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Schools And Education
Education And Life
The Common School
Citizenship And Schools
Education In Democratic Society
Ethics In Schools
Efficiency Of Our Schools
Drama And Education
( Originally Published 1913 )
In the discussion of public school education of whatever grade, from the primary school to the university and professional schools, it is especially fitting to consider it some what carefully from the social and political standpoints. If private individuals are to receive their education at the hands of the state, at the expense of the public, the public should receive an equivalent service in return. It is also very desirable, although I fear at the present time not very common, that the individual recipient of this education should recognize his obligations to the state therefor.
It has been customary for our teachers to say that the primary purpose in education is the development of the individual, self-realization, the training of one's natural powers to their fullest extent; and there is no particular objection to considering this as the purpose of education, provided that in the development of the individual we are to secure also the development of the citizen. We are to fit the pupils through their individual development for the best service in business and social life and politics.
From the social and political points of view, as well as from the highest ethical point of view, we may say that a man's value is measured in terms of service to his fellowmen. Our problem as educators, then, is to fit our pupils so that each one will, on the whole, and in the long run, in his own place in society and in his own way, by and through this selfdevelopment, render to his fellowmen the best service of which he is capable.
It must not be overlooked, however, that the services of individuals and of the state are reciprocal. Not merely is the individual bound to use his powers for the good of his fellow men, but society has its organization as a state in order that its individual members may receive their highest development. It is only through the best equipped individuals that we can have the greatest advance in society and the most perfect state; but it is likewise true, on the other hand, that only in the best equipped and best organized state are we likely to secure the influences which will produce individuals of the highest type. The problem of the social side of education must be treated from two points of view-that of society in the broad sense of the word, and that of the state, society organized for purposes of government.
We shall need to consider somewhat in detail the real meaning, the fundamental nature of society, in order to see its relations to our public schools. The conception itself is a very complex one, or perhaps it would be better to say that the word "society" embodies a number of different conceptions more or less closely allied one to the other. By a society we do not mean merely people together, but people so grouped together that there are certain relations existing between them which are more or less permanent.
The various kinds of societies may then be classified in many different ways. For our use in this discussion, they are perhaps most easily grouped by the purposes for which they are organized. The church, for example, means a group of people united for the gratification of their religious desires. Not a number of people bowing together in unison would constitute a church, unless this act of bowing together gives mutual religious aid. There must, too, be some form of organization and this organization must contribute toward the satisfaction of religious desire. Generally speaking, churches are completely organized with rules of admission, rules for dismissal, obligations for mutual aid which members take upon themselves, confessions of belief by which people of harmonious desires are brought together, and other methods to secure the purpose of the organization.
The school is an excellent example of a society with its definite organization and government contributing directly to the purpose of training its pupils. The school system of a city is another society of a wider range for the same purpose, as is also a university or a polytechnic school. There are, of course, debating and literary societies of all kinds in schools and colleges and in the community that have a more or less definite organization which determines the membership, and which aids in contributing to the purpose of the society itself. In the same way, so-called clubs have their organizations, their officers, their rules for admission and dismissal, all contributing toward the common end.
In a much more general sense we speak of "society" in the fashionable world, or the community of general social intercourse in any locality where there is, to be sure, a fashion, but where fashion is local, and the people are not ordinarily considered "fashionable." Even in this society, although there is no formal organization, there is an informal organization which is well understood, so much so that certain individuals are regularly spoken of as "leaders" in each society, and their will largely determines what that society shall do. So, also, largely as a matter of custom, certain rules of good society (i. e., practically, laws,) come to be quite generally recognized. Persons are admitted into each social group; and, if a person sins too flagrantly against the generally accepted customs of "society," he, or more likely she, will find herself excluded as effectively as one dismissed from a church organization, although no formal vote will be taken and no formal procedure has been followed. We see, nevertheless, that even in this meaning of the word "society," complex as it is and vague as it is, there exist the elements of organization and purposethat of common activity or common amusement in ordinary affairs of life. One is a member of this society ordinarily without any will of his own, without any formal action, even being unconscious often of the fact that there is any organization; but the reality of such a society and its influence in our political life and in the progress of the world cannot be questioned.
Somewhat more definite, although perhaps no less complex, and possibly quite as wide in its influence upon, civilization, is economic society. By economic society, we mean, of course, that grouping of individuals and organizations of all types by which we carry on business so as to satisfy our desires for goods of all kinds, tangible and intangible. Ordinarily we do not recognize how extremely complex is this economic society, and how interrelated in this society are most of the actions of all its individual members. At your breakfast table this morning, perhaps, you had a cup of coffee. To give you that cup of coffee were required the services of your cook and the grocer; but the coffee was perhaps grown in Brazil or in far-off Java, and in order that you might have coffee suited to your taste, skilled experts along that line had probably blended different kinds from different quarters of the globe. To bring it to your table had required the complex organization of the railways and the services of sailors on probably more than one steamship line, the planters and their servants, the importing and exporting merchants with the bankers who negotiated the money exchanges, and the lawmakers of different states that formulated the rules under which all these lines of business have been carried on. And even this omits the other group, or complex of various groups, that must be added to bring you sugar, provided you take sugar in your coffee, to say nothing of the farmers and farmers' organizations that probably contribute their share also if cream is added. It is probably no exaggeration whatever to say that, in order to give you one cup of coffee suited to your taste, thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars had to work together in harmony performing this service for you. Generally speaking, also, each one of those employed in this great complexity of services has received his pay in proportion to the value of service that he has rendered, although, to be sure, there may have been cases of unjust oppression which have prevented due compensation being rendered for some service; and if you in turn have done your share in paying your bills for your coffee and sugar and cream, you have rendered full compensation in due proportion to each one of these thousands that have worked for you. You have worked for each of them. Everywhere in our home lives we meet with like examples, illustrating the great complexity of our economic organization and the interrelation which exists and must exist among all individuals if society of anything but the lowest type is to be developed.
The subject, too, may well be considered from the moral point of view. When John Wesley once saw staggering along the road a drunken vagrant on his way from the ditch to the jail, he exclaimed: "But for the grace of God, there goes John Wesley!" In these days, in our common terminology, we are more likely to say "environment," or to intimate some special personal influence than to say "grace of God"; but in either case, we recognize that some power outside of the individual has great influence in molding his character and determining his course in life. If, in a fit of drunken rage, a father kills his child, who is responsible? Himself primarily, of course; he ought to have known better than to get drunk. But, perhaps, was not his father responsible also in part for not having properly trained him in his youth? Did not possibly his teacher at school fail in his duty to give him proper discipline and higher ideals? Were not, perchance, his fellow pupils responsible in part for their mistreatment of him for minor faults, or possibly merely for minor personal qualities for which he was in no way to blame, but which drove him out of the uplifting influence of their companionship? Possibly many of the better citizens should, also in part, be held responsible from the fact that they have neglected to make right laws regulating the sale and use of intoxicating liquors. Possibly some of us, in our anxiety to look after our own welfare by securing laws that would help our business, have put into our legislatures short-sighted men whose time has been devoted to "playing politics" instead of caring for the good of society, and we are all of us more or less responsible. It is hard to escape the conclusion that for almost every crime or every ill of whatever nature under which society suffers, we are all of us, we and our ancestors, responsible, each to a greater or less degree in proportion to the conscientiousness and thoughtfulness with which we have tried to discharge our duties toward our fellows...
Of far greater significance for progress than any other form of society is the political society which we call the state. By the state we mean society organized for purposes of gov erning, with the understanding that this organized society will employ force upon its individual members, if need be, in order to carry out its wishes.
By our government we mean the group of men, who, acting together, constitute the organ by which the will of the state is formulated into definite rules or laws and carried out in practice.
There are many ways in which the state differs from other societies, such as the church, or universities, or literary societies, or even economic society. In the first place, it is supreme in power within its own recognized territory. Other societies are subordinate. While they have their rules and enforce them, the authority by which they enforce them must come from the state.
Second, its power is inclusive, extending over all persons within the territory, and determining to a very great extent the lives of all. The social status to a considerable degree and even the legal rights of the unborn babe are determined by the state. The state makes provisions for the proper care and nurture and training of children until they become able to direct their own affairs. The conditions under which people may make marriage contracts and enter into the marital relations, as well as the obligations resting upon husband and wife, are fixed by the state. It also determines the rules and regulations by which men must earn their living in civilized society; it often controls to a considerable extent their food and dwellings, even their clothing, and their amusements; it imposes upon them many duties toward their fellowmen, and rigidly prescribes their duties in support of the state itself even to the extent of calling upon them to sacrifice their lives, if need be, in its interest. In many cases it makes special provision for the care and relief from duties of the aged and infirm, while leaving to them as far as possible the rights and privileges accorded to all persons of normal intellect. Even the conditions of death are largely controlled by the state. Questions of sanitation, questions of the treatment of epidemics, the regulation of modes of burial or cremation are rigidly controlled, so that it is scarcely too much to say that no person living within the state is ever free from its domination, or ever lacks its protecting care.
In what ways the state shall exercise this control, in what ways it shall administer this care, how great its activity shall be, or how small, is a matter which only the state itself can determine. The individual members of the state, as such, have no powers of direction. The judgment of the community organized for government, the state, is the one controlling power.
But while we speak of the state in these general terms, it is not an abstraction. The state is made up of the persons in the community, the weak and the strong, the indolent and the active. We, ourselves, compose the state, and in our organized capacity, acting together, we select our own agents of government and determine under whatever form our government may take, what they shall do.
The state also, far from being a mere abstract entity without feeling, is distinctly human in its activity, and in many cases is subject even to the whims and passions of individual humanity; for the government, although the agent of the combined wills of the individual members of the state, is nevertheless itself composed of a few men who act, naturally, subject to a considerable extent to their own passions and weaknesses, inasmuch as they are given usually a large amount of discretion. The state, in consequence, if under a despotic form of government, may be great, powerful, decisive in its actions, if its ruling monarch is a man of will and decision; or it may be timid and vacillating, if its monarch is a weakling. Even in a republic where the rulers are directly chosen by the people and where the government is made up of numerous individuals, it frequently happens that a man in an important position is of so positive a nature that the state at once assumes a new attitude toward all important questions; or, again, the counsels of a number of weak officials may be so halting and vacillating that the state itself takes on that tone.
What we, as individuals, think of the state as a rule, depends upon our own circumstances in the state and upon how we feel that we are treated by the officials. If we are poor, unfortunate, and lacking in self-reliance, particularly if we feel that the under officials with whom we perhaps may come most often in contact, and who therefore represent for us the state, are arbitrary and cruel, we shall look upon the state with aversion and fear. If, on the other hand, those officials with whom our relations are most intimate, are wise and temperate, and if we feel that the state through its schools or postoffice or other department nearest our activities is aiding us in every way possible, we shall look upon the state as a beneficent institution to which we owe our all.
So, also, the activities of the state, in the long run, and the effects which it produces upon the population are really determined by what we ourselves as citizens, acting in our corporate capacity, desire. We may make the state control many activities, or we may limit its powers most rigidly. We may give to ourselves rulers wise and benevolent, provided we ourselves have the wisdom to select such rulers, or we may permit the state to drift into the hands of the active corrupt, who will control us and our means for their own selfish interests and against the welfare of the public.
It is of vital importance that we ourselves realize exactly what our relations to the state are, and that we see to it that the pupils in our schools realize the nature of society and of the state (that organization of society which positively directs and controls the actions of society in governmental matters), provided we wish to have our schools train not merely selfcentered individuals, but citizens whose actions will be wise, practical, unselfish, and directed toward the common good.
In our school organization, and in our teaching, therefore, we must keep continually in mind the interrelations of different individuals each to the other. We must impress upon our pupils the thought that the test of value for the individual is the service which he can render to his fellowmen. We must see that direct action in society is largely dependent upon the state and compulsory force, and that as educators we are to fit our pupils for service to the public by making them individuals of the highest type, and by showing them how they can use their power of control through the state in the wisest and most beneficent way. -F. W. Jenks