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ders. This means that the energy which would, under
other conditions, be devoted to procuring food and cloth-
ing and providing shelter is available for other purposes.

(b) In the second place, infancy is a period of plas-
ticity. The lower animals are born with nerve connec-
tions already fixed and, except in the higher vertebrates,
comparatively permanent and stable. In the nervous
system of man, the entire cerebrum is practically un-
organized at birth. It is a mass of latent possibilities,
and whatever connections are made later are due almost

1 Cf. E.G. Burnet: Early Greek Philosophers, London, 1892, p. 74;
cited by Chamberlain.

2 J. l<iske : Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, Loudon, 1874.


entirely to the forces of the environment and not to the
forces of heredity. But these connections, once made,
also tend in the course of time to become permanent
and somewhat inflexible. That is, after a certain plastic
period the nervous tissue loses some measure of its
plasticity. While it is still possible to learn new adjust-
ments, — to acquire and profit by experiences, — after
this time the task is much more difficult.-^

The meaning of infancy is, therefore, economic leisure
— freedom from the responsibilities of food-getting and
self-support — and organic plas ticity . Curiously enough,
the Greek equivalent of the English word " school " —
schole — also means leisure. Because the child must be
supported by the labor of others during this period, he can
utihze his time and energy for remote rather than imme-
diate ends; he can store up experiences for future years.
Because his body, and especially his upper nerve centers,
are in a plastic condition, the experiences that he acquires
at this time can most easily make a deep and abiding
impression. "A comparatively witless infancy must
augur the high intellectual development of the men and
women of the race. What a vast difference between the

^ The significance of human infancy as a period of plasticity has a close
parallel in the lower animals. J. B. Watson (^Animal Education, Chicago,
1903) has shown that the mental development of the white rat is directly
correlated with the medullation of fibers in the central nervous system after
birth. Similar studies made by Jessie Allen on the guinea-pig (^Journal
of Neurology and Psychology, 1904, vol. xiv) show that medullation is com-
plete at birth, and that the guinea-pig never equals the -white rat in adjust-
ments involving intelligence.


amoeba at the beginning of the animal scale and the
human infant at the top ! There parent and offspring
are practically one, with no immaturity and no need
of education. And between the two lie all varieties
of animal life, with ever increasing complexity of struc-
ture and intelhgence in the adult, and ever lengthening
infancy and childhood in the offspring." ^

6. The school, then, is a specialized agency 0} formal
education which aims to control in a measure the expe-
riences of the child during the plastic period of infancy.
It must be repeated, however, that education is not limited
to the school. Wherever one individual learns from
another how to better his life, how to meet more success-
fully the forces that oppose him, how to assimilate race-
experience and profit by it — there an educative process
is going on whether there be a school or not. And more
than this: wherever one individual learns from his own
experiences how to adapt himself more adequately to
future situations, there an educative process is going
on, whether there be a teacher or not. The education
by the family up to the period of school instruction,
the education by the family and by society during this
period and afterward, the education of the individual
in the "school of experience" — none of these factors
can be neglected. But while one recognizes this truth,
one must also recognize that the school demands the
largest share of attention and study, not because it influ-

^ A. F. Chamberlain: T/u Child, London, 1900, p. 3.


ences the child more than any of the other forces, — home
or society or Hfe, — but because it is more amenable
to control. It is through the school that the future
of the race can be influenced with the greatest certainty.
The factor of parental education is quite invariable;
the same ends are sought and the same methods employed
generation after generation. The social factor and that
designated by "life" are, on the contrary, ultra- vari-
able, possessing so little stability that, notwithstanding
their profound influence, their results can never be pre-
dicted with certainty. The school lies, therefore, be-
tween these two extremes as the one factor that is within
our control, in an appreciable degree.

This last proposition may demand evidence. After all, can the
formal education of the school make a lasting impression upon
the social body? Can a powerful educator of to-day so direct
the forces at his command as materially and tangibly to influ-
ence the future condition of society? These questions can be
answered in but one way — by an appeal to educational history.

That of China is a case in point. No other country is so
thoroughly imbued with the spirit of formal instruction ; in no
other country have the power and influence of an elaborate
educational system been put to so adequate a test. It is, as
it were, an experiment made to hand. The Chinese character
as it stands to-day is the result of a selective process that has
been going on for centuries, tending to preserve and promote
the non-progressive ideals of the past, and tending by the same
token to eliminate the variations from the established stock.
The work of the Chinese schools and schoolmasters, crystallized
as it is in memoriter drills of the most formal kind, has given
its characteristic features to the race ideal.


The educational history of England furnishes a parallel case
It is now almost half a century since Herbert Spencer published
his essays on " Education," in which, almost with the vision of
a prophet, he predicted the effect which the hypertrophy of
classical instruction would have upon the English people. He
pleads for more science in the schools and universities. " Just
as fast," he says, " as productive processes become more scien-
tific, which competition will inevitably make them do ; and
just as fast as joint-stock undertakings spread, which they cer-
tainly will, just so fast will scientific education become neces-
sary to every one. ... All our industries would cease were it
not for that information which men begin to acquire as best
they may after their education is said to be finished. And
were it not for this information that has been from age to age
accumulated and spread by unofficial means, these industries
would never have existed." ^

It is a matter of commonplace knowledge that Spencer's
prophecy has "come true," and that England is reaping, in
vanishing markets and a decay of commercial prestige, the
fruits of her neglect of scientific instruction. Yet, even now,
she only hesitatingly acknowledges that the cause of her indus-
trial decline must be laid at the door of her short-sighted educa-
tional policy.

China and England offer evidence of a negative character.
Japan and Germany offer evidence of a positive character, and
this is all the more convincing because each offsets a people of
its own race, thus eliminating any factor that might be urged
on the ground of " constitutional tendencies."

It is not necessary to dwell upon the marvelous change that
has been wrought in the Japanese people within the last half-
century. Almost in a generation the character of the race has
been transformed. Nor can there be a doubt that formal edu-
cation has been a large factor in this change. The compulsory

1 H. Spencer: Education, New York, 1895, PP* 53 ^'


public school system, the liberal endowment of universities and
schools of technology, and the state support of native students
in foreign lands have all contributed their share to the material
prosperity of the empire. Education in Japan is a " business "
proposition, not a mere matter of precedent and custom ; and,
although it is an expression of a new and vigorous national ideal,
it is not "sentimental" in the sense that the ultra-efifeminized
school system of the United States deserves that opprobrium.
Germany's contribution to the discussion is even more con-
vincing. At the close of the Napoleonic wars, Germany's con-
dition was almost hopeless. Politically and industrially, she
seemed to be upon the verge of disintegration. At this criti-
cal juncture, Prussia took up Pestalozzi's scheme of a public,
universal education — the same comprehensive plan that Na-
poleon had dismissed with a sneer. In two generations educa-
tion had transformed Germany from the weakest to the strongest
nation on the continent of Europe ; and when Von Moltke
received the capitulation of Paris at the close of the Franco-
Prussian War, he gave the credit for the triumph to the school-
master. The insult that Pestalozzi had suffered at the hands
of Napoleon could not have been more fittingly wiped out.
Nor is Germany's industrial supremacy to-day less due to edu-
cational factors than was her political supremacy in 187 1. It
is a commonplace that she owes her virtual command of the
world's markets to her high-grade technical schools. Just as the
schoolmaster won the Franco- Prussian War, so the schoolmaster,
aided by the professor of chemistry, has triumphed in industrial
competition. In view of these facts one can scarcely marvel
that the education of the German people is not intrusted (as it is
in some other countries) to " immature women and feeble men."

. 7. Every now and again the old question, "Is heredity
more influential than environment in determining char-
acter?" is raised in a new^ form. It is a world-old


query that will probably never admit of a universally
valid answer. It offers a choice between fatalism and
hope — and the enlightened nations of the earth are
annually staking millions of dollars on the side of hope.

It is certainly true that individuals vary in tendencies
and aptitudes, and it is certainly true that many of these
differences are due to hereditary conditions; yet it is
generally agreed among anthropologists that, in the
large, the factor of heredity plays a very small part in
human life as compared with the factor of environment.
It has already been suggested that hereditary factors
have been largely replaced in man by environmental
factors because of the higher survival value that attaches
to the latter; that instinct has degenerated; that the re-
flexes with which the infant is provided at birth are much
less efficient and much less highly organized than in
the lower forms. Nature is not lavish with her gifts;
she refuses to expend energy needlessly; she refuses
to supply luxuries that have no purpose.

And just because the factor of environment is all-
important in human life, education, which simply
represents the rational employment of this factor, is all-
influential. The school is only an institution for provid-
ing environments, for regulating environments, for turning
environmental forces to a definite and conscious end.

Each subject of the school curriculum represents a certain
specific attitude toward the world about us — represents a
certain specific phase of experience with the environment.


From the standpoint of mathematical science, the arithmetic
of the schools comprehends the principles of nuniber; from
the standpoint of education, arithmetic is one expression of
our attitude toward our surroundings. Number is one of the
ways in which we interpret the environment, one of the
methods by means of which we subdue it and turn its forces
to our own ends.

Geography is a study of the enyirpnment.m tjie concrete ;
it treats of the earth as the home of man. And the natural
sciences, from this point of view, are but abstractions from the
comprehensive field that geography covers, — botany dealing
with the world of plants, zoology with the world of animals,
geology with the world of inorganic matter, meteorology with
the world of air, and so on. Physics represents still another
phase of our surroundings, — our experience with the forces
that operate upon material bodies. And chemistry and as-
tronomy represent still other types of experiences that result
from our contact with the external world.

The world of man is just as real and tangible as the world
of matter, and the human sciences represent our experiences
with the social environment, just as the natural sciences repre-
sent our experiences with the physical environment. History
relates the experience of different races amid diverse sur-
roundings ; it is a record of reactions and adjustments ; it is
experience in the concrete. /Sociology is experience with the
social environment, condensed into principles and organized
into a system. Politics is only a certain phase of sociology,
representing experience with a limited sphere of social activity.

Nor are the mental sciences to be excluded from this list.
Psychology is the science of experience itself, — the experience
of experiences, to put it awkwardly but truthfully. Ethics and
esthetics, logic and epistemology, are but specific phases of
the larger field of psychology, much as physics and botany are
abstractions from the larger field of geography.


Throughout the curriculum of the school, then, each
of the various branches of knowledge really represents
a certain type of experience with a limited phase of the
^.world about us or within us. It is one duty of the
school to impart this experience to the child. "It should
not be forgotten," says Professor Howerth,^ ". . . that
one function, if not the function of our school system,
is to distribute amongst the members of society the most
important knowledge that has already been collected."

But the school has another function. \ Education means
not only the assimilation of race-experience but the acqui-
sition of individual experience as well. The school must
provide for the child certain environments, reaction to
which will give him experiences that will be service-
able to him in later hfe. This is the phase of educa-
tion that is just now coming into prominence — so
rapidly, indeed, that Professor Howerth very pertinently
warns the teacher that the side of knowledge or race-
experience must not be forgotten. It has been men-
tioned earlier in this chapter as a recognition of the
arts as well as the sciences, of doing as well as knowing,
of action as well as thought.

How these two functions may work together harmoni-
ously will be the theme of a later section. One further
problem still remains for consideration in connection
with the present discussion. It has been said that the
school is an institution for providing environments;

^ I. W. Howerth, in Educational Review, 1902, vol. xxiv, p. 161.


for regulating environments, and for turning environ-
mental forces to a definite and conscious end. What this
end is and what it should be are questions that demand
a treatment far more comprehensive than the following
chapter can attempt.

The Ethical End of Education

1. The question now presents itself: Upon what basis
S shall the school, or any other agency of formal education,
\ select the experiences that are to function in modifying

V adjustment? To what end shall adjustment be modi-
fied ? Shall the school attempt so to organize the reac-
tions of the individual that he may be able to earn a
respectable livehhood? If so, it must first determine
what experiences will best subserve this end. Or will
its ultimate aim be to develop "moral character," as
the followers of Herbart maintain ?~ Thlhis case, it is
possible that a different set of experiences must be
chosen. And so one might go on through the entire
list of educational aims.

2. It seems tolerably clear, however, that the laws
that underlie the educative process are largely in-
dependent of the ■ ultimate end of education. The
particular problem with which this book is concerned
is how experiences shall be impressed in order that
they may function effectively in modifying adjustment.
Whatever the ultimate end of education may be, the

{ acquisition, the retention, the organization, and the



application of experiences are subject to certain uni-
form laws. The ultimate end may vary and has varied
from race to race and from generation to generation; but
the fundamental processes are based upon the relatively
constant factors of mental and physical activity and
growth. The ultimate end of education in the public
school, for example, will doubtless be vastly different
from the aim of Fagin the Jew in his training of Oliver
Twist. Yet the methods employed in both cases may be
based upon identical principles. In either case the child
is subjected to certain experiences that are planned to
modify his future adjustment; in neither case is this
adjustment left to the blind control of inherited impulse.
3. At the risk of multiplying terms needlessly, it may
be profitable to discriminate between aims of education
in this way: the aim or purpose or function that was
discussed in Chapter I may be termed empirical, while ■'*^*4^
the ultimate or final aim may be termed ethical. ( It is
the empirical aim of education to fix experiences that
shall modify adjustment. It is the ethical aim to fix
those experiences that shall modify adjustment with
reference to a certain definite end; those experiences
that will make the individual a moral agent, or enable
him to earn his own hvelihood, or, perhaps, enable him
to steal successfully. Dynamite explodes in the same
way, — according to the same laws, — whether it is
used as a harmless blast in a mine or to deal death and
destruction at the will of an anarchist. Similarly, the


principles of educational method work in the same way
whether they are to produce a theologian or a thief.

The advantage of this distinction between empirical and
ethical aims of education will be apparent to all who have been
distressed by the cry of certain critics to the effect that educa-
tion can never become a science, because, forsooth, educa-
tional ideals are in continual flux, and the trath of to-day may
be the falsehood of to-morrow.^ As well say that physics can
never become a science because there is nothing in the law of
gravitation that will indicate with certainty whether a criminal
or an innocent man is to be hung. A great many problems of
educational practice can be solved only by recognizing a defi-
nite end of education. These problems are concerned mainly
with the course of study, — the " educational values " of dif-
ferent items of the curriculum. Will science develop bread-
winning capacity better than history? Will history develop
moral character more effectually than science ? Here the ulti-
mate aim is obviously important. But these questions once
settled, there still remain the detailed problems of method.
Granted that science represents the experience that will best
subserve our ultimate purpose, how shall the individual be sub-
jected to this experience? How shall we insure that the knowl-
edge will be assimilated and retained and applied? This is
the practical problem of method, and the problem that the
great rank and file of teachers must solve. They have little
to do with the determination of educational values or with the
structure of the course of study.

4. True as this is, it must not be inferred that the
average teacher need take no account of the ethical

1 Cf. Professor O'Shea's rejoinder to Dilthey's assertion that education
can never be admitted as a science because its generalizations do not have
universal validity. M. V. O'Shea : Education as Adjustment, New York,
1903, pp. II-13.


aim of education. While the principles of method may
be independent of aim, just what method is to be em-
ployed by the teacher in a given instance may depend
entirely upon the purpose that he seeks to accomplish.
While dynamite may either blast a rock or kill a king,
the miner or the anarchist may decide that, after all,
gunpowder is better suited to his purpose. And while
the direct method may enable the child to assimilate a
bit of knowledge, the teacher may conclude that, for his
purpose, the indirect method will answer as well or
better. In short, while it would be possible to con-
struct a science of educational method in which the
ultimate aim of education should be entirely neglected,
the value of such a structure would certainly not be
impaired and might, for some purposes, be greatly
enhanced if a definite aim were assumed. The prin-
ciples that we shall present in the following chapters
are, in the main, general principles vaHd in any particu-
lar case; but it is safe to assume that no one will care
to apply them to the development of thieves and mur-
derers; and inasmuch as a definite assumption of an
ethical or ultimate aim may serve to render our discus-
sions more vital and less abstract, it may not be amiss
to state this assumption at the outset; remembering, of
course, that, even if it is not accepted by all as the true
end of education, the larger principles which it is used
to illustrate will not suffer thereby.

5. The ultimate aims that have been proposed for


education are as numerous as educational theorists,
consequently their name is legion. It would require a
volume of no small dimensions to discuss in a critical
manner even the more important. We shall therefore
limit ourselves to those that have had the greatest in-
fluence in shaping contemporary educational pohcy.
These will not necessarily be the most profound, but
rather those that have appealed most effectively to the
popular mind.

(a) The " Bread-and-BuUer^' Aim. That education
(in the popular sense of the term) may enable an indi-
vidual to earn a livelihood is the motive that impels
perhaps the great majority of parents to send their chil-
dren to schooLy It may be well to qualify this assertion
by adding,' "The great majority of parents who think
about the matter at all;" for here as elsewhere the pow-
erful factor of social imitation must be taken into
account: the child is sent to school because the school
is there, and because other parents send their children
to school. But of those who have a deliberate purpose
in mind it is highly probable that the impelling motive
of the majority can be reduced to the "bread-and-but-
ter" type.

It is the habit among educators to lament the preva-
lence of this aim — to lament especially the sordid and
purely individual spirit which it commonly reveals.
Yet it may be said in its favor that the motive is not
merely to enable the child to obtain a HveUhood, but


to obtain a better livelihood than would otherwise be
possible, — a better livelihood, it may be, than his par-
ents have been capable of procuring. This signifies a
desire for improvement, for advancement, and as such
it is surely commendable from any standpoint. That
this improvement should be measured in dollars and
cents is due to the universal significance of the monetary
standard of value. In truth, improvement in the con-
ditions of hfe can undoubtedly be more accurately and
definitely measured by this standard than by any other.
That the motive is individual is not wholly to be dep-
recated; that is to say, such an aim, even though indi-
vidual, is not necessarily unsocial; for, within certain
Kmits, individual advancement means social advance-
ment. ^'
The chief virtue of the bread-and-butter aim is its
definiteness. There is nothing vague or intangible
about the criterion that it sets up. But, notwithstand-
ing this advantage, it involves a grave source of danger
in the mental attitude that it encourages — a danger
that lies, not in its objective results, but in its subjec-
tive tendencies. In other words, it breeds a narrowing
spirit and thus tends, in a measure, to defeat its own
ends. With its rigid adherence to processes that have
been tried and tested by its own standards, with its un-

Online LibraryWilliam Chandler BadleyThe educative process → online text (page 4 of 25)