You are here

Chapter XXI: Education and the Science of Education

In the fundamental sense, education is the cultural process by which successive generations of men take their places in history. Nature has assigned an indispensable role to education through the prolongation of human infancy, and through the plasticity of human faculties. By nature man is not equipped for life but with capacities that enable him to learn how to live. Since it is generally agreed that acquired characteristics are not inherited education assumes the full burden of bringing men “up to date,” creating “the modern man” of the 1953, or any other latest, model. Through education men acquire the civilization of the past, and are enabled both to take part in the civilization of the present, and make the civilization of the future. In short, the purpose of education is three-fold: inheritance, participation, and contribution.

It is quite conceivable that any one of these elements should be so accentuated as to exclude or obscure the other two: as when education is conceived as a mere deposit and preservation of the past, or as a mere fitting of individuals to an existing society, or as a mere preparation for the years to come, whether in this world or the next. Its full significance rests upon the idea of human life as a going concern into which successive generations of persons are initiated, in which at any given time, they play their roles, and to which they give a fresh impulse of creative inventiveness. This statement should serve to correct the abstractions, accidents, and one-sidednesses by which the role of education in human life is belittled.

As persons are born, grow old, and die, they preserve the achievements of the race through their overlapping. The young can begin where the old left off. Were it not for education in this sense each generation would be compelled to begin the life of man all over again. There would be no continuity and growth save within that small span of years accorded to the individual.

But men are not mere depositories and channels of transmission, because of the nature of that which is transmitted. When we speak of man's inheritance of the past we do not refer to the fact that inorganic bodies outlast organic bodies. The tools found in geological deposits have endured when their users have perished, the bones remain after the flesh and blood have disintegrated, and the monuments are more enduring than their builders; but education as inheritance of the civilization of the past refers to precisely that which, in this physical sense, is least durable. The content of civilization consists not of things, like granite and metal, which are comparatively resistant to wind and weather, to pressure, erosion, and chemical action, but of ideas, sentiments, and habits whose vehicles are highly perishable; and these can be preserved only through being perpetually reincarnated in human persons. Those who inherit the civilization of the past must live it in their own day; hence there can be no separation between education as inheritance and education as participation.

Participation in the life of the present is likewise inseparable from the life of the future. The human inheritance embraces unfinished tasks, a doing of something that can be done better or worse. There is thus not only a continuity of achievements but a continuity of standards by which achievements are recognized as falling short — as leaving something to be desired. In different degrees, and with more or less of conscious pur-posiveness, men attempt to improve upon the past, and to bequeath more than they have inherited.

Because the future is only partially and uncertainly predictable, and because human faculties are inventive and resourceful, education for the future implies education for a future which is of man's own making. This has been held to be the essentially democratic and American idea of education:

We must concentrate upon teaching our children to walk so steadily that we need not hew too straight and narrow paths for them but can trust them to make new paths through difficulties we never encountered to a future of which we have no inkling today.1


Since man's education traverses the whole content of civilization and extends throughout his life, education is capable of many divisions and subdivisions. All such divisions should be viewed with suspicion. They are necessary, but misleading, since they tend to obscure the over-all purpose of education.

Thus education is both personal and social: personal, because the end result is a condition of the individual and so essential to his well-being as to constitute a recognized right; social, because it is a matter of such great concern to society as to require special instruments and forms of organization which justify its claim to be regarded as an institution.

The distinction between self-education and education by external agencies is permissible only if it be recognized that education is always both. Education cannot be imposed on merely passive or receptive minds. All of the figures of speech which suggest this, and which depict the mind as a receptacle into which knowledge can be poured, falsify the actual nature of the educational process. External influences obtain access to the mind only when the mind opens its doors from the inside, even if it be only by the act of attention. This is the truth proclaimed by so-called “progressive” education, and which has been perpetually proclaimed by the educational reformers of all ages. Men learn by exercising themselves, by following their interests, by trying to succeed; and if education is to educate it must release the springs of such activities.

But it is one of the immense advantages of human over animal learning that a man can learn “cognitively,” that is, from what other people have already learned, and not only from his own experience. If the human mind is to realize its greatest possibilities of growth, it must be nourished from without; if its activities are not to be random and wasteful, it must be guided; if it is to find what it needs, it must be told where to look; if it is to know, it must be compelled to face the stubborn facts of nature; if it is to learn how to live, it must adapt itself to its existing social environment. Education involves restraint, redirection, and control, by those who “know better.” Spontaneity and discipline are two halves of one whole, and they should not be separated by an either-or and developed into opposing educational cults.

Education is often divided into parts which correspond to the supposed parts of human nature — into education of the mind and education of the body, or into education of the intellect and education of the emotions and will. These abstractions are professedly rejected in modern times owing to the decline of psycho-physical dualism and facultative psychology; and the ancient Greeks are praised for having avoided them. But in practice, by omission if not by commission, these divisions stubbornly persist, and falsify the undeniable fact that human nature is physical, emotional, and volitional as well as intellectual.

There is a familiar distinction between that vocational or professional education by which the individual is fitted for a place in the social division of labor, and that “general education” which conduces to self-development and association with his fellows on common ground. This distinction tends to obscure the fact that by becoming a specialist the individual does not cease to be a man among men, and the fact that there can be no special education which does not affect a man's personality and fit or unfit him for human association.

Education is commonly divided into so-called formal and informal education. By ‘formal education’ is meant education by agencies, such as schools and teachers, expressly devised for educational purposes. ‘Informal education’ will then be the name given to the remainder, such as parental education, or education by friendship, religion, press, radio, theatre, books, and occupation. The merit of this distinction lies in the repetition of the word ‘education,’ implying that informal education is also education. It should be added that informal education is the greater part of education. It precedes, accompanies, permeates, and supersedes formal education. Formal education is largely forgotten, and it is a part of its task to teach men how to teach themselves and how to learn from influences which are not expressly designed for educational purposes.

Formal education leads to a division of education into “subjects,” which make up the so-called “curriculum.” The division of labor and the introduction of schedules has led to the illusion that nature, society, and history themselves are made up of distinct subjects; as though the pattern of creation were a sort of handbook of studies.

Grossly misleading, too, is the division of education by the age of the educated; child education and adult education, or elementary, secondary, and higher education. Most misleading of all is the idea that education comes in the earlier years and ceases at some indeterminate point between 18 and 30. There is ground for such a division. Some things are best learned in early years when the individual's instincts and spontaneities incline him to their learning; certain things are best taught before certain other things, because the later things are built upon, and make use of, the earlier things. It is well to learn to walk before one engages in field work; and it is well to learn to read before one learns from books. It is also true that habits are formed in the course of time, and that they accumulate and harden; so that the mind is more impressionable in earlier years, both in the sense that it is more open to new impressions and in the sense that what is then impressed is likely to be more lasting.

But these facts have led to an exaggeration of the differences between childhood, youth, and age. The mind is impressionable at all ages; and it is one of the tasks of education to see that it remains impressionable. The mind is not a limited space, as though, having been filled in early years, no room is left for more. On the contrary, the more one knows, the more one can learn. One can unlearn as well as learn. Old habits can be broken and new habits created so long as any time remains. That greater wisdom which was once imputed to the old consisted not in the mere deposit of years, but in ripeness and perspective, and in having acquired more to learn with, in having had more time to learn and to “learn better.”


Since education is a public, as well as a private, concern, it is socially organized. Hence the school, college, university or other institution conducting “formal education,” and hence the “curriculum.” In ancient times society did not try to teach everything, even though there was comparatively little to teach. At the time of the Renaissance, and during the centuries that followed, the vast and rapid increase of knowledge broke against the barriers of a rigid and exclusive system. Until recently the history of education has consisted largely in the opening of doors and windows, so that more and more of the newly recognized knowledge could obtain admission; as though the purpose were to extend the bounds of education to the limit of omniscience.

The increase of the corpus of knowledge, together with its elaboration and specialization, has now far exceeded the possibilities of formal education. There is vastly more to know than there is time and capacity either to teach or to learn. The present problem, therefore, is not the problem of inclusion but the problem of selection.

There are two divisions of education in which the increase of human cultural achievement appears to cause no embarrassment — elementary education, and vocational education. If elementary education is taken to mean the teaching and learning of “the elements,” such as “the 3 R's,” there is no curricular problem. But this implies an artificial conception of childhood. “The child is father of the man,” and has to be dealt with accordingly — as a growing adult. Elementary education is not a finished product, complete in itself, but a phase of unfolding. There is no fixed number of years and months at which childhood can be said to end and manhood or womanhood to begin. Elementary education must therefore be forward in its outlook, and so contrived that at each stage the child is prepared for the next. His education must not only feed his growth but stimulate it, and offer the individual something which lies at the ever-widening circumference of his existing powers. The child is also a person, or begins to be at an indeterminate age; he is never merely a reader, writer, and doer of sums. He has his world to live in; and he must live in the same world with his contemporary elders.

Vocational education is also an abstraction. The individual must at some point acquire one or more marketable skills. But no man or woman is designed to be merely a mechanic, a clerk, a tradesman, a lawyer, or a doctor. To educate him only for a division of labor is to mutilate him. As Emerson has said, organized society tends to make of its members “so many walking monsters — a … finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.”2 Vocational education has a duty to avoid this offense to man's nature and dignity, and to educate a man and not a mere interchangeable part of the social mechanism.

It is in the field of secondary and higher education that the problem of the curriculum is most acute. Since studies must be selected it is imperative that they shall be selected for a purpose: not because they coincide with certain portions of knowledge and life, but because they serve the purpose of education. The question is confused by the fact that the teaching staff in institutions of higher education, if not in secondary schools, is composed of “scholars” who are at the same time devoted to the advancement of knowledge. This is not accidental or undesirable, since each activity in some degree promotes the other. It is one of the purposes of education to learn what knowledge is, and how it is advanced, and no one can teach this lesson as well as one who practices what he preaches and exhibits the methods and passion of inquiry in his own person. Nevertheless there is a conflict of interest between education and research. When they are combined in the same men and institutions there will be a tendency to reduce research to the content of the curriculum, or to expand the curriculum to the widening frontier of knowledge.

If the curriculum is to be judged by its purpose of education the admission of any subject matter must be tested by the lesson to be learned. How far, and in what respects, does it put the learner in possession of his cultural inheritance, enable him to participate in the contemporary world, and qualify him to contribute to the civilization of the future?

Thus the so-called “natural sciences” should teach two lessons — nature and science. The individual should learn that his lot is cast in a physical environment, by which he is controlled, and which he can control in turn. He should learn, in broad outline, what is known about that physical environment. At the same time, he should learn what science is — a body of certified knowledge transmitted and perpetually augmented; and how it is achieved — its methods and proofs. In learning what is true he should learn what truth is, and acquire a respect for its objectivity. He should capture something of the spirit of inquiry. And he should learn the limits of science, and its role, for better or for worse, in civilization.

From the so-called “social sciences” — ethics, political science, jurisprudence, and economics — the individual should learn similar lessons of objectivity, rigorous thought, and intellectual invention. He should become acquainted with the general structure of his institutional environment, with emphasis on the difference between the culture which man creates and the nature which he takes as he finds it. He should learn that he is what he is because of his human environment and antecedents. But at the same time he should learn that the major social institutions are moral institutions, dedicated to the purpose of peaceful and coöperative achievement. From sociology he should learn of the solidarity of culture, and from history the lessons of history; what history is, and enough of its content to plot the general course of man's life on the planet and identify his own place on its map. He should acquire a sense of belonging to the army of mankind — a sense of the success and failures which have attended its march, and of the unfinished tasks which are left to his own and future generations. He should learn the perspective and the patience which are required for all long-range human achievements; and courage to face the indeterminate future.

Literature and the fine arts should acquaint the student with objects of aesthetic enjoyment; and excite his enjoyment of them, while at the same time developing a refined and discriminating taste. He should acquire some stirring of creative impulse, and a love of truth and beauty as ends in themselves which transcend the utilities of practical life and the bare requirements of morality.

Philosophy, in its general sense, and whether it be taught under that name by so-called philosophers or conveyed through the philosophical-mindedness of teachers of other subjects, has its own irreplaceable educational values. It should fix attention on that all-inclusive togetherness of things which is both the first step of naïveté and the last step of sophistication. Its object is that dimly outlined and inexhaustible immensity which is called “the universe,” or “the world.” At the same time, because it takes nothing for granted, philosophy should stimulate the critical faculties and challenge every ready-made assumption.

Summarizing both what is and what ought to be, philosophy provides the basis for that ultimate synthesis of existence and value which, when converted into a faith to live by, constitutes religion. At the same time from the study of religion and of education itself, the individual should learn of those values which not only embrace the requirements of man's organized living but add some glimpse of perfection.

This summary statement of the curricula of secondary and higher education does not imply the exclusion of studies designed to provide specific information or vocational skills. It does not imply that the curriculum shall omit concentration of attention upon one or more of the special divisions of human knowledge and experience. It does not define a “practicable” program of study. It is designed only to provide criteria by which from a vast range of subject matter formal education shall select, within limits of time and capacity, that which will best serve the purpose of an education for all.


Over and above formal or organized education, there is an unorganized education which proceeds unceasingly.3 When the child first goes to school he has already been educated. While he is in school or college he is being educated by his family life, by his association with contemporaries of all ages, and within the school or college itself by all the experiences of which attendance at school provides the occasion, but which fall outside its curriculum. And after leaving college the individual continues to be educated by his vocational activities, by his friendships and neighborly contacts, by his children and grandchildren, by his adventures with nature, by his participation in social institutions, by whatever he imbibes through his eyes and ears. He continues to be educated up to his death, his last and perhaps most poignant lesson, from which, in this world at least, he is given no opportunity of profiting.

It is an ironical and inescapable fact that while this non-formal education would be generally admitted to be the larger part of education, speaking the first word and the last word, and never remitted, it is left largely to chance. That tardy and half-hearted educational effort known as “adult education” is pitifully incommensurate with the task, and can be accounted as little more than the symptom of a remorseful conscience.

The greater part of education is educationally purposeless. This is inevitable because these all-pervasive and ceaseless educational forces are, and must be, organized for other purposes. The family, conscience, polity, law, economy, science, art, and religion have their own purposes to serve, and they cannot serve them best if they are bent to the special requirements of informing, training, and edifying the partially educated.

To canvass the influences which impinge upon the individual throughout his life, which shape and mold his mind, would far exceed the limits of a mere chapter on education. There is an aspect of this question, however, which merits special attention at the present time, and which is of crucial importance for the immediate future of mankind: the effect, namely, of the instruments of mass communication. The urban and national newspaper, and the weekly magazine, with circulations in the millions, the radio, the newsreel, and now television, perhaps greatest of all in its potentialities for the future, have created channels through which opinions and sentiments are carried to the listening ears and watchful eyes of vast multitudes. A man in official position, or any unofficial person who can “make the news,” or a public or private agency which controls the instruments of publicity, can command the attention of a public that now embraces all the nations of the earth.

The man at the microphone or before the camera, or who sits at the editorial desk, eclipses the teacher in his classroom.

The revolutionary advance of the arts of mass communication is sometimes considered to be in itself evidence of educational progress; whereas it signifies only a multiplication of the instruments of education — for better or for worse. It is true that the advance of communication argues a spread of literacy, that is, of the capacity to attach a meaning to spoken and written words or to graphic representations. The minds of more men more of the time have become more accessible, and more vulnerable, to visual and auditory signs.

But if by education is meant educational values — inheritance of tradition, participation in the life of the present, contribution to the civilization of the future, acquisition of correct information, respect for true and certified knowledge, understanding of the moral standard of social institutions, capacity for sound judgment, refinement of aesthetic taste, perspectives of history, love of perfection, the sense of an environing universe — if education means such things as these, then there is no reason whatever to suppose that more communication implies more education. For if one were to make a list of all the opposites, and call them educational disvalues, or forms of maleducation, then the new agencies of mass communication could serve these equally well. And this, in large measure, is precisely what they do.4

The sobering fact is that the agencies of mass communication do not operate under educational controls. They can be used for education, but they need not be. They provide educational facilities; but facilities which lend themselves to a purpose do not necessarily serve it: they may serve a quite different purpose. The agencies of mass communication, broadly speaking, serve a commercial purpose. Publicity is a free enterprise, which means that it is one of the many ways in which private entrepreneurs make their private fortunes. It prospers in proportion to the size of its public, and its concern is to reach and satisfy the largest possible number of consumers. It will excite a demand for the goods which it produces, and since it is interested in the volume of its sales it will therefore excite the sort of demand which is excitable on a large scale.5 It moves in a circle. Having created a public demand it will then produce what its public demands. Since the creation of a mass mind can scarcely be said to be the purpose of education, mass communication and education thus work at cross purposes.

What is the remedy? There are three possibilities, no one of which is to be neglected. The first possibility is to reform the producers. There is no maker of books, newspapers, magazines, films, or radio and television who is not at times overtaken with a sense of his educational responsibilities. But in the last analysis the producer is likely to say that in a competitive economy he is not in business for his health, or even for the health of society, but to pay wages, salaries, and dividends. The rewards of commercial success, and the risks of commercial failure, will operate as stronger incentives than his educational conscience, and the prevailing code of the economic game will justify him.

The second possibility is to place the agencies of mass communication under the control of government, acting in the interest of public education. But assuming that government is governed by such a purpose it will then create the opinion on which it rests, which violates the maxim that political authority originates with the people. This is only a fraction of the difficulty. For a public control of the agencies which affect people's minds — a control which is not unknown in certain parts of the world — kills the spirit of intellectual, imaginative, and artistic inventiveness, and erects the government into the role of a colossal demagogue who treats the people as wards to be spoon-fed by their betters.

There remains a third possibility, which is to control the agencies of publicity not directly through the reform of their producers or the control of government, but indirectly through the education of the consumers. Those who justify the agencies of mass communication as they are, pass the responsibility on to the customer, and say that the people get what they want. The third possibility, then, is to accept this transfer of responsibility, and look to the character and quality of what the people want. If they learn to want what is good for their minds and souls the agencies of publicity will then be compelled by their economic interest to cater to this higher demand, and to invent ways of satisfying it. Every rise in the level of demand will then lead to an improvement of the product, and this in turn will confirm and further raise the level of demand. The circle will be benign and not vicious.

This places immense responsibility on the educational institutions, a responsibility which they are at present not wholly qualified to discharge. The school, college, and university are non-profit-making enterprises. They owe allegiance to no end save the end of education. In forming the minds of the to-be-educated they are not usurping any other social or cultural function, but are merely doing what they are designed to do. This remedy calls for a new orientation of formal education. It implies that during the period of his education proper the individual shall be made ready for his education improper. The phrase “education to prepare for later life” will be amended to add “education to prepare for the education of later life.”

It has been said that it is comparatively easy to get educated — the difficult thing is to stay educated. If formal education is to bear its fruit in after years it must be well rooted. It must be firm enough to stand against the influence of business and professional associates, the temptations to popularity, the mass opinion and sentiment of his contemporaries, the bias of political party, the reiterations of his daily newspaper or radio broadcast, and all the forces which conspire to possess and use him. As an educated man he must be a source and not a mere receptacle: he must have a mind that he can properly call his own.

But independence does not suffice. The greater part of his learning will come in these same after years in which his integrity is threatened. He must know not only how to escape from drowning, but how to swim. To this end he must be made acquainted in advance with the opportunities of his future and continuing education. He must learn how to make use of art, books, newspapers, magazines, radio, cinema, television, speeches, or the talk of the town, so that he may draw nourishment from them — nourishment without corruption. He must learn to discriminate and choose amidst the welter of publicity which will beset him. He must acquire a sales resistance, and yet know how to buy; an initial scepticism which will nevertheless permit him to accept and believe.


The science of education, like the other cultural sciences, will employ the explanatory, normative, and technological methods: What are the conditions and forces which bring education to pass? Is it good or bad education? What are the methods by which an educational end can be realized?

The explanatory method of educational science is beset by an ambiguity which requires clarification. If ‘education’ is taken to mean the process by which individuals absorb the content of social tradition, and are enabled to profit by it in their present life and their making of the future, it embraces both the content of the tradition and also the manner in which it is transmitted. Werner Jaeger has pointed out that this ambiguity attended the use in antiquity of the Greek term paideia:

Originally the concept paideia had applied only to the process of education. Now its significance grew to include the objective side, the content of paideia — just as our word culture or the Latin cultura, having once meant the process of education, came to mean the state of being educated; and then the content of education, and finally the whole intellectual and spiritual world revealed by education, into which any individual, according to his nationality or social position, is born … Accordingly it was perfectly natural for the Greeks in and after the fourth century, when the idea was finally crystallized, to use the word paideia — in English, culture — to describe all the artistic forms and the intellectual and aesthetic achievements of their race, in fact the whole content of their tradition.6

That part of the science of education which explains the content of education will be concerned with the historical and social conditions which determine the choice and order of studies. It is clear that the curriculum reflects the order of interests in any given society. In a theocratic society, first place will be given to religious studies; in a socialist society, to the social sciences; in a culture dominated by the veneration of antiquity, to the ancient languages and literatures; the increasing emphasis on the natural sciences reflects the advance of technology. In a society with a considerable leisured class the emphasis will tend to be on the educational luxuries; in a society governed by the motive of rising in life, the emphasis will tend to be placed on the educational necessities. In a political democracy special attention will be given to such studies as prepare for citizenship.

The explanation of the process of education, as distinguished from its content, has led to a present emphasis on social psychology and the psychology of personality. Plato's recognition of the educational influence of those “fair sights and sounds” to which the youth of his ideal state would be exposed, was largely blind or indifferent to the way in which the influence took effect. Modern educational science emphasizes imitation, suggestion, emotional contagion, and prestige. It attacks the complicated and subtle question of the so-called learning process.7 It is becoming increasingly aware of the effects of language and other symbols, and of all nuances of meaning which these derive from the social context in which they are used. At the same time attention is directed to individual differences of age, sex, and right or left-handedness, to peculiarities of memory and sensory imagination, to the effects of climate and health, to the ventilation of classrooms, and to the vitamin content of the school luncheon. All the sciences of man and society, not only psychology, but biology, anthropology, sociology, and all the sciences of inorganic nature, physics, chemistry, and biology contribute to the better understanding of how the mind of any given individual is shaped and furnished. When education is organized, with teachers and students, grades for advancement, programs of studies, the science of education is called upon to explain the educational system itself. How did the role of teacher arise? Was the first teacher the parent or the priest? What conditions have defined the period of education? Is it the respect for childhood?

The demand for child labor? The greater or less pressure of livelihood? What are the conditions which have given rise to the specialized institutions, such as primary and secondary schools, private and public schools, colleges and universities, professional and technological schools? The economical division of labor? The social and political structure? The distribution of wealth?

Education, like any social function, may be judged, normatively, by external standards. Much that passes for educational critique is of this type. The existing educational practices may be judged by the prejudices of the judge or of his class; by the prevailing conscience of the times; by political, legal, or economic standards; by aesthetic or scientific interests or scruples; by the articles of a religious faith or an ideal of piety; by the general characteristics of a social or national culture. Of such external critiques there is no end. Suffice it here to recognize the legitimacy of all such critiques, in order to pass on to the internal critique, that is, the judgment of education by what education is for.

The internal normative part of educational science is divisible into an instrumental and a purposive critique. Instrumentally speaking an educational process would be deemed to have the minimum of value when nothing was imparted and nothing learned. On the side of the agent the zero point of education would be represented by the individual who was so inexpressive, uncommunicative, and inarticulate as to exert no influence on others. Similarly the zero point of education on the side of the recipient would be represented by an individual whose mind was closed, incapable of growth, completely insulated or habituated. And from these lower limits education may rise to different degrees of effectiveness. In education, as in polity, law, or economy, the process may be blocked, and its function thwarted, by its own by-products: as when the learner through the scattering of his attention learns nothing well; or when the multiplication of educational impacts results only in confusion; or when, owing to the elaborate organization of the educational institution, the administration building overshadows the classroom.

Education, like other social institutions, has not only its specific function but its ulterior purpose. But while the ulterior purpose of conscience, polity, law, and economy is moral, the ulterior purpose of education, like that of religion, extends beyond morality. Education is concerned not only to harmonize the individual's several interests and fit him for participation in a peaceful and coöperative social life, but to develop his intellectual and aesthetic interests for their own sakes and advance him as far as possible toward their own intrinsic perfections.

Educational science has also its technology. Given any task which involves the shaping of men's minds, educational science will tell him how to do it. Nazi propaganda borrows the techniques of American advertising. Bad, that is, mendacious or socially undesirable, advertising may, up to a certain point, employ the same techniques as truthful and beneficial advertising. Education for war and conquest and education for peace and freedom draw from the same bag of tricks. In short, educational technology, like all technology, is neutral. The range of educational technology is as wide as the range of causes and conditions, mental and physical, which produce educational effects. If it be said in any given case that the arts of teaching or propaganda are not truly educational, this may mean that they are inefficient, or it may mean that they do not serve the ulterior purpose of education.


Education, whether formal or informal, is finally justified by its own purpose. Taking its own purpose as a standard it may be praised as faithful to its purpose or condemned as unfaithful. The teacher — using this term broadly to mean the exerter of the educational influence — may keep the educational end clearly in view and choose the appropriate means; and he is then the educational “statesman,” after the analogy of his political counterpart. Or he may act blindly and shortsightedly.

Like all institutions education tends to a displacement of the end by the means, the product by the machinery, the subject matter by the method. Academicism or scholasticism is the educational parallel of scrupulosity in conscience, of statism and the spoils system in polity, of legalism in law, of “business is business” in economy, of virtuosity in art, of verbalism in literature, of technologism in science, of ecclesiasticism in religion — of all the “isms” which represent the tendency to become so preoccupied with the instrument that its purpose is forgotten and defeated.

The varieties of this self-defeat in formal education are numerous and familiar: the vested interest of the teacher, and his preoccupation with his professional interest at the expense of the student by whose education his role is justified; the substitution of the pedagogy of subjects for the subjects themselves, and the substitution of the subject of pedagogy for the pedagogy of subjects; the fitting of matters taught to methods of teaching, instead of methods of teaching to the matters taught. The last of these self-defeating tendencies deserves special emphasis. A contemporary educational leader has said:

The proposition that what is taught should be taught as interestingly as possible does not mean that what is interesting is what should be taught. The function of the educator is to figure out what should be taught and then teach it in as stimulating a fashion as he can. The factor that should determine what is taught is not interest but a decision about how to produce individual happiness, good citizenship, and the improvement of society.8

A similar displacement of the end by the means appears in the tendency to teach what is most easily taught. That which is most easily communicated is information. It requires a teacher who knows more than his students, but such teachers are not hard to find, especially if they are prepared in a restricted field and are allowed themselves to arrange the schedule lest they be caught unprepared. In fact, this form of teaching is so easy that it may be superseded altogether, either by texts or by the radio and phonograph; with a resulting technological unemployment of the teaching profession. No one would soberly affirm that the stimulation and guidance of creative art or thought, the sensitization of the aesthetic feelings and the formation of taste, the implanting of the moral will or an intelligent concern for bodily and mental health, are not proper parts of education, or that they are of negligible importance. They are not negligible, but they are neglected, mainly for the reason that the educational machine is not suited to their imparting.

This tendency to fit the task to the instrument rather than the instrument to the task appears also in the shape which studies tend to assume when they are embraced within the formal program. They must be teachable by books; and achievement must be examinable and measurable. The extreme of this teaching appears in the reduction of the content of a subject to questions capable of a “yes” or “no” answer. The art of hygiene appears in the shape of a required, and often despised, course in human physiology. The fine arts and literature appear in the form of their history, authorship, and influences. Musicology is substituted for music. Ideas are reduced to the time and place of their occurrence, to the neglect of their meaning and proof. Religious piety is replaced by comparative religion, the history of religion, or biblical literature. And so all along the line the thing to be taught and learned, prescribed by the fundamental purpose of education, is subordinated to the convenience of teaching it. It is necessary to reflect upon what it is all for, lest as men learn more about the business of education they become more and more concerned with the business and less and less concerned with education.


When education is directed to a definite and preconceived end, it is exposed to the charge of indoctrination. Education can, it is objected, be too purposeful. History affords many examples of educational procedures which owe their success to the clarity of their aims; but which are said to have paid an excessive price for this success. According to Thucydides, Spartan education was eminently successful; that is, it produced results by rigidly adhering to its military purpose. But as compared with the laxer and vaguer education of Athens, it was harsh and repressive. Jesuit education in the sixteenth century was eminently successful in producing a specific blend of scholasticism, Latin humanism, and Catholic orthodoxy which proved to be too old a bottle to contain the new wines of science, vernacular literature, and secular thought. Calvinistic education in Switzerland, Scotland, and New England succeeded in inculcating a prescribed morals and piety, but at the price of bigotry and intolerance. The English system of public schools and universities in the nineteenth century was designed to produce cultivated English gentlemen, and it accomplished its design at the cost of intellectual and social exclusiveness.

In our own day the outstanding examples of educational purposiveness are afforded by nazism and communism. Both have succeeded, and the latter continues to succeed, in molding the minds of youth after a preconceived pattern. Their success is due to the definiteness of the pattern itself, and to the harnessing of every available force that will contribute to the result, and the relentless exclusion of every distracting or opposing influence. Nazism employed education to implant in the German youth the cult of racial superiority, of military discipline, of unquestioning obedience, of devotion to the Führer; and to this end it controlled all of the cultural forces — science, philosophy, religion, press, literature, music, art, symbolism and pageantry — by which the mind of youth is molded, and which in their total impact created an irresistible spell and hypnotic fixation. Communism, likewise, discourages every cultural development which proceeds from independent thought and imagination, and which fails to reiterate the theme of the class struggle and the proletarian revolution.

On a less portentous scale the same concentrated purposefulness appears in dominating parents who make the minds of their children from infancy, whether by intimidation or by the more disarming methods of demanding love. Or it appears in the school in which, by prescribed studies and the prestige of teachers, the pupils are made to be what their elders think they ought to be. Over and over again this theme is repeated. A fixed educational purpose is adopted, methodically pursued, and successfully fulfilled. When such educational procedure is criticized by the educational reformer it is not because it is purposeless or because it is unsuccessful. On the contrary, it is held to be too purposeful and only too successful.

Thus there arises the fundamental dilemma of education. To define in advance an end result and then to seek by all possible means to achieve it, is held to be too narrowing, too repressive, too authoritarian. But if, on the other hand, there is no end in view, educational activity is confused and incoherent. Its various parts and successive phases do not add up to anything. Without a definition of the end there is no test by which means can be selected, and no standard by which practice can be criticized and improved.

There is an escape from this dilemma if we look to the grounds on which indoctrination is condemned. Why does the critic find the nazi method, the communist method, the strict parental or scholastic method, objectionable? Because it is narrow, rigid, and authoritarian. But if he is against these things he must be for their opposites: namely, breadth, flexibility, and freedom.

These opposites and other kindred ideas themselves define an end — an end that can be methodically and consistently pursued, and that must be methodically and consistently pursued if it is to be realized. The weakness of educational self-criticism is its failure to acknowledge and make explicit the positive purpose which underlies its scruples. It protests against authority, rigidity, and narrowness — in the name of what? It hesitates to name the name lest it be itself guilty of the same faults. And because it fails to proclaim a positive end of its own, it lacks the dynamism which springs from conviction and enthusiasm.

Educational leadership has failed to see how constructive and far-reaching are the principles which underlie its critical judgments. To enable the student to think for himself and make up his own mind; to implant in him a respect for the similar right and opportunity of others; to support institutions in which teachers and students shall enjoy intellectual and cultural freedoms among themselves; to create a society in which such institutions shall be promoted and protected, and which shall be pervaded throughout by similar freedoms — this is a positive end, than which no end could be more positive and more constructive. It defines a task calling for devotion, courage, and effort. It is capable of creating its symbols, saints, heroes, and martyrs.

Mussolini was correct in insisting that there is no subject in which the teacher's influence may not be exerted:

One will say that geography and mathematics are by nature non-political. Such may be the case, but also the contrary. Their teaching can do good or harm. From the elevation of his chair, certain words, an intonation, an allusion, a judgment, a bit of statistics, coming from the professor suffice to produce a political effect. That is why a professor of mathematics plays a political role and should be a fascist.9

The objection to Mussolini's idea of indoctrination does not lie in the fact of the teacher's influence but in the fact that he may misuse it, by prostituting it to irrelevant political dogma, and by distorting the subject matter. There is an influence of the teacher to which no exception can be taken on any grounds, which is the influence of his own scholarly integrity. The rightful freedom of minds, the maxims of consistency and experimental proof, of intellectual honesty, of tolerance and persuasion, are themselves doctrines. And they have many implications. These beliefs together with their personal and social implications constitute a body of indoctrination to which no objection can be raised; for he who opposes such indoctrination will himself exemplify it.

There are vast bodies of attested truth, within the domain of the natural and social sciences which may properly be accepted on authority, since their proof lies beyond the capacity or the leisure of the layman. Only a minute portion of mankind can understand the evidence for nuclear physics, or the theory of relativity, or the principles of heredity, or the chemical composition of celestial bodies, or the historical causes of the French Revolution. If the educated man's beliefs were restricted to those which he can prove for himself, the effect of education would be to impoverish and not enrich the mind; the educated man would be more ignorant than the man on the street who borrows his beliefs freely from others. But while education must invoke the authority of experts, it may initiate him into the secret of their expertness, so that he becomes the vicarious adherent of the experts’ spirit of free inquiry.


The standing paradox of education is the comparative neglect of moral education. Its importance is pointed up by the grave crises of modern civilization. The development of technology culminating in the applications of nuclear physics threatens to destroy mankind; and they can be converted to good, rather than destructive uses, only provided they are subject to a moral control. Society is threatened at home by the conflict between employment and labor, and the only possible solution of the problem is a moral solution. Mankind lives under the horrid threat of a war in which all may go down together, and the only escape lies in implanting in the minds of men good will and the spirit of justice. Political democracy is profoundly corrupted by the development of the mass mind, and the only salvation of democracy is to instill in the people at large the virtue of integrity. Civil rights are perpetually jeopardized and often destroyed because the people neither understand them nor respect them. The favoritism and venality of public officials is notorious.

These things are well-known and repeatedly proclaimed. But what is done about it? Schools and colleges, designed for educational purposes, leave it to the home, the church, the Boy or Girl Scouts, or other private and more or less impromptu organizations. But even these agencies hesitate to assume responsibility. The home passes it on to the school, and the school passes it back to the home. The churches concern themselves largely with dogma and worship. Educational agencies rationalize their evasion of the task by professing their respect for the individual's personal independence. Where in the curriculum or other organized activities of secondary and higher education does training of the moral will and implanting of moral sentiments find a place? Perhaps in occasional so-called “inspirational” addresses delivered in the chapel or at convocations. But how much do these count in the totality of the influences which operate in the community? Does not the very fact that moral education is only occasional and incidental create a sense of its unimportance?

The moral purpose of education is obscured by the tendency to fall back on the vague notion of the development of the individual's latent possibilities.10 But it is evident that there is no educational process which does not develop the individual's latent possibilities — for better or for worse. The standard of development is no standard at all unless some idea of what is to be developed is introduced or read between the lines. If it so happened that man was constitutionally predisposed to good ends, as a plant is predisposed to bear a particular fruit or flower, then all that would be necessary would be to provide him with fertile soil, moisture, and sunlight, leaving the rest to the inherent forces of natural growth. But this is unhappily not the case. It is a notorious fact, reluctantly accepted by modern thought, that human individuals if merely permitted or encouraged to grow in accordance with their own innate propensities, will bear evil fruit as well as good. Even Christianity, proclaiming the extravagant dogma of man's creation in the image of God, has been realistic enough to recognize this horrid possibility, and has provided for it by the supplementary but equally extravagant dogmas of original sin and supernatural regeneration.

The idea that the purpose of education is the development of the individual's possibilities is a sound idea insofar as it springs from a recognition that education is for the benefit of the educated and not the benefit of the educator. It is the learner and not the teacher who is the ultimate consumer. He is an end in himself, and he can be reshaped only through his own responses. The fact remains, however, that moral education implies guidance and control — external guidance as a means to internal control. The teacher hesitates to exercise this guidance. Some years ago a body of educational experts recommended that children be taught that “The things that bring all men together are greater than the things that keep them apart”; and that the teacher have “a firm grasp of moral principles even accepting the risk that these may be called prejudices.” But the same report contained the reservation that “pupils must not be ‘conditioned’ to any set and determined ways of thinking.”11 It is clear that the reservation defeats the recommendation.

The remark that the moral teacher must take the risk of being considered prejudiced is also revealing. Morality is a prejudice — a prejudice in favor of justice and benevolence. The use of this word suggests that it is a petty eccentricity, an arbitrary peculiarity, like preferring blondes to brunettes or French dressing to mayonnaise. But if morality means that “the things that bring all men together are greater than the things that keep them apart,” as indeed it does, it underlies all human institutions, including education itself.

There would be less hesitation in teaching morality if it were thus recognized for what it is. It does not consist in a set of ready-made abstract maxims, imposed by conscience, custom, or external authority. It is not a mere expression of the so-called “mores” of any particular race, nation, or state, or of any historical era. It is not a code of repression or a mere dream of perfection. It arises from the universal human situation, in which man finds himself confronted by the necessity of reconciling conflicting interests. When morality is thus conceived as the form of personal and social organization which gives to individuals and minority groups the maximum of freedom consistent with living together peacefully and fruitfully; when it is conceived as fulfillment and not as negation of life; when it encourages diverse spontaneities and aspirations, requiring only that they shall not violate one another, and thus promises to the arts and sciences the fullest opportunity, consistent with order, to follow their own inherent passions for beauty and truth — when, in short, it makes room and does not merely confine, or confines only in order to make room — then it is seen to coincide with precisely those high motives which have led men to suspect moral education.

Moral education so fashions the individual's will as to fit him for participation in the moral institutions — the social conscience, polity, law, and economy. It implants in the individual such dispositions as shall enable him to live and work with others, both in the present and for the future, and on every level of human interaction and interdependence. To implant such dispositions is the task of those who are concerned with “personnel problems” and “morale,” in industry, in military organization, in private associations, and in the larger fields of national and global citizenship.

There are divers familiar ways in which this is done, differing in the degree to which the educable individual is taken into the confidence of the educator. The lowest form of moral education is that which relies on punishments artificially imposed for the protection of other interests. Or the individual can be brought to heel by the accusing consciences of others. Or, he may be morally educated by being initiated into the partial or prudential meaning of morality — through recognition of its so-called “natural consequences” for himself. He may learn by word, example, or directed experience, the destructive effects of conflict and the weakening effects of isolation; he may learn the blessings of peace and the fruitfulness of coöperation. Finally, he may be completely moralized through acquiring a good will, that is, an independent benevolence toward mankind and an allegiance to the goal of universal harmony.

On this last and highest level moral education relies on two forms of appeal. First, it appeals to reason, this being taken to mean men's faculty of objectivity. Thus it proclaims the Golden Rule, which teaches men to see themselves as others see them, and others as these others see themselves; it induces that attitude of detachment in which an interest is an interest whosesoever it be, and good is good to or for whomsoever it is good. Second, in its crowning phase, moral education must appeal to that natural sympathy, compassion, or fellow-feeling which moves one individual to adopt another's interest, and be moved to its support.


It has been amply demonstrated, if, indeed, it is not self-evident, that the education of the people at large is indispensable to democracy. Education is not merely a boon conferred by democracy, but a condition of its survival and of its becoming that which it undertakes to be.

Democracy is that form of social organization which most depends on personal character and moral autonomy. The members of a democratic society cannot be the wards of their betters; for there is no class of betters, but only a better part gathered from all the members, and finding collective expression in what is called “public opinion.” This, which in a democracy is the ultimate authority, is not, strictly speaking, opinion, but an interested attitude, a being for or against, a will, which is to be judged by moral standards as good will or ill will, and by cognitive standards as mediated by truth or error. The cultivation and firm implanting of enlightened good will in the body of its citizens is, then, the fundamental task of education for citizenship in a democracy.

Democracy demands of every man what in other forms of social organization is demanded only of a segment of society. Contrary to a common supposition, democracy is especially concerned with standards. As the debasing of standards to the level of the mass is the besetting weakness of democracy, so a clear and uncompromising definition of standards is its first educational duty. Democratic education should be an education up and not an education down — in all its stages. It will always ask more than it gets and develop capacity by straining it. It will encourage rather than congratulate.

Democracy divorces standards from any particular human embodiment. It does not identify labor with a working class, or government with a ruling class, or law with the profession of law, or business with a National Association of Manufacturers, or art with artists, or science with scientists, or education with educators, or religion with priests. Ideally speaking, all citizens of a democracy exercise all of these functions in different degrees and proportions, and each is therefore an epitome of society. It is this integral person, and not the social instrument specialized by livelihood and vocation, which possesses dignity and sovereign authority. The plumber, or the congressman, or the lawyer, or the retail merchant, or the painter, or the mathematician, or the professor, or the bishop, is not the end in himself, but the man; not the role, but he who plays the role, and who because of his preëminently human faculties can achieve an integrated personality in an integrated society.

Democratic education is therefore a peculiarly ambitious education. It does not educate men for prescribed places in life, shaping them to fit the requirements of a preëxisting and rigid division of labor. Its idea is that the social system itself, which determines what places there are to fill, shall be created by the men who fill them. It is true that in order to live and to live effectively men must be adapted to their social environment, but only in order that they may in the long run adapt that environment to themselves. Men are not building materials to be fitted to a preëstablished order, but are themselves the architects of order. They are not forced into Procrustean beds, but themselves design the beds in which they lie. Such figures of speech symbolize the underlying moral goal of democracy as a society in which the social whole justifies itself to its personal members.

It will be seen that education for democracy implies the development of a capacity of personal self-determination. This constitutes the distinguishing characteristic of that “Western democracy” which is so jealous of the name, and scorns its use by totalitarian societies. All democracy implies a raising of the material condition of the masses, and a throwing off of the harsh yokes of public tyrants and private exploiters; but a full democracy implies something more fundamental, namely, the capacity of the individuals concerned to think freely for themselves, and by discussion and agreement to arrive at collective decisions by which their joint affairs shall be governed. The exercise of this capacity and the acceptance of the implied responsibility requires an education that goes far beyond literacy, and beyond acquired skill in the practical or humane arts. While it is not to be supposed that every citizen, or even a large majority of citizens, will rise to such requirements, a democracy which educates for democracy is bound to regard all of its members as heirs who must so far as possible be qualified to enter into their birthright.

For this reason it is contrary to the principle of democracy that its members should be sorted out at an early age and prepared for occupations for which there is a social demand. It matters not whether this distinction is made by aptitude tests, or by the numerical limitations of educational opportunity — if careers are assigned to men before they have reached the stage of maturity and enlightenment at which they can decide for themselves society has failed to equip them for that role of sovereignty to which, in a democracy, they are called.

In order that its rulers shall not be recruited from an economic class, democracy provides for public education; and extends this opportunity not only through the period of secondary education but into “higher education.” “Going to college” is the normal ambition of American youth not from motives of idleness and self-indulgence, but in order to postpone a choice of occupation until they know enough to choose; and in order that they may belong to that “ruling class” which in a democracy is no class at all, but the aggregate, unlimited in number, of all of those who are the makers of the institutions and policies under which they live.


Liberalism in education, like liberalism in the moral institutions, represents the claim of persons to as large an area of freedom as is consistent with the like freedom of others.12 Moral education implants the code of justice and benevolence by which spheres of freedom are defined and respected; liberal education teaches men to enjoy and exercise their freedom, and to spread and extend its domain. A man is free in the proportion to which his life is governed by his own choice. Hence the specific aim of liberal education is to cultivate the art of choice, and to provide it with eligible alternatives.

Choice is a matter of degree. Education is liberal insofar as it invites and qualifies men to choose deeply and fundamentally, to choose ends as well as means, to choose remote as well as immediate ends, to choose from much rather than from little. Liberal education, so construed, makes successive generations of men aware of a wide range of possibilities, by the discovery of new and the reminding of old. It does so in order that men may enjoy the utmost amplitude of freedom — in order that their lives may to the maximum extent be what they thoughtfully and wittingly choose them to be.

Light is thrown on the meaning of liberal education by naming some of its opposite illiberalities. It is opposed to a merely occupational education, because such an education narrows the range of choices that remain open. Having adopted the occupation of a physician a man may then choose only how he shall prepare himself, and where and how he shall practice. The occupation itself may have been imposed by circumstances; he is then said to have had “no alternative” but to practice medicine, or “no choice” in the matter. Or the individual, having taken into account his capacities and environment, may have chosen to be a physician rather than a lawyer, businessman, or artist. His education is then said to have been liberal insofar as it acquainted him with these options, and opened doors to them. Liberal education in this sense properly comes at that period in the individual's life when he has not yet committed himself. Having chosen his occupation freely, that is, with awareness and understanding of the possibilities, he may then remain free; for if he has no regrets, all the narrower choices to which he is subsequently restricted partake of the freedom of his original and fundamental choice.

Liberal education is opposed to dogmatic education where dogmatic education means the imparting of beliefs without their evidence. For insofar as the individual is dogmatically educated his mind submits passively to authority — he takes someone else's word — and he does not choose his conclusions by proving their truth for himself. His mind is made up for him rather than by him.

Merely informative education, which imparts a knowledge of facts, is less liberal than the theoretical education which imparts a knowledge of principles; because he who grasps the principles can then apply and extend them for himself. He is prepared not only for this or that particular actuality but for the infinitude of possibles that are subsumable under general ideas.

Specialized knowledge is comparatively illiberal because it limits the movement of the mind, and excludes the alternative interpretations of any subject or situation which might be made in the light of a broader context. It also habituates the mind to some specific technique, and closes it to matters in which this technique cannot be employed.

If the meaning of liberal education is to be understood, it must not be identified by labels, or associated exclusively with any part of a university. Liberality is a norm or standard by which to judge educational practices wherever they occur. It will not do, therefore, to say that a professional school is necessarily illiberal merely because its students are acquiring a special form of expertness for which they expect to be paid. A lawyer, for example, may choose not only his profession, but the branch of law in which he specializes. He may take the law as it is, or he may reëxamine the law's extra-legal premises, and find reasons why the law is as it is or become a legal reformer. In his legal practice he may be a mere technician, operating on a narrow front; or he may participate in the making of constitutional policy. Insofar as legal education enlarges the outlook upon society and history, leads back to first principles, and reveals the ultimate purpose of legal institutions, it may be said to be a liberal education, and the legal profession may be said to be a liberal profession.

There is no occupational or professional education of which the same may not be said. Education for business is liberal when it enables a businessman to choose business for what it is, so that by understanding its underlying principles and its role in society at large, he may be creative, and not a mere cog in the existing mechanism. Even manual labor partakes of liberality at the moment when a man chooses to work with his hands; or when it becomes a skilled craft requiring taste and invention; or when it is attended with a sense of coöperation and social utility.

As the professional or vocational school may be liberal, so the “liberal arts college” may be illiberal, and will be illiberal insofar as it is pervaded with a narrow sectarian bias, or employs methods of mere popular appeal, or reduces study to the level of drudgery and routine, or otherwise fails to create the independent and resourceful mind and exercise the student in the art of choice. All of the studies commonly embraced in its curriculum are capable of satisfying the standard of liberality if they are liberally taught or taught by a liberal teacher; and there is no subject which may not be made illiberal. A study which is liberal at one time may become illiberal at another time.

What agency shall play the liberalizing role depends on the existing locus of illiberality. What will emancipate depends on what the minds of men need to be emancipated from. Fresh contacts with antiquity at the time of the Renaissance served to liberate men from their otherworldly preoccupations and their slavish adherence to secondary sources and texts. The rise and spread of modern science liberated men from dogma. The Reformation liberated men from centralized ecclesiastical authority, and the rise of the modern state liberated men from the yoke of medieval imperialism. The Industrial Revolution liberated men from feudalism and from the closed nationalistic economy.

But an agency of liberalization may become a hard master in its turn; in a later time men sought liberation from the absolutism of the nation-state and, paradoxical as it may seem, from the harsh restraints of laissez-faire. Science, to which men turned to escape dogma and super-naturalism, begot a new illiberality, and men turned to religion, literature, and the arts for emancipation. And so for every age, for every individual, and even for every phase in the individual's development, there is a timely and suitable instrument of liberality.

Liberal studies are sometimes given the name of ‘humanities.’13 The name ‘humanism’ properly suggests that attention be directed to man and to his works. But it emphasizes that which is admirable in man and may properly exalt him in his own esteem. Psychology and anthropology are not humanities merely by virtue of the fact that they take man as their subject matter; nor is the term properly applicable to any study which stresses man's baser and more contemptible qualities.

What are the attributes of man which qualify him for esteem, raise him above the level of the beasts, and give him that “dignity” which he claims and acknowledges? While there is a “humanism” which praises man for his practical achievements — for the history he has made — and worships the hero, whether he be conqueror or statesman, humanism in the educational sense praises man for his “spiritual” achievements. The mark of man in this high and estimable sense is not his power, but his capacity to pursue ideals — of truth, beauty and moral goodness. Construed as a cult of freedom, humanism signifies man's emancipation from the limits of finitude by the very act of discovering them.

The question of liberal and humanistic education is obscured by identifying the idea with the mechanism. Liberal and humane education is not a “branch” of education, but a set of values that should pervade all education, and to an increasing extent on its higher levels. To identify these values with a “liberal arts college” or with a set of studies called “the humanities” is to mistake the accident for the essence. The effect is to imply that a certain institution or study is automatically liberal and humane, and that other institutions and studies need not be, or cannot be, liberal and humane. It is true that certain educational fields — notably literature and the fine arts, history and philosophy — are peculiarly dedicated to these values by tradition and vocation. But they are under obligation to spread these values to all education, and to see to it that they are themselves true to their professions.


If education is to qualify men to live in a global society and contribute to its development in the years to come, the content of education must be correspondingly extended. In short it must cultivate global-mindedness.

This is the core of the matter. It is well enough that international organizations should seek to repair the damages of war, and restore the facilities of education — universities, libraries, museums — when these have been destroyed. It is well that attention should be given to the removal of illiteracy everywhere, and to the improvement of means of universal communication and intellectual intercourse. But all this is beside the point unless men's dispositions are altered: unless their habits of thought, their outlook, their emotional attitudes, are attuned to the moral and cultural unity of mankind.

That the achievement of this result requires the utilization of all the forces which shape the minds of men was fully recognized at the time of the creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. When the United States accepted membership in this organization, President Truman made the following statement:

UNESCO will summon to service in the cause of peace the forces of education, science, learning, and the creative arts, and the agencies of the film, the radio and the printed word through which knowledge and ideas are diffused among mankind.

The government of the United States will work with and through UNESCO to the end that the minds of all people may be freed from ignorance, prejudice, suspicion, and fear, and that men may be educated for justice, liberty, and peace. If peace is to endure, education must establish the moral unity of mankind.14

This global attitude can be conveyed in all the recognized fields of formal education.15 Mathematics, and the physical sciences and technologies, contribute to internationality through their transcendence of nationalism. Their subject matter consists of a system of relationships common to all nature; and points to nature itself, which is common to all nations. This should be alluded to in the teaching of these subjects, so as to suggest both their universality as well as their infinite human usefulness. Geography extends men's acquaintance with the surface of the earth from the familiar regions where they live to distant and strange places, in order that these may become less distant and less strange. Anthropology depicts the divisive traits and customs of the many families embraced within the one great human family. Psychology calls attention to the common characteristics of mankind.

From history men learn of the life of mankind throughout recorded time, and of the interrelation of groups and nations. No doubt the balance needs to be redressed and gaps need to be filled in order to overcome a provincial emphasis — there is need, for example, of more history of Russia and China. But it would be still better both for the public mind and for the subject of history if historians introduced an international outlook and background into all that they write and teach. Their readers and students would then be rid of the illusion of isolationism. They would then see Greek history, American history, English history, or any other special history, as a set of local events interacting with a wider human environment; the history of the twelfth or the eighteenth, or any other century, as a phase of the advance or retrogression of human unity; the past as composed of diverse tributaries converging on the present.

There are certain branches of knowledge which serve the interest of internationality even more directly. These are the sciences which correspond, one to one, with the major human institutions, each of which has a specific function within the common purpose of morality. These sciences are ethics, political science, jurisprudence, and economics. Global unity is a work of organization, to which each of these sciences has an indispensable contribution to make. How shall all men achieve a common conscience, a common polity, and a common system of law beneficent to all mankind? How shall they produce and distribute material goods on a world-wide scale and with a view to the maximum of human welfare? How shall they live together with the least friction, with the least offense to human self-respect, and with the greatest spirit of mutual helpfulness? This is what learners may now expect to learn from those who are learned in the social sciences, and what the learned must be prepared to teach.

The institution which stands closest to morality is conscience, and the extension of polity, law, and economy to embrace all mankind depends on the development of a “conscience of mankind.” If men are to achieve a certain kind of world, they must approve it; those in positions of power and influence, who speak for other men with other men's consent, must approve it. There must be a widespread and dominant approving attitude, which is for peace and against war; for happiness and well-being and against misery; for the happiness and well-being of all men and against the happiness and well-being of the few at the expense of the many. Men are now falteringly and feebly disposed to this attitude owing to their vivid experience of human interdependence, proved by the disastrous consequences of war.

The fundamental condition of a conscience of mankind is to that part of human nature which is variously called by the names of ‘sympathy,’ ‘compassion,’ ‘fellow-feeling,’ or ‘humanity,’ and which is excited in one man toward another regardless of the differences which divide them. The new arts of communication have enlarged and vivified the spectacle of human cruelty and human deprivation. It is true that the springs of pity dry up and that sympathy palls. It is true that the presence of a fellow man may excite antipathy as well as sympathy. It is true that sympathy may be ill-timed and misplaced. But this proves only that the right excitement of sympathy is a part of the task of education.16

The problem of world unity is fundamentally a moral problem and requires moral education in order that men may be brought to an understanding of the destructiveness of conflict and the opportunity of peaceful coöperation on a world-wide scale. The moral ideal makes all men of good will joint participants in a common struggle, mourning common defeats and celebrating common victories. Liberal education teaches men to sympathize with the struggle for freedom throughout the world, whether the freedom of individuals and groups oppressed by their own institutions, or of colonies, dependent areas, and weaker nations oppressed by alien empires.

The disinterested pursuit of knowledge unites all truth-seekers in a common passion, in collaboration, and in mutual confirmation. Even the aesthetic interest, while it profits by diversity and idiosyncracy, may serve as a unifying force. It calls into play the same human faculties, and in its artistic products employs similar media and structural forms. Its themes embrace the same mortal vicissitudes of love, death, hope, and despair. Religious education, despite its sectarian divisiveness, may serve the same end of universality. The great world-religions teach a god of all mankind, who respects no differences of race or nation, and who unites all men in a common dependence and adoration. At the same time there is a universality in religion itself, which emphasizes that concern which all men feel for their common destiny in a common universe.

  • 1.

    M. Mead, “Our Educational Emphases in Primitive Perspective,” American Journal of Sociology, 48 (1942–3), p. 639, and passim.

  • 2.

    “The American Scholar,” Complete Essays and Other Writings, B. Atkinson, ed., Modern Library edition, p. 46.

  • 3.

    Portions of this section, and of §§ 8, 9, are reprinted from the Author's The Citizen Decides, Indiana University Press, 1951, q.v. passim.

  • 4.

    Owing to the remarkable development of its techniques it is customary to refer to mass communication as a modern phenomenon; it has, however, always been practiced, beginning with the tom-tom.

  • 5.

    “News,” for example, is not merely a report of events, but that which will arrest attention. Chaim Weizmann writes that the American press stated that he was the inventor of TNT, and that he tried in vain to deny it: “The initials [TNT] seemed to exercise a peculiar fascination over journalists: and I suppose high explosive is always news.” (Trial and Error, 1949, p. 271.)

  • 6.

    Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, trans. by G. Highet, Vol. I, Oxford University Press, Inc., 1939, p. 300.

  • 7.

    Cf. K. Lewin, Dynamic Theory of Personality, 1935; C. Kluckhohn and O. H. Mowrer, “Dynamic Theory of Personality,” in Personality and the Behavior Disorders ed. J. M. Hunt, 1945.

  • 8.

    R. M. Hutchins, “Education for Freedom,” Harper's Magazine, 183 (1941), p. 515.

  • 9.

    Qu. from Scuola Fascista, in Le Temps, Aug. 31, 1932; trans. by the Author.

  • 10.

    It is to be noted that the word ‘education’ derives from the Latin educare (“to rear”), and not, as is sometimes supposed, from educere (“to draw out”).

  • 11.

    Primary Education, Report of the Advisory Council on Education in Scotland, 1946.

  • 12.

    Some paragraphs of this section are reprinted from the Author's lecture, “When is Education Liberal?” published in Modern Education and Human Values, Pitcairn-Crabbe Foundation Lecture Series, University of Pittsburgh, 1950.

  • 13.

    For a fuller discussion of the meaning of this term, cf. the Author's “A Definition of the Humanities,” T. M. Greene (ed.), The Meaning of the Humanities, 1938.

  • 14.

    News release, July 30, 1946.

  • 15.

    Portions of the remainder of this section are reprinted from the Author's One World in the Making, A. A. Wyn, Inc., 1945, chs. vi, vii.

  • 16.

    The psychologists and sociologists concerned with the social side of human nature are facing this problem boldly and constructively. In 1945 a group of American psychologists issued a statement entitled “Human Nature and the Peace,” expressing the belief that war is avoidable by “social engineering,” by cultivating Friendliness, and by redirecting those human impulses which lead to hatred and race prejudice. Cf. Psychological Bulletin, 42 (1945); and also G. W. Allport, “Guide Lines for Research in International Coöperation,” Journal of Social Issues, 3–4 (1947–8).

From the book: