Joseph Kinmont Hart.

Democracy in education; online

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democratic product from our schools as long as our com-
munity life as a whole remains essentially traditional, if for
no other reason than that the graduates of such an educa-
tion would find themselves outside the community life be-
cause their education would unfit them to live in society.
But there is another reason why such an outcome is impos-
sible : school education is not, even now, as effective as the
education of the life outside of school. No, all the phases
and institutions of our social living must be made demo-
cratic, if our education is to become such our economics,
our industries, our civics and our ward politics, our ethics


and our community moralities, and our conceptions and our
practices. Education is not apart from life ; it is just the
adult generation giving its own world to the new genera-
tion. And be sure the adult generation will not give a very
different world from that in which itself lives. The adult
generation cannot keep its own private evils, traditions,
greeds, autocracies, shams, follies, and insincerities, and ask
the school, working right in the midst of these effective in-
fluences, to produce a new generation committed to good, to
science, to altruism, to democracy, to honesty, to wisdom,
and to sincerity. The democratic problem in education is
not primarily a problem of training children; it is the
problem of making a community within which children can-
not help growing up to be democratic, intelligent, disci-
plined to freedom, reverent of the goods of life, and eager to
share in the tasks of the age. A school cannot produce this
result ; nothing but a community can do so.



THE last chapter closed with the statement ' ' A school can-
not produce these (democratic) results; nothing but a com-
munity can do so." Thus we see that we have come back to
the folkways from which we set out. At least, we have come
back to the community, where once the folkways reigned
supreme and within which that thoroughly successful edu-
cation of the primitive world was secured. We have made
the round of the ages. We have seen the folkways dissolve
in Athens and come to larger construction in the Europe
of the Middle Ages; we have seen the great structure of
habit and institution persist under the reconstructive move-
ments of the ages. We now see that life must be lived in
contact with, and against the background of, this great and
persistent structure of tradition. To be cut off completely
from that is to be, in deadly truth, a man without a coun-
try. But the community of to-day is not the primitive
community with which we began. There have been great
gains. "Socrates discovered free personality and moral
freedom, and made the greatest of all epochs in the world's
history." Primitive Christianity opened the way of es-
cape for the individual from the larger suppressions of the
imperialistic community, declaring (as interpreted in the
Reformation) that the good man shall live by his own good-
ness, not by the second-hand goodness furnished by institu-
tions, though institutions do offer the opportunity for the
organization, development, and discipline of his own good-



ness. And the Teutonic barbarian brought in that "fresh
blood and youthful mind" which against all the demands of
mere institutional absolutism have stood firm for the realiza-
tion of free intelligence, free personality, and a free world,
thus bringing the ideals and developments of science and
democracy to the modern world.

Over against these positive gains the institutional or folk-
way attitude has set up, age after age, new finalities of doc-
trine and of practice. We have seen this on the largest
scale in medievalism. That is its most conspicuous achieve-
ment in world-organization. But never has there been an
age that has not produced some special development of this
desire for finality, some final material or some ultimate
theory. The ages are strewn with the wrecks of old the-
ories whose memories are still with us, indeed, whose devo-
tees are still with us, as we shall see in a moment. For it
has been the consistent tendency of all reforms to succeed
too easily, that is, to accomplish some result and then to sub-
side. But the reform has not been merged into the whole
process of progress. Something of it remains some creed,
some touch of a strong personality, some scrap of old organi-
zation and this sets itself up as an independent aim or end
in itself. Soon custom, tradition, and sanctity gather
round this attitude and it becomes part of the permanent
habit of the world. This tendency is human ; that is to say,
it is found in all the various interests of our living eco-
nomic, political, moral, religious, and educational. History
seems from one point of view but a long search for that
final solution of all our problems, a magic element, like the
"philosopher's stone" of the Middle Ages. How many
times has this final solution been found! How frequently
has it been grappled to the soul of an age, established in its
beliefs, and depended upon as the last word in all human


striving! How often has humanity been disillusioned of
these finalities! How often has it returned, undismayed,
to the next that offered !

The net result appears in the fact that we are now the
possessors of many of these solutions, each of which has
largely turned out to be not a solution at all, but one more
element in the problem that is to be solved. Its adherents
prove to be not reformers, but obstructionists of a stubborn
sort, unless the world consents to be saved after their own
particular formula. Their logic turns back toward Aristo-
tle, and their real task is not to solve problems at all, but to
preserve their own dignity.

In this way we have come down to the present. It is an
age filled with the shoutings of clamorous partisanship, with
many schemes pressing for recognition, and each scheme is
quite fully convinced that its own solution is the only genu-
ine one. There is, of course, no lack of humor in the situa-
tion. One of the most vigorous of the partisan voices does
not hesitate to declare, "The more I think about my own
solution of this problem of education, the more convinced I
am that it is the right one." We are primarily concerned
with the present, and with what it means for the future.
Hence, before we take leave of our subject, we must under-
take a brief survey of these clamorous groups illustrating
the character of the age. Perhaps such a survey will give
us some clue to the larger nature of the problem. Let it
not be unnoted that we are here seeking not a solution to
a problem, but a more inclusive understanding and state-
ment of the problem; and a very complicated part of this
problem is found in the certainties of these educational
parties that their solutions are correct. We shall look at
a few of the many that exist.

The Classics Party in the Present. As we have seen in


the course of this study, historic movements have produced
lasting heritages of culture materials which have come
down to us under the general estimate of classical. At
times these have been ignored, sometimes because they
were lost, sometimes because overfulsome eulogy had disil-
lusioned the world of them. But over and over they have
been gathered up and used to make life rich and full of
the sense of the deep and poignant beauty of the world
when it was young. Now somehow the race does not seem
inclined to live on those high levels continuously; besides,
occasionally there are other aspects of the world that seem
to be worthy of genuine regard. The result seems to be
that the classicists take this as a sort of personal affront,
or as a deliberate effort to degrade the world from its lib-
eral aspirations.
One writer says:

Liberal training, once a distinction and an advantage, has been
cheapened until it is held in contempt, unless in some way com-
bined with the immediately practical. As in Mark Twain's story
there were no gentlemen, because everyone was a gentleman, or
claimed to be one, so there is now no intellectual aristocracy,
because everyone is an intellectual aristocrat. . . . Like the
church, which was inundated by the spiritually unfit in the time
of Constantine and lost its high quality, intellectual life under
democracy has become debased through taking to itself the whole
world of the intellectually unfit. . . . Unable to bring every
mountain low, democracy sticks its head in the sand-flats of its
own creation and refuses to concede the existence of high ground
at all. . . . There is bound to be liberal education somewhere.
. . . The liberal arts, once sitting serene in the high citadels of
aristocratic privilege, have descended and offered themselves to
the common dwellers in the plain; if they are flouted we may
look to see them return to their blessed heights and adopt their
old-time attitude of reserve. Liberal culture will again be aris-


tocratized; the knowledge that is distinction, that is power, that
is happiness, will once more hang beyond fhe reach of the com-
mon man, and there we shall be again, with the same old prob-
lem of inalienable right on our hands. 1

The Scientific Party in the Present. Passing by the
arguments of such propagandists as Huxley and Spencer,
referred to and quoted in a previous chapter, we find much
vigorous reasoning as to why the public attention and
support should be accorded to science and scientific educa-
tion. Professor Karl Pearson's "Grammar of Science"
sets forth these arguments in effective summary thus:

The scope of science is to ascertain truth in every possible
branch of knowledge. There is no sphere of inquiry which lies
outside the legitimate field of science. To draw a distinction be-
tween the scientific and philosophical fields is obscurantism. . . .
The scientific method is marked by the following features: (a)
Careful and accurate classification of facts and observation of
their correlation and sequence; (b) the discovery of scientific
laws by aid of the creative imagination; (c) self-criticism and
the final touch-stone of equal validity for all normally constituted
minds. . . . The claims of science to our support depend on:
(a) The efficient mental training it provides the citizen; (b) the
light it brings to bear on many social problems; (c) the increased
comfort it adds to practical life; (d) the permanent gratification
it yields to the esthetic judgment.

Surely we might now be content to learn from the pages of
history that only little by little, slowly, line upon line, man, by
the aid of organized observation and careful reasoning can hope
to reach knowledge of the truth, that science in the broadest
sense of the word, is the sole gateway to a knowledge which can
harmonize with our past as well as with our possible future
experience. As Clifford puts it, "Scientific thought is not an

iShowerman, "The American Idea"; "School Review," Vol. XIX,
pp. 159-60.


accompaniment or condition of human progress, but human prog-
ress itself." x

The Sociological Party in the Present. Passing by the
fact discussed in our general view of the democratic ideal
of education that this doctrine may mean several very
diverse things, we find that in general there is a more or
less loosely bound group of partisans who insist upon the
general doctrine of socializing education. Their attitude
may be seen in the following quotation :

The school can contribute to the intelligence of its rising citi-
zenship by drawing directly upon that large fund of present-day
social, political, and economic knowledge that has made the low-
priced magazine the tremendous power it has become in our
national life in the last fifteen years. . . . The school should be-
gin to teach the nature of the cooperative functions of society.
For example, the pupils should learn in a simple way the func-
tions of the policeman, the fireman, and the street-cleaner. They
should understand that the streets belong to the people, and that
they are loaned in part to transit companies, and to telegraph,
telephone, lighting, and water companies. They should be made
to see the public nature of these corporations. . . . All study of
civics, history, and other forms of social science should clarify
the pupil's understanding of the social forces and problems of
his immediate environment. For example, civics, instead of
studying governmental organization beginning with the constitu-
tion of the United States, should begin with community functions
in District Number Ten, or the Nineteenth Ward. . . . The com-
munity functions of the neighborhood, village, ward, and city are
concrete, simple, immediate, and personal ... it is a simple step
to the understanding of the great national questions that are
claiming the serious thought of every patriot. The trusts, the
bosses big and little, the control of legislation through caucus
rule, and the influence upon the big leaders by the "interests,"
capital and labor, social legislation, lobbies legitimate and other-

iOp. cit., p. 37.


wise, all of these and hundreds of other questions are vital to
the civilization we are building. Our young people must under-
stand this, because under a despotism the government may be
better than the sum total of the citizenship, while under a democ-
racy the government may be worse, but never can be better.
This is the fundamental reason for our expensive school system. 1

This sort of doctrine is especially prominent in educa-
tional discussion to-day. It has several variants, of which
we shall examine one or two briefly. But on the whole it
tends to emphasize the function of preparation for actual
and intelligent participation in civic life. Hence it is not
strange that the upholders of this doctrine should now be
particularly insistent upon being heard.

The Moral Education Party and Its Platform. The
first variant of the sociological party to which attention
may be called is the moral education group. This group is
not internally unified ; it has various divergent aspects and
programs. But on the whole its plans may be fairly repre-
sented by the following :

Always and everywhere it is important that men should be
good. To be a good man it is more than half the fulfilment of
life! Better to miss fame, wealth, learning, than to miss right-
eousness. And in America, too, we must demand not the mere
trifle that men shall be good for their own sakes, but good in
order that the life of the state may be preserved. A widespread
righteousness in a republic is a matter of necessity. Where all
rule all, each man who falls into evil courses infects his neighbor,
corrupting the law and corrupting still more its enforcement.
The question of manufacturing moral men in a democracy be-
comes, accordingly, urgent to a degree unknown in a country
where but a few selected persons guide the state.

There is also special urgency at the present time. The ancient
and accredited means of training youth in goodness are becoming,
I will not say broken, but enfeebled and distrusted. . . . The

i Lewis: "Democracy's High School," pp. 6-8.


hurry of modern life has swept away many uplifting intimacies.
... It is no wonder, then, that in such a moral crisis the com-
munity turns to that agency whose power is already felt benefi-
cently in a multitude of other directions the school. The cry
comes to us teachers, "We established you at first to make our
children wiser; we want you now for a profounder service. Can
you not unite moral with intellectual culture ?" x

The Program of the Vocational Party. This is the sec-
ond variant of the sociological program. It takes two
turns, one in the direction of vocational guidance, and the
other in the direction of vocational education, properly so
called. The program of the latter is again complicated by
being confused with industrial education of many sorts,
and the whole problem of vocational guidance is still rather
obscurely hidden in psychology. But something of the
common problem of the two aspects of this program appears
in the following statement:

In the shifting currents of social progress some institutions
once powerful are left weakened, if not helpless, while other in-
stitutions wax strong to meet the demands of the time. The
homes of the urban industrial classes have not the moral influence
over children exercised by the family life of the farmer; the
church grips fewer members with its theological doctrines than it
did a century ago; the trades do less for their apprentices in the
modern factory than they did when lodged in households; the
press has more influence; libraries are more plentiful; and
the school has grown to be a modern giant where once it was a
puny babe. The same old institutional forces beat upon the
nervous systems of men, but the relative distribution of their
work has changed, and is changing. . . .

Just now the shifting of vocational education from the field of
industry to the school is the crucial problem of our school organ-
ization. The schoolmaster is confronted with the task of dealing
with a problem alien to his experiences and contrary to his tra-

i Palmer, "Ethical and Moral Instruction in Schools," pp. 2-5.

ditions. . . . The schoolmaster must grope for his solutions in the
few established facts of his new case and build new methods,
which will often be radical departures from all that his conserva-
tive mind has known and revered in scholastic standards. In
accepting responsibility for the vocational training of American
children, the school plunges itself into a period of transition in
which old ideals are futile and new ideals are but half -discovered.
Clear thinking, the great need of the moment, is obscured by the
controversies that inevitably arise when two sets of traditions,
born of two separate institutions, are suddenly thrust together in
a conflict which dulls tolerance, increases vehemence, and destroys
poise. 1

These last words are applicable to the whole present situ-
ation, in which, however, not merely two sets of traditions
are in conflict, but many sets, each claiming more or less a
sort of "apostolic succession" in the educational fulfil-
ment of promise.

Some More Specialized Parties. We should be pro-
longing this discussion unduly if we should set forth at the
same length all other parties to the general educational
discussion of to-day. But there are certain specialized
groups of interested people, each with some rather definite
part, or fragment, of a program, whom we must not omit
from this list. Many of these are particularly emphatic in
their efforts to attract public attention, but all of them
have some real contribution to make to the general discus-
sion; and what they have to offer must be considered as
we come toward the working out of that more complete
and adequate program which is to take the place of these
discordant efforts in the education of the future democ-
racy. "We must note the work and the program of the
kindergartners, with the additional reinforcement that this
aspect of education has received in recent years through the
work of Montessori and her followers. The religious edu-

i Snedden, "The Problem of Vocational Education," Introduction.


cation group must be mentioned, with their program "to
inspire the educational forces of our country with the re-
ligious ideal, to inspire the religious forces of our country
with the educational ideal, and to keep before the public
mind the ideal of religious education and the sense of its
need and value." We must also note the industrialists,
most of whom are employers of labor who seem to want to
make sure that the labor supply shall be neither curtailed
nor be permitted to grow up too ignorant to be of service
in industry; the sex hygienists, who feel that they are fac-
ing the "problem of the twentieth century"; and the
social center party, with its broad doctrine that the "social
center movement is buttressing the foundations of democ-
racy. ' ' These, and others which might be enumerated,
help to swell the output of written and spoken discussion
that almost overwhelms us to-day.

If we now add to these more important and minor par-
ties those other partisans of habit and silence, the tradi-
tionalists, who "don't know what all this argument is
about" and who are largely content to have anything go
on in the school, just so long as the schools themselves go
on, we shall have a fairly complete picture of the present
situation. The world is full of parties, each with its more
or less specific cure for the evils of the age. Some of these
parties recognize the partial character of their programs
and are ready to cooperate with any and all who are seri-
ously working for the more adequate program. But many
are immersed in their own importance and have no thought
of any cooperation.

The Defect of this Partisanship. The chief basis of
this partisanship is at the same time its real defect. Of
course this is not unusual. Most partisanships are thus
based upon defects of analysis. Almost without exception
the parties enumerated above stand upon some chosen


material of education; they advocate some particularly
valuable type of knowledge or subject matter. This is
truer of the larger historic parties than of the more spe-
cialized modern ones. The majority of these latter are
attempting to cure some specific evil in the common life,
and they are addressing themselves to some functional
aspects of the social situation, having only a secondary in-
terest in their particular materials. But on the whole the
major parties to the intellectual quarrels of to-day are
quarreling about historic materials of education, and they
are doing it with many of the same arguments that were
used by their prototypes of the seventeenth century. They
are distinctively to be called "materialists" in education,
just as those seventeenth century partisans were. A
chosen subject-matter is the basis of their organization and
their fight ; and this is the chief defect of their position.

For they are fighting in large measure as if psychology
were still in the far future, as it was in the seventeenth
century. In a sense, this is the case. Psychology adequate
to the illumination of most of our problems is still very
much in the future. But the discussion of educational
problems can now be carried on in the actual light of at
least some few psychological principles. It is only too
true that educational psychology has still its major tasks to
accomplish; especially, must its emphasis pass over from
the purely structural and experimental phase to the social
and creative phase. But some of this preliminary work has
been done, and it is possible to determine the standing of
an educator to-day by finding out to what extent his edu-
cational discussions take into account the genuine develop-
ments of structural and social psychology. Although the
foundations in psychology are not complete, there are some
genuine fundamentals upon which we may stand. We shall
see more of this in another section.


Now it must not be assumed that though we have re-
turned to the community, history has brought us nothing
but this rather large muddle of warring sects, this seeming
confusion. True, this muddle, this confusion of parties, is
better than the deadly certainty of the folkways; we have
achieved this one gain anyhow. History has broken
through what Browning calls the "ghastly smoothness" of
life; it has "turned earth's smoothness rough." But more
than this, we can here see some of the actual elements of
the problem of education, whether of the community or of
the individual. The folkways we have always with us, with
their traditions, customs, and habits. We have the sophist,
too, with his insistence upon living by impulse, immediate
feelings, or half-grown opinion. And we have the propa-
gandist, the follower of some outworn solution, who is too
loyal to an old hope or to a radiant personality to allow
his solution to decently die; or who, perhaps, by his blind
devotion keeps alive some fragment of doctrine that will
serve the world's need in some larger synthesis in some
later age. History has been a series of researches, a set of

Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 28 of 31)