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China emphasizes the supreme importance of adherence to ancient beliefs and customs. Ought education in the one country differ as widely from that in the other as do their respective civilizations ? Should education take no account of the fundamental truths upon which each bases its civilization ?
The civilization of Greece had as its root the inequality of man, the fundamental difference between Greek and barbarian. Our civilization is based upon the principle of the equality of man before the law. Ought the ancient Greeks to have been taught that it was right to make slaves of the barbarians ? Ought they to have neglected the education of their women ?
The civilization of the South before the Civil War was based on the assumption that the nature of the negro was such that his own interest, as well as that of society in general, required that he should be held as a slave; must the philosophy of education hold that it was wise for Southern parents to teach this doctrine to their children?
There is, indeed, another construction which may be given to the paragraph quoted from the Report of the Committee of Fifteen. It may mean to say that a man must accept the fundamental ideas of the civilization in which he is born, however widely they may depart from the truth, as the condition of helpful co-operation with his fellows. And since education means to prepare him for such co-operation, it must inculcate in him the beliefs without which helpful work is impossible. But this putting of the case begs the question. What is helpful co-operation ? Is it to conform in all important particulars to the beliefs and practices insisted upon by public opinion ? So thought the ancient Athenians, who put Socrates to death because he did not co-operate with them in what they regarded as a helpful way. In common with
. every other man who has dared to lay a sacrilegious hand on the customs and traditions of his community he met with violent opposition. But was it Aristophanes, the conformist, or Socrates, the nonconformist, who was most helpful to his fellows ? What is it China needs to-day so much as thinkers who can arouse the Chinese from the sleep of tradition and open their minds to truth? Surely it must be granted that that man confers the greatest benefits on his fellows who does most to influence them to live a rational life.
Must Education Conform to the Principles of a Given Civilization ? — It may indeed be said that a system of education which is fundamentally at variance with the principles of a given civilization would not be tolerated within the sphere of that civilization. We know what would happen to an American who should teach his pupils that the only way in which they could make the most of life was by following the teaching of Confucius.
If it were entirely true that an education at variance with the principles of a given civilization must be futile, it is surely one thing for the philosophy of education to recognize that its protest against irrational methods and practices which are sanctioned by tradition and in harmony with civilization must be futile, and quite another for it to become the mere mouthpiece of civilization and of the traditions that underlie it.
But it is not wholly true. Reason is the only weapon with which the mind can combat error. If it is true that society will not permit to be taught in its schools ideas entirely out of harmony with its civilization, it is equally true that it is possible to modify the school by modifying the character of the civilization upon which it is based. "A minority of one with truth on its side is an eventual majority.” If truth is on one side and civilization on the other, he who sees what he believes to be the truth should teach it in the sure faith that the world will come his way in the course of time.
But, on second thought, it is evident that this may be conceived too abstractly. It is indeed true that the progress of society is conditioned upon the fact that there are individuals in it who rise above their environment. It is thus that the development, step by step, of the human race from its primitive state in prehistoric time to civilization has been brought about. The various arts and inventions which, on the material side, serve to register this progress are illustrations of this truth. Every one of them is the development of an idea first existent in the mind of an individual.
But to say that the progress of society depends upon individuals is to state only half the truth. Unless the community which constitutes the social environment of the individual approves of his new ideas, unless it adopts them, so to speak, they are without significance for it.
As Professor Baldwin says,' “ The problem of the invention itself, considered as a factor in human progress, is quite different from the problem of the inventor, considered as a man. The invention cannot be an element in human progress unless it enter into the network of social relationships in some way. If it do not, it may be a thing
1 Baldwin's Mental Development: Ethical and Social Interpretations, p. 172.
of great ingenuity and originality, but that only makes it a part of the problem of the origin of the man. It then loses its interest as a thing of social value.”
The Educational Statesman. — This is only saying that the position of the educational statesman differs widely from that of the educational philosopher. While the latter endeavors to ascertain the end which under ideal circumstances education should seek to realize, and the methods which should be employed under ideal conditions in attaining it, the former tries to make the best possible compromise between truth and the assumptions underlying the civilization with which he is dealing. It is his duty to incorporate into the school as much of truth as society will tolerate. To act the part of a mere doctrinaire, to disregard public opinion and flout prevalent prejudices, would be to forget that social progress depends not merely on the propagation of new and fruitful ideas, but upon their entertainment and endorsement by society. The blunder of the doctrinaire is indeed much more serious than this. The man who seeks to force on society ideas for which it is not ready, which do such violence to its conservative instincts as to make acceptance of those ideas impossible
even if they are true—succeeds only in earning for himself the reputation of a “crank.”
And this is the point of view from which the Report of the Committee of Fifteen should be judged. It discussed the question of educational values and courses of study for American schools. From such a standpoint, the character of American civilization, American government, American religious opinions must not be lost sight of. But if the educational statesman is to make the best terms he can for
educational philosophy, if he is to get all the truth in relation to education which society will tolerate into the school, he must know what the truth is. If, in a word, while so far adapting his courses of study and methods of instruction to the civilization of his country as to keep them in a general way in harmony with it, he is nevertheless not to lose sight of the ideals which he should seek to realize and of the methods which he should employ were society to give him a free hand, he must know what these ideals and methods are, he must know the ideals which the school should seek to realize if it had regard only to the interests of the growing human mind, and he must know what methods should be employed in attaining them.
We are bound, then, to try to determine the end which education under ideal circumstances should seek to realize.
QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT.
1. State and criticise the end of education as conceived by the Committee of Fifteen.
2. What is the comparison between Socrates and Aristophanes intended to show ?
3. Why will a minority of one with truth on his side be an eventual majority ?
4. Illustrate at length the difference between the educational statesman and the educational philosopher.
5. What does Professor Baldwin mean by the difference between the problem of the invention and that of the inventor?
6. From what stand point may the Report be defended ?
7. Why cannot a man be an educational statesman without being an educational philosopher ?
SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. Why is it desirable to consider the end of education at all ?
Do you think that most teachers have clear ideas on this subject ?