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Harry Lloyd Miller.

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certain claim to omniscience is often stubbornly de-
fended in the persistence of the Jack of all trades and
master of none. To admit inequality in capacity
would seem to argue that one man is not as good as
another. All this wells up out of the low mythology
of our political democracy. (One recalls the policy
of President Jackson in ushering into office the intel-
lectually disinherited.)

To-day, with increasing specialization in skill and



INITIATIVE AND AUTHORITY 261

profession, our problem is to incorporate into American
life a recognition and appreciation of alternate leader-
ships.*

This means, literally, that if on Sunday a man de-
sires to have his spiritual needs ministered to, he may
go to his church and bow before his minister; if on
Monday he plans an investment, he ought to be able
to go to his banker for expert advice ; if on Tuesday he
wishes to build a house, he should consult his architect;
if on Wednesday he is in doubt about his health, he
should call upon his physician; if on Thursday he wants
to have a point in law settled, he should submit the
proposition to his lawyer; if on Friday he is concerned
about the education of his son, he might very properly
seek the advice of the educator; if on Saturday his
business calls for a new process of manufacturing, he
must consult the scientist; and so on in a hundred
clear-cut directions.

The main purpose of the common school, including
the high school, is to lay those broad foundations that
will enable the common man, and the specialist, to
know, in general, what their specialists are about. In
an intelligent and adequate recognition and apprecia-
tion of alternate leaderships, we are to discover the
basis of a genius for a permanent and a scientific co-
operation. In some such a conception a possible es-
cape from the Nemesis of specialization is afforded,
and at the same time a basis is laid for an understand-
ing of life in terms of a complex system of "mutually
interpenetrating interests."

Certainly, provision must be made for different

*A thesis ably worked out and popularized by President Suzzallo,
University of Washington.



262 DIRECTING STUDY

modes of excellence. "Each in his own tongue" ex-
presses, in a way, a dominant characteristic of America
described as a "People of Action." In theory and
practice the American is an individualist. A flat uni-
formity, any form of equality, superimposed, would be
secured at the expense of liberty. How to guaranty
that individualism which our institutions have fostered
and at the same time engraft upon that individualism
the genius for co-operation is one statement of the
problem of our social order.

Our Americanism and Education. There has been
in the United States a spirit of give and take, a disposi-
tion to live and let live. The freedom of democracy,
the spirit of tolerance and friendliness, could be ex-
pressed with comparative ease as long as there was
abundance of free land. Now, the frontier is a thing
of the past. Our industrial order has introduced diffi-
cult and serious problems of liberty. Equality of
circumstance is not essential to democracy. Equality
of food, of shelter, of clothing, no man wants. That
is surely not the way out. The school is not required
to furnish a practising ground for that conception of
equality, in spite of much in educational practice that
smacks of uniformity. Our education should cultivate
those elements in our national life which have enriched
it from the beginning. Our motto, One from Many,
suggests the process; it is a unity created by a process
of drawing out and recomposing the best which each
group, race, individual, has to offer.

The ideal is the claim of individuality as the supreme
educational end. The highest form of democracy
favors individual growth. In it every person would
be free to draw from the common medium what his



INITIATIVE AND AUTHORITY 263

nature needs, and to enrich the common medium with
what is most characteristic of himself. The basis is
laid in this ideal for a shared life. The individual is
not lost in a mystical socialistic soul; the pernicious
theory of the "melting-pot" method of building our
authentic Americanism is escaped. The wholesome
and practical theory of an associated life, built upon a
programme of interdependent relationships, affords a
truer basis for an understanding of our American ideals
and social organization. In the last analysis this inter-
pretation of nationality rests upon free-operating in-
dividuals, grown to their full stature as socially efficient
personalities. In this conception the individual is-
priceless, and something more needs to be said about
equality and liberty.

A Reinterpretation of Equality. The stirring decla-
ration of the founders of the Republic in the proposi-
tion that all men are created free and equal gives
us pause. It does not help the situation materially
to amend the proposition to read: All men are born
free and equally ignorant. Perhaps there would be
substantial agreement if the period is placed after the
word born. For men are born no more free than wise
or strong. All are born with a nervous system capable
of unlimited development as an organism, and no pre-
sumption is so arrogant as that which attempts to
forecast the future of growing, developing, lazy, in-
different boys and girls. When it is proclaimed,
now, that the individual is free, or that all men are
equally free, we hesitate, and begin to explain just
what we do not mean by liberty.

It did not require the modern psychological tech-
nic of measurements to ascertain the fact that we are



264 DIRECTING STUDY

not equal in any immediate finite attainments. Some
truths are self-evident. The disposition, however, to
refuse to accept any modern interpretation of equality
does not meet with ready approval. Some reinterpre-
tation is desired. May it not be valid to hold that
human beings are equal, as persons;* and further, that
all normally constituted persons are potentially free?
This would mean that children are equal, never identi-
cal, in possibilities. It may be an extreme view to
hold that all children are measureless in capacity;
but it is, withal, a wholesome philosophy for the edu-
cator to act upon. It would seem that now with the
tools and method of modern science a way could be
devised by which personality could be released, and
that they who are the "captains of their own souls"
might have a realizable opportunity of becoming the
masters of their own fate. The schools must reckon
with the loss of external opportunities in the passing
of the frontier, and by deliberate procedure seek to
develop personal power, courage, skill, ability, and
initiative in every individual.

Freedom vs. Caprice and License. The caprice of
determined ignorance is as dangerous to true liberty
as autocratic authority exercised in the repression of
the individual. Freedom is never idle, narrowly selfish,
indifferent. There is no real freedom for those who
resort to the spurious relinquishments of idleness, self-
complacency, or asceticism. Plenty of men would
like to have wealth, scholarship, some coveted goal of
values, but they relinquish the effort; they stand out-
side the ropes watching the contest. Plenty of men

* Hudson, J. W., The College and the New America, chap. X, "The
Meaning of America."



INITIATIVE AND AUTHORITY 265

stop thinking to escape the disturbance of their be-
liefs and, by anchoring their boats in a safe and quiet
harbor, refuse to suffer the pain of honest doubt.
There are men, too, of ascetic disposition who retire
from further effort after accepting or acquiring some
accredited virtue or knowledge, even going so far as
to give up what they have a right to in order to secure
some supposititious effect upon character, forgetting
that character is constantly formed and rejuvenated
in the interactions of social life. The schoolboy, so
frequently an artificial product, often exhibits symp-
toms of one or another of these spurious relinquish-
ments. He withholds the hand that would pluck the
highest honors; he may become stubbornly self-com-
placent through the painful process of information;
he may reach a state when he thinks he is or has been
"educated." These categories by no means exhaust
the possibilities of explaining disagreements arising
between the boy and the school.

Freedom in Work. It is perhaps a bold philosophy
which enables one to hold that boys and girls are by
nature lovers of work. In a certain large family, well
known to the writer, the constitution was adopted,
not always without the consent of the governed, and
a regimen was prescribed by a real father, disillusioned
by any easy-going plan of letting the little things
flower out under a sentimental general indulgence.
It was a constitution, not so much one of power and
arbitrary authority, as it was an instrument, an hypo-
thesis, in which power was exercised and varied at
the discretion of the members of that institution.

The motto which served as an ample preamble was:
We propose to work in this home. Upon the adop-



266 DIRECTING STUDY

tion of that constitution there was a joyous freedom in
work ; secession would have been treason.

There was no blind, unthinking obedience in that
experiment. There was no clashing of interests in the
alternation between authority and initiative; for the
conception of liberty in law was established on a sure
foundation. It was no compromise between authority
and freedom, but a splendid integration of functions.

For those homes to-day in which the parents have
abrogated authority and have become obedient to their
children before the latter reach their teens, it may
be remarked that the constitution may be adopted
long before the child enters school. Dare one venture
a bit of advice, aimed at all those parents and edu-
cators who go a- tinkering with children and youth:
adopt the constitution and stop talking about it, and
go forward finding zest for life in the pleasure of at-
tainment and in a joyous freedom in work.

Paradox of Freedom and Authority. The paradox
of initiative and authority, of freedom and social re-
straint is an attractive thesis. The call for initiative
was never so urgent as it is to-day. The demand for
freedom was never so clear and strong as it is to-day.
On the other hand, there never was a time when ra-
tional authority and social restraint were so absolutely
essential to life and progress as to-day. The intelligent
person will not fail to draw a valid distinction between
the normal wish "to paddle one's own canoe" and a
neurotic craving for relief from any form of social re-
straint.

The alternation between initiative and authority
presents an amusing story. The young Puritan minis-
ter in his abounding enthusiasm gave expression to a



INITIATIVE AND AUTHORITY 267

charming bit of philosophy when he proclaimed to
the world: "We came to America to worship God, as
we please, and to compel everybody else to do the same."
A dim survival of this doctrine is exhibited to-day in
dealing with certain social problems arising out of
the irresponsible exercise of so-called personal-liberty
rights. Applied to the saloon, for example, a free
translation of the Puritan's creed might read: We pro-
pose to be decent, as we please, and to compel every-
body else to be the same. Or, to come at once to the
problem of directing pupils in the path to freedom, it
may not do violence to the spirit of those stern and
hardy pioneers of early New England to adopt for
every classroom the proposition: We are here, boys and
girls, to work, as we will, and to compel everybody else
to do the same.

The free action of the responsible individual is never
characterized by caprice, or license, or intolerance,
or arrogance. Even the fine old saying, "You shall
know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,"
is not regarded as final. Now, with the technic of
science applied to every phase of life, it is just as
essential to act upon the corollary of this proposition:
you shall know the truth in order that you may not do
as you please. Any real boy soon learns that he can-
not do as he pleases with the applications of electricity.
Nobody now does as he pleases about contagious
diseases. It is a notable step in the progress of civiliza-
tion to advance from the irresponsible, careless, in-
different practices of a theory tainted with any form
of selfish personal liberty a do-as-you-please policy
to a straightforward, intelligent, responsible conduct
arising out of the conception that the free man must



268 DIRECTING STUDY

do as he wills. This higher view carries with it a des-
perate responsibility. Freedom of thought implies the
responsibility of actually doing some hard, straight
thinking.

The professor is hardly licensed to indulge in un-
limited monologue merely because he has worked out
his problem more elaborately than his students. The
schoolmaster finds it exceedingly difficult to give up
status and an ancient habit of regarding himself as
the law. We still hear it proclaimed that students
can't think; that before students can think they must
acquire certain dabs of accredited knowledge at stated
intervals, as if we were first to collect some facts and
then go off and do some thinking.

The Pupil in the German System of Education.
Alexander, in visiting the Prussian elementary schools,
remarks that in observing some 300 teachers at work
not a question was asked by any pupil. The German
teacher in the Volksschulen explained it all by saying:
"I have said everything about the subject that the
child needs to know. My explanations have been
clear. What has the child to inquire about?" And
again, if the pupils were permitted to ask questions:
"Why, that would destroy the discipline and regular
order of the lesson. One would never get through
with the work planned." *

One of the most frequent commands in the German
Volksschulen is: "Wiederholen Sie das" ("Repeat
that"). The pupil repeats, recites, reiterates as a re-
cipient. The pupil is commanded to listen to what
his teacher tells him in order that he may tell it back
again as it is told. His general attitude is that of pas-

* Alexander, Thomas, The Prussian Elementary Schools, p. 277.



INITIATIVE AND AUTHORITY 269

sive obedience, unthinking submission to authority,
uncritical acceptance of accredited subject-matter.
The primary emphasis is placed upon capacity to re-
member. The instructional ideal is paramount. With
a constant appeal to memorization and reproduction
there can be little creative thinking. There may be a
good deal of rationalizing in accepted beliefs and com-
municated doctrines. Rationalizing, however, is un-
critical and is for the most part merely a passionate
defense of a belief already accepted by tradition or
authority.

The reproduction of a part of a geography lesson is
given to indicate the method employed in the Volks-
schulen. The method assured the results desired in
Germany by the ruling class prior to 1914. While
discipline is not conducted on a military basis, the
teacher in Germany commands authority, and for the
most part, as a representative of the state, finds mea-
sures for the ready enforcement of commands. The
rigidity of the German method is lodged in the control
of subject-matter. The pupil is required to memo-
rize what he is told. There is practically no oppor-
tunity for creative thinking. The German method, at
its best, does not seem to be the kind of thing for
America to imitate. If a very considerable part of the
authority and respect which the German teacher en-
joys is removed, then an imitation of such a procedure
as indicated below is barren and empty. A recitation
lesson is presented on page 175 from an American
schoolroom. A comparison would be illuminating.
The latter has many of the external characteristics of
the German method; yet with the supports of the Ger-
man system removed, one readily appreciates the utter



270 DIRECTING STUDY

collapse of the procedure. Moreover, if the system
works admirably in the realization of one type of na-
tional ideal, it does not follow that a faithful adapta-
tion of that system would be effective in the realization
of a totally different type of social theory.

GEOGRAPHY III CLASS, FIFTH YEAR. BOYS *

Teacher. Where do we live?

Pupil. We live in Europe.

Teacher. What is your Fatherland?

Pupil. Germany is my Fatherland.

Teacher. All together Germany is our Fatherland.

Pupils. Germany is our Fatherland.

Teacher. Germany is shut in by many other lands. What
country is to the west?

Pupil. France.

Teacher. We shall hear something about this country to-
day. What country are we to hear about to-day?

Pupil. We shall hear about France to-day.

Teacher. Once more.

Another pupil. We shall hear about France to-day.

Teacher. All together.

Pupils. We shall hear about France to-day.

Teacher. What is the name of this country? (Teacher had
written the name on the board.)

Pupil. France.

Teacher. Who has ever heard of it? (Several hands were
raised.) What have you heard?

Pupil. It is a republic.

Teacher. All together France is a republic.

Pupils. France is a republic.

Teacher. What is a republic?

Pupil. A republic has no king, only a ruler.

Teacher. Not exactly.

Pupil. France is not ruled by a king, but by a president.

How utterly lacking such a procedure is in a practis-
ing ground for morality ! Doctor Foerster, Germany's
* Alexander, Thomas, Prussian Elementary Schools, p. 445 /.



INITIATIVE AND AUTHORITY 271

leading educator, condemned that system before the
war. It is related that he favored the introduction of
the best features of the English system of education
in order that the children and youth of Germany might
have a share in the activities of the school and, with
Arnold, of Rugby, work toward the development of
personal initiative and responsibility. If the school
dwells exclusively on "deeds as done," and by repressive,
authoritative measures dogmatically furnishes the edu-
cational " abracadabra " both the accredited subject-
matter and the accredited method the ground for
practicing morality is cut from under the system of
education.

German education confused external discipline with
self-control, regimentation with corporate spirit, and
concerned itself with an emphasis upon the nation's
duty in terms of "culture" (Kultur) rather than self-
realization and character. The school system in point
of organization did not allow the child to make his
own associations, but had them forced upon him.

An Example of a School Under Complete " Free-
dom." Unthinking obedience is not desired in a
democracy. The difficulty in working out an integra-
tion of freedom and law is recognized. The school-
master, as the personification of the law, has too often
neglected his responsibilities in the development of
freedom. To fly to the opposite extreme and totally
disregard law in the hope of attaining liberty is like-
wise futile. Lyof N. Tolstoi sketches the performances
of a school given over completely to the doctrine of
unlimited "freedom." It is the Yasnaya Polyana
school.* The pupils in this school sit wherever they

* Tolstoi, Lyof N., The Long Exile, pp. 164-300.



272 DIRECTING STUDY

please. There is much external disorder. Under an
unrestrained development the pupils exercise the right
to get up and go home if they feel like it. No one,
not even the teacher, is supposed to exercise restraint.
Schoolboy fights are common. The employment of
force by the teacher is thought to lack reverence for
human nature. After disorder and the flow of animal
spirits (unrestrained) better and more stable order
than we imagine seems to establish itself. The in-
triguing thing about this school is the fact that the
pupils all want to learn and that is the only reason they
go to school. It is reported that they have a society
united by this single impulse to learn, and that they
subject themselves to whatever laws they discover to
be essential to their own well-being.

These two extremes, one an emphasis upon authority
to the neglect of freedom, the other an emphasis upon
freedom to the neglect, at least, of organized law, il-
lustrate attempts to consider authority and initiative
as separate ideas. We shall attempt to work out a
practical interaction or integration of these two princi-
ples under some such conception as liberty under law,
or liberty armed with the law.

The Problem of the School in the Development of
Creative Thinking. At the Chicago meeting of the
Department of Superintendence, 1919, the following
appears in the resolutions:

The schools nourished the spirit of democracy and produced
a soldier whose initiative, resourcefulness, courage, and morale
were the marvel of the world, etc.

All these fine traits were exhibited by our gallant
young men. What we should really be concerned



INITIATIVE AND AUTHORITY 273

about in this claim is, are we, in our schools, responsible
for making thinking boys and girls? Do we make
deliberate provision for training of initiative, resource-
fulness, inventiveness? Or have we in America un-
wittingly imitated the rigidity of modern Germanism
in which the tendency is to 'sacrifice life to the majesty
of plan and precision, and to subordinate thought to
mechanical logic? The implied answer is that we are
guilty in several counts in the indictment.

In one of the splendid high schools in one of the
three highest ranking states in the Ayer's report, the
amazing situation disclosed in the following letter
actually obtains in democratic America. Let this re-
markable teacher reveal to the reader an intimate ac-
count of her relations with a typical pedagogical com-
mandant who stands as an exponent of the external
mechanical type of supervision in our schools. His
name, whether supervisor, inspector, or the modern
efficiency expert, if not legion, is unfortunately very
common in our democratic, education. This letter de-
picts a sharp antithesis in our educational practices
between two irreconcilable ideals:

DEAR MR. :

I am in trouble and just must tell some one about it, so if
you don't mind I'll turn to you. I've been teaching here a little
over two weeks, English and Art, departmental work and I've
tried to establish a "must be," and still remember to get down
with the pupils. We've been a prospecting party, these pupils
and I, and we have helped each other, but we have not always
gone in order. One day the supervisor came in when we were
all working at the board, thirty-seven of us. One in each group
of six was watching for mistakes in the other five instead of writ-
ing. Lively discussions over certain mistakes were taking place
in whispers and undertones. I was having a life-size job settling



274 DIRECTING STUDY

disputes and flying from group to group to urge them to maxi-
mum endeavor. I didn't have time to talk to the principal and
there was no orderly recitation for him to listen to; and so he
left, soon.

Next day he came into an art class. Two boys were working
out a poster design in one corner on board, and, I remember,
talking out loud. Three or tout were practising printing on the
board, and at least a dozen were gathered around me learning
a shading stroke. Well, to make a long story short, he walked
out. But to-day in teacher's meeting he lectured for an hour
on discipline and order, and he looked straight at me and said:
"I've noticed that some of you have beautiful theories of de-
veloping individuality and using the new-fangled 'method' of
letting the children do as they please, but I want you to under-
stand that we can't have it in this school we must have uni-
form rules, etc., etc." You know what he said, and I hope you
know my blood boiled ! He even told us absolutely not to let
a pupil say one word without raising his hand There is lots
more, but you have no doubt heard this story before, so I won't
inflict it upon you. But to-night I am heartsick. I've so in-
corporated ideas of socialized procedure into my thinking that

they are there to stay. Thanks to you, Mr. . I don't want

any tombstone order in my classes, nor any "methods," but can
I defy that man?

Just writing this to you has given me courage to dare, even
though I don't send this letter! Perhaps I shall send it, and
if I do you will know that I am going to try to "keep the faith."
I feel like a missionary in a foreign land, or a bug crawling about
under a bottle. But I can see through the bottle, and get a vision
of what's beyond, thank goodness !


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Online LibraryHarry Lloyd MillerDirecting study; educating for mastery through creative thinking → online text (page 20 of 28)