Joseph Kinmont Hart.

Democracy in education; online

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not his list of accomplished results.

Scientific procedure has everything to give to the schools
of a democracy; but when the sciences offer the schools
merely the accomplished, material results of old research,
it is as if the schools should be given not the bread of life
they need, but the cold stones of conventional information
that they cannot understand, assimilate, or appreciate.
Science needs to make lasting compact with psychology, in
order that the vital spirit of the search for truth may be-
come an integral part of the program of the schools.

The very existence of a democracy seems to depend on
such a development. This, finally, may be seen from an-
other point of view. Democracy needs discipline quite as
much as does any other order of society ; but it must be the
discipline of a free intelligence, not of a conventional social


status. How shall discipline and free intelligence be devel-
oped in the same individual ? Ever since the days of Locke
at least, the world has rightly insisted that there can be
no real education without such an actual discipline of the
powers of the mind as shall make the mind a fit instrument
for the uses of life. It was the boast of the older linguistic
and mathematical studies that they alone were sufficiently
definite in form to secure this disciplining of the mind, for
discipline was regarded wholly as a matter of form. This
older conception seemed to consider discipline as a sort of
holding the unstable mind in a fixed form until its insta-
bility had given place to a consistent and stable character.
"We learn to think by reading the perfectly expressed
thoughts of the world's great thinkers, until our minds are
definitely molded on the lines of their perfection of form."
From this point of view the sciences have little value as edu-
cative materials, for the very concept of science indicates
something that is forever mobile.

But this conception of discipline seems too artificial, too
external, too unreal. Psychologically, it is no longer ten-
able. We do not learn to think in such fashion. Such ex-
ternal discipline does not meet the needs of a scientific age,
and it utterly fails to grasp the significance of discipline in
a democracy. Science demands free intelligence; democ-
racy demands free personality; and such a conception of
discipline ignores the psychology of both free intelligence
and free personality. On the other hand, the scientists have
never faced the question of basing discipline on less formal
and more vital grounds, grounds more in consonance with
the spirit of science. Yet the real answer to the problem
lies in the field of science. Discipline of the democratic sort
does not come from externally imposed tasks or from imi-
tation ; all discipline is, in the end, seZ/-discipline. All true
discipline is of the nature of that training which comes to


the scientist who has put himself under control for the
sake of some worthy goal which he himself has apprehended.
From this point of view the educational process becomes
wholly an inner process, not subjective in the invidious
sense of that word, but "within experience," all external
aims and all merely externally presented materials being
eliminated. The educational process becomes one of con-
tinuous growth of experience, continuous interaction of
mind with fact, continuous reconstruction of experience,
continuous development of control, and continuous disci-

But owing to the dominance of materials, this discipline
into freedom does not usually take place. The sciences have
not attracted students as they should have done, because a
certain scientific materialism (in the educational sense)
stands in the way of both discipline and freedom.



THE third stream of influence flowing from the work of
the naturalists of the eighteenth century was predominantly
social. Not infrequently the educational ideal has become
consciously social, for example, in the doctrines of Mon-
taigne; and always, back of the most intellectual ideal,
some more or less shadowy form of a social world can be
seen, as, for example, in the "Heavenly Fatherland," the
' ' Patria, ' ' of Thomas Aquinas. Scholasticism, even though
working at intellectual tasks, felt itself furthering the in-
terests of a social sphere, even though in another world.
Classical humanism, tied up in the grammar schools and
newer colleges of the early modern period, was working for
the development of a real humanity. And the rising in-
terest in elementary education in the last two centuries has
grown out of, and back into, the modern world of com-
merce, industry, and democratic realization. 1 Of course all
education everywhere, from the primitive folkway life down
to the present, has been determined by some sort of a social
ideal, unless, perhaps, some element of lingering tradition
remains to make the system no longer intelligible to the new
age. It must be true that all education is preparation for
some sort of living in some sort of a social world.

The Democratic Ideal in Education. But never before
in history has the task of education been so seriously con-
sidered as in the past century under the more complete
realization of the meaning of all the revolutionary move-

iDewey and Tufts, "Ethics," p. 165.



ments of the modern world. Religious revolution, from the
Reformation down to the present, shows clearly that human
life is moving on toward an ideal of freedom from the arbi-
trary dogmas and authorities of the past. Political revo-
lution brings home to men continuously the fact that there
is no halting-place short of the life of reason. Industrial
changes are demonstrating that old distinctions between the
educated and uneducated classes can no longer be main-
tained along economic lines. And the intellectual revolu-
tion is simply gathering up, organizing, generalizing, and
applying these great realizations to the ever-widening
spheres of living. Education must turn them all to the
uses of living and the preparation for more intelligent liv-
ing. The task of education becomes inclusive. The ideal
of education under these conditions of freed emotion, intel-
ligence, and action is really human in a sense never dreamed
by the Humanists. Economically, men must be free to
work, to enjoy, and to share the values and meanings of life
in a human way. Very well ; let education take account of
this aspect of the task. Politically, men must be free to
deliberate, to know, to decide, to choose, and thus to help
determine their own destinies and the destinies of one an-
other in a human way. Very well; let education take ac-
count of this fact. Religiously, men must be free to wor-
ship or to refuse to worship, to "reverence their conscience
as their king" in a human sort of way. Very well ; let edu-
cation understand this fact. And intelligence must become
big enough to comprehend these freedoms which the soul
of the race is determined upon. The ideal of education in
a democracy must be inclusive enough to maintain an actual
aim of freedom, while at the same time making use of all
the materials of the past and all the achievements of the
present to realize and criticize and make effective that aim
of freedom.


The Machinery of the Democratic Ideal. Older ideals
of education found their machinery in the traditional in-
stitutions of the community, especially the church. In
large measure, schools have been handmaidens of the re-
ligious hopes of the race. To be sure, the governmental in-
stitutions have usually promoted educational enterprises of
a more or less limited sort. But any sort of education less
than a completely democratic type must find much of its
support in special classes or groups. But with the coming
of the free period in political life, and with the demand for
the common education of the community, education has be-
come more and more the necessity of all persons ; and there-
fore it has become the task and responsibility of all persons,
working through the state. The modern democratic pro-
gram is a program of state promotion of public education.
The state is the organized instrument for collective action,
arid education is the most thoroughgoing example of collec-
tive action. The state is therefore its proper instrument.
Pestalozzi saw this. Headway in handling the destinies of
the poor and ignorant depends upon making that problem
a public responsibility. Horace Mann saw it, and decided
that a school-house must be built within the reach of every
boy and girl, without regard to economic considerations.
Increasingly the modern world has seen it, and laws have
been passed making it compulsory for every child, within
certain age-limits, to attend some sort of school. The task
that proves too great for individual initiative or for private
philanthropy becomes surprisingly simple when made a dis-
tinctive part of the public will through governmental action.
The perpetuity of the state, the stability of institutions, the
conduct of affairs all depend upon intelligence, or so it is
assumed, and in this sense "the public school is the hope
of the country." Life, itself, becomes the criterion of
progress in educational matters. In a sense this is a return


upon the implicit ideal of the primitive folkways. But of
course it is much more sophisticated, much more elaborate
and intelligent. Also not infrequently the results achieved
are accepted by the public with quite the same complacency
as was characteristic of the primitive folkways. Democ-
racy has not yet learned how to build educational institu-
tions with the patient insight and the sympathetic intelli-
gence capable of interpreting to the growing child the mo-
tives of freedom that have been the most earnest desire of
the modern age, so that those motives become his own. The
wish to be democratic is with us more or less ; the ideals of
democracy become clearer from decade to decade; but the
actual will-to-be-democratic is not yet present, and especially
the actual method of democracy in education, that is, of
democracy in the experience of children, is not yet clear.
Accordingly, we have only partially realized our democratic
professions. Present world-conflicts press home upon us the
larger nature of the task. But certainly, if the world is to
be "made safe for democracy," the work must begin in the
schools. However, there is as yet little agreement as to just
what a completely democratic or social program in education
would include. A "school-house within reach of every
child" has not solved the problem; compulsory attendance
has not been able to overcome the difficulty. What shall be
the nature of our program ? What shall be the aim ? We
must note the characteristics of a number of answers that
have been proposed for meeting this question.

Education as Universal Intelligence. The social em-
phasis upon education has become more pronounced in the
century since, and following upon, the work of Pestalozzi
and others who looked at education from his point of view.
In a fashion education has become quite aware of its social
significance. For example, an American statesman, Mr.
Garfield, suggested, "We must offset the dangers of univer-

sal suffrage by means of universal education. ' ' Out of this
conception, which is based partly on hope and partly on
fear, there has arisen the ideal that education should mean,
primarily, universal dissemination of knowledge, since
knowledge is both safeguard of past accomplishment and
guarantor of future progress. This is further emphasized
by the fact that there is a growing wealth of vital and useful
knowledge in the world, though not all the world realizes this
fact and hence we have stagnation or slight progress, where
we should be having constant progress. Most people know
far less than they are able to know, and just to that extent
human progress is delayed or defeated. Education thus
becomes a public function; it should be controlled by the
state, in order that every individual may fully share in it
and in order that the knowledge so disseminated may be
public knowledge and not private, interested knowledge.
In his "Dynamic Sociology" "Ward defines this educational
ideal and describes the system necessary to its realization as
"a system for extending to all members of society such of
the extant knowledge of the world as may be deemed most
important. ' '

It were well for the student to realize that Ward's con-
ception contains some essentially Platonic elements. It
urges the control of all information by the state, and the
dissemination of such parts of it as may be deemed to be
most important. These are almost the identical proposals
of Plato. It should also be noted that this is wholly an
informational conception of education, and as such it is
not far removed from the doctrines of Montaigne. That is
to say, it does not rise to the level of recognition of the
psychological factors involved in educative processes, but
simply assumes that information may be taken on by any
one. It illustrates how lacking much sociological theoriz-
ing has been in psychological insight. Up to within the last


decade there has existed no social psychology able to give so-
ciological theory its proper tool of psychological analysis.
The effort to state social necessities or social theories in
terms of traditional, non-social psychologies has proved ab-
solutely futile. The greatest need of the present, from the
standpoint of a sociological theory of education, is the de-
velopment of a thoroughly effective social psychology.
Until that appears, sociological theorizing is likely to prove
pedantic and scholastic, especially as concerns educational

Education as the Development of a Social Mind.
Within the last two decades there has been some develop-
ment of such a social psychology in a general and gross
sort of way. One result of this development has been the
working out of the theory that there exists what may prop-
erly be called a social mind, which is something other than
the sum of individual minds, which is prior, indeed, to the
existence of individual minds. This assertion, of course, is
challenged on every hand. But there seems good ground
for such a theory. Professor Cooley has formulated the
doctrine in this way: "Every thought that we have is
linked with the thought of our ancestors and associates,
and through them with society at large. [This] is the only
view consistent with the general standpoint of modern sci-
ence, which admits nothing isolated in nature. ' ' 1 Such a
statement brings us a hint from the folkway world, where
what he describes was certainly true, and it helps us to see
how deeply and unconsciously the great cultures and insti-
tutionalisms of the past underlie all our living and think-
ing. But this statement also brings us a curious denial of
one of the original proposals of Rousseau. In his earlier
writings, and, indeed, all the way through his work, Rous-
seau harps upon the failure of society, and especially upon

i Cooley, "Social Organizations, pp. 3-4.


the evils of traditions and institutions. He would escape
from all this past accumulation of evils and find freedom
and the chance for a fresh start in a life developed apart
from the world and from all contact with ancestors and
conventional associates. He assumes that society began in
some such atomistic way, i.e., by the coming together of
hitherto independent individuals who agree to live together
in a social group.

Rousseau's lack of psychological insight appears plainly
here. Psychology is now showing us that individual ex-
perience is really deeply rooted in the accumulated experi-
ence of the race. Individual habit grows up under the
tutelage of social habit; the folkways are endlessly present
and effective even to-day. "Education comes not from the
books; it is borne on the currents of the folkways." The
great social mind of all the past with all its traditions,
attitudes, prejudices, hatreds, tolerances, and faiths, im-
poses itself upon us. Rousseau tried to find a way of escape
from this; he would run away from it all to the freedom
of nature. But the fate of "Emile" shows how impossible
such an escape is. The only possible escape from it is in
facing it, tearing it to pieces, analyzing it, grappling with
its evils, accepting and enriching its goods, and using it in
the making of a world in which our chastened energies and
purposes can dwell. Certainly there can be no more la-
mentable failure than in running away, unless it be found in
the credulous acceptance of all the content of this social
mind, for that would be the full surrender to all the ele-
ments of custom, the denial of intelligence, and a return to
the primitive folkways.

Education as Social Control. Another of these socio-
logical ideals of education defines the function of education
as the "chief means of social control." This is a great ad-
vance upon some old conceptions of social control control


by the authority of some arbitrary or supernatural power
expressed through king, soldier, policeman, or priest.
Knowledge is to take the place of all these, except, of course,
in the case of certain abnormal types who must still be con-
trolled arbitrarily. But here again there seems to be a
falling short of complete recognition of full democracy.
There will be authorized leaders whose business it will be to
determine just what directions this control shall take. Hu-
manity, even democratic humanity, is not ready to take
authority unto itself and accept the responsibility of de-
termining its own destiny by means of its own intelligence.
This was the implicit proposal, it will be recalled, of Soc-
rates to the Greek world. Such a proposal, impossible in
the days of Socrates, might be possible now, if all intelligent
men were willing to play the game in that way, for the
high hopes of an intelligent democracy. Now and then we
seem ready to commit ourselves to such a program. It is
the ideal of science and of democracy; it is implicit in all
the revolutions of the modern world; it is the only logical
stopping-place for all those who are in sympathy with the
revolt from medievalism. But we are not yet quite brave
enough for it. Meanwhile we linger under a sort of hy-
brid social control, supposedly democratic and intelligent,
but largely determined by old folkway attitudes inherited
from the Middle Ages or more remote times.

Education as the Human Interpretation of the Evolu-
tionary Process. The evolutionary process is usually
stated in terms of a struggle for existence, although such a
statement is not by any means conclusive or inclusive. On
the lower levels, however, struggle seems to be a more or
less constant factor ; and in that struggle a certain type of
fittest is selected for survival. Such an outcome seems,
however, to be very distinctly wanting in ethical quality.
Educational processes find their place in the evolutionary


movement by stating the process in slightly different fash-
ion. The selection of individuals for survival is to be on
other grounds than the fittest in the lower sense. Social
selection, moral selection, intelligent selection these are
to take the place of natural selection. Rather, selection is
to go farther still ; the task of education is to be that of fit-
ting as many as possible for survival. This is to be accom-
plished in two main ways. First, by means of the applica-
tion of eugenic principles a better general level of the race is
to be attained. Second, by means of a more natural educa-
tion a larger realization of possible individual contribution
to the sum total of human living is to be assured. Educa-
tion is to be consciously utilized in this way for the elimina-
tion of social evils and the prevention of social waste, by
starting the young along lines of social development which
do not lead to the traditional ills. This is scientifically pos-
sible (involving evolutionary science) and democratically
desirable (saving as many as possible for the life of free-
dom in society) .

The Ultimate Problem of Democratic Education. We
have here set forth several worthy aims or interpretations of
education which have developed under the growth of the
modern social and democratic movement. "Universal in-
telligence," "gradual development of a social mind," "in-
strument of social control," "highest term in the evolution-
ary process, ' ' each of these is distinctly a valuable offering
to the understanding of the educational problem in a democ-
racy under modern scientific development. But the fact is
that they do not work out democratically. Universal intel-
ligence becomes a program of cramming and stuffing ma-
terials; gradual development of a social mind becomes ac-
commodation to some present sectarian partisanship, or an
acceptance of such a conception of the status quo as to make
all progress impossible ; the instrument of social control be-


comes the right of special interests economic, religious, po-
litical, or some other to criticize all programs of educa-
tion and to decide what materials shall be taught and what
withheld, what activities shall be allowed and what permit-
ted ; and that highest term in the evolutionary process be-
comes identified with some local, racial, or national Kultur
as an expression of the absolute, and evolution comes to an
end before its term.

The ultimate problem of education in a democracy is not
found in securing the statement of ideals or materials.
These we have in great abundance, yet we do not have a
democratic education. That final problem lies in the gen-
eral field of method, that is to say, in the field of under-
standing of the processes of experience. Democracy is
something far more than a vague ideal ; certainly it is not
an ideal that will realize itself. And certainly democracy
is not a material at all; there are no materials that are es-
sentially democratic and that under all circumstances can
be depended upon to produce a democratic outcome. De-
mocracy is an attitude of mind, a keen sense of a particular
type of human relationships, a willingness to face realities
in a peculiar way, a breaking down of certain types of old
artificial barriers, and an opening of the whole world of hu-
manity to new freedoms of personal participation in the
goods of the world and to new resources of social contact.
Education for this sort of living demands knowledge, of
course ; but it demands more than knowledge. It demands
a sense of direction.; it demands a method. This method
will be primarily psychological, of course; but it will be
constructed out of a psychology that is thoroughly demo-
cratic and social, as much so as is the aim that it seeks to
realize. We have these modern aims, and we have much
modern material worthily able to nourish our democratic
moods; but we retain in our educational practice the same


old methods almost completely. Our school administra-
tions, at least, our administrative attitudes, are still largely
autocratic. Our class-room teaching is still largely tradi-
tional. The curriculum is handed down to our teachers in
a purely Platonic fashion, our teachers teach materials they
do not understand, and our pupils take on materials out of
this ' ' preexistent treasure-house" of books and libraries.
We are molding our children to old forms of thinking, to
old absurd obediences, to old customs and traditions, to the
type of a world that exists nowhere any longer, except in
pedantic text-books and in the mind of a thoroughly insti-
tutionalized teacher. This is not democratic. There is no
hope for democracy in such a program. Yet our political
institutions are professedly democratic, and we say that we
live in a democracy. "No amount of our ordinary type of
education will develop personal self-control and the habit
of responsibility." And democracy is just those two things
personal self -direction in an intelligent, responsible social

Now our chief difficulty in the development of such an
education arises from the fact that we do not see that it
involves the development of the same essential attitudes and
practices in the community life. "We shall never get a

Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 27 of 31)