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A SOCIAL THEORY

OF

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION



A SOCIAL THEORY

OF

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION



BY

GEORGE ALBERT COE

PBOFE880B IN THE XJOTOH THEOLOGICAL 9EMINABY, NEW TOBK CITT



NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1922



COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Printed in the United States of America



Published October, 1917




TO
HARRY F. WARD

WHO SEES

AND
MAKES OTHERS SEE



523-036



FOREWORD

WHAT consequences for religious education follow from the
now widely accepted social interpretation of the Christian mes-
sage ? The present work is an attempt to answer this question.

The answer is not simple. For the social message does not
require us merely to insert this or that new duty into our present
scheme of living, but also to judge every detail of conduct from
a higher point of view. We are required to organize the whole
of life upon a different level.

It would be strange indeed if the new meaning that this gives
to every-day affairs did not change our outlook upon child life.
If we are to be logical and practical in our social Christianity,
we must revise our policies with respect to children at least as
much as our policies with respect to adults. The chapters
that follow undertake to show the directions that this revision
will need to take.

As we proceed, it will appear that the whole perspective of
religious education undergoes a change. The central purpose,
to begin with, grows more specific because the nature of good-
ness is seen to be as concrete as the neighbor who lives next
door. Christian experience comes out of the clouds, because
in our dealings with our brother whom we have seen we are deal-
ing with the Father whom we have not seen yes, we here come
into relation with what is deepest in his character and purposes.
To Christian ears these statements do not sound strange, per-
haps, yet when they are applied to the religious life of the
young they do sing a new melody. A profounder significance
attaches to the will of a child, and especially to his relations
with persons, whether children or adults.

All the plans and methods' of religious education have now
to be reorganized with reference to these social relations and

vii



viii FOREWORD

experiences. A new measure is provided for the material
that goes into the curriculum of instruction. Organizations
that undertake to educate, whether the family or the church,
meet a different test from that which has been traditional.
Theological and ecclesiastical types take on new meaning, and
they encounter demands that they have not always foreseen.
The educational relations between state and church, likewise,
have a different look when we approach them from the stand-
point of a thoroughly socialized religion. Not less true is it
that emphasis now shifts from one part of educational psychology
to another.

Through my whole discussion there runs a conviction that
within Protestantism there is, or is coming to be, a distinctive
religious principle, that of a divine-human industrial democracy.
" My Father worketh even until now, and I work." I believe
that here the Christian religion contains a permanently progres-
sive element, and therefore a motive for self-criticism as well
as for criticism of "the world." Religious education, conse-
quently, is here thought of not merely as a process whereby an-
cient standards are transmitted, but also as having a part in
the revision of standards themselves.

Another conviction that controls my discussion is that educa-
tional organization and methods are not static tools, like
saws and hammers, which are indifferent to the structures that
they build, but living and moving parts of the collective life.
A democracy cannot afford to use in its public schools the
methods that an autocratic state finds adapted to its purposes.
When the purposes of society are transformed, education must
be made over. Protestantism cannot make Protestants of its
children by the methods of Catholic teaching. A divine-
human democracy cannot grow up through educative processes
that have in their nostrils the breath of autocracy.

These are themes of high intellectual interest. They are
also religious issues of the greatest import. They have a direct
bearing upon even the ordinary duties of religious educators.
The humblest worker will do better work if he knows the why
and the whither of it than he will if he merely follows some



FOREWORD ix

prescription. Therefore I hope that this book of mine will be
found practically helpful by those who bear the heat and the
burden of the day in the schools of the church, as well as by
those who guide congregations or whole communions.

As my study of this theme has progressed, I have been more
and more conscious of the magnitude of the problem, and of
its unending ramifications. I cannot hope to have said the
last word, nor to have escaped error, but I dare to hope that
others will be stimulated to face the issues and to declare their
own convictions. I trust also that my faults will be judged in
the light of the fact that this is the first attempt to work out in
a systematic way the consequences that will follow for religious
education when it is controlled by a fully social interpretation of
the Christian message.

While these chapters have been in progress the wail of chil-
dren in the lands at war has been in my ears, a wail for the
fathers of whom they have been bereft, a wail for bread, a wail
for a decent world in which to grow up. To my thinking it is
a cry from all the children of the world for the sort of education
that faces, and understands, the great madness that is abroad,
and not only understands, but also knows the resources of
human nature and of religion. Even while I have been writing
about educating children in the love that loves to the utter-
most, I, as a citizen of the United States, have gone to war!
I am so bound into one with my neighbors that I cannot, if I
would, act as a mere individual; and my neighbors and I, who
constitute the United States of America, are so bound up with
neighbors beyond our national boundaries that our moral
destiny is intertwined with theirs. We and they must rise to-
gether, or we shall not rise at all. Forward, out of nationalism,
with its limitations upon brotherhood, into world society I But
we are partly of the past, "red in tooth and claw," and only
partly of the ideal future. With our hands we fight our broth-
ers; with our hearts we abhor fighting. 'Wretched men that
we are ! Who shall deliver us out of the body of this death ? '

The future of society depends upon the sort of social education
that we think it worth while to provide.



x FOREWORD

Any reader who is familiar with present movements in educa-
tional thought will perceive, as this work proceeds, how much
I owe to writers who have had in mind the public school rather
than religious education. I am indebted most of all to John
Dewey, who is foremost among those who have put education
and industrial democracy into a single perspective.

GEORGE A. COE.
GLENDORA, CALIFORNIA,
May 12, 1917.



CONTENTS



PAQB

FOREWORD vii



INTRODUCTION

CHAPTKB

I. WHY So MUCH THEORIZING? . 3



PART I

THE SOCIAL STANDPOINT IN MODERN EDUCATION

II. GENERAL EXPOSITION OF THE SOCIAL STAND-
POINT 13

III. THE PHILOSOPHICAL SETTING OF THE NEW

SOCIAL IDEALS IN EDUCATION 25

IV. THE PLACE OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN A SOCIALIZED

EDUCATION 38

PART II

THE SOCIAL INTERPRETATION OF CHRISTIANITY

REQUIRES SOCIAL RECONSTRUCTION IN

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

V. THE AIMS OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION .... 53

x/VI. THE FIRST ESSENTIALS OF AN EDUCATIONAL

PLAN 64

ri



xii CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAQB

VII. THE EDUCATIVE PROCESS is RELIGIOUS EXPERI-
ENCE . 74



VIII. THE CHURCH AS EDUCATOR 85

'*?

IX. A NEW THEORY OF THE CURRICULUM .... 97

PART III

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF A SOCIAL-
IZED RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

X. THE SOCIAL NATURE OF MAN 119

XI. CHILDREN'S FAITH IN GOD 138

XII. THE RELIGIOUS LIMITATIONS OF CHILDREN . 147

XIII. THE STRUGGLE WITH SIN 164

XIV. THE LEARNING PROCESS CONSIDERED AS THE

ACHIEVING OF CHARACTER 184

PART IV

THE ORGANIZATION OF A SOCIALIZED RELIGIOUS
EDUCATION

XV. THE CHRISTIAN REORGANIZATION OF THE

FAMILY . . . . . 207

XVI. THE CHURCH SCHOOL 226

XVII. EDUCATIONAL RELATIONS BETWEEN STATE AND

CHURCH 248

XVIII. THE DENOMINATIONAL DEPARTMENT OF RELIG-
IOUS EDUCATION 266

XIX. BEYOND THE DENOMINATIONS 283



CONTENTS xiii
PART V

CHAPTER PAGE

EXISTING TENDENCIES IN CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
VIEWED FROM THE SOCIAL STANDPOINT

XX. THE ROMAN CATHOLIC TTPE 295

XXI. THE DOGMATIC PROTESTANT TYPE 304

XXII. THE RITUALISTIC PROTESTANT TYPE .... 316

XXIII. EDUCATIONAL TENDENCIES OF EVANGELICALISM 324

XXIV. EDUCATIONAL TENDENCIES OF LIBERALISM . . 335

CLASSIFIED BIBLIOGRAPHY 343

INDEX 357



INTRODUCTION



CHAPTER I
WHY SO MUCH THEORIZING?

Have we theory enough already? Whoever makes a re-
flective choice between educational ends, and then determines
by systematic analysis what are in general the means whereby
the chosen ends can be most certainly and most economically
reached, has a theory of education in the sense in which the
term "theory" is used in this work. A theory of education,
then, is simply knowledge of what we as educators want and
how to get it.

A committee was discussing plans for a training institute for
workers in religious education. "What we want," said one
member of the committee, "is something practical. We don't
want theories." To this another committeeman replied:
" What have you against theories ? We have practice already,
and practice is what makes all our trouble. Theory is the thing
we need. We're perishing for want of itl" Doubtless the
first of these men meant to stand for applied knowledge as
against ineffective thinking, while the second meant to stand
for applied knowledge as against ineffective practice. Both
really wanted theory in the present sense of the term.

Of theory in this sense we can never have too much. That
we have, in fact, altogether too little of it that our workers
do not discriminate with sufficient care either ends or means,
do not think enough upon what they are about is certain.
An enthusiastic young student of religious education, upon a
visit of observation to a certain Sunday school, asked the super-
intendent: " What is the purpose of this school ?" The super-
intendent hesitated, requested that the question be repeated,

3



4 THE NEED OF THEORY

hemmed and bawed, find finally replied: "Well, what do you
think it ought to be?'' The simple fact is that we are doing a
great many things because they have been done before rather
than because we have a reason for doing them. If we are
asked for a reason we commonly give one that is so general as
to be without point. We say, for example, that our aim is to
make our pupils Christians, but if we are then required to say
whether we aim to make all of them Christians immediately,
on the present Sunday, or only by and by, and just what we
mean by a pupil-Christian, it turns out that our apparently
clear end is foggy after all.

Nor is the case any better with our notions of the means to
be employed. Which is the most certain and the most eco-
nomical way to produce such or such a change in this or that
Sunday-school class? Are you pursuing your present methods
because you have any reason to suppose that they are the most
effective possible ? And when the work of a year or of a series
of years is done, how do you definitely know to what extent
you have attained your purpose ? Questions like these answer
themselves. Our work is famishing, and our pupils are perish-
ing, because we have not enough theory.

Ineffective practice produces defective theory, and per-
petuates ineffectiveness thereby. It is no more true that a
poor theory leads to poor practice than that poor practice
leads to poor theory. Theories of education have all arisen
within practice; they are attempts to think out what already
exists. The reason why we stop to think is, indeed, that we
are not altogether satisfied with things as they are, but yet
we do not invent a better state of things "just out of our heads."
No, we make improvements by mixing a little that is new
with much that is old, and this mixing occurs in our thinking
as well as in our practice. That is, more or less of yesterday's
practice is always taken into to-day's thinking as a presupposi-
tion, or not-yet-analyzed premise, and then this thinking is
used to justify the very practice from which it is derived. Now,
some of yesterday's faults always escape attention; some of them
are ever being accepted as virtues. For example, methods of



THE NEED OF THEORY 5

family discipline that defeated their own aims have dominated
theories of such discipline. Many a parent has conscientiously
made goodness unattractive to his children, and then recom-
mended that all parents go and do likewise ! Many a progres-
sive-minded Sunday-school worker unconsciously bends his
standards to fit Sunday schools as they are. He has a theory,
but it is not sufficiently critical.

The consequence of this is that the cause of religious educa-
tion requires the repeated reopening of matters that seem to
be already settled. The reason is not that revolutions are
desirable, but that our thinking, being under the influence of
our own defective past, never reaches a point where it can prop-
erly say: "Here I have reached finality; here revision will
never be necessary." This is the pride that goes before a fall.
The spirit of true theorizing is humble. It says to itself: "In
all probability my present views of religious education are a
mixture of truth and error. Let me, then, scrutinize them otoce
more, and may the succession of scrutinizers never fail ! "

The main problem is how to make Christian education
sufficiently, as well as efficiently, Christian. We should stum-
ble into a total misconception if we were to think of a theory
of religious education as an attempt to control religion from
outside itself, as, for example, by mere speculation. No, it
is an attempt to judge our religious performances from within
religion. Christian education is to be thought of as through
and through the Christian religion in operation. Its methods
are to be scrutinized and revised from the sole point of view
of religious effectiveness. Its aims also are to be weighed in
religious scales, and no others.

Not only do old methods come to us bringing hay, wood, and
stubble along with precious metal, but the same is true of old
purposes. They, also, as well as methods, have to be " trued
up" from time to time, partly because we forget something
that came to us in the hour of spiritual vision, partly because
insight into the meaning of life does not attain fixity in any
generation. There are depths in the Christian message that
our fathers' plummets did not sound; there are depths that will



6 THE NEED OF THEORY

remain unknown until generations yet to be born shall ask their
own fresh questions. Accordingly, when we reflect upon the
existing aims of Christian education with a view to revising
them, we are engaged in an attempt to make them more Chris-
tian. We are not satisfied to become more efficient upon yes-
terday's religious level; we aspire to raise the level itself. Our
problem is to make Christian education as Christian as possible.
The application of this remark to the situation of the churches
to-day is unmistakable. The aims and methods of Christian
education, as of church life in general, that this generation
inherited were predominantly individualistic. We have been
so taught as to think of the great salvation as a rescuing of in-
dividuals, each by himself, from the guilt and the power of sin,
and of establishing them, each by himself, in the way of right-
eousness. When Canon Fremantle gave us the phrase "the
world as the subject of redemption" 'we had to think twice be-
fore we could see just what it meant. For most Christians
were still thinking of the increase of Christ's kingdom in terms
of a mere census, a mere count of individuals rescued out of an
evil world. But our generation has come to see that the re-
demptive mission of the Christ is nothing less than that of
transforming the social order itself into a brotherhood or family
of God. We are not saved, each by himself, and then added
to one another like marbles in a bag or like grains of sand in
a sand pile. A saved society is not made by any such external
process. We are members one of another in our sins, and we
are members one of another in the whole process of being saved
from sin. I cannot go alone either toward or away from the
kingdom, for it is my relation to some one else, a relation of
help or of hinderance, that^determines the direction that my own
character is taking. " In this the children of God are manifest,
and the children of the devil: Whosoever doeth not righteous-
ness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that
we should love one another." For us of the present generation
the duty of making Christian education sufficiently Christian
will mean bringing it into line with this social message.



THE NEED OF THEORY 7

Love as an inclusive law for education has not been worked
out in theory or tried in practice. This is an astonishing
thing to say, but it is strictly true. We have endeavored to
include love within education as one item among many, but we
have not taken it as the higher and inclusive conception by
which to determine our aims and by which to test our methods.
We have been accustomed to start the educative process out-
side of the act of loving, say in some dogma or religious rite,
expecting somehow to get inside love at some later time. We
have not thought of method as systematized love producing
its like, that is, as the divine social order, already started on
earth, and here and now giving children a place and an incentive
to grow within itself. We have not conceived religious educa-
tion as itself a part of the campaign for the social righteousness
that the law of love requires, or as an actual initiation into the
social relations that belong to the citizens of the kingdom.
Rather, we have assumed that the campaign for social righteous-
ness is an affair of adults exclusively. We have even hesitated
to bring it to church with us lest it should disturb reposeful
contemplation of God. As if we could contemplate the Father
without thinking about that upon which his heart is set, or as
if he himself could have peace of mind only by taking a vaca-
tion from the rest of the family !

Here and there, in fragmentary ways, we have begun, it
is true, to experiment with lessons that touch upon love in action.
Social-service activities, moreover, have here and there be-
come a regular part of the educative procedure. But as yet
these are additions to presocial religious education, or pallia-
tives of it, rather than an attempt to socialize the whole con-
trol. Thorough socialization will require a fresh approach to
the curriculum as a whole. It will require us to re-examine
the organization of religious education in order to see whether
the social relations in which the child is here already placed
do themselves train him in active love and in methods of
co-operation. It will require us to scrutinize every de-
tail of teaching method to see what sort of social relation
it involves between teacher and taught, and between pupil



8 THE NEED OF THEORY

and pupil. Here, surely, is need for a theory of religious edu-
cation.

The theory of public education is undergoing a trans-
formation that is of the utmost significance for the churches.
The old assumptions of public education, like those of religious
education, were individualistic. The day school was expected
to put the pupil into possession of certain tools (as reading
and writing), and to impart a certain minimum amount of
useful knowledge (as geography), all of which was thought of
as preparing him to live as an individual. To-day we cannot
think of the public schools as having any smaller task than
that of preparing young citizens for living together. Moreover,
we are engaged, in both theory and practice, in bringing school
training closer and closer to the every-day occupation of a citi-
zen, his labor for a livelihood.

The growth of the social idea and of the industrial idea in
public education is significant for the churches in several ways.
In the first place, humanitarianism is getting a new organ, one
that promises to become immensely efficient. The state can
hardly train its citizens in the art of living together without
teaching, more or less, the brotherhood that is of the heart.
Nor can this teaching go very far before it awakens thought
upon the ancient injustices that persist in society. Moreover,
when the school, with this growing social outlook and inlook,
is brought close to the industries, it is bound, sooner or later,
to interpret to our whole people, either intentionally or other-
wise, the meaning of "the food which perisheth," the significance
of labor, of income, and of wealth. All these are ancient in-
terests of the Christian preacher, and they are present, vital
concerns for Christian teaching, whether of adults or of chil-
dren.

What shall the churches do, then, with respect to these new
developments in the theory of public education? How can
we be unmoved by what is going on? If we really believe in
the axioms of Christian living, we cannot be indifferent. Nay,
we whose consciences are just now being pricked by the neglected
social elements in our religion, if we have even a moderate



THE NEED OF THEORY 9

amount of practical sense, must take our place as citizens be-
side those who have seen a social vision in public education.
We must try to understand what the vision saith; we must
support and encourage the reformers in their hard task, and we
must gladly tax ourselves for public education as we have never
taxed ourselves before.

But we shall not empty out of the church into the state
school the whole function of social education. Rather, we shall
define and realize more definitely than ever before the educa-
tional implications of the old faith that God himself is love.
Gladly co-operating with every one who endeavors to put the
love of one's neighbor into education, we shall go on to probe
the educational significance of the two great commandments
in the Christian faith. For us there must be a theory and a
practice in which the love of God to us and our love to him are
not separated from, but realized in, our efforts toward ideal
society, the family or kingdom of God. Such a theory of
Christian education we have not as yet.

Four components of educational theory. The divisions
adopted by each writer upon this subject are likely to depend
more or less upon his notion of convenience in exposition.
But the following components will be found in one or another
form in any broad analysis:

(1) An indication of the kind of society that is regarded as
desirable.

(2) A conception of the original nature of children.

(3) A conception of the sorts of individual experience that will
most surely and economically produce in such children the kind
of sociality that is desired.

(4) A statement of at least the more general standards and y. ^
tests by which one may judge the degree to which these sorts _-
of experience are being provided by any educational institu-
tion or process.

All four of these parts of a complete theory will be found in
the following pages, though not in this precise order. In a
general way, Chapters II to V, inclusive, concern the first
point; Chapters X to XIII, the second; Chapters VI to IX and



10 THE NEED OF THEORY

Chapter XIV, the third, and the remainder of the book the
fourth. But I have made no effort to schematize my treat-
ment. Rather, I have endeavored to be concrete, even though
thereby problems crowd together somewhat, and even though
the same problem appears more than once.



PART I

THE SOCIAL STANDPOINT IN MODERN
EDUCATION



CHAPTER II

GENERAL EXPOSITION OF THE SOCIAL
STANDPOINT

Various uses of the term education. Education, in the
broadest sense of the term, takes place wherever a plastic
inind acquires a set of any kind. It is often said, for example,
that a child receives much of his education from contact with
nature from falls and bruises, obstacles and achievements,
and the beauty of natural scenery.



Online LibraryGeorge Albert CoeA social theory of religious education → online text (page 1 of 32)