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Title: The Child and the Curriculum
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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The University of Chicago Press
Chicago & London

The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London

The University of Toronto Press, Toronto 5, Canada

Copyright 1902 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
Published 1902. Twenty-eighth Impression 1966 Printed in the United
States of America

_The Child and the Curriculum_

Profound differences in theory are never gratuitous or invented. They
grow out of conflicting elements in a genuine problem--a problem
which is genuine just because the elements, taken as they stand, are
conflicting. Any significant problem involves conditions that for the
moment contradict each other. Solution comes only by getting away from
the meaning of terms that is already fixed upon and coming to see the
conditions from another point of view, and hence in a fresh light. But
this reconstruction means travail of thought. Easier than thinking with
surrender of already formed ideas and detachment from facts already
learned is just to stick by what is already said, looking about for
something with which to buttress it against attack.

Thus sects arise: schools of opinion. Each selects that set of
conditions that appeals to it; and then erects them into a complete and
independent truth, instead of treating them as a factor in a problem,
needing adjustment.

The fundamental factors in the educative process are an immature,
undeveloped being; and certain social aims, meanings, values incarnate
in the matured experience of the adult. The educative process is the due
interaction of these forces. Such a conception of each in relation to
the other as facilitates completest and freest interaction is the
essence of educational theory.

But here comes the effort of thought. It is easier to see the conditions
in their separateness, to insist upon one at the expense of the other,
to make antagonists of them, than to discover a reality to which each
belongs. The easy thing is to seize upon something in the nature of the
child, or upon something in the developed consciousness of the adult,
and insist upon _that_ as the key to the whole problem. When this
happens a really serious practical problem--that of interaction--is
transformed into an unreal, and hence insoluble, theoretic problem.
Instead of seeing the educative steadily and as a whole, we see
conflicting terms. We get the case of the child _vs._ the curriculum; of
the individual nature _vs._ social culture. Below all other divisions in
pedagogic opinion lies this opposition.

The child lives in a somewhat narrow world of personal contacts. Things
hardly come within his experience unless they touch, intimately and
obviously, his own well-being, or that of his family and friends. His
world is a world of persons with their personal interests, rather than
a realm of facts and laws. Not truth, in the sense of conformity to
external fact, but affection and sympathy, is its keynote. As against
this, the course of study met in the school presents material stretching
back indefinitely in time, and extending outward indefinitely into
space. The child is taken out of his familiar physical environment,
hardly more than a square mile or so in area, into the wide world--yes,
and even to the bounds of the solar system. His little span of personal
memory and tradition is overlaid with the long centuries of the history
of all peoples.

Again, the child's life is an integral, a total one. He passes quickly
and readily from one topic to another, as from one spot to another,
but is not conscious of transition or break. There is no conscious
isolation, hardly conscious distinction. The things that occupy him are
held together by the unity of the personal and social interests which
his life carries along. Whatever is uppermost in his mind constitutes
to him, for the time being, the whole universe. That universe is fluid
and fluent; its contents dissolve and re-form with amazing rapidity.
But, after all, it is the child's own world. It has the unity and
completeness of his own life. He goes to school, and various studies
divide and fractionize the world for him. Geography selects, it
abstracts and analyzes one set of facts, and from one particular point
of view. Arithmetic is another division, grammar another department, and
so on indefinitely.

Again, in school each of these subjects is classified. Facts are torn
away from their original place in experience and rearranged with
reference to some general principle. Classification is not a matter
of child experience; things do not come to the individual pigeonholed.
The vital ties of affection, the connecting bonds of activity, hold
together the variety of his personal experiences. The adult mind is so
familiar with the notion of logically ordered facts that it does not
recognize--it cannot realize--the amount of separating and reformulating
which the facts of direct experience have to undergo before they can
appear as a "study," or branch of learning. A principle, for the
intellect, has had to be distinguished and defined; facts have had
to be interpreted in relation to this principle, not as they are in
themselves. They have had to be regathered about a new center which is
wholly abstract and ideal. All this means a development of a special
intellectual interest. It means ability to view facts impartially and
objectively; that is, without reference to their place and meaning in
one's own experience. It means capacity to analyze and to synthesize. It
means highly matured intellectual habits and the command of a definite
technique and apparatus of scientific inquiry. The studies as classified
are the product, in a word, of the science of the ages, not of the
experience of the child.

These apparent deviations and differences between child and curriculum
might be almost indefinitely widened. But we have here sufficiently
fundamental divergences: first, the narrow but personal world of the
child against the impersonal but infinitely extended world of space and
time; second, the unity, the single wholeheartedness of the child's
life, and the specializations and divisions of the curriculum; third, an
abstract principle of logical classification and arrangement, and the
practical and emotional bonds of child life.

From these elements of conflict grow up different educational sects.
One school fixes its attention upon the importance of the subject-matter
of the curriculum as compared with the contents of the child's own
experience. It is as if they said: Is life petty, narrow, and crude?
Then studies reveal the great, wide universe with all its fulness and
complexity of meaning. Is the life of the child egoistic, self-centered,
impulsive? Then in these studies is found an objective universe of
truth, law, and order. Is his experience confused, vague, uncertain,
at the mercy of the moment's caprice and circumstance? Then studies
introduce a world arranged on the basis of eternal and general truth; a
world where all is measured and defined. Hence the moral: ignore and
minimize the child's individual peculiarities, whims, and experiences.
They are what we need to get away from. They are to be obscured or
eliminated. As educators our work is precisely to substitute for these
superficial and casual affairs stable and well-ordered realities; and
these are found in studies and lessons.

Subdivide each topic into studies; each study into lessons; each lesson
into specific facts and formulae. Let the child proceed step by step to
master each one of these separate parts, and at last he will have
covered the entire ground. The road which looks so long when viewed in
its entirety is easily traveled, considered as a series of particular
steps. Thus emphasis is put upon the logical subdivisions and
consecutions of the subject-matter. Problems of instruction are problems
of procuring texts giving logical parts and sequences, and of presenting
these portions in class in a similar definite and graded way.
Subject-matter furnishes the end, and it determines method. The child is
simply the immature being who is to be matured; he is the superficial
being who is to be deepened; his is narrow experience which is to be
widened. It is his to receive, to accept. His part is fulfilled when he
is ductile and docile.

Not so, says the other sect. The child is the starting-point, the
center, and the end. His development, his growth, is the ideal. It
alone furnishes the standard. To the growth of the child all studies
are subservient; they are instruments valued as they serve the needs
of growth. Personality, character, is more than subject-matter. Not
knowledge or information, but self-realization, is the goal. To possess
all the world of knowledge and lose one's own self is as awful a fate in
education as in religion. Moreover, subject-matter never can be got into
the child from without. Learning is active. It involves reaching out
of the mind. It involves organic assimilation starting from within.
Literally, we must take our stand with the child and our departure from
him. It is he and not the subject-matter which determines both quality
and quantity of learning.

The only significant method is the method of the mind as it reaches
out and assimilates. Subject-matter is but spiritual food, possible
nutritive material. It cannot digest itself; it cannot of its own
accord turn into bone and muscle and blood. The source of whatever
is dead, mechanical, and formal in schools is found precisely in the
subordination of the life and experience of the child to the curriculum.
It is because of this that "study" has become a synonym for what is
irksome, and a lesson identical with a task.

This fundamental opposition of child and curriculum set up by these
two modes of doctrine can be duplicated in a series of other terms.
"Discipline" is the watchword of those who magnify the course of study;
"interest" that of those who blazon "The Child" upon their banner. The
standpoint of the former is logical; that of the latter psychological.
The first emphasizes the necessity of adequate training and scholarship
on the part of the teacher; the latter that of need of sympathy with the
child, and knowledge of his natural instincts. "Guidance and control"
are the catchwords of one school; "freedom and initiative" of the other.
Law is asserted here; spontaneity proclaimed there. The old, the
conservation of what has been achieved in the pain and toil of the ages,
is dear to the one; the new, change, progress, wins the affection of the
other. Inertness and routine, chaos and anarchism, are accusations
bandied back and forth. Neglect of the sacred authority of duty is
charged by one side, only to be met by counter-charges of suppression
of individuality through tyrannical despotism.

Such oppositions are rarely carried to their logical conclusion.
Common-sense recoils at the extreme character of these results. They
are left to theorists, while common-sense vibrates back and forward
in a maze of inconsistent compromise. The need of getting theory and
practical common-sense into closer connection suggests a return to our
original thesis: that we have here conditions which are necessarily
related to each other in the educative process, since this is precisely
one of interaction and adjustment.

What, then, is the problem? It is just to get rid of the prejudicial
notion that there is some gap in kind (as distinct from degree) between
the child's experience and the various forms of subject-matter that make
up the course of study. From the side of the child, it is a question of
seeing how his experience already contains within itself elements--facts
and truths--of just the same sort as those entering into the formulated
study; and, what is of more importance, of how it contains within itself
the attitudes, the motives, and the interests which have operated in
developing and organizing the subject-matter to the plane which it now
occupies. From the side of the studies, it is a question of interpreting
them as outgrowths of forces operating in the child's life, and of
discovering the steps that intervene between the child's present
experience and their richer maturity.

Abandon the notion of subject-matter as something fixed and ready-made
in itself, outside the child's experience; cease thinking of the child's
experience as also something hard and fast; see it as something fluent,
embryonic, vital; and we realize that the child and the curriculum are
simply two limits which define a single process. Just as two points
define a straight line, so the present standpoint of the child and the
facts and truths of studies define instruction. It is continuous
reconstruction, moving from the child's present experience out into that
represented by the organized bodies of truth that we call studies.

On the face of it, the various studies, arithmetic, geography, language,
botany, etc., are themselves experience--they are that of the race. They
embody the cumulative outcome of the efforts, the strivings, and the
successes of the human race generation after generation. They present
this, not as a mere accumulation, not as a miscellaneous heap of
separate bits of experience, but in some organized and systematized
way--that is, as reflectively formulated.

Hence, the facts and truths that enter into the child's present
experience, and those contained in the subject-matter of studies, are
the initial and final terms of one reality. To oppose one to the other
is to oppose the infancy and maturity of the same growing life; it is to
set the moving tendency and the final result of the same process over
against each other; it is to hold that the nature and the destiny of the
child war with each other.

If such be the case, the problem of the relation of the child and the
curriculum presents itself in this guise: Of what use, educationally
speaking, is it to be able to see the end in the beginning? How does
it assist us in dealing with the early stages of growth to be able to
anticipate its later phases? The studies, as we have agreed, represent
the possibilities of development inherent in the child's immediate crude
experience. But, after all, they are not parts of that present and
immediate life. Why, then, or how, make account of them?

Asking such a question suggests its own answer. To see the outcome is
to know in what direction the present experience is moving, provided
it move normally and soundly. The far-away point, which is of no
significance to us simply as far away, becomes of huge importance the
moment we take it as defining a present direction of movement. Taken
in this way it is no remote and distant result to be achieved, but a
guiding method in dealing with the present. The systematized and defined
experience of the adult mind, in other words, is of value to us in
interpreting the child's life as it immediately shows itself, and in
passing on to guidance or direction.

Let us look for a moment at these two ideas: interpretation and
guidance. The child's present experience is in no way self-explanatory.
It is not final, but transitional. It is nothing complete in itself, but
just a sign or index of certain growth-tendencies. As long as we confine
our gaze to what the child here and now puts forth, we are confused and
misled. We cannot read its meaning. Extreme depreciations of the child
morally and intellectually, and sentimental idealizations of him, have
their root in a common fallacy. Both spring from taking stages of a
growth or movement as something cut off and fixed. The first fails
to see the promise contained in feelings and deeds which, taken by
themselves, are uncompromising and repellent; the second fails to see
that even the most pleasing and beautiful exhibitions are but signs,
and that they begin to spoil and rot the moment they are treated as

What we need is something which will enable us to interpret, to
appraise, the elements in the child's present puttings forth and
fallings away, his exhibitions of power and weakness, in the light of
some larger growth-process in which they have their place. Only in this
way can we discriminate. If we isolate the child's present inclinations,
purposes, and experiences from the place they occupy and the part they
have to perform in a developing experience, all stand upon the same
level; all alike are equally good and equally bad. But in the movement
of life different elements stand upon different planes of value. Some of
the child's deeds are symptoms of a waning tendency; they are survivals
in functioning of an organ which has done its part and is passing out of
vital use. To give positive attention to such qualities is to arrest
development upon a lower level. It is systematically to maintain a
rudimentary phase of growth. Other activities are signs of a culminating
power and interest; to them applies the maxim of striking while the
iron is hot. As regards them, it is perhaps a matter of now or never.
Selected, utilized, emphasized, they may mark a turning-point for good
in the child's whole career; neglected, an opportunity goes, never to
be recalled. Other acts and feelings are prophetic; they represent the
dawning of flickering light that will shine steadily only in the far
future. As regards them there is little at present to do but give them
fair and full chance, waiting for the future for definite direction.

Just as, upon the whole, it was the weakness of the "old education" that
it made invidious comparisons between the immaturity of the child and
the maturity of the adult, regarding the former as something to be got
away from as soon as possible and as much as possible; so it is the
danger of the "new education" that it regard the child's present powers
and interests as something finally significant in themselves. In truth,
his learnings and achievements are fluid and moving. They change from
day to day and from hour to hour.

It will do harm if child-study leave in the popular mind the impression
that a child of a given age has a positive equipment of purposes and
interests to be cultivated just as they stand. Interests in reality are
but attitudes toward possible experiences; they are not achievements;
their worth is in the leverage they afford, not in the accomplishment
they represent. To take the phenomena presented at a given age as
in any way self-explanatory or self-contained is inevitably to result
in indulgence and spoiling. Any power, whether of child or adult,
is indulged when it is taken on its given and present level in
consciousness. Its genuine meaning is in the propulsion it affords
toward a higher level. It is just something to do with. Appealing to the
interest upon the present plane means excitation; it means playing with
a power so as continually to stir it up without directing it toward
definite achievement. Continuous initiation, continuous starting of
activities that do not arrive, is, for all practical purposes, as bad
as the continual repression of initiative in conformity with supposed
interests of some more perfect thought or will. It is as if the child
were forever tasting and never eating; always having his palate tickled
upon the emotional side, but never getting the organic satisfaction that
comes only with digestion of food and transformation of it into working

As against such a view, the subject-matter of science and history and
art serves to reveal the real child to us. We do not know the meaning
either of his tendencies or of his performances excepting as we take
them as germinating seed, or opening bud, of some fruit to be borne. The
whole world of visual nature is all too small an answer to the problem
of the meaning of the child's instinct for light and form. The entire
science of physics is none too much to interpret adequately to us what
is involved in some simple demand of the child for explanation of some
casual change that has attracted his attention. The art of Raphael or of
Corot is none too much to enable us to value the impulses stirring in
the child when he draws and daubs.

So much for the use of the subject-matter in interpretation. Its further
employment in direction or guidance is but an expansion of the same
thought. To interpret the fact is to see it in its vital movement, to
see it in its relation to growth. But to view it as a part of a normal
growth is to secure the basis for guiding it. Guidance is not external
imposition. _It is freeing the life-process for its own most adequate
fulfilment._ What was said about disregard of the child's present
experience because of its remoteness from mature experience; and of the
sentimental idealization of the child's naïve caprices and performances,
may be repeated here with slightly altered phrase. There are those who
see no alternative between forcing the child from without, or leaving
him entirely alone. Seeing no alternative, some choose one mode, some
another. Both fall into the same fundamental error. Both fail to see
that development is a definite process, having its own law which can be
fulfilled only when adequate and normal conditions are provided. Really
to interpret the child's present crude impulses in counting, measuring,
and arranging things in rhythmic series involves mathematical
scholarship--a knowledge of the mathematical formulae and relations
which have, in the history of the race, grown out of just such crude
beginnings. To see the whole history of development which intervenes
between these two terms is simply to see what step the child needs to
take just here and now; to what use he needs to put his blind impulse in
order that it may get clarity and gain force.

If, once more, the "old education" tended to ignore the dynamic quality,
the developing force inherent in the child's present experience, and
therefore to assume that direction and control were just matters of
arbitrarily putting the child in a given path and compelling him to
walk there, the "new education" is in danger of taking the idea of
development in altogether too formal and empty a way. The child is
expected to "develop" this or that fact or truth out of his own mind. He
is told to think things out, or work things out for himself, without
being supplied any of the environing conditions which are requisite to
start and guide thought. Nothing can be developed from nothing; nothing
but the crude can be developed out of the crude--and this is what surely
happens when we throw the child back upon his achieved self as a
finality, and invite him to spin new truths of nature or of conduct
out of that. It is certainly as futile to expect a child to evolve a
universe out of his own mere mind as it is for a philosopher to attempt
that task. Development does not mean just getting something out of the
mind. It is a development of experience and into experience that is
really wanted. And this is impossible save as just that educative medium
is provided which will enable the powers and interests that have been
selected as valuable to function. They must operate, and how they
operate will depend almost entirely upon the stimuli which surround
them and the material upon which they exercise themselves. The problem
of direction is thus the problem of selecting appropriate stimuli for
instincts and impulses which it is desired to employ in the gaining
of new experience. What new experiences are desirable, and thus what
stimuli are needed, it is impossible to tell except as there is some
comprehension of the development which is aimed at; except, in a word,
as the adult knowledge is drawn upon as revealing the possible career
open to the child.

It may be of use to distinguish and to relate to each other the logical
and the psychological aspects of experience--the former standing for
subject-matter in itself, the latter for it in relation to the child. A
psychological statement of experience follows its actual growth; it is
historic; it notes steps actually taken, the uncertain and tortuous, as
well as the efficient and successful. The logical point of view, on the
other hand, assumes that the development has reached a certain positive
stage of fulfilment. It neglects the process and considers the outcome.
It summarizes and arranges, and thus separates the achieved results from
the actual steps by which they were forthcoming in the first instance.
We may compare the difference between the logical and the psychological
to the difference between the notes which an explorer makes in a new
country, blazing a trail and finding his way along as best he may,
and the finished map that is constructed after the country has been
thoroughly explored. The two are mutually dependent. Without the more
or less accidental and devious paths traced by the explorer there would
be no facts which could be utilized in the making of the complete and
related chart. But no one would get the benefit of the explorer's trip
if it was not compared and checked up with similar wanderings undertaken
by others; unless the new geographical facts learned, the streams
crossed, the mountains climbed, etc., were viewed, not as mere incidents
in the journey of the particular traveler, but (quite apart from the
individual explorer's life) in relation to other similar facts already
known. The map orders individual experiences, connecting them with one
another irrespective of the local and temporal circumstances and
accidents of their original discovery.

Of what use is this formulated statement of experience? Of what use is
the map?

Well, we may first tell what the map is not. The map is not a substitute
for a personal experience. The map does not take the place of an actual
journey. The logically formulated material of a science or branch of
learning, of a study, is no substitute for the having of individual
experiences. The mathematical formula for a falling body does not take
the place of personal contact and immediate individual experience with
the falling thing. But the map, a summary, an arranged and orderly
view of previous experiences, serves as a guide to future experience;
it gives direction; it facilitates control; it economizes effort,
preventing useless wandering, and pointing out the paths which lead most
quickly and most certainly to a desired result. Through the map every
new traveler may get for his own journey the benefits of the results
of others' explorations without the waste of energy and loss of time
involved in their wanderings--wanderings which he himself would be
obliged to repeat were it not for just the assistance of the objective
and generalized record of their performances. That which we call a
science or study puts the net product of past experience in the
form which makes it most available for the future. It represents a
capitalization which may at once be turned to interest. It economizes
the workings of the mind in every way. Memory is less taxed because the
facts are grouped together about some common principle, instead of being
connected solely with the varying incidents of their original discovery.
Observation is assisted; we know what to look for and where to look.
It is the difference between looking for a needle in a haystack, and
searching for a given paper in a well-arranged cabinet. Reasoning is
directed, because there is a certain general path or line laid out
along which ideas naturally march, instead of moving from one chance
association to another.

There is, then, nothing final about a logical rendering of experience.
Its value is not contained in itself; its significance is that of
standpoint, outlook, method. It intervenes between the more casual,
tentative, and roundabout experiences of the past, and more controlled
and orderly experiences of the future. It gives past experience in that
net form which renders it most available and most significant, most
fecund for future experience. The abstractions, generalizations, and
classifications which it introduces all have prospective meaning.

The formulated result is then not to be opposed to the process of
growth. The logical is not set over against the psychological. The
surveyed and arranged result occupies a critical position in the process
of growth. It marks a turning-point. It shows how we may get the benefit
of past effort in controlling future endeavor. In the largest sense the
logical standpoint is itself psychological; it has its meaning as a
point in the development of experience, and its justification is in its
functioning in the future growth which it insures.

Hence the need of reinstating into experience the subject-matter of the
studies, or branches of learning. It must be restored to the experience
from which it has been abstracted. It needs to be _psychologized_;
turned over, translated into the immediate and individual experiencing
within which it has its origin and significance.

Every study or subject thus has two aspects: one for the scientist as a
scientist; the other for the teacher as a teacher. These two aspects are
in no sense opposed or conflicting. But neither are they immediately
identical. For the scientist, the subject-matter represents simply a
given body of truth to be employed in locating new problems, instituting
new researches, and carrying them through to a verified outcome. To him
the subject-matter of the science is self-contained. He refers various
portions of it to each other; he connects new facts with it. He is not,
as a scientist, called upon to travel outside its particular bounds;
if he does, it is only to get more facts of the same general sort.
The problem of the teacher is a different one. As a teacher he is
not concerned with adding new facts to the science he teaches; in
propounding new hypotheses or in verifying them. He is concerned with
the subject-matter of the science as _representing a given stage and
phase of the development of experience_. His problem is that of inducing
a vital and personal experiencing. Hence, what concerns him, as teacher,
is the ways in which that subject may become a part of experience; what
there is in the child's present that is usable with reference to it;
how such elements are to be used; how his own knowledge of the
subject-matter may assist in interpreting the child's needs and doings,
and determine the medium in which the child should be placed in order
that his growth may be properly directed. He is concerned, not with the
subject-matter as such, but with the subject-matter as a related factor
in a total and growing experience. Thus to see it is to psychologize it.

It is the failure to keep in mind the double aspect of subject-matter
which causes the curriculum and child to be set over against each other
as described in our early pages. The subject-matter, just as it is for
the scientist, has no direct relationship to the child's present
experience. It stands outside of it. The danger here is not a merely
theoretical one. We are practically threatened on all sides. Textbook
and teacher vie with each other in presenting to the child the
subject-matter as it stands to the specialist. Such modification and
revision as it undergoes are a mere elimination of certain scientific
difficulties, and the general reduction to a lower intellectual level.
The material is not translated into life-terms, but is directly offered
as a substitute for, or an external annex to, the child's present life.

Three typical evils result: In the first place, the lack of any organic
connection with what the child has already seen and felt and loved makes
the material purely formal and symbolic. There is a sense in which it is
impossible to value too highly the formal and the symbolic. The genuine
form, the real symbol, serve as methods in the holding and discovery of
truth. They are tools by which the individual pushes out most surely and
widely into unexplored areas. They are means by which he brings to bear
whatever of reality he has succeeded in gaining in past searchings. But
this happens only when the symbol really symbolizes--when it stands for
and sums up in shorthand actual experiences which the individual has
already gone through. A symbol which is induced from without, which has
not been led up to in preliminary activities, is, as we say, a _bare_
or _mere_ symbol; it is dead and barren. Now, any fact, whether of
arithmetic, or geography, or grammar, which is not led up to and into
out of something which has previously occupied a significant position
in the child's life for its own sake, is forced into this position.
It is not a reality, but just the sign of a reality which _might_ be
experienced if certain conditions were fulfilled. But the abrupt
presentation of the fact as something known by others, and requiring
only to be studied and learned by the child, rules out such conditions
of fulfilment. It condemns the fact to be a hieroglyph: it would mean
something if one only had the key. The clue being lacking, it remains
an idle curiosity, to fret and obstruct the mind, a dead weight to
burden it.

The second evil in this external presentation is lack of motivation.
There are not only no facts or truths which have been previously felt
as such with which to appropriate and assimilate the new, but there is
no craving, no need, no demand. When the subject-matter has been
psychologized, that is, viewed as an out-growth of present tendencies
and activities, it is easy to locate in the present some obstacle,
intellectual, practical, or ethical, which can be handled more
adequately if the truth in question be mastered. This need supplies
motive for the learning. An end which is the child's own carries him
on to possess the means of its accomplishment. But when material is
directly supplied in the form of a lesson to be learned as a lesson, the
connecting links of need and aim are conspicuous for their absence. What
we mean by the mechanical and dead in instruction is a result of this
lack of motivation. The organic and vital mean interaction--they mean
play of mental demand and material supply.

The third evil is that even the most scientific matter, arranged in
most logical fashion, loses this quality, when presented in external,
ready-made fashion, by the time it gets to the child. It has to undergo
some modification in order to shut out some phases too hard to grasp,
and to reduce some of the attendant difficulties. What happens? Those
things which are most significant to the scientific man, and most
valuable in the logic of actual inquiry and classification, drop out.
The really thought-provoking character is obscured, and the organizing
function disappears. Or, as we commonly say, the child's reasoning
powers, the faculty of abstraction and generalization, are not
adequately developed. So the subject-matter is evacuated of its logical
value, and, though it is what it is only from the logical standpoint, is
presented as stuff only for "memory." This is the contradiction: the
child gets the advantage neither of the adult logical formulation, nor
of his own native competencies of apprehension and response. Hence
the logic of the child is hampered and mortified, and we are almost
fortunate if he does not get actual non-science, flat and common-place
residua of what was gaining scientific vitality a generation or two
ago--degenerate reminiscence of what someone else once formulated on the
basis of the experience that some further person had, once upon a time,

The train of evils does not cease. It is all too common for opposed
erroneous theories to play straight into each other's hands.
Psychological considerations may be slurred or shoved one side; they
cannot be crowded out. Put out of the door, they come back through the
window. Somehow and somewhere motive must be appealed to, connection
must be established between the mind and its material. There is no
question of getting along without this bond of connection; the only
question is whether it be such as grows out of the material itself in
relation to the mind, or be imported and hitched on from some outside
source. If the subject-matter of the lessons be such as to have an
appropriate place within the expanding consciousness of the child, if it
grows out of his own past doings, thinkings, and sufferings, and grows
into application in further achievements and receptivities, then no
device or trick of method has to be resorted to in order to enlist
"interest." The psychologized _is_ of interest--that is, it is placed in
the whole of conscious life so that it shares the worth of that life.
But the externally presented material, conceived and generated in
standpoints and attitudes remote from the child, and developed in
motives alien to him, has no such place of its own. Hence the recourse
to adventitious leverage to push it in, to factitious drill to drive it
in, to artificial bribe to lure it in.

Three aspects of this recourse to outside ways for giving the
subject-matter some psychological meaning may be worth mentioning.
Familiarity breeds contempt, but it also breeds something like
affection. We get used to the chains we wear, and we miss them when
removed. 'Tis an old story that through custom we finally embrace
what at first wore a hideous mien. Unpleasant, because meaningless,
activities may get agreeable if long enough persisted in. _It is
possible for the mind to develop interest in a routine or mechanical
procedure if conditions are continually supplied which demand that mode
of operation and preclude any other sort._ I frequently hear dulling
devices and empty exercises defended and extolled because "the children
take such an 'interest' in them." Yes, that is the worst of it; the
mind, shut out from worthy employ and missing the taste of adequate
performance, comes down to the level of that which is left to it to
know and do, and perforce takes an interest in a cabined and cramped
experience. To find satisfaction in its own exercise is the normal law
of mind, and if large and meaningful business for the mind be denied, it
tries to content itself with the formal movements that remain to it--and
too often succeeds, save in those cases of more intense activity which
cannot accommodate themselves, and that make up the unruly and
_declassé_ of our school product. An interest in the formal apprehension
of symbols and in their memorized reproduction becomes in many pupils
a substitute for the original and vital interest in reality; and all
because, the subject-matter of the course of study being out of relation
to the concrete mind of the individual, some substitute bond to hold it
in some kind of working relation to the mind must be discovered and

The second substitute for living motivation in the subject-matter is
that of contrast-effects; the material of the lesson is rendered
interesting, if not in itself, at least in contrast with some
alternative experience. To learn the lesson is more interesting than to
take a scolding, be held up to general ridicule, stay after school,
receive degradingly low marks, or fail to be promoted. And very much of
what goes by the name of "discipline," and prides itself upon opposing
the doctrines of a soft pedagogy and upon upholding the banner of effort
and duty, is nothing more or less than just this appeal to "interest" in
its obverse aspect--to fear, to dislike of various kinds of physical,
social, and personal pain. The subject-matter does not appeal; it cannot
appeal; it lacks origin and bearing in a growing experience. So the
appeal is to the thousand and one outside and irrelevant agencies which
may serve to throw, by sheer rebuff and rebound, the mind back upon the
material from which it is constantly wandering.

Human nature being what it is, however, it tends to seek its motivation
in the agreeable rather than in the disagreeable, in direct pleasure
rather than in alternative pain. And so has come up the modern theory
and practice of the "interesting," in the false sense of that term. The
material is still left; so far as its own characteristics are concerned,
just material externally selected and formulated. It is still just
so much geography and arithmetic and grammar study; not so much
potentiality of child-experience with regard to language, earth, and
numbered and measured reality. Hence the difficulty of bringing the mind
to bear upon it; hence its repulsiveness; the tendency for attention to
wander; for other acts and images to crowd in and expel the lesson.
The legitimate way out is to transform the material; to psychologize
it--that is, once more, to take it and to develop it within the range
and scope of the child's life. But it is easier and simpler to leave it
as it is, and then by trick of method to _arouse_ interest, to _make_ it
_interesting_; to cover it with sugar-coating; to conceal its barrenness
by intermediate and unrelated material; and finally, as it were, to get
the child to swallow and digest the unpalatable morsel while he is
enjoying tasting something quite different. But alas for the analogy!
Mental assimilation is a matter of consciousness; and if the attention
has not been playing upon the actual material, that has not been
apprehended, nor worked into faculty.

How, then, stands the case of Child _vs._ Curriculum? What shall the
verdict be? The radical fallacy in the original pleadings with which we
set out is the supposition that we have no choice save either to leave
the child to his own unguided spontaneity or to inspire direction upon
him from without. Action is response; it is adaptation, adjustment.
There is no such thing as sheer self-activity possible--because all
activity takes place in a medium, in a situation, and with reference to
its conditions. But, again, no such thing as imposition of truth from
without, as insertion of truth from without, is possible. All depends
upon the activity which the mind itself undergoes in responding to what
is presented from without. Now, the value of the formulated wealth of
knowledge that makes up the course of study is that it may enable the
educator to _determine the environment of the child_, and thus by
indirection to direct. Its primary value, its primary indication, is for
the teacher, not for the child. It says to the teacher: Such and such
are the capacities, the fulfilments, in truth and beauty and behavior,
open to these children. Now see to it that day by day the conditions are
such that _their own activities_ move inevitably in this direction,
toward such culmination of themselves. Let the child's nature fulfil its
own destiny, revealed to you in whatever of science and art and industry
the world now holds as its own.

The case is of Child. It is his present powers which are to assert
themselves; his present capacities which are to be exercised; his
present attitudes which are to be realized. But save as the teacher
knows, knows wisely and thoroughly, the race-expression which is
embodied in that thing we call the Curriculum, the teacher knows neither
what the present power, capacity, or attitude is, nor yet how it is to
be asserted, exercised, and realized.

      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note.

Two half-title pages have been omitted.

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