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Title: Moral Principles in Education
Author: Dewey, John, 1859-1952
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Riverside Educational Monographs









The Riverside Press Cambridge



The author has drawn freely upon his essay on _Ethical Principles
Underlying Education_, published in the Third Year-Book of The National
Herbart Society for the Study of Education. He is indebted to the
Society for permission to use this material.

The Riverside Press




_Education as a public business_

It is one of the complaints of the schoolmaster that the public does not
defer to his professional opinion as completely as it does to that of
practitioners in other professions. At first sight it might seem as
though this indicated a defect either in the public or in the
profession; and yet a wider view of the situation would suggest that
such a conclusion is not a necessary one. The relations of education to
the public are different from those of any other professional work.
Education is a public business with us, in a sense that the protection
and restoration of personal health or legal rights are not. To an extent
characteristic of no other institution, save that of the state itself,
the school has power to modify the social order. And under our political
system, it is the right of each individual to have a voice in the making
of social policies as, indeed, he has a vote in the determination of
political affairs. If this be true, education is primarily a public
business, and only secondarily a specialized vocation. The layman, then,
will always have his right to some utterance on the operation of the
public schools.

_Education as expert service_

I have said "some utterance," but not "all"; for school-mastering has
its own special mysteries, its own knowledge and skill into which the
untrained layman cannot penetrate. We are just beginning to recognize
that the school and the government have a common problem in this
respect. Education and politics are two functions fundamentally
controlled by public opinion. Yet the conspicuous lack of efficiency and
economy in the school and in the state has quickened our recognition of
a larger need for expert service. But just where shall public opinion
justly express itself, and what shall properly be left to expert

_The relations of expert opinion and public opinion_

In so far as broad policies and ultimate ends affecting the welfare of
all are to be determined, the public may well claim its right to settle
issues by the vote or voice of majorities. But the selection and
prosecution of the detailed ways and means by which the public will is
to be executed efficiently must remain largely a matter of specialized
and expert service. To the superior knowledge and technique required
here, the public may well defer.

In the conduct of the schools, it is well for the citizens to determine
the ends proper to them, and it is their privilege to judge of the
efficacy of results. Upon questions that concern all the manifold
details by which children are to be converted into desirable types of
men and women, the expert schoolmaster should be authoritative, at least
to a degree commensurate with his superior knowledge of this very
complex problem. The administration of the schools, the making of the
course of study, the selection of texts, the prescription of methods of
teaching, these are matters with which the people, or their
representatives upon boards of education, cannot deal save with danger
of becoming mere meddlers.

_The discussion of moral education an illustration of mistaken views of

Nowhere is the validity of this distinction between education as a
public business and education as an expert professional service brought
out more clearly than in an analysis of the public discussion of the
moral work of the school. How frequently of late have those unacquainted
with the special nature of the school proclaimed the moral ends of
education and at the same time demanded direct ethical instruction as
the particular method by which they were to be realized! This, too, in
spite of the fact that those who know best the powers and limitations of
instruction as an instrument have repeatedly pointed out the futility of
assuming that knowledge of right constitutes a guarantee of right doing.
How common it is for those who assert that education is for social
efficiency to assume that the school should return to the barren
discipline of the traditional formal subjects, reading, writing, and the
rest! This, too, regardless of the fact that it has taken a century of
educational evolution to make the course of study varied and rich enough
to call for those impulses and activities of social life which need
training in the child. And how many who speak glowingly of the large
services of the public schools to a democracy of free and self-reliant
men affect a cynical and even vehement opposition to the
"self-government of schools"! These would not have the children learn to
govern themselves and one another, but would have the masters rule them,
ignoring the fact that this common practice in childhood may be a
foundation for that evil condition in adult society where the citizens
are arbitrarily ruled by political bosses.

One need not cite further cases of the incompetence of the lay public to
deal with technical questions of school methods. Instances are plentiful
to show that well-meaning people, competent enough to judge of the aims
and results of school work, make a mistake in insisting upon the
prerogative of directing the technical aspects of education with a
dogmatism that would not characterize their statements regarding any
other special field of knowledge or action.

_A fundamental understanding of moral principles in education_

Nothing can be more useful than for the public and the teaching
profession to understand their respective functions. The teacher needs
to understand public opinion and the social order, as much as the public
needs to comprehend the nature of expert educational service. It will
take time to draw the boundary lines that will be conducive to respect,
restraint, and efficiency in those concerned; but a beginning can be
made upon fundamental matters, and nothing so touches the foundations of
our educational thought as a discussion of the moral principles in

It is our pleasure to present a treatment of them by a thinker whose
vital influence upon the reform of school methods is greater than that
of any of his contemporaries. In his discussion of the social and
psychological factors in moral education, there is much that will
suggest what social opinion should determine, and much that will
indicate what must be left to the trained teacher and school official.




An English contemporary philosopher has called attention to the
difference between moral ideas and ideas about morality. "Moral ideas"
are ideas of any sort whatsoever which take effect in conduct and
improve it, make it better than it otherwise would be. Similarly, one
may say, immoral ideas are ideas of whatever sort (whether arithmetical
or geographical or physiological) which show themselves in making
behavior worse than it would otherwise be; and non-moral ideas, one may
say, are such ideas and pieces of information as leave conduct
uninfluenced for either the better or the worse. Now "ideas about
morality" may be morally indifferent or immoral or moral. There is
nothing in the nature of ideas _about_ morality, of information _about_
honesty or purity or kindness which automatically transmutes such ideas
into good character or good conduct.

This distinction between moral ideas, ideas of any sort whatsoever that
have become a part of character and hence a part of the working motives
of behavior, and ideas _about_ moral action that may remain as inert and
ineffective as if they were so much knowledge about Egyptian archæology,
is fundamental to the discussion of moral education. The business of the
educator--whether parent or teacher--is to see to it that the greatest
possible number of ideas acquired by children and youth are acquired in
such a vital way that they become _moving_ ideas, motive-forces in the
guidance of conduct. This demand and this opportunity make the moral
purpose universal and dominant in all instruction--whatsoever the topic.
Were it not for this possibility, the familiar statement that the
ultimate purpose of all education is character-forming would be
hypocritical pretense; for as every one knows, the direct and immediate
attention of teachers and pupils must be, for the greater part of the
time, upon intellectual matters. It is out of the question to keep
direct moral considerations constantly uppermost. But it is not out of
the question to aim at making the methods of learning, of acquiring
intellectual power, and of assimilating subject-matter, such that they
will render behavior more enlightened, more consistent, more vigorous
than it otherwise would be.

The same distinction between "moral ideas" and "ideas about morality"
explains for us a source of continual misunderstanding between teachers
in the schools and critics of education outside of the schools. The
latter look through the school programmes, the school courses of study,
and do not find any place set apart for instruction in ethics or for
"moral teaching." Then they assert that the schools are doing nothing,
or next to nothing, for character-training; they become emphatic, even
vehement, about the moral deficiencies of public education. The
schoolteachers, on the other hand, resent these criticisms as an
injustice, and hold not only that they do "teach morals," but that they
teach them every moment of the day, five days in the week. In this
contention the teachers _in principle_ are in the right; if they are in
the wrong, it is not because special periods are not set aside for what
after all can only be teaching _about_ morals, but because their own
characters, or their school atmosphere and ideals, or their methods of
teaching, or the subject-matter which they teach, are not such _in
detail_ as to bring intellectual results into vital union with character
so that they become working forces in behavior. Without discussing,
therefore, the limits or the value of so-called direct moral instruction
(or, better, instruction _about_ morals), it may be laid down as
fundamental that the influence of direct moral instruction, even at its
very best, is _comparatively_ small in amount and slight in influence,
when the whole field of moral growth through education is taken into
account. This larger field of indirect and vital moral education, the
development of character through all the agencies, instrumentalities,
and materials of school life is, therefore, the subject of our present




There cannot be two sets of ethical principles, one for life in the
school, and the other for life outside of the school. As conduct is one,
so also the principles of conduct are one. The tendency to discuss the
morals of the school as if the school were an institution by itself is
highly unfortunate. The moral responsibility of the school, and of those
who conduct it, is to society. The school is fundamentally an
institution erected by society to do a certain specific work,--to
exercise a certain specific function in maintaining the life and
advancing the welfare of society. The educational system which does not
recognize that this fact entails upon it an ethical responsibility is
derelict and a defaulter. It is not doing what it was called into
existence to do, and what it pretends to do. Hence the entire structure
of the school in general and its concrete workings in particular need to
be considered from time to time with reference to the social position
and function of the school.

The idea that the moral work and worth of the public school system as a
whole are to be measured by its social value is, indeed, a familiar
notion. However, it is frequently taken in too limited and rigid a way.
The social work of the school is often limited to training for
citizenship, and citizenship is then interpreted in a narrow sense as
meaning capacity to vote intelligently, disposition to obey laws, etc.
But it is futile to contract and cramp the ethical responsibility of the
school in this way. The child is one, and he must either live his social
life as an integral unified being, or suffer loss and create friction.
To pick out one of the many social relations which the child bears, and
to define the work of the school by that alone, is like instituting a
vast and complicated system of physical exercise which would have for
its object simply the development of the lungs and the power of
breathing, independent of other organs and functions. The child is an
organic whole, intellectually, socially, and morally, as well as
physically. We must take the child as a member of society in the
broadest sense, and demand for and from the schools whatever is
necessary to enable the child intelligently to recognize all his social
relations and take his part in sustaining them.

To isolate the formal relationship of citizenship from the whole system
of relations with which it is actually interwoven; to suppose that there
is some one particular study or mode of treatment which can make the
child a good citizen; to suppose, in other words, that a good citizen is
anything more than a thoroughly efficient and serviceable member of
society, one with all his powers of body and mind under control, is a
hampering superstition which it is hoped may soon disappear from
educational discussion.

The child is to be not only a voter and a subject of law; he is also to
be a member of a family, himself in turn responsible, in all
probability, for rearing and training of future children, thereby
maintaining the continuity of society. He is to be a worker, engaged in
some occupation which will be of use to society, and which will maintain
his own independence and self-respect. He is to be a member of some
particular neighborhood and community, and must contribute to the values
of life, add to the decencies and graces of civilization wherever he is.
These are bare and formal statements, but if we let our imagination
translate them into their concrete details, we have a wide and varied
scene. For the child properly to take his place in reference to these
various functions means training in science, in art, in history; means
command of the fundamental methods of inquiry and the fundamental tools
of intercourse and communication; means a trained and sound body,
skillful eye and hand; means habits of industry, perseverance; in short,
habits of serviceableness.

Moreover, the society of which the child is to be a member is, in the
United States, a democratic and progressive society. The child must be
educated for leadership as well as for obedience. He must have power of
self-direction and power of directing others, power of administration,
ability to assume positions of responsibility. This necessity of
educating for leadership is as great on the industrial as on the
political side.

New inventions, new machines, new methods of transportation and
intercourse are making over the whole scene of action year by year. It
is an absolute impossibility to educate the child for any fixed station
in life. So far as education is conducted unconsciously or consciously
on this basis, it results in fitting the future citizen for no station
in life, but makes him a drone, a hanger-on, or an actual retarding
influence in the onward movement. Instead of caring for himself and for
others, he becomes one who has himself to be cared for. Here, too, the
ethical responsibility of the school on the social side must be
interpreted in the broadest and freest spirit; it is equivalent to that
training of the child which will give him such possession of himself
that he may take charge of himself; may not only adapt himself to the
changes that are going on, but have power to shape and direct them.

Apart from participation in social life, the school has no moral end nor
aim. As long as we confine ourselves to the school as an isolated
institution, we have no directing principles, because we have no object.
For example, the end of education is said to be the harmonious
development of all the powers of the individual. Here no reference to
social life or membership is apparent, and yet many think we have in it
an adequate and thoroughgoing definition of the goal of education. But
if this definition be taken independently of social relationship we have
no way of telling what is meant by any one of the terms employed. We do
not know what a power is; we do not know what development is; we do not
know what harmony is. A power is a power only with reference to the use
to which it is put, the function it has to serve. If we leave out the
uses supplied by social life we have nothing but the old "faculty
psychology" to tell what is meant by power and what the specific powers
are. The principle reduces itself to enumerating a lot of faculties like
perception, memory, reasoning, etc., and then stating that each one of
these powers needs to be developed.

Education then becomes a gymnastic exercise. Acute powers of observation
and memory might be developed by studying Chinese characters; acuteness
in reasoning might be got by discussing the scholastic subtleties of the
Middle Ages. The simple fact is that there is no isolated faculty of
observation, or memory, or reasoning any more than there is an original
faculty of blacksmithing, carpentering, or steam engineering. Faculties
mean simply that particular impulses and habits have been coördinated or
framed with reference to accomplishing certain definite kinds of work.
We need to know the social situations in which the individual will have
to use ability to observe, recollect, imagine, and reason, in order to
have any way of telling what a training of mental powers actually means.

What holds in the illustration of this particular definition of
education holds good from whatever point of view we approach the matter.
Only as we interpret school activities with reference to the larger
circle of social activities to which they relate do we find any standard
for judging their moral significance.

The school itself must be a vital social institution to a much greater
extent than obtains at present. I am told that there is a swimming
school in a certain city where youth are taught to swim without going
into the water, being repeatedly drilled in the various movements which
are necessary for swimming. When one of the young men so trained was
asked what he did when he got into the water, he laconically replied,
"Sunk." The story happens to be true; were it not, it would seem to be a
fable made expressly for the purpose of typifying the ethical
relationship of school to society. The school cannot be a preparation
for social life excepting as it reproduces, within itself, typical
conditions of social life. At present it is largely engaged in the
futile task of Sisyphus. It is endeavoring to form habits in children
for use in a social life which, it would almost seem, is carefully and
purposely kept away from vital contact with the child undergoing
training. The only way to prepare for social life is to engage in social
life. To form habits of social usefulness and serviceableness apart from
any direct social need and motive, apart from any existing social
situation, is, to the letter, teaching the child to swim by going
through motions outside of the water. The most indispensable condition
is left out of account, and the results are correspondingly partial.

The much lamented separation in the schools of intellectual and moral
training, of acquiring information and growing in character, is simply
one expression of the failure to conceive and construct the school as a
social institution, having social life and value within itself. Except
so far as the school is an embryonic typical community life, moral
training must be partly pathological and partly formal. Training is
pathological when stress is laid upon correcting wrong-doing instead of
upon forming habits of positive service. Too often the teacher's concern
with the moral life of pupils takes the form of alertness for failures
to conform to school rules and routine. These regulations, judged from
the standpoint of the development of the child at the time, are more or
less conventional and arbitrary. They are rules which have to be made in
order that the existing modes of school work may go on; but the lack of
inherent necessity in these school modes reflects itself in a feeling,
on the part of the child, that the moral discipline of the school is
arbitrary. Any conditions that compel the teacher to take note of
failures rather than of healthy growth give false standards and result
in distortion and perversion. Attending to wrong-doing ought to be an
incident rather than a principle. The child ought to have a positive
consciousness of what he is about, so as to judge his acts from the
standpoint of reference to the work which he has to do. Only in this way
does he have a vital standard, one that enables him to turn failures to
account for the future.

By saying that the moral training of the school is formal, I mean that
the moral habits currently emphasized by the school are habits which are
created, as it were, _ad hoc_. Even the habits of promptness,
regularity, industry, non-interference with the work of others,
faithfulness to tasks imposed, which are specially inculcated in the
school, are habits that are necessary simply because the school system
is what it is, and must be preserved intact. If we grant the
inviolability of the school system as it is, these habits represent
permanent and necessary moral ideas; but just in so far as the school
system is itself isolated and mechanical, insistence upon these moral
habits is more or less unreal, because the ideal to which they relate is
not itself necessary. The duties, in other words, are distinctly school
duties, not life duties. If we compare this condition with that of the
well-ordered home, we find that the duties and responsibilities that the
child has there to recognize do not belong to the family as a
specialized and isolated institution, but flow from the very nature of
the social life in which the family participates and to which it
contributes. The child ought to have the same motives for right doing
and to be judged by the same standards in the school, as the adult in
the wider social life to which he belongs. Interest in community
welfare, an interest that is intellectual and practical, as well as
emotional--an interest, that is to say, in perceiving whatever makes for
social order and progress, and in carrying these principles into
execution--is the moral habit to which all the special school habits
must be related if they are to be animated by the breath of life.




The principle of the social character of the school as the basic factor
in the moral education given may be also applied to the question of
methods of instruction,--not in their details, but their general spirit.
The emphasis then falls upon construction and giving out, rather than
upon absorption and mere learning. We fail to recognize how essentially
individualistic the latter methods are, and how unconsciously, yet
certainly and effectively, they react into the child's ways of judging
and of acting. Imagine forty children all engaged in reading the same
books, and in preparing and reciting the same lessons day after day.
Suppose this process constitutes by far the larger part of their work,
and that they are continually judged from the standpoint of what they
are able to take in in a study hour and reproduce in a recitation hour.
There is next to no opportunity for any social division of labor. There
is no opportunity for each child to work out something specifically his
own, which he may contribute to the common stock, while he, in turn,
participates in the productions of others. All are set to do exactly the
same work and turn out the same products. The social spirit is not
cultivated,--in fact, in so far as the purely individualistic method
gets in its work, it atrophies for lack of use. One reason why reading
aloud in school is poor is that the real motive for the use of
language--the desire to communicate and to learn--is not utilized. The
child knows perfectly well that the teacher and all his fellow pupils
have exactly the same facts and ideas before them that he has; he is not
_giving_ them anything at all. And it may be questioned whether the
moral lack is not as great as the intellectual. The child is born with a
natural desire to give out, to do, to serve. When this tendency is not
used, when conditions are such that other motives are substituted, the
accumulation of an influence working against the social spirit is much
larger than we have any idea of,--especially when the burden of work,
week after week, and year after year, falls upon this side.

But lack of cultivation of the social spirit is not all. Positively
individualistic motives and standards are inculcated. Some stimulus must
be found to keep the child at his studies. At the best this will be his
affection for his teacher, together with a feeling that he is not
violating school rules, and thus negatively, if not positively, is
contributing to the good of the school. I have nothing to say against
these motives so far as they go, but they are inadequate. The relation
between the piece of work to be done and affection for a third person is
external, not intrinsic. It is therefore liable to break down whenever
the external conditions are changed. Moreover, this attachment to a
particular person, while in a way social, may become so isolated and
exclusive as to be selfish in quality. In any case, the child should
gradually grow out of this relatively external motive into an
appreciation, for its own sake, of the social value of what he has to
do, because of its larger relations to life, not pinned down to two or
three persons.

But, unfortunately, the motive is not always at this relative best, but
mixed with lower motives which are distinctly egoistic. Fear is a motive
which is almost sure to enter in,--not necessarily physical fear, or
fear of punishment, but fear of losing the approbation of others; or
fear of failure, so extreme as to be morbid and paralyzing. On the other
side, emulation and rivalry enter in. Just because all are doing the
same work, and are judged (either in recitation or examination with
reference to grading and to promotion) not from the standpoint of their
personal contribution, but from that of _comparative_ success, the
feeling of superiority over others is unduly appealed to, while timid
children are depressed. Children are judged with reference to their
capacity to realize the same external standard. The weaker gradually
lose their sense of power, and accept a position of continuous and
persistent inferiority. The effect upon both self-respect and respect
for work need not be dwelt upon. The strong learn to glory, not in their
strength, but in the fact that they are stronger. The child is
prematurely launched into the region of individualistic competition, and
this in a direction where competition is least applicable, namely, in
intellectual and artistic matters, whose law is coöperation and

Next, perhaps, to the evils of passive absorption and of competition for
external standing come, perhaps, those which result from the eternal
emphasis upon preparation for a remote future. I do not refer here to
the waste of energy and vitality that accrues when children, who live so
largely in the immediate present, are appealed to in the name of a dim
and uncertain future which means little or nothing to them. I have in
mind rather the habitual procrastination that develops when the motive
for work is future, not present; and the false standards of judgment
that are created when work is estimated, not on the basis of present
need and present responsibility, but by reference to an external result,
like passing an examination, getting promoted, entering high school,
getting into college, etc. Who can reckon up the loss of moral power
that arises from the constant impression that nothing is worth doing in
itself, but only as a preparation for something else, which in turn is
only a getting ready for some genuinely serious end beyond? Moreover, as
a rule, it will be found that remote success is an end which appeals
most to those in whom egoistic desire to get ahead--to get ahead of
others--is already only too strong a motive. Those in whom personal
ambition is already so strong that it paints glowing pictures of future
victories may be touched; others of a more generous nature do not

I cannot stop to paint the other side. I can only say that the
introduction of every method that appeals to the child's active powers,
to his capacities in construction, production, and creation, marks an
opportunity to shift the centre of ethical gravity from an absorption
which is selfish to a service which is social. Manual training is more
than manual; it is more than intellectual; in the hands of any good
teacher it lends itself easily, and almost as a matter of course, to
development of social habits. Ever since the philosophy of Kant, it has
been a commonplace of æsthetic theory, that art is universal; that it is
not the product of purely personal desire or appetite, or capable of
merely individual appropriation, but has a value participated in by all
who perceive it. Even in the schools where most conscious attention is
paid to moral considerations, the methods of study and recitation may be
such as to emphasize appreciation rather than power, an emotional
readiness to assimilate the experiences of others, rather than
enlightened and trained capacity to carry forward those values which in
other conditions and past times made those experiences worth having. At
all events, separation between instruction and character continues in
our schools (in spite of the efforts of individual teachers) as a result
of divorce between learning and doing. The attempt to attach genuine
moral effectiveness to the mere processes of learning, and to the habits
which go along with learning, can result only in a training infected
with formality, arbitrariness, and an undue emphasis upon failure to
conform. That there is as much accomplished as there is shows the
possibilities involved in methods of school activity which afford
opportunity for reciprocity, coöperation, and positive personal




In many respects, it is the subject-matter used in school life which
decides both the general atmosphere of the school and the methods of
instruction and discipline which rule. A barren "course of study," that
is to say, a meagre and narrow field of school activities, cannot
possibly lend itself to the development of a vital social spirit or to
methods that appeal to sympathy and coöperation instead of to
absorption, exclusiveness, and competition. Hence it becomes an all
important matter to know how we shall apply our social standard of moral
value to the subject-matter of school work, to what we call,
traditionally, the "studies" that occupy pupils.

_A study is to be considered as a means of bringing the child to realize
the social scene of action._ Thus considered it gives a criterion for
selection of material and for judgment of values. We have at present
three independent values set up: one of culture, another of information,
and another of discipline. In reality, these refer only to three phases
of social interpretation. Information is genuine or educative only in so
far as it presents definite images and conceptions of materials placed
in a context of social life. Discipline is genuinely educative only as
it represents a reaction of information into the individual's own powers
so that he brings them under control for social ends. Culture, if it is
to be genuinely educative and not an external polish or factitious
varnish, represents the vital union of information and discipline. It
marks the socialization of the individual in his outlook upon life.

This point may be illustrated by brief reference to a few of the school
studies. In the first place, there is no line of demarkation within
facts themselves which classifies them as belonging to science, history,
or geography, respectively. The pigeon-hole classification which is so
prevalent at present (fostered by introducing the pupil at the outset
into a number of different studies contained in different text-books)
gives an utterly erroneous idea of the relations of studies to one
another and to the intellectual whole to which all belong. In fact,
these subjects have to do with the same ultimate reality, namely, the
conscious experience of man. It is only because we have different
interests, or different ends, that we sort out the material and label
part of it science, part of it history, part geography, and so on. Each
"sorting" represents materials arranged with reference to some one
dominant typical aim or process of the social life.

This social criterion is necessary, not only to mark off studies from
one another, but also to grasp the reasons for each study,--the motives
in connection with which it shall be presented. How, for example, should
we define geography? What is the unity in the different so-called
divisions of geography,--mathematical geography, physical geography,
political geography, commercial geography? Are they purely empirical
classifications dependent upon the brute fact that we run across a lot
of different facts? Or is there some intrinsic principle through which
the material is distributed under these various heads,--something in the
interest and attitude of the human mind towards them? I should say that
geography has to do with all those aspects of social life which are
concerned with the interaction of the life of man and nature; or, that
it has to do with the world considered as the scene of social
interaction. Any fact, then, will be geographical in so far as it has to
do with the dependence of man upon his natural environment, or with
changes introduced in this environment through the life of man.

The four forms of geography referred to above represent, then, four
increasing stages of abstraction in discussing the mutual relation of
human life and nature. The beginning must be social geography, the frank
recognition of the earth as the home of men acting in relations to one
another. I mean by this that the essence of any geographical fact is the
consciousness of two persons, or two groups of persons, who are at once
separated and connected by their physical environment, and that the
interest is in seeing how these people are at once kept apart and
brought together in their actions by the instrumentality of the physical
environment. The ultimate significance of lake, river, mountain, and
plain is not physical but social; it is the part which it plays in
modifying and directing human relationships. This evidently involves an
extension of the term commercial. It has to do not simply with business,
in the narrow sense, but with whatever relates to human intercourse and
intercommunication as affected by natural forms and properties.
Political geography represents this same social interaction taken in a
static instead of in a dynamic way; taken, that is, as temporarily
crystallized and fixed in certain forms. Physical geography (including
under this not simply physiography, but also the study of flora and
fauna) represents a further analysis or abstraction. It studies the
conditions which determine human action, leaving out of account,
temporarily, the ways in which they concretely do this. Mathematical
geography carries the analysis back to more ultimate and remote
conditions, showing that the physical conditions of the earth are not
ultimate, but depend upon the place which the world occupies in a larger
system. Here, in other words, are traced, step by step, the links which
connect the immediate social occupations and groupings of men with the
whole natural system which ultimately conditions them. Step by step the
scene is enlarged and the image of what enters into the make-up of
social action is widened and broadened; at no time is the chain of
connection to be broken.

It is out of the question to take up the studies one by one and show
that their meaning is similarly controlled by social considerations. But
I cannot forbear saying a word or two upon history. History is vital or
dead to the child according as it is, or is not, presented from the
sociological standpoint. When treated simply as a record of what has
passed and gone, it must be mechanical, because the past, as the past,
is remote. Simply as the past there is no motive for attending to it.
The ethical value of history teaching will be measured by the extent to
which past events are made the means of understanding the
present,--affording insight into what makes up the structure and working
of society to-day. Existing social structure is exceedingly complex. It
is practically impossible for the child to attack it _en masse_ and get
any definite mental image of it. But type phases of historical
development may be selected which will exhibit, as through a telescope,
the essential constituents of the existing order. Greece, for example,
represents what art and growing power of individual expression stand
for; Rome exhibits the elements and forces of political life on a
tremendous scale. Or, as these civilizations are themselves relatively
complex, a study of still simpler forms of hunting, nomadic, and
agricultural life in the beginnings of civilization, a study of the
effects of the introduction of iron, and iron tools, reduces the
complexity to simpler elements.

One reason historical teaching is usually not more effective is that the
student is set to acquire information in such a way that no epochs or
factors stand out in his mind as typical; everything is reduced to the
same dead level. The way to secure the necessary perspective is to treat
the past as if it were a projected present with some of its elements

The principle of contrast is as important as that of similarity. Because
the present life is so close to us, touching us at every point, we
cannot get away from it to see it as it really is. Nothing stands out
clearly or sharply as characteristic. In the study of past periods,
attention necessarily attaches itself to striking differences. Thus the
child gets a locus of imagination, through which he can remove himself
from the pressure of present surrounding circumstances and define them.

History is equally available in teaching the _methods_ of social
progress. It is commonly stated that history must be studied from the
standpoint of cause and effect. The truth of this statement depends upon
its interpretation. Social life is so complex and the various parts of
it are so organically related to one another and to the natural
environment, that it is impossible to say that this or that thing is the
cause of some other particular thing. But the study of history can
reveal the main instruments in the discoveries, inventions, new modes of
life, etc., which have initiated the great epochs of social advance; and
it can present to the child types of the main lines of social progress,
and can set before him what have been the chief difficulties and
obstructions in the way of progress. Once more this can be done only in
so far as it is recognized that social forces in themselves are always
the same,--that the same kind of influences were at work one hundred and
one thousand years ago that are now working,--and that particular
historical epochs afford illustration of the way in which the
fundamental forces work.

Everything depends, then, upon history being treated from a social
standpoint; as manifesting the agencies which have influenced social
development and as presenting the typical institutions in which social
life has expressed itself. The culture-epoch theory, while working in
the right direction, has failed to recognize the importance of treating
past periods with relation to the present,--as affording insight into
the representative factors of its structure; it has treated these
periods too much as if they had some meaning or value in themselves. The
way in which the biographical method is handled illustrates the same
point. It is often treated in such a way as to exclude from the child's
consciousness (or at least not sufficiently to emphasize) the social
forces and principles involved in the association of the masses of men.
It is quite true that the child is easily interested in history from the
biographical standpoint; but unless "the hero" is treated in relation to
the community life behind him that he sums up and directs, there is
danger that history will reduce itself to a mere exciting story. Then
moral instruction reduces itself to drawing certain lessons from the
life of the particular personalities concerned, instead of widening and
deepening the child's imagination of social relations, ideals, and

It will be remembered that I am not making these points for their own
sake, but with reference to the general principle that when a study is
taught as a mode of understanding social life it has positive ethical
import. What the normal child continuously needs is not so much isolated
moral lessons upon the importance of truthfulness and honesty, or the
beneficent results that follow from a particular act of patriotism, as
the formation of habits of social imagination and conception.

I take one more illustration, namely, mathematics. This does, or does
not, accomplish its full purpose according as it is, or is not,
presented as a social tool. The prevailing divorce between information
and character, between knowledge and social action, stalks upon the
scene here. The moment mathematical study is severed from the place
which it occupies with reference to use in social life, it becomes
unduly abstract, even upon the purely intellectual side. It is presented
as a matter of technical relations and formulæ apart from any end or
use. What the study of number suffers from in elementary education is
lack of motivation. Back of this and that and the other particular bad
method is the radical mistake of treating number as if it were an end in
itself, instead of the means of accomplishing some end. Let the child
get a consciousness of what is the use of number, of what it really is
for, and half the battle is won. Now this consciousness of the use of
reason implies some end which is implicitly social.

One of the absurd things in the more advanced study of arithmetic is the
extent to which the child is introduced to numerical operations which
have no distinctive mathematical principles characterizing them, but
which represent certain general principles found in business
relationships. To train the child in these operations, while paying no
attention to the business realities in which they are of use, or to the
conditions of social life which make these business activities
necessary, is neither arithmetic nor common sense. The child is called
upon to do examples in interest, partnership, banking, brokerage, and so
on through a long string, and no pains are taken to see that, in
connection with the arithmetic, he has any sense of the social realities
involved. This part of arithmetic is essentially sociological in its
nature. It ought either to be omitted entirely, or else be taught in
connection with a study of the relevant social realities. As we now
manage the study, it is the old case of learning to swim apart from the
water over again, with correspondingly bad results on the practical

In concluding this portion of the discussion, we may say that our
conceptions of moral education have been too narrow, too formal, and too
pathological. We have associated the term ethical with certain special
acts which are labeled virtues and are set off from the mass of other
acts, and are still more divorced from the habitual images and motives
of the children performing them. Moral instruction is thus associated
with teaching about these particular virtues, or with instilling certain
sentiments in regard to them. The moral has been conceived in too
goody-goody a way. Ultimate moral motives and forces are nothing more or
less than social intelligence--the power of observing and comprehending
social situations,--and social power--trained capacities of control--at
work in the service of social interest and aims. There is no fact which
throws light upon the constitution of society, there is no power whose
training adds to social resourcefulness that is not moral.

I sum up, then, this part of the discussion by asking your attention to
the moral trinity of the school. The demand is for social intelligence,
social power, and social interests. Our resources are (1) the life of
the school as a social institution in itself; (2) methods of learning
and of doing work; and (3) the school studies or curriculum. In so far
as the school represents, in its own spirit, a genuine community life;
in so far as what are called school discipline, government, order, etc.,
are the expressions of this inherent social spirit; in so far as the
methods used are those that appeal to the active and constructive
powers, permitting the child to give out and thus to serve; in so far as
the curriculum is so selected and organized as to provide the material
for affording the child a consciousness of the world in which he has to
play a part, and the demands he has to meet; so far as these ends are
met, the school is organized on an ethical basis. So far as general
principles are concerned, all the basic ethical requirements are met.
The rest remains between the individual teacher and the individual




So far we have been considering the make-up of purposes and results that
constitute conduct--its "what." But conduct has a certain method and
spirit also--its "how." Conduct may be looked upon as expressing the
attitudes and dispositions of an _individual_, as well as realizing
social results and maintaining the social fabric. A consideration of
conduct as a mode of individual performance, personal doing, takes us
from the social to the psychological side of morals. In the first place,
all conduct springs ultimately and radically out of native instincts and
impulses. We must know what these instincts and impulses are, and what
they are at each particular stage of the child's development, in order
to know what to appeal to and what to build upon. Neglect of this
principle may give a mechanical imitation of moral conduct, but the
imitation will be ethically dead, because it is external and has its
centre without, not within, the individual. We must study the child, in
other words, to get our indications, our symptoms, our suggestions. The
more or less spontaneous acts of the child are not to be thought of as
setting moral forms to which the efforts of the educator must
conform--this would result simply in spoiling the child; but they are
symptoms which require to be interpreted: stimuli which need to be
responded to in directed ways; material which, in however transformed a
shape, is the only ultimate constituent of future moral conduct and

Then, secondly, our ethical principles need to be stated in
psychological terms because the child supplies us with the only means or
instruments by which to realize moral ideals. The subject-matter of the
curriculum, however important, however judiciously selected, is empty of
conclusive moral content until it is made over into terms of the
individual's own activities, habits, and desires. We must know what
history, geography, and mathematics mean in psychological terms, that
is, as modes of personal experiencing, before we can get out of them
their moral potentialities.

The psychological side of education sums itself up, of course, in a
consideration of character. It is a commonplace to say that the
development of character is the end of all school work. The difficulty
lies in the execution of the idea. And an underlying difficulty in this
execution is the lack of a clear conception of what character means.
This may seem an extreme statement. If so, the idea may be conveyed by
saying that we generally conceive of character simply in terms of
results; we have no clear conception of it in psychological terms--that
is, as a process, as working or dynamic. We know what character means in
terms of the actions which proceed from it, but we have not a definite
conception of it on its inner side, as a system of working forces.

(1) Force, efficiency in execution, or overt action, is one necessary
constituent of character. In our moral books and lectures we may lay the
stress upon good intentions, etc. But we know practically that the kind
of character we hope to build up through our education is one that not
only has good intentions, but that insists upon carrying them out. Any
other character is wishy-washy; it is goody, not good. The individual
must have the power to stand up and count for something in the actual
conflicts of life. He must have initiative, insistence, persistence,
courage, and industry. He must, in a word, have all that goes under the
name "_force_ of character." Undoubtedly, individuals differ greatly in
their native endowment in this respect. None the less, each has a
certain primary equipment of impulse, of tendency forward, of innate
urgency to do. The problem of education on this side is that of
discovering what this native fund of power is, and then of utilizing it
in such a way (affording conditions which both stimulate and control) as
to organize it into definite conserved modes of action--habits.

(2) But something more is required than sheer force. Sheer force may be
brutal; it may override the interests of others. Even when aiming at
right ends it may go at them in such a way as to violate the rights of
others. More than this, in sheer force there is no guarantee for the
right end. Efficiency may be directed towards mistaken ends and result
in positive mischief and destruction. Power, as already suggested, must
be directed. It must be organized along social channels; it must be
attached to valuable ends.

This involves training on both the intellectual and emotional side. On
the intellectual side we must have judgment--what is ordinarily called
good sense. The difference between mere knowledge, or information, and
judgment is that the former is simply held, not used; judgment is
knowledge directed with reference to the accomplishment of ends. Good
judgment is a sense of respective or proportionate values. The one who
has judgment is the one who has ability to size up a situation. He is
the one who can grasp the scene or situation before him, ignoring what
is irrelevant, or what for the time being is unimportant, who can seize
upon the factors which demand attention, and grade them according to
their respective claims. Mere knowledge of what the right is, in the
abstract, mere intentions of following the right in general, however
praiseworthy in themselves, are never a substitute for this power of
trained judgment. Action is always in the concrete. It is definite and
individualized. Except, therefore, as it is backed and controlled by a
knowledge of the actual concrete factors in the situation in which it
occurs, it must be relatively futile and waste.

(3) But the consciousness of ends must be more than merely intellectual.
We can imagine a person with most excellent judgment, who yet does not
act upon his judgment. There must not only be force to insure effort in
execution against obstacles, but there must also be a delicate personal
responsiveness,--there must be an emotional reaction. Indeed, good
judgment is impossible without this susceptibility. Unless there is a
prompt and almost instinctive sensitiveness to conditions, to the ends
and interests of others, the intellectual side of judgment will not have
proper material to work upon. Just as the material of knowledge is
supplied through the senses, so the material of ethical knowledge is
supplied by emotional responsiveness. It is difficult to put this
quality into words, but we all know the difference between the character
which is hard and formal, and one which is sympathetic, flexible, and
open. In the abstract the former may be as sincerely devoted to moral
ideas as is the latter, but as a practical matter we prefer to live with
the latter. We count upon it to accomplish more by tact, by instinctive
recognition of the claims of others, by skill in adjusting, than the
former can accomplish by mere attachment to rules.

Here, then, is the moral standard, by which to test the work of the
school upon the side of what it does directly for individuals. (_a_)
Does the school as a system, at present, attach sufficient importance to
the spontaneous instincts and impulses? Does it afford sufficient
opportunity for these to assert themselves and work out their own
results? Can we even say that the school in principle attaches itself,
at present, to the active constructive powers rather than to processes
of absorption and learning? Does not our talk about self-activity
largely render itself meaningless because the self-activity we have in
mind is purely "intellectual," out of relation to those impulses which
work through hand and eye?

Just in so far as the present school methods fail to meet the test of
such questions moral results must be unsatisfactory. We cannot secure
the development of positive force of character unless we are willing to
pay its price. We cannot smother and repress the child's powers, or
gradually abort them (from failure of opportunity for exercise), and
then expect a character with initiative and consecutive industry. I am
aware of the importance attaching to inhibition, but mere inhibition is
valueless. The only restraint, the only holding-in, that is of any worth
is that which comes through holding powers concentrated upon a positive
end. An end cannot be attained excepting as instincts and impulses are
kept from discharging at random and from running off on side tracks. In
keeping powers at work upon their relevant ends, there is sufficient
opportunity for genuine inhibition. To say that inhibition is higher
than power, is like saying that death is more than life, negation more
than affirmation, sacrifice more than service.

(_b_) We must also test our school work by finding whether it affords
the conditions necessary for the formation of good judgment. Judgment as
the sense of relative values involves ability to select, to
discriminate. Acquiring information can never develop the power of
judgment. Development of judgment is in spite of, not because of,
methods of instruction that emphasize simple learning. The test comes
only when the information acquired has to be put to use. Will it do what
we expect of it? I have heard an educator of large experience say that
in her judgment the greatest defect of instruction to-day, on the
intellectual side, is found in the fact that children leave school
without a mental perspective. Facts seem to them all of the same
importance. There is no foreground or background. There is no
instinctive habit of sorting out facts upon a scale of worth and of
grading them.

The child cannot get power of judgment excepting as he is continually
exercised in forming and testing judgments. He must have an opportunity
to select for himself, and to attempt to put his selections into
execution, that he may submit them to the final test, that of action.
Only thus can he learn to discriminate that which promises success from
that which promises failure; only thus can he form the habit of relating
his purposes and notions to the conditions that determine their value.
Does the school, as a system, afford at present sufficient opportunity
for this sort of experimentation? Except so far as the emphasis of the
school work is upon intelligent doing, upon active investigation, it
does not furnish the conditions necessary for that exercise of judgment
which is an integral factor in good character.

(_c_) I shall be brief with respect to the other point, the need of
susceptibility and responsiveness. The informally social side of
education, the æsthetic environment and influences, are all-important.
In so far as the work is laid out in regular and formulated ways, so far
as there are lacking opportunities for casual and free social
intercourse between pupils and between the pupils and the teacher, this
side of the child's nature is either starved, or else left to find
haphazard expression along more or less secret channels. When the school
system, under plea of the practical (meaning by the practical the
narrowly utilitarian), confines the child to the three R's and the
formal studies connected with them, shuts him out from the vital in
literature and history, and deprives him of his right to contact with
what is best in architecture, music, sculpture, and picture, it is
hopeless to expect definite results in the training of sympathetic
openness and responsiveness.

       *       *       *       *       *

What we need in education is a genuine faith in the existence of moral
principles which are capable of effective application. We believe, so
far as the mass of children are concerned, that if we keep at them long
enough we can teach reading and writing and figuring. We are
practically, even if unconsciously, skeptical as to the possibility of
anything like the same assurance in morals. We believe in moral laws and
rules, to be sure, but they are in the air. They are something set off
by themselves. They are so _very_ "moral" that they have no working
contact with the average affairs of every-day life. These moral
principles need to be brought down to the ground through their statement
in social and in psychological terms. We need to see that moral
principles are not arbitrary, that they are not "transcendental"; that
the term "moral" does not designate a special region or portion of life.
We need to translate the moral into the conditions and forces of our
community life, and into the impulses and habits of the individual.

All the rest is mint, anise, and cummin. The one thing needful is that
we recognize that moral principles are real in the same sense in which
other forces are real; that they are inherent in community life, and in
the working structure of the individual. If we can secure a genuine
faith in this fact, we shall have secured the condition which alone is
necessary to get from our educational system all the effectiveness there
is in it. The teacher who operates in this faith will find every
subject, every method of instruction, every incident of school life
pregnant with moral possibility.


    1. Moral ideas and ideas about morality
    2. Moral education and direct moral instruction

    1. The unity of social ethics and school ethics
    2. A narrow and formal training for citizenship
    3. School life should train for many social relations
    4. It should train for self-direction and leadership
    5. There is no harmonious development of powers apart from social
    6. School activities should be typical of social life
    7. Moral training in the schools tends to be pathological and formal

    1. Active social service as opposed to passive individual absorption
    2. The positive inculcation of individualistic motives and standards
    3. The evils of competition for external standing
    4. The moral waste of remote success as an end
    5. The worth of active and social modes of learning

    1. The nature of the course of study influences the conduct of the
    2. School studies as means of realizing social situations
    3. School subjects are merely phases of a unified social life
    4. The meaning of subjects is controlled by social considerations
    5. Geography deals with the scenes of social interaction
    6. Its various forms represent increasing stages of abstraction
    7. History is a means for interpreting existing social relations
    8. It presents type phases of social development
    9. It offers contrasts, and consequently perspective
   10. It teaches the methods of social progress
   11. The failure of certain methods of teaching history
   12. Mathematics is a means to social ends
   13. The sociological nature of business arithmetic
   14. Summary: The moral trinity of the school

    1. Conduct as a mode of individual performance
    2. Native instincts and impulses are the sources of conduct
    3. Moral ideals must be realized in persons
    4. Character as a system of working forces
    5. Force as a necessary constituent of character
    6. The importance of intellectual judgment or good sense
    7. The capacity for delicate emotional responsiveness
    8. Summary: The ethical standards for testing the school
    9. Conclusion: The practicality of moral principles


_General Educational Theory_

  COOLIDGE'S America's Need for Education.
  DEWEY'S Interest and Effort in Education.
  DEWEY'S Moral Principles in Education.
  ELIOT'S Education for Efficiency.
  ELIOT'S The Tendency to the Concrete and Practical in Modern Education.
  EMERSON'S Education and other Selections.
  FISKE'S The Meaning of Infancy.
  HORNE'S The Teacher as Artist.
  HYDE'S The Teacher's Philosophy in and out of School.
  JUDD'S The Evolution of a Democratic School System.
  MEREDITH'S The Educational Bearings of Modern Psychology.
  PALMER'S The Ideal Teacher.
  PALMER'S Trades and Professions.
  PALMER'S Ethical and Moral Instruction in Schools.
  PROSSER'S The Teacher and Old Age.
  STOCKTON'S Project Work in Education.
  STRATTON'S Developing Mental Power.
  TERMAN'S The Teacher's Health.
  THORNDIKE'S Individuality.
  TROW'S Scientific Method in Education.

_Administration and Supervision_

  BETT'S New Ideals in Rural Schools.
  BLOOMFIELD'S The Vocational Guidance of Youth.
  CABOT'S Volunteer Help to the Schools.
  COLE'S Industrial Education in the Elementary School.
  CUBBERLEY'S Changing Conceptions of Education.
  CUBBERLEY'S The Improvement of Rural Schools.
  DOOLEY'S The Education of the Ne'er-Do-Well.
  GATES'S The Management of Smaller Schools.
  HINES'S Measuring Intelligence.
  KOOS'S The High-School Principal.
  LEWIS'S Democracy's High School.
  MAXWELL'S The Observation of Teaching.
  MAXWELL'S The Selection of Textbooks.
  MILLER and CHARLES'S Publicity and the Public School.
  PERRY'S The Status of the Teacher.
  RUSSELL'S Economy in Secondary Education.
  SMITH'S Establishing Industrial Schools.
  SNEDDEN'S The Problem of Vocational Guidance.
  WEEKS'S The People's School.


 ANDRESS'S The Teaching of Hygiene in the Grades.
 ATWOOD'S The Theory and Practice of the Kindergarten.
 BAILEY'S Art Education.
 BETTS'S The Recitation.
 COOLEY'S Language Teaching in the Grades.
 DOUGHERTY'S How to Teach Phonics.
 EARHART'S Teaching Children to Study.
 EVANS'S The Teaching of High School Mathematics.
 FAIRCHILD'S The Teaching of Poetry in the High School.
 FREEMAN'S The Teaching of Handwriting.
 HALIBURTON and SMITH'S Teaching Poetry in the Grades.
 HARTWELL'S The Teaching of History.
 HAWLEY'S Teaching English in Junior High Schools.
 HAYNES'S Economics in the Secondary School.
 HILL'S The Teaching of Civics.
 JENKINS'S Reading in the Primary Grades.
 KENDALL and STRYKER'S History in the Elementary School.
 KILPATRICK'S The Montessori System Examined.
 LEONARD'S English Composition as a Social Problem.
 LOSH and WEEKS'S Primary Number Projects.
 PALMER'S Self-Cultivation in English.
 RIDGLEY'S Geographic Principles.
 RUEDIGER'S Vitalized Teaching.
 SHARP'S Teaching English in High Schools.
 STOCKTON'S Project Work in Education.
 SUZZALLO'S The Teaching of Primary Arithmetic.
 SUZZALLO'S The Teaching of Spelling.
 SWIFT'S Speech Defects in School Children.
 TUELL'S The Study of Nations.
 WILSON's What Arithmetic Shall We Teach?


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