Oscar Israel Woodley.

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preparation for life begins at a very early age, and goes on
continuously, either with or without the knowledge and
consent of the individual. To quote Dr. Thorndike: "No
clear boundary separates man's education from the rest of
his life. In the broadest sense his education is his life."
Hence, environment, associates, and every chance influence
which enters into the life of the child, as well as the generally
recognized educational forces, have a part in this life prepa-
ration. It follows, therefore, first, that education as a proc-
ess unites all the developing and directing influences that
enter into the life of the individual; and second, that educa-
tion as an end is the resultant of the combined working of
these forces. The character of the education or life prepa-
ration which will result from this blending of the many
and varied influences will depend upon the nature and
character of the dominant ones.

The aim of education stated by various educators. The
distinct and ultimate aim of education has been variously
stated by many educators and philosophers. An examina-
tion of some of the best known and most frequently quoted
of these aims will be interesting and instructive as showing
the standards of value by which these men measure the
results of the educational process.

Plato, the Greek philosopher, long ago wrote: —

The purpose of education is to give to the body and to the soul
all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable.

John Milton, out of his study and experience as a scjiool-
master, when discussing education, said: —


The end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by
regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love
Him, to imitate Him, to be like Him, as we may the nearest by
possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the
heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection.

Froebel, the educational reformer and the founder of the
kindergarten, in his work The Education of Man, states the
purpose of education as " the realization of a faithful, pure,
inviolate, and hence holy life."

Herbert Spencer, the English educational philosopher, in
his treatise on Education, says, " Education is the prepara-
tion for complete living." This he further explains as mean-

Not merely how to live in the material sense only, but in the
widest sense, . . . the right ruling of conduct in all directions and
under all circumstances. In what way to treat the body; in what
way to treat the mind; in what way to manage our affairs; in
what way to bring up a family; in what way to behave as citizens;
in what way to utilize all those sources of happiness which nature
supplies; how to use all our faculties to the greatest advantage
of ourselves and others.

American educators of the present day use various phrases
in stating the same general aim as defined by the great phi-
losophers and educators of different periods and different
nations. Dr. McMurry defines the aim of education as " a
preparation for social efficiency." Dr. W. T. Harris states
it more at length as " the preparation of the individual, so
that he can help his fellow-men, and in return receive and
appropriate their help." Dr. O'Shea expresses his con-
ception of the aim of education as " right adjustment to

Character, the ultimate aim of education. After a careful
consideration of these and other statements of the broad aim
of education, one cannot fail to arrive at the conclusion that
all have the same general idea of its meaning and purpose.


although they each stress some particular phase or phases
of this great complex aim. An examination of the various
phases of this great aim as presented by different educators
and thinkers convinces one that about the most satisfac^
tory and concise statement of it is expressed in the on^J
word " character." In the final analysis, all these defini-
tions meet, although to many persons a somewhat clearer
or more concise meaning may be conveyed by the phrases,
" self-realization," " preparation for complete living," " ad-
justment to society," " social efficiency," " reciprocal union
with society," and various other statements of the aim of

If character or character-building is the ultimate aim of
education, then there must be much more included in the
meaning of the word " character " than is usually under-
stood by the term. According to the conception of many
persons the word " character " is used only as applying to
the moral or spiritual nature of man. In this narrow sense, it
is clear that it could not include all the elements that enter
into a person's education. The term as used here has a much
broader meaning; for character, as the aim of education, must
include all the elements that compose or make up a desirable
and efficient preparation for life. It follows, therefore, that
the greater the number of these elements that enter into a
person's character, the more complete will be his education.

Broad conception of character. In order that we may have
a working or talking basis upon which to discuss this subject
of the aim of education, an explanation is ventured of what
is here embraced in the term " character." Character in-
cludes all the qualities and ideals, both good and bad, that
an individual expresses or presents in his daily life. There-
fore a person of a worthy or desirable character may be described
as one who represents in himself , and expresses in his life, the
best ideals of the civilization of which he is a part. An exiirai-


nation of this statement of the meaning of character reveals
the fact that a person's character, as representing the best
ideals of the civilization in which he lives, must of necessity
vary with the nature of the civilization. Hence, what if
understood by a good or a desirable character is not the samt
among all peoples and in all ages. For example, what was
considered a good character among the early Greeks or Ro-
mans, advanced as was their state of civilization, would not
be considered adequate to-day for the reason that what met
the highest demands of the civilization of those peoples and
periods would not meet the needs of the civilization of the
present time. Nor are the requirements of the civilization of
to-day the same in all countries and among all nations. The
life preparation which would be necessary for meeting the
demands of the civiUzation of China or India, for instance,
would not be the same that a person would require for meet-
ing those of England, France, and many other countries.

Those persons who understand character only as limited
to the moral qualities of man, think of it as being absolute.
They suppose that what is termed a " good character " has
been essentially the same in all ages and among all peoples,
and that it is the same among all nations at the present time.
This is not the case, for owing to the changes in social ideals,
and to the religious conception of what is right and wrong,
valuable and useless, corresponding changes in the under-
standing of character have been made necessary. Thus it is
that with a changing and developing civiUzation there has
evolved a more complex ideal of what character should em-
brace. Since what is understood to constitute a good char-
acter depends upon the ideals of the civilization in which one
lives, it follows that what might be considered a desirable
character in one civilization, or in a certain country, would
not necessarily be considered a desirable character in some


Character ideals. If character includes the best ideals of
the civilization, then these ideals cannot be limited to the
moral nature of man, but must include all the positive and
best ideals of the civilization of which he is a part. In order
then that we may comprehend what is embraced in the term
character, and what it signifies at the present time, we must
know the ideals of the civilization in our own country at the pres-
ent time. It must be remembered that since different per-
sons do not have exactly the same conception of the national
ideals, the idea or understanding of character must be rela-
tive, rather than positive or absolute. However, there is a
sufficient number of these ideals that are generally accepted,
to serve as a basis for determining what is meant by the
term character. A brief discussion of the more important of
these ideals may aid in the understanding of character as
the aim of education.

Religious ideals. All nations have religious ideals which
determine conduct in the various situations in which moral
questions are involved. All peoples in all ages, and among
all nations, have held some form of religious belief, and have
had some form of worship from which they have acquired
their moral concepts and their standards of character. The
religions of the past differed in their creeds and forms of wor-
ship; and to a greater degree, the religions of the present thus
differ. If, however, a person is sincere in his belief in the
creed of the particular form of religion which he has adopted,
and is conscientious in his observance of the obligations
which it imposes, he may be said to be true to his religious
ideals. A person who represented in his own life and conduct
one of the religions of the past at its best was a good man in
the terms of the civilization in which he lived; but in many
respects he might not be considered a good man according
to the standards of the civilization of to-day. A study of the
history of civilization from the earliest time down to the pres-


ent, with this point in mind, is interesting and instructive
as revealing the changes which have evolved in the ideals
and standards by which men and institutions have been
evaluated. It will also reveal the fact that the character of
the religious belief and practice of a people mirrors to a
marked degree their state of civilization. In order, therefore,
that a fair and just estimate of a man's character may be
made, he must be judged by the civilization of which he
is a part, and not by that of some other period or nation.
This fact is worthy of note and should be remembered in any
study of mankind in different ages and in' different degrees
of civilization.

According to the standards of American civilization of to-
day, to be what is understood as a good man, one must repre-
sent in his life the best religious ideals of the present civiliza-
tion in our own country. It is not sufficient for him merely to
know what these ideals are; he must reflect them in his life.
Although from the very nature of things some of the ele-
ments of this present-day ideal are not constant or always
present, there is still a sufficient number of them so firmly
estabhshed as to give them a fixed place in the national ideal.
The fundamental principles of the Christian religion, those
that are the foundation of our religious ideals, are practically
universal in the nation. Principles that are fundamental can-
not change, although the conception of them may vary.
These basal principles are known by all intelligent persons
and are accepted, regardless of difference of creed, by all citi-
zens who desire to represent in their lives the best religious
ideals of the present.

Ideal of home. Throughout this land of ours there is a
fairly well-established ideal of the home. This ideal, natu-
rally, is composed of a number of elements. There is, first,
the material side which includes the house, the grounds, the
house furnishings, the location, and the view. There is also


the personal side which consists of the father, the mother,
the children, and such other members of the family as each
particular home may contain. Each of these persons must,
in a general way, represent a certain kind of training, certain
habits, and a certain kind of conduct and bearing. All of these
factors combined, both material and personal, go to make up
the general idea of what constitutes a home; and it should be
understood that any deficiency on either the material or the
personal side affects the quality of the home. Since the home
has become so important a factor in our American life, a
clear conception of what it should represent cannot be too
urgently impressed upon all who wish to represent in their
character its best ideals.

The home as a social organization was instituted primarily
to provide proper care and protection for the helplessness of
childhood, and parents are the natural guardians and pro-
tectors of their children. The fact that this function can be
managed better by them than by any state arrangement, as
was the case in ancient Greece, lies at the foundation of the
human family, and therefore of society and of institutional
life as we understand them. Thus will be seen the impor-
tance of the home among social institutions, and the
responsibilities which devolve upon it in caring for the
physical, mental, and moral needs of its members, particu-
larly the young. No matter how well organized, or how fully
equipped a community may be for looking after the needs
of its people, it must depend upon the home for the founda-
tional work, not alone as regards the physical requirements
of its members, but for the beginnings in mental and spiritual
culture and in the inculcation of ideals. From this it will be
seen how important it is that a person should represent in
his home relations the elements that make up the true and
best ideal of the American home.

The municipal ideal. We have in our country at the pres-


ent time certain well-defined municipal ideals. Like the ideal
of the home, the municipal ideal may vary somewhat in
different sections of the country and under different condi-
tions; but also, like the ideal of the home, there are certain
basal elements which are considered essential to it, and are
therefore very generally accepted. The municipal ideal is
also composite and more or less complex in its character. In
general, it finds its material expression in the quality of the
roads, sidewalks, public buildings, parks, street-lighting,
water-supply, hygienic conditions, and other material mu-
nicipal interests. Each of these reflects the character of the
administrative department in a given community, and also
the standards of the individual community in civic matters.
It is true that the highest ideal of excellence has not yet been
attained, and many communities fall far short of it, but this
ideal is being more and more accepted as the standard by
which municipal conditions may be measured. As such, it is
rapidly becoming one of our national ideals, and a part of the
national character. A person to represent in himself the best
in community life must understand the recognized municipal
ideals, and express them in his attitude toward all questions
that are concerned with community w^elfare.

Commercial ideals. In the business world of to-day there
are certain definite commercial ideals that are recognized
in practically all transactions, small as well as large. Among
the more important of these are the ideals of honesty, truth-
fulness, square dealing, and the like, which are based upon
the principles that govern the dealings of men with one
another. Therefore these ideals are universally accepted as
the standards by which business transactions should be regu-
lated, and all persons must recognize and attain these stand-
ards if they wish to be considered honest and straightforward
in their business dealings. In no other way can they secure
and maintain the respect and confidence of their business


associates and their acquaintances in general. It is unfor-
tunate that, notwithstanding the existence of these fixed
ideals of honesty and fair dealing, there are many persons
who are so blinded by selfishness and greed as to be ignorant
of their nature, or who are wholly indifferent to their binding
obligations upon themselves. This fact, however, does not
affect the stability of the correct standards, nor the obliga-
tions which they impose upon all persons whose conduct is
governed by sentiments of honesty and integrity, or upon
those who wish to maintain a creditable business standing
among their fellows. Another point worthy of note in this
connection is that the existence of these fixed commercial
ideals makes it possible for one to discover or single out
greedy, dishonest, and unreliable persons, and to protect
one's self against their disreputable practices. It is evident
that worthy commercial ideals are of the greatest value to
the community and the nation, as well as to the individuals
who understand and express them in their own business
dealings. Moreover, the recognition and maintenance of the
underlying principles upon which these ideals are based are
of incalculable value, not more to the individual than to the
nation which wishes to secure and retain a reputation for
honesty and right dealing among the nations of the world.

Industrial ideals. Certain positive ideals or standards
have been established in the industrial world, and it is these
that give stability of character to this important phase of
our national activity. Recognized standards of excellence
have been developed, certain quality of workmanship has
been established, right rules of conduct have become fixed, a
desirable attitude of employer and employed toward each
other has been determined. These and other standards have
been established for measuring the quality and efficiency of
the industries, and for regulating the relation of the persons
connected with them. In fact, these standards have been so


firmly wrought into our national ideals that they have be-
come a great socializing and reforming force and influence.
They have become, in short, an integral part of the nation's
character, and no laborer or employer of labor can afford to
ignore them if he wishes to be considered a worthy repre-
sentative of the industrial world, or if he desires to add to the
reputation and dignity of the great department of activity
to which he belongs. What has been said with regard to the
standards and ideals which govern the relation of employer
and employee in the industries applies with equal force to all

Ideal of citizenship. Americans have a distinct ideal of
citizenship, and of the qualities required by a person to make
him what they regard as an ideal citizen. Like every other
ideal, this ideal of what constitutes a good citizen has passed
through many modifications during the course of its develop-
ment, from the earliest conception of man's relation to his
community and State down to the present idea of his duties
and privileges in this great democracy. As man advanced in
intelligence and in the ability to assume responsibility, there
was placed in his hands sovereign power, and sovereign rights
which he exercises through the medium of the ballot. The
intelligent and honest use of this power is regarded as one
of the proofs of good citizenship. In fact, this particular
standard for citizenship is so well established that it often
affords the basis or standard for determining whether a man
is or is not a good citizen. Therefore a man who fails in this
test is at once known to be deficient in some of the essential
elements of character.

Great importance is placed upon the manner in which a
man exercises his sovereign right for the reason that it serves
as an index of the man himself. In order that a man may be
able to exercise this high privilege of citizenship in an hon-
est, intelligent, and conscientious manner, he must possess in


himself many of the fundamental elements of true man-
hood. Such a man will usually be a valuable citizen and a
true patriot, ready and eager to serve either his local com-
munity or his nation to the best of his ability. Moreover, he
will be governed in his private as well as in his public life
and conduct by good impulses and high ideals. Too much
stress cannot be laid upon the necessity of every person's
acquiring the true ideals of citizenship if he ever expects to
have the privilege and the responsibility of properly exercis-
ing this prerogative in our great commonwealth.

Ideal of patriotism. Another national ideal somewhat re-
lated to that of citizenship is the feeling for our country as
a nation, in which patriotic pride and love are manifested.
We are justly proud of our country, of her magnitude, of her
lofty mountains and her beautiful valleys, of her extensive
plains and her great forests, of her many rivers and her great
lakes, of her busy mills and factories, and of all her mate-
rial greatness. We are particularly proud of her homes, her
schools, and her churches, of her men and her women, of her
discoveries and inventions, of her government and h^r laws,
of her watchfulness over the interests of her citizens, and of
her benign and Christian influence throughout the world.
This ideal which we have set up for our country is a most
significant one, for it is the expression of the nation's char-
acter. As the character of the nation must partake largely
of the character of its citizens, the ideal that is established
for a nation must reflect the private ideals and standards of
the people that compose the nation. To be of value, to be
really standards of measure determining the character of the
people and of the nation, these ideals must not be mere con-
ceptions of personal and national worth; but they must be
ideals that are absolutely real in life and practice.

Ideals of manhood. Finally, as a people we have a definite
and high standard of excellence in manhood and woman-


hood. Owing to the changes in the standards by which hu-
man worth is estimated, that have taken place with the ad-
vancement of civiUzation, this ideal differs greatly at the
present time from the ideal of the ancients. If we were to
compare, for example, the early Greek and Roman ideals of
manhood, we should find that they differed in many impor-
tant features from those of to-day. In the first place, we
should find that the ideals of the past were more simple,
owing to the simpler civilization of those early periods.
Our complex society with its varied demands has naturally
produced a more complex ideal of manhood; and to-day a
man must combine in his character more of the elements
that make for true manhood than was necessary in an
earlier and simpler civilization. Again, the standards by
which manhood is estimated have changed materially. In
the past a man who excelled in military gifts and accomplish-
ments became the idol and the ideal of his countrymen.
His education, his language, his general conduct w^ere not of
so much importance as his skill in warfare; for military
achievement was the standard by which men were mainly
measured. In these latter days, the fact has been established
that true manhood can be expressed in peace as well as in
war; for honesty, sobriety, industry, and brotherly love are
more positive evidences of true and noble manhood than
prowess in battle.

Illustrations might be given to show that many factors
have been added to our conception of ideal manhood during
the course of the evolution of society, but this is not nec-
essary. Every student of history, and every observer of
mankind, can supply as many examples as he desires. To-
day many forces and influences are required to mould and
develop the complete man. He must have a sound body,
well proportioned and strong. He must have at least a fairly
good academic education. He must have some knowledge


of social customs, and deport himself properly among his
fellows. He must have a vocational preparation that will
enable him to achieve success in some honorable field of hu-
man activity. Above all, he must represent in his conduct,
at home and elsewhere, the moral and religious elements
which modern civilization approves. It is not claimed that
a person can fully combine in himself all these desirable
qualities. He may from some natural or other unpreventable
cause lack one or even more of them; but these are the ele-
ments and qualities which enter into ideal manhood, and for
these every one should strive in the endeavor to attain as
nearly as possible this high standard of excellence.

Online LibraryOscar Israel WoodleyThe profession of teaching → online text (page 5 of 27)