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Joseph Kinmont Hart.

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world-spirit, for this spirit is the social motive that makes
intelligible the history of education in this same period.

Relation of the Modern World to Medievalism. Medi-
evalism represents one of the two fundamental modes of
interpreting the world and human experience. As such,
it is probably the most complete expression possible to the
human mind. It is an effort to establish a world-folkway
within which all questions shall find authoritative answer,
all impulses be put to rest, and all originality be turned to
the strengthening of the structure itself. It must be
again confessed that great numbers of human beings, at
least under historical and present social and educational
conditions, find satisfying refuge in some such sort of folk-
way retreat, refusing to battle with the conditions of liv-
ing, declining to struggle with the problems of the world,
permitting destiny to work its will with them. Politicians

224



CHARACTER OF THE MODERN WORLD 225

and political conditions irritate them, and they are glad
to escape from political responsibilities; religious teachers
lull them to repose, and the ecclesiastical institutions take
care of their spiritual interests and their eternal destinies;
captains of industry pay them fixed wages, and the eco-
nomic struggle does not concern them ; all the proper ques-
tions of the universe have been given final answers in the
Bible or church doctrines, and science is weariness and
vexation of spirit; and the teachers they respect convey
to them absolute knowledges, which completely destroy
any possible initiative that they may once have had.
Medievalism was not, and is not, primarily, a system of
politics, religion, industry, and education; it is not fair, it
obscures the truth we need to face, to identify medievalism
with any historic system. Medievalism was, and is, an
attitude of mind, a mode of interpreting experience, a sys-
tem of logic, an inner construction of experience which may
or may not develop a corresponding construction in the
world of institutions. But just as long as any individual
permits another individual or institution to endow him
with his civic, economic, religious, or intellectual possessions,
and thus to control his life and destiny, medievalism will
continue to exist. Medievalism is life reduced to habit, con-
trolled by custom, surrounded by authoritative tradition
from which intellectual control has abdicated. Its answers
and its activities must all be of a fixed and final type, so that
life may be secure and without disturbance.

Anselm presents the extreme intellectual form of this
attitude in his famous maxim, ' ' Credo ut intellegam, ' ' which
may be interpreted, "I bring my reason under subjection
to the authorized world-system, since in that way alone can
I have an orderly world of knowledge, even though that or-
derly world is the construction of another mind." But
in the same way, though of course not so obviously, the same



226 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

ideal is expressed in economic terms: "I gladly submit to
the social order, since in that way alone may I have a
share in the world's wealth, even if that share be no more
than a chance to work for some one else." A definite civic
attitude seems also present: "I submit to the organized
authority, because in that way alone may I find a place in
the social world, for the position of even a serf is better
than to be an outcast." And finally the religious ideal
stands out vividly: "I conform to the doctrines, since in
that way alone I shall become joint-heir to the treasures
laid up for those who are faithful." That is to say, all
medieval institutions existed in the truth of the dogma of
Aquinas : "Real existence is not in individual being, but in
membership in an eternal Whole." And this is, of course,
of the essence of the folkways.

Now it is easily seen that the modern world must fight
consistently against such a final construction of the world,
if it is to win to its avowed ideals. There is an insidious
danger here. Every forward movement holds within itself
the possibility of giving over its active career and of settling
down into its final forms, i.e., developing its own folkways,
its own "Middle Age," and thus ceasing to care for further
movement. Indeed, any movement is capable of becoming
so completely satisfied with its own attainments and so fixed
in its own accomplishments as to identify those accomplish-
ments with the universe itself, even denying the existence of
anything beyond its own perceptions and setting up its own
standards of orthodoxy which make its old professions of
progress seem like the ravings of lunacy. Many modern
religious denominations are excellent examples of this fact.

But the modern world has committed itself to the cause
of democracy, science, religious freedom, and industrial op-
portunity. Eternal vigilance is the price of any one of
these, or all of them put together. There is no escape from



CHARACTER OF THE MODERN WORLD 227

this vigilance, save in surrendering to the past; and that
means giving over all that has been gained and denying the
reality of the experiences of the modern world, whether in
social or individual living. This would be the ending of
all human hopes. However difficult and uncertain the
way, the modern age is true to its inner self in one respect :
it has put its hand to the plow and will not turn back!

The Ideals of the Modern World. But the fact that the
modern world must fight the essential spirit of the Middle
Ages does not mean that medievalism has no value or signifi-
cance. As a matter of fact, of course, the past has profound
significance for the present and the future. This new age
is like the Teutonic barbarian of a thousand years ago;
nay, it is that Teutonic barbarian, now no longer a simple
child of the forest, "fresh blood and youthful mind," but
strong manhood and disciplined mind, with surplus energies
released in Renaissance and Reformation and revolution,
ready to destroy or construct, to build or tear down, as his
mind may be turned. These new energies need further
discipline not for their uprooting, but for their deeper
strengthening, in order that they may learn how to turn
their strength effectively upon that aspect of the great
world-task most needing to be done. And these old folk-
ways of medievalism, formed through the long centuries
and firmly rooted in the lasting affections of men, should
be just the instruments of this needed discipline of these
new energies for the long tasks of the growing future
the digging out of the unsuspected resources of the world,
the gathering of the materials of the new and larger intel-
lectual and moral existence of the race, the combining these
materials organically in the new and better social and in-
dustrial orders, and the realizing and expressing more fully
the unbounded hopes of men.

To be sure, this very process of disciplining these new



228 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

energies of life would have meant the transformation of the
medieval folkways. This process would have brought to
the peoples new meanings for life, criticized away their
stagnate attitudes, and given them the ideals of the modern
world, the hope of progress, and the spirit of science. That
would have meant the virtual destruction of the folkways !
Yes, but each age must build its own universe. The trouble
is that each age insists upon bequeathing its own structure,
unchanged, to the next generation. As if any child can
gratefully accept or gladly wear the old clothes of its ances-
tors ! The earlier age ought to use up the materials of its
own structures in giving its children practice in building, so
that they, trained to the task, may in their own good time
make the kind of life-structure that their own needs and
ideals demand.

In some respects the revolt against medievalism, that
fixed and permanent way of looking at life, social order,
human nature, education, and human destiny, has been
too wholly emotional, too unintelligent. After all, the un-
derstructure of any life is habit. Psychologically, this
must be so. Correlatively, the understructure of the
world's life must be custom and tradition. The accomplish-
ments of the world to the time of Thomas Aquinas were too
great to be lightly considered or thrown away. These ac-
complishments are conserved in that great body of habit,
custom, and institution which is still in almost undisputed
possession of great areas of society. The real genius of
the modern world is not expressed in wholesale condemna-
tions of the past; nor, indeed, in wholesale acceptation of
that same past. If the modern age has anything to com-
mend it above the medieval age, it is found in its method
of actual analysis of problems, including historical situa-
tions. It is characteristic of half-intelligent logic that it
insists upon clearly distinguishing institutions and atti-



CHARACTER OF THE MODERN WORLD 229

tudes which are not clearly distinguishable. Inductive sci-
ence is not to be set over against deductive knowledge, as if
the two were hostile. The former includes the latter, and
there can be no true induction without adequate and proper
use of the deductive methods. So, also, the modern age is
not set over against the Middle Ages in absolute contrast.
Rather, the modern period includes the essential values of
the Middle Ages, using those values, building upon them,
and conserving them almost as carefully as does the medie-
val spirit itself.

But the modern age goes beyond the medieval age in
certain very important particulars. Holding to the values
of the past for critical and constructive purposes, the mod-
ern world insists that the inner forces of growth and life
can be trusted ; that, indeed, in sharp conflicts between the
externalities of life and the inner forces of growth, the
latter at times must win, if life is to be preserved. For
this reason the modern world has set forth for itself certain
great, though indefinite, goals, and has developed for itself
certain constructive, though largely intangible, ideals. Over
against the distinctive medieval point of view, with its be-
lief that a fixed order of knowledge and a fixed way of
looking at life are necessary to education, we may state the
informing spirit of the modern period in the following
ways, all of which sum up the general doctrine of modern
democracy and science that the inner forces of life and ex-
perience can be trusted :

(a) Psychologically. Impulses and feelings and the sci-
ence that grows out of human living are closer to reality
than are the old intellectualisms, knowledges, and fixed
modes of thought. This is the real basis of modern science,
and it is the foundation of the modern hope in democracy.

(b) Sociologically. Men may be trusted to renew their
institutions in the event of the downfall of any old institu-



230 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

tion, since "man is a political animal," as Aristotle pointed
out. Ordinarily this is thought to mean that man must
be closely surrounded by authoritative controls. But con-
trary to this ordinary interpretation of that Aristotelian
principle, the modern world takes it for granted that insti-
tutions, including the remaking of institutions, are safe in
the hands of men. Men need institutions, and whenever
they destroy those they have, they will at once build others.

(c) Politically. Normal human relationships are safer
foundations for the building of the state than are either the
traditional political formulations or the doctrines of a
supernatural order of society. Men, in their stumblings
after order, may make grave mistakes ; but they will prob-
ably produce no such fundamental perversions of human
life as have developed under old supernatural sanctions.
The good state will be, in the long run, the product of
man's bravest intelligence at work in the service of his fin-
est ideals.

(d) Industrially. Work is a necessity of life, not merely
of the economic life but of the moral life as well ; and men
can be depended upon to share the life of work just in as
far as their energies are free to follow natural channels
and their training has not perverted their natural activi-
ties. The good workmen make a good social order.

(e) Religiously. The good that men achieve is their
own good, not the good that is given them by some insti-
tution. Institutions are the tools of humanity, not the
final dwelling for men. Good men make the various social
institutions worth while; and all institutions may rightly
be called in question, may rightly be asked to answer at
the bar of the individual conscience. Human life is a give
and take between institutions and individuals, not a mere
give on the part of institutions and a mere take on the
part of men.



CHARACTER OF THE MODERN WORLD 231

It may be objected that no such sharp contrast between
the medieval and the modern is quite fair ; and that objec-
tion may be true of the conditions of common life. But it
may still be true that the ideals of the two periods, despite
lack of clear distinction on our part, are still definitely an-
tagonistic, if we take them apart and view them as fixed
ideals of life. If it will not seem to be too redundant, the
whole matter may be stated from still another point of
view. The modern age, in its almost complete reaction from
the medieval system, wants complete democracy; which
means, among other things, that there shall be no inside
cliques, whether in politics, economics, religion, or educa-
tion. The freedom of truth, the breadth of science, the
universality of art, all those somewhat elusive hopes which
can be kept only by the exercise of eternal vigilance and
whose function it is to break down all artificial distinctions
and to release us from those primitive isolations in our own
routine and folkway worlds which keep us from the realiza-
tion of our essential humanity these are in the spirit of
the modern world !

In the efforts to work out these ideals and to realize them
through the modern period there have been many excesses,
extravagances, and recantations, bringing much suffering
and showing humanity in the depths of tragic weakness.
But through all these experiences, whether of littleness or
of greatness, there has been a gradual exploration of the
world of men, of human life and of human nature. Men
have learned by their mistakes in the modern world as
never before; and the more we explore human nature, the
more we make use of mistakes as means of learning. But
men have learned by their successes, too. Little by little
progress is made. But even yet man has not learned the
complete method of his own experience. Hence all too
often intelligence still follows experience. Still, as in the



232 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

primitive world, intelligence may be after the event.
Of course the past is actively obstructive in the present.
Institutions, attitudes of mind, systems, ideals inherited
from the past all tend to obstruct the fulfilment of the
present. But this is not all to be counted as lost. The san-
est intelligence of the modern world has seen rather clearly
that life must be rooted deep in primitive instinct and im-
pulse, developed through long practice, schooled in the dis-
ciplines of real experience, fed by all the streams that flow
from all the ancient hills, as well as stimulated by the stir-
ring conditions of the present. It takes all ages to make the
modern age. The task of education in such an age is, how-
ever, nothing less than appalling. Its long analysis shall
concern us in the remainder of this study.



THE PROBLEM OF EDUCATION IN THE MODERN

PERIOD



CHAPTER XXIII

THE ELEMENTS WITH WHICH MODERN EDUCATION HAS HAD

TO WORK

THE general problem of education in the modern period
may be briefly stated somewhat as follows : How shall the
elusive energies and enthusiasms released in the Renais-
sance, the Reformation, and the revolutions of the modern
centuries be conserved and used in developing a new social
order, while at the same time the tremendous values of the
older organization of society are saved? Can a modern,
progressive, educational program, involving theory, con-
tent, and practice, be developed, a program which will be
in harmony with this new spirit of free religion, democ-
racy in political and industrial life, and science, thus tak-
ing the place of the medieval, static, and mechanical educa-
tional program which embodied and inculcated the spirit
of authority in religion, aristocracy in political and indus-
trial organization, and dogmatism in the field of knowledge ?
To be sure, these questions do not fully appear in the early
part of the modern period; they are discovered as the age
goes on. Modern education has not always been self-con-
scious ; it has not fully known what it was trying to do at all
times; it has been struggling in the midst of tremendous
complications, trying to find a secure footing from which
to survey the situation. These struggles have not been
academic; they have been most real, for they involve the
whole destiny of civilization. Will civilization, i.e., the
mere onward moving of historic events, overwhelm intelli-

235



236 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

gence and escape again into the chaos of the early Middle
Ages? Or will intelligence be able to rise to the high de-
mands of the times arid find an ordered way through the
wilderness of the modern age? Intelligence is at work in
the broad fields of scientific investigation. Shall the results
achieved by scientific intelligence be lost to the uses of life ?
Or shall other intelligence, appreciating the meaning of
science, make sure that each new generation shall share in
the larger results and meet life on the advancing frontiers ?

Elements with Which Modern Education Has Had to
Reckon. Modern educational effort, both theoretical and
practical, has had to reckon with two distinctive types of
educational elements. We must see these types in some
clearness if we are to appreciate, and so share in, the actual
struggle by which the modern period has won to its "pres-
ent precarious position." These two types can best be de-
scribed as the deductive and the inductive.

The deductive elements may be summed up as follows:
The traditions, customs, and habits the "folkways" of the
past which are still effective long after they may seem to
have been broken down; the institutions of the Middle
Ages which still exist in many regions untouched by the
modern movement and in all lands are still influential;
fixed methods of industry ; manners of the common life and
prejudices of all classes of people, these being more effective
in control than reason ; the definite philosophy of a created
and completed world within which all change, if there is
any such thing, must still go on; fixed systems of knowl-
edge, dominated by Aristotle's logic, to which all new
knowledge must conform; traditional representations of
psychology which had made no real progress since the time
of the Greeks and which supposed that the mind was
molded by the objects it considered; in short, the general
spirit of a fixed universe, created, complete, and logically



ELEMENTS IN MODERN EDUCATION 237

and psychologically finished, which the mind for its own
salvation must learn, and to which in learning it must con-
form and submit.

The inductive elements may be summed up as follows:
The impulses, energies, and enthusiasms released in the
whole modern movement the new humanity, the new an-
tiquity, and the new world of physical nature; the spirit
and hope of a progressive realization of these finer ideals;
the new treasures of knowledge in all the wide-reaching
ranges of exploration and investigation with telescope and
microscope and compass; the new worlds of thought and
action which offer new outlets to pent-up impulses and
burdened populations; the expectation of the unknown in
the geographical, astronomical, physical, biological, and
social aspects of the world.

'T is time

New hopes should animate the world, new light
Should dawn from new revealings to a race
Weighed down so long, forgotten so long . . - 1

Growing out of these new elements of life there was even
an overconfidence that the new age was to come by quick,
sure means to the very heart of the secret of all existence.
"Paracelsus is the type of a host of men who sprang up
all over Europe, men of original and high ideals, but men
whose undisciplined imaginations led them beyond the
bounds of sober thinking. ' ' 2

Elements which were Lacking in the Beginnings of the
Modern Period. Looking back upon the beginnings of the
modern age after four hundred years of struggle and effort,
still aware of "the little done, the undone vast," realizing
the imperfection of the tools and methods with which the
age began its long and arduous toils, the wonder grows how

i Browning's "Paracelsus."

2 Rogers: "Student's History of Philosophy," p. 231.



238 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

men could ever have been brave enough to begin a task of
such stupendous labor. Doubtless few appreciated the
magnitude of the task that they were undertaking. Doubt-
less the hope, not absent anywhere, that some " secret,"
some "philosopher's stone," would be found by which the
base substances of life could be quickly changed to social
"gold" helped to inspire and stimulate the work. But it is
well for us to take account of the actual lacks in the way
of scientific methods and tools of precision with which that
work was begun, as compared with the methods and tools
with which similar work goes on to-day, remembering that
the work of making and refining our tools still goes on.

What did the early modern period need in the way of
tools? What must those ideals, energies, and enthusiasms
for progress have that the Middle Ages did not have, in
order that they might be assured permanent opportunity
of development and growth ? Here are some of the items :

(a) A more progressive logic than that which Aristotle
gave to the Middle Ages ; a logic of movement, growth, and
development, to take the place of the logic of fixed condi-
tions, perfection, and exclusion. Bacon undertook to fur-
nish this new logic, this Novum Organum; but for four
hundred years men have worked, at first fitfully and later
more seriously, at the task of perfecting this new instru-
ment, and the task is still unfinished.

(b) A more faithful account of the nature of human
understanding and human nature in general ; that is to say,
a psychology which shall be true to the new elements of
human nature that have come to light in this new age.
The psychology of the Middle Ages was primitive and in-
tellectualistic, but it served fairly well the purposes of the
scholastics and the needs of a fixed, folkway world. But
the new age, with its new interests and its new explorations
of human nature, must soon find a new psychology, or come



ELEMENTS IN MODERN EDUCATION 239

to the end of its explorations and give over its interests.
Education is profoundly concerned with this development,
as we shall see. Descartes (1596-1650) may be regarded as
the actual leader in this constructive movement; but for
three hundred years men have been working at this task,
and the work must go on for other centuries.

(c) A more thorough investigation of the nature of hu-
man society, its origin and its modes of combination, de-
velopment, and control. The Middle Ages implicitly held
that society existed only when held together within institu-
tional bonds. This made of men mere puppets to be man-
ipulated and controlled by the authorized heads of institu-
tions. Its outcome was the feudal, aristocratic, and stag-
nate social order of the age. But the new age has dem-
ocratic aspirations. Can a democracy be organized out
of puppets? Education must become distinctly aware of
this problem, for our modern world has been hindered
in its democratic aspirations by the existence of an educa-
tion which in theory and practice retains the social concep-
tions of the Middle Ages.

(d) A more fundamental theory of the origin and nature
of the universe. The Middle Ages believed that the world
had been created, and that it had been pronounced "very
good." But the new age was feeling the impulse of the
incomplete, the unfinished, with work still left to do. Can
progress and movement exist in a finished universe? But
does this brave new age dare to accept the theory that the
universe is unfinished, still in movement, evolving out of one
condition into another? "Well, not for several hundred
years, at any rate. But the seed of the doctrine is in the



Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 17 of 31)