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Education And Schooling

( Originally Published 1912 )



"We are now engaged in the most stupendous educational, social, and economic experiment the world has ever undertaken the experiment of universal education ; and whether in the end universal education shall prove a blessing or a curse to us will depend entirely upon our skill in handling the issues it has raised for our solution." DAVENPORT, " Education for Efficiency," p. 13.

THE word education is an extremely elastic one and may be stretched to the verge of becoming a synonym for change or growth. The earliest modification of the growing biologic cell is in the broadest sense an educational progress. The subsequent and continued modifications which in their total we call evolution constitute an educational process. The constant influence of its environment upon any living organism and the consequent adjustment of that organism to its environment is a process of education. In this sense is the brute educated ; his environment develops in him, through successive generations, a large series of necessary adjustments which become his stock of fundamental instincts. When these instincts are operative, the fox, for example, is educated, in the fox sense ; when they are defective, he is uneducated, and fails as a fox. Throughout the whole gamut of subhuman species, this education is unconsciously received and unconsciously given there is no education in the sense of schooling, unless we speak figuratively and give Dame Nature the title of School Mistress to the Universe.

But when we consider the human species, we note that a change has come over this educational process. Dame Nature is still at work with her adjustment-compelling environment and her curriculum of instincts ; but for Man, education means more than mere submission to the battering of environmental forces. The individual has become a member of a social group ; he is not merely a detached specimen of his species, but he is also a socius, a unit in society. He is subject not only to the laws imposed by Nature directly upon individual man, but also to those which govern the socii in his collective group. Through countless generations humanity has been accumulating for him a stock of knowledge with which he must overlay his primal instincts. Acquisition from this stock is now a necessary part of his education, and his education is now received, not from Nature directly, but at the hands of the very humanity which is responsible for the accumulation of the educational material. Even yet, however, education may not reach the schooling stage. The savage, though in large measure ruled by instincts, is yet the creature of his social environment, and must receive an educational impress which shall carry him beyond his instincts. This education he gains through constant attrition with his fellowsocii, wherein there may be but little of formal schooling. Were he first to come to consciousness alone on a desert island, his life would be but little more than that of the brute, and his education little more than the unwrapping of his bundle of instincts. But among his fellows he is influenced by the accumulated habits, traditions, and wisdom of the tribe, and he must acquire this store of mental equipment or fail of recognition as a member of his social group.

Modern society, with its more complex structure and its more intelligent appreciation of the needs of mankind, has developed the institution of the school. The school is an organization through which the individual is subjected to an artificial environment in order that he may the most economically and expeditiously accomplish adjustment. Instead of leaving him to happen haphazard upon the experiences which shall serve to educate him, the school deliberately creates artificial experiences and systematically trains him to meet them. Thus not only is he saved the immense loss of time which he would sustain in hit-or-miss acquisition, but further he is early qualified to take his turn in rendering social service to his fellows.

The creation of the school by civilized society has resulted from the recognition of the need of the institution, together with the development of the desire to meet this need. We have, then, in passing, to note first the factors which contributed to make the school necessary, and secondly the growth of the sentiment which urged society to create the school.

As to the first, society has formed many institutions, the State, Business, Property, etc., and each imposes upon the individual member of society the necessity of acquiring its own institutional group of knowledge. His brute instincts may serve him well enough for the lowest plane of self-preservation, but he can find no place as a part of the State unless he understands the State, he cannot profit from business unless he is versed in business, he can neither hold property himself nor respect the property of others unless he has learned the rules concerning property. For any satisfactory existence, he must be educated along these new lines, these lines of civilization. Moreover, mankind has in-vented an oral and written machinery for facilitating intercourse and for the transmission of the racial records from one generation to another. Individual man, if he is to have any material share in the benefits of civilization, must acquire the art of facile manipulation of this machinery.

As to the second, while institutions have been developing, there has taken place a remarkable transition in human sentiment. We can in no wise leave out of account the phenomenon of the decline of egoism and the ascent of altruism. Altruism is the great paradox of Nature. Gradually, through the lengthening period of infancy, man found himself under the necessity of devoting more and more of his thought to the protection of others. From realization of his responsibility for the welfare of his dependent offspring it was a natural transition to consideration for the rights of those outside his immediate family. Today we see men everywhere voluntarily assuming some measure of responsibility for their less fortunate fellow-men. This principle of altruism is clearly recognized in modern thought and action. And herein lies the paradox : in evolving altruism Nature seems to have worked out the destruction of her own method.

In the mists of the past man emerged from the subhuman species by virtue of Nature's method of the survival of the fittest. One result of man's development is the appearance of this sentiment of altruism, which in its very essence tends to interfere with the ancient law of the survival of the fittest. For example, in the jungle, the leopard who breaks his leg drops by the wayside and is trampled on by his fellows. Thus is the breed of leopards improved through the elimination of those who are careless as to their own physical protection. But with humanity, the man who drinks himself into the gutter is lifted up by his altruistic fellows, set upon his feet, and although physically and morally " unfit " is aided to survive and to perpetuate his unfitness in the person of his descendants. Unless we can discern a hope by way of the still youthful science of eugenics, the self-inflicted doom of the race would seem inevitable. This, however, is aside from the main issue, which is to recognize the relation of altruism to education.

Thus we see that one result of the rise of the social institutions and the advance of the sentiment of altruism has been the development of the special institution which we call the school. Moreover, as each social group has developed its institutions along lines peculiar to itself and has developed the altruistic sentiment to a distinctive degree, it follows that the resultant schools assume a characteristic form which is dependent upon these two factors. The form of education provided by the school in any nation is subject to wide variation dependent upon the varying educational ideals in vogue for the given time and place.

Among the many aims which have enlisted educational thought and controlled educational policies, some may be noted in particular. The idea of Utility, of teaching effectiveness in " making a living," has had persistent hold since before the days of ancient Rome. To acquire Knowledge for the sake of knowledge, for the joy of acquisition and the pride of possession, to amass facts, has appealed to many whose bent is toward classification and science. To achieve Culture, to become the cultivated scholar, to know and to be all that a "perfect gentleman" should know and should be, has been the ambition equally of the ancient Greek and the modern Oxonian. To pursue education for the sake of mental Discipline, regarding the subject matter of small account, provided only that the mind as a whole is being forged into an effective tool, has been the ideal held forth by those committed to the doctrine of formal discipline. The theory of Harmonious Development, based upon the assumption of the existence of mental " faculties " and the desirability of training them all with equal diligence, has captivated the vision of Plato and Rousseau and Froebel and a host of others. The formation of Character, the development of the will, and the subjection of the man to habits of self-control, has been held as the great essential by Aristotle of old and the Herbartians of new. The thought of education as Adjustment to environment has been brought to the front by modern science. Social Efficiency, as an end and aim of education, has followed the awakening of men to their social responsibilities. The vision of Soul Liberalization has appeared to those who see in education " nothing but religion enlightened and energized, but always and essentially the religion of the faith that all are the sons of God, and that as long as he lives, even the worst may be redeemed."

Throughout these different ideals we note the conflict between the interest of the individual and that of society. The question whether Man exists for the State or the State for Man has been answered divergently throughout historic time and geographic space. Shall the man educate himself that the State may endure or shall the State educate man that he may prosper? In the history of education we note these two opposing aims de-pendent in turn upon the opposing conception of the State. In Oriental education, typified by the Chinese system, we have seen a definite and formal purpose instruction in the minutia of the Confucian portfolio of authoritative social and ethical regulations result in the development of the State as a collection of individuals in themselves unimportant. By contrast, in the old Greek education, constant throughout the varying theories and practices, from Homeric heroics to the cultural capture of Rome, from Spartan virtue of courage to Athenian worship of beauty, from the idealism of Plato to the practicalism of Aristotle, the emphasis was put upon the development of the individual as a dignified and integral member of the State.



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