, is evidence of the strong tendency to
identify intelligent control of the means of action with
knowledge. When education, under the influence of a scholastic
conception of knowledge which ignores everything but
scientifically formulated facts and truths, fails to recognize
that primary or initial subject matter always exists as matter of
an active doing, involving the use of the body and the handling
of material, the subject matter of instruction is isolated from
the needs and purposes of the learner, and so becomes just a
something to be memorized and reproduced upon demand.
Recognition of the natural course of development, on the
contrary, always sets out with situations which involve learning
by doing. Arts and occupations form the initial stage of the
curriculum, corresponding as they do to knowing how to go about
the accomplishment of ends. Popular terms denoting knowledge
have always retained the connection with ability in action lost
by academic philosophies. Ken and can are allied words.
Attention means caring for a thing, in the sense of both
affection and of looking out for its welfare. Mind means
carrying out instructions in action -- as a child minds his
mother -- and taking care of something -- as a nurse minds the
baby. To be thoughtful, considerate, means to heed the claims of
others. Apprehension means dread of undesirable consequences, as
well as intellectual grasp. To have good sense or judgment is to
know the conduct a situation calls for; discernment is not making
distinctions for the sake of making them, an exercise reprobated
as hair splitting, but is insight into an affair with reference
to acting. Wisdom has never lost its association with the proper
direction of life. Only in education, never in the life of
farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter,
does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from
doing. Having to do with things in an intelligent way issues in
acquaintance or familiarity. The things we are best acquainted
with are the things we put to frequent use -- such things as
chairs, tables, pen, paper, clothes, food, knives and forks on
the commonplace level, differentiating into more special objects
according to a person's occupations in life. Knowledge of things
in that intimate and emotional sense suggested by the word
acquaintance is a precipitate from our employing them with a
purpose. We have acted with or upon the thing so frequently that
we can anticipate how it will act and react -- such is the
meaning of familiar acquaintance. We are ready for a familiar
thing; it does not catch us napping, or play unexpected tricks
with us. This attitude carries with it a sense of congeniality
or friendliness, of ease and illumination; while the things with
which we are not accustomed to deal are strange, foreign, cold,
remote, "abstract."

II. But it is likely that elaborate statements regarding this
primary stage of knowledge will darken understanding. It
includes practically all of our knowledge which is not the result
of deliberate technical study. Modes of purposeful doing include
dealings with persons as well as things. Impulses of communication
and habits of intercourse have to be adapted to maintaining
successful connections with others; a large fund of social knowledge
accrues. As a part of this intercommunication one learns much from
others. They tell of their experiences and of the experiences which,
in turn, have been told them. In so far as one is interested or
concerned in these communications, their matter becomes a part of
one's own experience. Active connections with others are such an
intimate and vital part of our own concerns that it is impossible to
draw sharp lines, such as would enable us to say, "Here my
experience ends; there yours begins." In so far as we are partners
in common undertakings, the things which others communicate to us as
the consequences of their particular share in the enterprise blend
at once into the experience resulting from our own special doings.
The ear is as much an organ of experience as the eye or hand; the
eye is available for reading reports of what happens beyond its
horizon. Things remote in space and time affect the issue of our
actions quite as much as things which we can smell and handle. They
really concern us, and, consequently, any account of them which
assists us in dealing with things at hand falls within personal

Information is the name usually given to this kind of subject
matter. The place of communication in personal doing supplies us
with a criterion for estimating the value of informational
material in school. Does it grow naturally out of some question
with which the student is concerned? Does it fit into his more
direct acquaintance so as to increase its efficacy and deepen its
meaning? If it meets these two requirements, it is educative.
The amount heard or read is of no importance--the more the
better, provided the student has a need for it and can apply it
in some situation of his own.

But it is not so easy to fulfill these requirements in actual
practice as it is to lay them down in theory. The extension in
modern times of the area of intercommunication; the invention of
appliances for securing acquaintance with remote parts of the
heavens and bygone events of history; the cheapening of devices,
like printing, for recording and distributing information --
genuine and alleged -- have created an immense bulk of
communicated subject matter. It is much easier to swamp a pupil
with this than to work it into his direct experiences. All too
frequently it forms another strange world which just overlies the
world of personal acquaintance. The sole problem of the student
is to learn, for school purposes, for purposes of recitations and
promotions, the constituent parts of this strange world.
Probably the most conspicuous connotation of the word knowledge
for most persons to-day is just the body of facts and truths
ascertained by others; the material found in the rows and rows of
atlases, cyclopedias, histories, biographies, books of travel,
scientific treatises, on the shelves of libraries.

The imposing stupendous bulk of this material has unconsciously
influenced men's notions of the nature of knowledge itself. The
statements, the propositions, in which knowledge, the issue of
active concern with problems, is deposited, are taken to be
themselves knowledge. The record of knowledge, independent of
its place as an outcome of inquiry and a resource in further
inquiry, is taken to be knowledge. The mind of man is taken
captive by the spoils of its prior victories; the spoils, not the
weapons and the acts of waging the battle against the unknown,
are used to fix the meaning of knowledge, of fact, and truth.

If this identification of knowledge with propositions stating
information has fastened itself upon logicians and philosophers,
it is not surprising that the same ideal has almost dominated
instruction. The "course of study" consists largely of
information distributed into various branches of study, each
study being subdivided into lessons presenting in serial cutoff
portions of the total store. In the seventeenth century, the
store was still small enough so that men set up the ideal of a
complete encyclopedic mastery of it. It is now so bulky that the
impossibility of any one man's coming into possession of it all
is obvious. But the educational ideal has not been much
affected. Acquisition of a modicum of information in each branch
of learning, or at least in a selected group, remains the
principle by which the curriculum, from elementary school through
college, is formed; the easier portions being assigned to the
earlier years, the more difficult to the later. The complaints
of educators that learning does not enter into character and
affect conduct; the protests against memoriter work, against
cramming, against gradgrind preoccupation with "facts," against
devotion to wire-drawn distinctions and ill-understood rules and
principles, all follow from this state of affairs. Knowledge
which is mainly second-hand, other men's knowledge, tends to
become merely verbal. It is no objection to information that it
is clothed in words; communication necessarily takes place
through words. But in the degree in which what is communicated
cannot be organized into the existing experience of the learner,
it becomes mere words: that is, pure sense-stimuli, lacking in
meaning. Then it operates to call out mechanical reactions,
ability to use the vocal organs to repeat statements, or the hand
to write or to do "sums."

To be informed is to be posted; it is to have at command the
subject matter needed for an effective dealing with a problem,
and for giving added significance to the search for solution and
to the solution itself. Informational knowledge is the material
which can be fallen back upon as given, settled, established,
assured in a doubtful situation. It is a kind of bridge for mind
in its passage from doubt to discovery. It has the office of an
intellectual middleman. It condenses and records in available
form the net results of the prior experiences of mankind, as an
agency of enhancing the meaning of new experiences. When one is
told that Brutus assassinated Caesar, or that the length of the
year is three hundred sixty-five and one fourth days, or that the
ratio of the diameter of the circle to its circumference is
3.1415 . . . one receives what is indeed knowledge for others,
but for him it is a stimulus to knowing. His acquisition of
knowledge depends upon his response to what is communicated.

3. Science or Rationalized Knowledge. Science is a name for
knowledge in its most characteristic form. It represents in its
degree, the perfected outcome of learning, -- its consummation.
What is known, in a given case, is what is sure, certain,
settled, disposed of; that which we think with rather than that
which we think about. In its honorable sense, knowledge is
distinguished from opinion, guesswork, speculation, and mere
tradition. In knowledge, things are ascertained; they are so and
not dubiously otherwise. But experience makes us aware that
there is difference between intellectual certainty of subject
matter and our certainty. We are made, so to speak, for belief;
credulity is natural. The undisciplined mind is averse to
suspense and intellectual hesitation; it is prone to assertion.
It likes things undisturbed, settled, and treats them as such
without due warrant. Familiarity, common repute, and
congeniality to desire are readily made measuring rods of truth.
Ignorance gives way to opinionated and current error, -- a
greater foe to learning than ignorance itself. A Socrates is
thus led to declare that consciousness of ignorance is the
beginning of effective love of wisdom, and a Descartes to say
that science is born of doubting.

We have already dwelt upon the fact that subject matter, or data,
and ideas have to have their worth tested experimentally: that in
themselves they are tentative and provisional. Our predilection
for premature acceptance and assertion, our aversion to suspended
judgment, are signs that we tend naturally to cut short the
process of testing. We are satisfied with superficial and
immediate short-visioned applications. If these work out with
moderate satisfactoriness, we are content to suppose that our
assumptions have been confirmed. Even in the case of failure, we
are inclined to put the blame not on the inadequacy and
incorrectness of our data and thoughts, but upon our hard luck
and the hostility of circumstance. We charge the evil
consequence not to the error of our schemes and our incomplete
inquiry into conditions (thereby getting material for revising
the former and stimulus for extending the latter) but to untoward
fate. We even plume ourselves upon our firmness in clinging to
our conceptions in spite of the way in which they work out.

Science represents the safeguard of the race against these
natural propensities and the evils which flow from them. It
consists of the special appliances and methods which the race has
slowly worked out in order to conduct reflection under conditions
whereby its procedures and results are tested. It is artificial
(an acquired art), not spontaneous; learned, not native. To this
fact is due the unique, the invaluable place of science in
education, and also the dangers which threaten its right use.
Without initiation into the scientific spirit one is not in
possession of the best tools which humanity has so far devised
for effectively directed reflection. One in that case not merely
conducts inquiry and learning without the use of the best
instruments, but fails to understand the full meaning of
knowledge. For he does not become acquainted with the traits
that mark off opinion and assent from authorized conviction. On
the other hand, the fact that science marks the perfecting of
knowing in highly specialized conditions of technique renders its
results, taken by themselves, remote from ordinary experience --
a quality of aloofness that is popularly designated by the term
abstract. When this isolation appears in instruction, scientific
information is even more exposed to the dangers attendant upon
presenting ready-made subject matter than are other forms of

Science has been defined in terms of method of inquiry and
testing. At first sight, this definition may seem opposed to the
current conception that science is organized or systematized
knowledge. The opposition, however, is only seeming, and
disappears when the ordinary definition is completed. Not
organization but the kind of organization effected by adequate
methods of tested discovery marks off science. The knowledge of
a farmer is systematized in the degree in which he is competent.
It is organized on the basis of relation of means to ends --
practically organized. Its organization as knowledge (that is,
in the eulogistic sense of adequately tested and confirmed) is
incidental to its organization with reference to securing crops,
live-stock, etc. But scientific subject matter is
organized with specific reference to the successful conduct of
the enterprise of discovery, to knowing as a specialized
undertaking. Reference to the kind of assurance attending
science will shed light upon this statement. It is rational
assurance, -- logical warranty. The ideal of scientific
organization is, therefore, that every conception and statement
shall be of such a kind as to follow from others and to lead to
others. Conceptions and propositions mutually imply and support
one another. This double relation of 'leading to and confirming"
is what is meant by the terms logical and rational. The everyday
conception of water is more available for ordinary uses of
drinking, washing, irrigation, etc., than the chemist's notion of
it. The latter's description of it as H20 is superior from the
standpoint of place and use in inquiry. It states the nature of
water in a way which connects it with knowledge of other things,
indicating to one who understands it how the knowledge is arrived
at and its bearings upon other portions of knowledge of the
structure of things. Strictly speaking, it does not indicate the
objective relations of water any more than does a statement that
water is transparent, fluid, without taste or odor, satisfying to
thirst, etc. It is just as true that water has these relations
as that it is constituted by two molecules of hydrogen in
combination with one of oxygen. But for the particular purpose
of conducting discovery with a view to ascertainment of fact, the
latter relations are fundamental. The more one emphasizes
organization as a mark of science, then, the more he is committed
to a recognition of the primacy of method in the definition of
science. For method defines the kind of organization in virtue
of which science is science.

4. Subject Matter as Social. Our next chapters will take up
various school activities and studies and discuss them as
successive stages in that evolution of knowledge which we have
just been discussing. It remains to say a few words upon subject
matter as social, since our prior remarks have been mainly
concerned with its intellectual aspect. A difference in breadth
and depth exists even in vital knowledge; even in the data and
ideas which are relevant to real problems and which are motivated
by purposes. For there is a difference in the social scope of
purposes and the social importance of problems. With the wide
range of possible material to select from, it is important that
education (especially in all its phases short of the most
specialized) should use a criterion of social worth. All
information and systematized scientific subject matter have been
worked out under the conditions of social life and have been
transmitted by social means. But this does not prove that all is
of equal value for the purposes of forming the disposition and
supplying the equipment of members of present society. The
scheme of a curriculum must take account of the adaptation of
studies to the needs of the existing community life; it must
select with the intention of improving the life we live in common
so that the future shall be better than the past. Moreover, the
curriculum must be planned with reference to placing essentials
first, and refinements second. The things which are socially
most fundamental, that is, which have to do with the experiences
in which the widest groups share, are the essentials. The things
which represent the needs of specialized groups and technical
pursuits are secondary. There is truth in the saying that
education must first be human and only after that professional.
But those who utter the saying frequently have in mind in the
term human only a highly specialized class: the class of learned
men who preserve the classic traditions of the past. They forget
that material is humanized in the degree in which it connects
with the common interests of men as men. Democratic society is
peculiarly dependent for its maintenance upon the use in forming
a course of study of criteria which are broadly human. Democracy
cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject
matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for
the masses, and, for the higher education of the few, the
traditions of a specialized cultivated class. The notion that
the "essentials" of elementary education are the three R's
mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essentials
needed for realization of democratic ideals. Unconsciously it
assumes that these ideals are unrealizable; it assumes that in
the future, as in the past, getting a livelihood, "making a
living," must signify for most men and women doing things which
are not significant, freely chosen, and ennobling to those who do
them; doing things which serve ends unrecognized by those engaged
in them, carried on under the direction of others for the sake of
pecuniary reward. For preparation of large numbers for a life of
this sort, and only for this purpose, are mechanical efficiency
in reading, writing, spelling and figuring, together with
attainment of a certain amount of muscular dexterity,
"essentials." Such conditions also infect the education called
liberal, with illiberality. They imply a somewhat parasitic
cultivation bought at the expense of not having the enlightenment
and discipline which come from concern with the deepest problems
of common humanity. A curriculum which acknowledges the social
responsibilities of education must present situations where
problems are relevant to the problems of living together, and
where observation and information are calculated to develop
social insight and interest.

Summary. The subject matter of education consists primarily of
the meanings which supply content to existing social life. The
continuity of social life means that many of these meanings are
contributed to present activity by past collective experience.
As social life grows more complex, these factors increase in
number and import. There is need of special selection,
formulation, and organization in order that they may be
adequately transmitted to the new generation. But this very
process tends to set up subject matter as something of value just
by itself, apart from its function in promoting the realization
of the meanings implied in the present experience of the
immature. Especially is the educator exposed to the temptation
to conceive his task in terms of the pupil's ability to
appropriate and reproduce the subject matter in set statements,
irrespective of its organization into his activities as a
developing social member. The positive principle is maintained
when the young begin with active occupations having a social
origin and use, and proceed to a scientific insight in the
materials and laws involved, through assimilating into their more
direct experience the ideas and facts communicated by others who
have had a larger experience. 1 Since the learned man should
also still be a learner, it will be understood that these
contrasts are relative, not absolute. But in the earlier stages
of learning at least they are practically all-important.

Chapter Fifteen: Play and Work in the Curriculum

1. The Place of Active Occupations in Education. In consequence
partly of the efforts of educational reformers, partly of
increased interest in child-psychology, and partly of the direct
experience of the schoolroom, the course of study has in the past
generation undergone considerable modification. The desirability
of starting from and with the experience and capacities of
learners, a lesson enforced from all three quarters, has led to
the introduction of forms of activity, in play and work, similar
to those in which children and youth engage outside of school.
Modern psychology has substituted for the general, ready-made
faculties of older theory a complex group of instinctive and
impulsive tendencies. Experience has shown that when children
have a chance at physical activities which bring their natural
impulses into play, going to school is a joy, management is less
of a burden, and learning is easier. Sometimes, perhaps, plays,
games, and constructive occupations are resorted to only for
these reasons, with emphasis upon relief from the tedium and
strain of "regular" school work. There is no reason, however,
for using them merely as agreeable diversions. Study of mental
life has made evident the fundamental worth of native tendencies
to explore, to manipulate tools and materials, to construct, to
give expression to joyous emotion, etc. When exercises which are
prompted by these instincts are a part of the regular school
program, the whole pupil is engaged, the artificial gap between
life in school and out is reduced, motives are afforded for
attention to a large variety of materials and processes
distinctly educative in effect, and cooperative associations
which give information in a social setting are provided. In
short, the grounds for assigning to play and active work a
definite place in the curriculum are intellectual and social, not
matters of temporary expediency and momentary agreeableness.
Without something of the kind, it is not possible to secure the
normal estate of effective learning; namely, that
knowledge-getting be an outgrowth of activities having their own
end, instead of a school task. More specifically, play and work
correspond, point for point, with the traits of the initial stage
of knowing, which consists, as we saw in the last chapter, in
learning how to do things and in acquaintance with things and
processes gained in the doing. It is suggestive that among the
Greeks, till the rise of conscious philosophy, the same word,
techne, was used for art and science. Plato gave his account of
knowledge on the basis of an analysis of the knowledge of
cobblers, carpenters, players of musical instruments, etc.,
pointing out that their art (so far as it was not mere routine)
involved an end, mastery of material or stuff worked upon,
control of appliances, and a definite order of procedure--all of
which had to be known in order that there be intelligent skill or

Doubtless the fact that children normally engage in play and work
out of school has seemed to many educators a reason why they
should concern themselves in school with things radically
different. School time seemed too precious to spend in doing
over again what children were sure to do any way. In some social
conditions, this reason has weight. In pioneer times, for
example, outside occupations gave a definite and valuable
intellectual and moral training. Books and everything concerned
with them were, on the other hand, rare and difficult of access;
they were the only means of outlet from a narrow and crude
environment. Wherever such conditions obtain, much may be said
in favor of concentrating school activity upon books. The
situation is very different, however, in most communities to-day.
The kinds of work in which the young can engage, especially in
cities, are largely anti-educational. That prevention of child
labor is a social duty is evidence on this point. On the other
hand, printed matter has been so cheapened and is in such
universal circulation, and all the opportunities of intellectual
culture have been so multiplied, that the older type of book work
is far from having the force it used to possess.

But it must not be forgotten that an educational result is a by-
product of play and work in most out-of-school conditions. It is
incidental, not primary. Consequently the educative growth
secured is more or less accidental. Much work shares in the
defects of existing industrial society -- defects next to fatal
to right development. Play tends to reproduce and affirm the
crudities, as well as the excellencies, of surrounding adult
life. It is the business of the school to set up an environment
in which play and work shall be conducted with reference to
facilitating desirable mental and moral growth. It is not enough
just to introduce plays and games, hand work and manual
exercises. Everything depends upon the way in which they are

2. Available Occupations. A bare catalogue of the list of
activities which have already found their way into schools
indicates what a rich field is at hand. There is work with
paper, cardboard, wood, leather, cloth, yarns, clay and sand, and
the metals, with and without tools. Processes employed are
folding, cutting, pricking, measuring, molding, modeling,
pattern-making, heating and cooling, and the operations
characteristic of such tools as the hammer, saw, file, etc.
Outdoor excursions, gardening, cooking, sewing, printing,
book-binding, weaving, painting, drawing, singing, dramatization,
story-telling, reading and writing as active pursuits with social
aims (not as mere exercises for acquiring skill for future use),
in addition to a countless variety of plays and games, designate
some of the modes of occupation.

The problem of the educator is to engage pupils in these
activities in such ways that while manual skill and technical
efficiency are gained and immediate satisfaction found in the
work, together with preparation for later usefulness, these
things shall be subordinated to education -- that is, to
intellectual results and the forming of a socialized disposition.
What does this principle signify? In the first place, the
principle rules out certain practices. Activities which follow
definite prescription and dictation or which reproduce without
modification ready-made models, may give muscular dexterity, but
they do not require the perception and elaboration of ends, nor
(what is the same thing in other words) do they permit the use of
judgment in selecting and adapting means. Not merely manual
training specifically so called but many traditional kindergarten
exercises have erred here. Moreover, opportunity for making
mistakes is an incidental requirement. Not because mistakes are
ever desirable, but because overzeal to select material and
appliances which forbid a chance for mistakes to occur, restricts
initiative, reduces judgment to a minimum, and compels the use of
methods which are so remote from the complex situations of life
that the power gained is of little availability. It is quite
true that children tend to exaggerate their powers of execution
and to select projects that are beyond them. But limitation of
capacity is one of the things which has to be learned; like other
things, it is learned through the experience of consequences.
The danger that children undertaking too complex projects will
simply muddle and mess, and produce not merely crude results
(which is a minor matter) but acquire crude standards (which is
an important matter) is great. But it is the fault of the
teacher if the pupil does not perceive in due season the
inadequacy of his performances, and thereby receive a stimulus to
attempt exercises which will perfect his powers. Meantime it is
more important to keep alive a creative and constructive attitude
than to secure an external perfection by engaging the pupil's
action in too minute and too closely regulated pieces of work.
Accuracy and finish of detail can be insisted upon in such
portions of a complex work as are within the pupil's capacity.

Unconscious suspicion of native experience and consequent
overdoing of external control are shown quite as much in the
material supplied as in the matter of the teacher's orders. The
fear of raw material is shown in laboratory, manual training
shop, Froebelian kindergarten, and Montessori house of childhood.
The demand is for materials which have already been subjected to
the perfecting work of mind: a demand which shows itself in the
subject matter of active occupations quite as well as in academic
book learning. That such material will control the pupil's
operations so as to prevent errors is true. The notion that a
pupil operating with such material will somehow absorb the
intelligence that went originally to its shaping is fallacious.
Only by starting with crude material and subjecting it to
purposeful handling will he gain the intelligence embodied in
finished material. In practice, overemphasis upon formed
material leads to an exaggeration of mathematical qualities,
since intellect finds its profit in physical things from matters
of size, form, and proportion and the relations that flow from
them. But these are known only when their perception is a fruit
of acting upon purposes which require attention to them. The
more human the purpose, or the more it approximates the ends
which appeal in daily experience, the more real the knowledge.
When the purpose of the activity is restricted to ascertaining
these qualities, the resulting knowledge is only technical.

To say that active occupations should be concerned primarily with
wholes is another statement of the same principle. Wholes for
purposes of education are not, however, physical affairs.
Intellectually the existence of a whole depends upon a concern or
interest; it is qualitative, the completeness of appeal made by a
situation. Exaggerated devotion to formation of efficient skill
irrespective of present purpose always shows itself in devising
exercises isolated from a purpose. Laboratory work is made to
consist of tasks of accurate measurement with a view to acquiring
knowledge of the fundamental units of physics, irrespective of
contact with the problems which make these units important; or of
operations designed to afford facility in the manipulation of
experimental apparatus. The technique is acquired independently
of the purposes of discovery and testing which alone give it
meaning. Kindergarten employments are calculated to give
information regarding cubes, spheres, etc., and to form certain
habits of manipulation of material (for everything must always be
done "just so"), the absence of more vital purposes being
supposedly compensated for by the alleged symbolism of the
material used. Manual training is reduced to a series of ordered
assignments calculated to secure the mastery of one tool after
another and technical ability in the various elements of
construction -- like the different joints. It is argued that
pupils must know how to use tools before they attack actual
making, -- assuming that pupils cannot learn how in the process
of making. Pestalozzi's just insistence upon the active use of
the senses, as a substitute for memorizing words, left behind it
in practice schemes for "object lessons" intended to acquaint
pupils with all the qualities of selected objects. The error is
the same: in all these cases it is assumed that before objects
can be intelligently used, their properties must be known. In
fact, the senses are normally used in the course of intelligent
(that is, purposeful) use of things, since the qualities
perceived are factors to be reckoned with in accomplishment.
Witness the different attitude of a boy in making, say, a kite,
with respect to the grain and other properties of wood, the
matter of size, angles, and proportion of parts, to the attitude
of a pupil who has an object-lesson on a piece of wood, where the
sole function of wood and its properties is to serve as subject
matter for the lesson.

The failure to realize that the functional development of a
situation alone constitutes a "whole" for the purpose of mind is
the cause of the false notions which have prevailed in
instruction concerning the simple and the complex. For the
person approaching a subject, the simple thing is his
purpose--the use he desires to make of material, tool, or
technical process, no matter how complicated the process of
execution may be. The unity of the purpose, with the
concentration upon details which it entails, confers simplicity
upon the elements which have to be reckoned with in the course of
action. It furnishes each with a single meaning according to its
service in carrying on the whole enterprise. After one has gone
through the process, the constituent qualities and relations are
elements, each possessed with a definite meaning of its own. The
false notion referred to takes the standpoint of the expert, the
one for whom elements exist; isolates them from purposeful
action, and presents them to beginners as the "simple" things.
But it is time for a positive statement. Aside from the fact
that active occupations represent things to do, not studies,
their educational significance consists in the fact that they may
typify social situations. Men's fundamental common concerns
center about food, shelter, clothing, household furnishings, and
the appliances connected with production, exchange, and

Representing both the necessities of life and the adornments with
which the necessities have been clothed, they tap instincts at a
deep level; they are saturated with facts and principles having a
social quality.

To charge that the various activities of gardening, weaving,
construction in wood, manipulation of metals, cooking, etc.,
which carry over these fundamental human concerns into school
resources, have a merely bread and butter value is to miss their
point. If the mass of mankind has usually found in its
industrial occupations nothing but evils which had to be endured
for the sake of maintaining existence, the fault is not in the
occupations, but in the conditions under which they are carried
on. The continually increasing importance of economic factors in
contemporary life makes it the more needed that education should
reveal their scientific content and their social value. For in
schools, occupations are not carried on for pecuniary gain but
for their own content. Freed from extraneous associations and
from the pressure of wage-earning, they supply modes of
experience which are intrinsically valuable; they are truly
liberalizing in quality.

Gardening, for example, need not be taught either for the sake of
preparing future gardeners, or as an agreeable way of passing
time. It affords an avenue of approach to knowledge of the place
farming and horticulture have had in the history of the race and
which they occupy in present social organization. Carried on in
an environment educationally controlled, they are means for
making a study of the facts of growth, the chemistry of soil, the
role of light, air, and moisture, injurious and helpful animal
life, etc. There is nothing in the elementary study of botany
which cannot be introduced in a vital way in connection with
caring for the growth of seeds. Instead of the subject matter
belonging to a peculiar study called botany, it will then belong
to life, and will find, moreover, its natural correlations with
the facts of soil, animal life, and human relations. As students
grow mature, they will perceive problems of interest which may be
pursued for the sake of discovery, independent of the original
direct interest in gardening -- problems connected with the

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