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He is, of course, best known as a writer. His satires had
tremendous influence. His "Pantagruel" and "Gargan-
tua" are bold and novel characterizations of the age in
which he lived. But Rabelais was himself not a wholly
liberated man. We have spoken of this period as being
still predominantly materialistic. Rabelais shows this
clearly. He was a violent opponent of the scholastic ver-
balisms that made up the education of his period; he sat-
irized unmercifully the education that could turn out such
an utter failure as ' ' Gargantua. " Yet in his whole proc-
ess of reeducation Rabelais never gets away from the books.

John Milton (1608-1674) is the truest representative
of this realistic movement. His "Tractate on Education,"
published in 1644, sets forth in striking fashion the best
educational ideals of the age from the standpoint of the
classical tradition. Milton was the poet of the revolution
in England and was in sympathy with most of the ideals
of the revolution. But in the midst of the revolutionary
period he was compelled to turn from literature to school-
keeping. He was a master of a small, private school for
seven years, and he was able to do wonders in the way



268 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

of inculcating learning into his select pupils. Like certain
modern writers, however, he generalizes his experience a
little too conclusively when he insists that his method of
teaching would prevent the waste of seven or eight years
now spent merely in "scraping together so much miserable
Greek and Latin," for in that time he would give to boys
"a complete and generous education, which fits a man to
perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously all the of-
fices both private and public of peace and war." That is
to say, Milton assumes all too readily that any teacher
can do with any pupils what he did with his few select
pupils. But that is not his most grievous error. He, also,
like Eabelais, clings to the books, and to the Latin and
Greek books. He despises all the modern movements in
education, such as those represented by Comenius, etc.,
except this one movement to transform the teaching of
the classics. He wants to escape from words, from the
"asinine feast of sow-thistles and brambles," to real
things; but the real things must come through the Greek
and Latin literatures in which agriculture, architecture,
and all the rest of the subjects worth studying were treated
masterfully by the authorities of old, only they must
come as pleasant occupations from which it would be diffi-
cult to "drive our dullest and laziest youth, our stocks and
stubs . . . from the infinite desire of such a happy nur-
ture."

The Outcome of Classical Materialism. We must take
leave of the subject at this point for the present. We shall
come upon it again at a later time. We shall then see
something of the tragedy of the story of the classics. Per-
haps it is the heritage of the thousands of years of use
as materials; maybe it is the inevitable result of the clas-
sical tradition; whatever the cause, the classics seem to
remain fixed in their seventeenth century aloofness. Nat-



SOCIAL MATERIALISM 269

ural science and psychology have come to transform the
world of experience and the theory and practice of edu-
cation; yet the classics still insist upon being the "preem-
inent materials of education." There is, to be sure, a cer-
tain attitude of mind, a certain historic orthodoxy which
sustains this classic tradition. But in an age when the
world needs the sustaining energies of all the resources of
humanism it is a little bit unhumanistic for the classical
materials to hold themselves apart from the world, de-
manding a special recognition for their superior values.

(B) SOCIAL MATERIALISM

Over against the humanistic realists who proposed that
Greek and Latin should be rescued from their Ciceronian
narrowness and made to serve the purposes of a broad
and rich modern culture and an introduction to the world 's
life, we must next observe the representatives of the some-
what startling doctrine that education should prepare the
individual to become a man of the world. Of course this
emphasis in education is very old. Plato and Aristotle
had insisted that education must fit men for their place in
civic life. All through the Middle Ages certain classes of
society were recognized as having peculiar relationships to
human welfare, and these, who were to become the rulers,
were supposed to receive an education fitting them for
their particular activities. During the later Middle Ages
and in the early modern period treatises on the education
of princes, rulers, or governors were frequently published.
Later, as monarchies of the older, absolute order began to
break down and the new aristocracy arose, especially in
England, the education of these new classes became a mat-
ter of social concern. Hence the books on education be-
gin to concern themselves with the education of the nobil-
ity, and later still the education of the gentleman becomes



270 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

the greatest task of the state. Even as late as the time of
John Locke we find this ideal rather succinctly set forth:
"That most to be taken care of is the gentleman's calling;
for if those of that rank are by their education once set
right, they will quickly bring the rest into order." 1

The Doctrines of Social Realism. But the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries saw the development of a some-
what broader conception of public education. Deep in
the soil of the common life democratic impulses were be-
ginning to show signs of activity. It was still a long time
until the world should be willing to base government upon
the consent of the governed ; it was a longer time until the
world should fully recognize that the stability of society
rests upon the intelligence of its constituents. But these
daring, revolutionary doctrines are beginning to stir in
impulses under the soil. The time is coming when men are
not going to be satisfied with the pedantries of the narrow
humanism, any more than they are satisfied with the nar-
row theologies of the Middle Ages. Men are breaking
away from the traditions of the schools; the very concep-
tion of school is distasteful to many. The stupid routine
of the schoool tends to make the boy a "greater and more
conceited coxcomb"; it does not fit him for his world.
Hence there are those who insist that education will best
do its work when it puts a minimum of emphasis upon
mere bookishness, but rather sends the boy out into the
world of men and affairs, into the experience of travel
among all sorts and conditions, bringing familiarity with
a wide range of manners and customs, strange peoples,
and varied conditions of living, thus tearing the boy loose
from his isolation in his own parish and his own age and
helping him to get the experiences and marks of the trav-
eled man of the world. It is even written in this age :

i Locke : "Thoughts on Education."



SOCIAL MATERIALISM 271



Books cannot perform this service, for the book is really
the great means of dulling the wits, of formalizing the
mind, of reducing the whole of conduct to a conventional
routine. Books are products of the world of experience;
if they are worth anything, they are writ out of broad ex-
perience and they cannot be read profitably without some-
thing of that same world of experience in the reader.
Schools fail to educate for the reason that teachers are
pedants, not real men, and they are sticklers for useless and
meaningless details, afraid of the vital breath of life, afraid
of the modern problems. No, education must prepare for
the "best of all arts, the art of living well"; and this is a
matter of life, of living, rather than of the schools, or books,
or learning. Let us turn, for a chief representative of
this tendency, to Montaigne, a French aristocrat, traveler,
and writer.

Montaigne (1533-1592). Montaigne was too much a
man of the world to confine his writings wholly to educa-
tional topics in the narrower sense. But he wrote two
valuable essays on the subject. These are his "On Ped-
antry" and "On the Education of Children." In these
essays he sets forth rather clearly his conception of educa-
tion. He overwhelms the narrow humanism of his times
with his ridicule. He holds that ideas are more important
than mere words, that, indeed, "whoever has in his mind
a clear and vivid idea will express it in one way or an-
other." He holds that education is for the purpose of
forming character, which alone can come from experience
and breadth of vision. Hence he would send young men
abroad early, under the care of proper tutors, in order
that they may "whet and sharpen" their wits "by rub-
bing them on those of others." Such training should be-



272 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

gin when the boy is very young. The book he studies
should be the book of society. "I would have this the
book my young gentleman should study with most atten-
tion; for so many humors, so many sects, so many judg-
ments, opinions, laws, and customs teach us to judge aright
of our own, and inform our understanding to discover
its imperfect and natural infirmity."

Montaigne would have all these experiences broadened
and deepened by the study of what he calls philosophy,
along with some of the older subjects of the schools; but
he especially insists that men must come to have some sort
of philosophy. "Philosophy is that which instructs us to
live . . . " by which we may see that he was not of the
academic succession. The whole man calls for his earnest
care. "It is not a soul, it is not a body that we are train-
ing ; it is a man, and we ought not to divide him into two
parts."

Method in Social Realism. We have said above that
khe problem of method did not appear in this seventeenth
eentury sifting of materials. By that statement was
meant that the real foundations of method were not se-
riously sought. Methods of teaching were discussed, but
these all practically involve the application of old, tradi-
tional principles in some novel way. Montaigne expresses
himself freely along these lines; for Montaigne does not
suppose that the boy will never go to school. He rings the
changes on old methods and makes them over so that these
new social materials will be more fully assimilated to the
real experience of the student. He says:

I would not only have the instructor demand an account of the
words contained in a lesson, but of the sense and substance; and
judge of the profit he had made of it, not by the testimony of
his memory, but by his own judgment. It is a sign of crudity
and indigestion for a man to throw up his meat as he swallowed



SOCIAL MATERIALISM 273

it. The stomach has not done its work unless it has changed the
form and altered the condition of the food given to it. We see
men gape after nothing but learning, and when they say such a
one is a learned man, they think they have said enough.

A mere bookish knowledge is useless. It may embellish ac-
tions, but it is not a foundation for them. Among the liberal
studies let us begin with those which make us free; not that they
do not all serve in some measure to the instruction and use of
life, as do all other things, but let us make choice of those which
directly and professedly serve to that end. If we were once able
to restrain the offices of human life within their just and natural
limits, we should find that most of the subjects now taught are
of no great use to us; and even in those that are useful there are
many points it would be better to leave alone, and, following
Socrates' direction, limit our studies to those of real utility. The
youth we would train has little time to spare; he owes but the
first fifteen or sixteen years of his life to his tutor; the remainder
is due to action. Many a time I have seen men totally useless on
account of an immoderate thirst for knowledge. There is noth-
ing like alluring the appetite and affection, otherwise you make
nothing but so many asses laden with books. By virtue of the
lash you give them a pocketful of learning to keep, whereas you
should not only lodge it with them, but marry it to them, and
make it a part of their very minds and souls. . . . We labor and
plot to stuff the memory, and in the meantime leave the conscience
and the understanding empty. . . . But it is not enough that our
education does not spoil us, it must change us for the better.
Some of our parliaments and courts admit officers after testing
them as to their learning; others, in addition, require their judg-
ment in some case of law. The second method is the better, I
think. Both are necessary, and it is very essential that men
should be defective in neither; yet knowledge is not so absolutely
necessary as judgment. 1

By the very nature of the case this social material es-
capes somewhat from the imputation of materialism; and,

i Montaigne : "The Education of Children."



274 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

as in the above quotation, Montaigne frequently rises above
the materialistic level. But still for the most part he is
not able to escape the feeling that education consists pri-
marily in taking on certain materials. That is to say,
while this doctrine of a socialized experience is one of the
permanent contributions to educational theory and prac-
tice, it was not stated in its final form by Montaigne. In-
deed, as we shall see, we are just now, in the twentieth
century, in the very midst of the problem of analyzing,
understanding, organizing, and stating the significance
of social experience in education.
We turn next to a third type of material.

(0) SENSE MATERIALISM, OB NATURAL REALISM

If "the proper study of mankind is man," still men
begin their study of man as far away from home as possi-
ble. Of course all study of the world is really the study
of man ; but philosophy went on for several hundred years
before Socrates finally brought it "down from heaven"
and immediately turned it to the study of humanity. So
in the same way all through these ages we have been draw-
ing slowly closer and closer to the central problems of
education. In these processes of sifting out the materials
of the new world certain fundamental tendencies appear
which have profound influence upon the succeeding de-
velopments. Perhaps we should note here, however, that
none of these processes, or tendencies, is exhaustively pre-
sented; only the barest outlines, the "high points," can be
suggested.

The New World of Nature. Despite the opposition of
the classicists and the traditionalists generally, the six-
teenth and seventeenth centuries saw the gradual accept-
ance of the materials of physical nature as a legitimate part
of the materials of education. These materials had been



SENSE MATERIALISM 275

unknown during the Middle Ages, being ignored as base, or
shunned as defiling. To be sure, there had been the search
for some means of turning base metals into pure gold, and
this had helped much in the secret development of the be-
ginnings of modern science. And there had been other
tendencies all through the Middle Ages that went on under
quiet conditions; not all the "science" of the times was
"foolishness." After the coming of the Saracens real sci-
ence forged ahead apace. Later the Renaissance released
the minds of men from their old attitudes toward the world
of nature and threw over all existence the mantle of ro-
mance and beauty. Human emotions found a new means
of release in these new attitudes and stimulations, and the
old prejudices were broken.

The new age forced amazing new resources in the way
of knowledge upon the world. Bacon, as we have seen,
felt the need of some more effective tool for the proper
handling of these new materials and their integration with
the old world of experience. Some little progress was
made in the forging of that tool in the seventeenth cen-
tury; but on the whole nature was still to be regarded as
a crude mass of materials, to be picked over and culled
over, like scraps upon a bargain counter, for whatever of
incidental interest might appear.

To be sure, certain constructive theories began to make
their appearance. The created universe, limited in extent
and centering in the earth, was turned inside out by the
organizing work of Copernicus with his revolutionary the-
ory; the telescope and the microscope were soon to make
old theories of nature and life utterly untenable; the
threads of the ancient doctrine of evolution, lost for two
thousand years, were rediscovered, and the discovery of
new tribes of men made old theories of the origin of hu-
manity untenable. The sixteenth and seventeenth cen-



276 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

turies were amazingly fruitful in the accumulation of
facts, the atoms of knowledge ; but for the most part these
facts lacked organization and coherence, and hence they
found slight welcome in the traditional schools. Classical
materialism had no real place for them. "Life must be
learned from the books"; even knowledge of the world of
nature must still be sought in the writings of Aristotle,
the "Master of those who know." In the same way the
social realists found little value in piling up stores of gen-
eral information about the world of nature. Montaigne
insists that we should follow Socrates' direction and
"limit our studies to those of real utility."

Hence, if these new materials of nature are to be in-
cluded in the accepted materials of education, some posi-
tive argument must be made for them. That much of
the problem of method was rather clearly seen by the
sense realists, such, for example, as Comenius. But just
what that would involve of psychological reconstruction
no one, of course, could foresee. If these new materials
are to be utilised, an utterly new educational point of
view will be needed, which will give these new materials
foundations upon which to build and arguments with which
to meet the jeers of the older materials. This much is
clear.

The Educational Conception. Here was not merely a
new subject matter; here was a new kind of subject mat-
ter. Hitherto, since the days of Socrates, the prevailing
method of teaching had been memorizing. To be sure, the
social realists had gone beyond or outside this endless
task of memorizing; they had conceived of education as
something immediately experienced in the midst of travel
and affairs. They had depended upon a sort of intuition,
or social perception, as the basis of their accomplishments.
But they had no great following in the schools; memoriz-



SENSE MATERIALISM 277

ing was still the essential pedagogical tool of all learning.
Now the appreciation of this new material of nature
brings in a new aspect of the mind. Francis Bacon had
insisted upon observation as the basis of his inductive
method ; and the use of the senses in this way as the main
avenue of all education was gradually coming to recogni-
tion. But we must make careful note here that there had
been almost no study of psychology since the days of
Aristotle, at least, of any psychology that would have any
real significance for educational practice. We must note,
too, that the development of this new type of material was
important not primarily because it brought in a new as-
pect of the world of experience, but because it once more
forced home to educational leaders and reformers the
problem of method. The classical materials were memor-
ized; the average student of the classics did not know
what he was studying. He memorized vocabularies, gram-
matical rules, and, to a degree, selected passages from the
literatures; but he did not know what he was doing. The
reason is plain. He was dealing with the finished ma-
terials of a sophisticated world, the concepts of life worked
out in the microcosm of Athens or Rome. He could not
know their meanings; he could only memorize and retain
the literal materials until experience could illuminate or
a kindly forgetfulness erase. Not so now with these new
materials of the world of physical nature. These are not,
at first, conceptual materials at all; these are perceptual
materials primarily, and conceptual only in a secondary
sense, i.e., after they have been worked over into the sci-
ences. The pupil must come to them first hand, getting the
actual experience of the object before learning some book-
ish definition, i.e., some reconstructed conceptual statement
of the object; and he must get the language part of his
knowledge of the object in the process, and for the purpose



278 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

of giving expression to the common, concrete experience
part. This sets the materials of sensation off from all other
materials.

Thus it will be seen that the very movement toward the
sifting of these various knowledges, their separation from
one another, and their organization into curricula for the
schools or for other forms of educational effort, led inevita-
bly to the opening anew of the problem of method. In one
sense it may be said that in the consideration of these ma-
terials, there will be raised for the first time the question
of the relation of materials to mental processes. That
is to say, for the first time the problem of an educational
psychology has a real chance to appear; for the first time
the part that mind plays in the educational process will
break through the general materialism of educational
thinking; and thus materialism will develop its own in-
consistencies, its own problems, and demonstrate its own
insufficiency. All this, of course, does not appear at this
time. Even to Comenius the problem is only superficially
present, though the influence upon him of Bacon tends to
make him feel the problem more keenly than any other
will feel it for a century. No, it takes time to develop the
implications of progress. But little by little, as we follow
the course of educational thinking through the next cen-
tury, we shall see this question of method gradually for-
mulate itself. What is the place of mind, of mental ac-
tivity, in the educational process? What attention must
the teacher pay to the mind of the child, as over against
the attention so long paid to the materials of the lessons?
That question, so commonplace now and yet even to-day
so little understood, slowly struggled into the conscious-
ness of this realistic age through the work of men who were
not properly to be called realists at all. But when the age
had become aware of the problem, another age had dawned,



SENSE MATERIALISM 279

an age of larger minds and more encompassing compre-
hensions. The problem of materials had passed into sec-
ondary place for the real leaders of educational progress;
the problem of materials could never again be the central
problem in education for any save those whose comprehen-
sion of the movements of human thought had stopped with
the achievements of the seventeenth century. To be sure,
even yet, as we shall see, the belated upholders of old
partisan programs are to be seen and heard in the land.
It may be said without exaggeration that even to-day many
educators are utterly innocent of any comprehension that
there has been any fundamental progress since the middle
of the seventeenth century. Like " Uncle Jasper" reiter-
ating in his pious, illiterate way, "The sun do move,"
these belated representatives of honorable traditions still
may be heard to cry, "The only genuine materials of edu-
cation are the old theories I believe in ! "

Meanwhile the world has moved on from the discussion of
materials to the examination of the more insistent and far
more important problems of the various methods that un-
derlie these various materials, even to the larger and more
inclusive problem of method in its largest sense : What is
the actual nature of human experience, and what are
the fundamental processes by which the immature expe-
rience of the child becomes the world-experience of the
cultivated and disciplined adult, the man "with power on
his own self and on the world"? This problem of the
nature of experience arises out of these conflicts of ma-
terials. The mind of man is not the pawn of some fancier
of materials, however noble his materials may be. There
is a larger future for the race than that of bowing forever
at the shrine of old materials. The spirit of man is cre-
ative, and passes on from age to age to the construction
of new worlds of freedom.



280 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

The Sense Materialists. Wolfgang Ratke (1571-1635)
was one of the first leaders in this educational movement.
His interest was not wholly directed toward these mate-



Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 20 of 31)