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Please complete the questions based on the provided texts. Answers should be in complete sentences

Note

Last week we rushed through the lesson on Zotero and on using the proxy server. If you’d like to explore it in more depth, please reach out to me and we can schedule an individual tutorial. Also, if you are relatively proficient in using Zotero, let me know and we can offer you as a resource to others.

Reading

Dewey, J. (1907). The school and social progress. Chapter 1 in The school and society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Note that I have provided you with both Chapter 1 and Chapter 2; you need only read Chapter 1, though some of you may find Chapter 2 interesting also.

Brief background on Dewey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMh1LYuZ3B4.

Questions

1. Describe what Dewey means by “The New Education.”

2. Discuss Dewey’s perspective on the systems within which education is embedded.

3. How does Dewey define society?

4. Describe how Dewey views the role of order in a school.

5. What tensions does Dewey detect between the needs of society and the needs of the individual?


Reading

Wolk, S. (2007). Why go to school? Phi Delta Kappan, 88(9), 648–658.

Question

6.
Before reading the article:
list three reasons why we as a society want young people to go to school.

7.
After reading the article:
The author quotes Alex Molnar: “Are the issues studied in school the most important issues facing mankind?” What are several of these issues today? Are they studied in the schools that you are familiar with?

8. How might you use an article like this when discussing curriculum and instruction with a school board or other governing body?


2

STEVEN WOLK is an associate professor in the Teacher Education Department at
Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago (e-mail: [email protected]).

648 PHI DELTA KAPPAN

WHY
GO TO
SCHOOL?
If the purpose of our schools is to prepare drones
to keep the U.S. economy going, then the
prevailing curricula and instructional methods are
probably adequate. If, however, we want to help
students become thoughtful, caring citizens who
might be creative enough to figure out how to
change the status quo rather than maintain it, we
need to rethink schooling entirely. Mr. Wolk
outlines what he considers to be the essential
content for a new curriculum.

BY STEVEN WOLK

L
AST YEAR my son’s homework in second grade was 400
worksheets. The year before, in first grade, his homework
was also 400 worksheets. Each day he brought home two
worksheets, one for math and one for spelling. That was
two worksheets a day, five days a week, 40 weeks a year.

The math was little more than addition or subtraction
problems. The other worksheet was more insidious. My
son had 15 spelling words each week. On some days his

worksheets required him to unscramble the spelling words. On other days

MAY 2007 649

we studied. Boredom is a disease of epidemic proportions. . . .
Why are our schools not places of joy?”2 Our nation is af-
flicted with a dearth of educational imagination, a lack of
pedagogical courage, and rampant anti-intellectualism. Our
schools should be think tanks and fountains of creativity,
but most of them are vacuum chambers. Nearly 70 years
ago John Dewey wrote, “What avail is it to win prescribed
amounts of information about geography and history, to win
the ability to read and write, if in the process the individual
loses his own soul?”3

Our textbook-driven curricula have become educational
perpetual motion machines of intellectual, moral, and cre-

ative mediocrity. We dumb down and sanitize the curric-
ulum in the name of techno-rational efficiency and “Amer-
ican interests.” It is Frederick Winslow Taylor — the turn-
of-the-century father of scientific management — run amok.
For example, when some middle school teachers developed
an inquiry-based social studies unit that required their stu-
dents to actively participate in creating a curriculum that
would make them think for themselves, the teachers were
repeatedly confronted with the silent passivity of what they
called “the glaze.” As one teacher commented:

The students are so used to having the teacher spoon-
feed them what they’re supposed to know. . . . Stu-
dents accustomed to efficient, predictable dissemi-
nation of knowledge were confused, silent, even hos-
tile when told they must decide for themselves how
to proceed on a project or when confronted with an
ambiguous question such as, “What do you think?”4

When our children’s school experiences are primarily
about filling in blanks on worksheets, regurgitating facts
from textbooks, writing formulaic five-paragraph essays,
taking multiple-choice tests, and making the occasional
diorama — that is, when they are devoid of opportunities
to create an original thought — we should expect the ob-
vious outcome: children — and later adults — who are un-

he had to write a sentence with each word. And on still
other days he had to write each spelling word five times.
The school was teaching my 7-year-old that the wonder-
ful world of learning is about going home each day and
filling in worksheets.

Actually, that was his “official” homework. We were
given permission to give him alternative homework. In place
of his spelling worksheet, we set up a writing workshop at
home in which he was free to write something real, such as
a letter, a poem, or a story. Unfortunately, this was often a
struggle because Max wanted to do “school.” He learned
at the ripe age of 7 that he could whip out those spelling
sentences without a single thought, so that’s what he usual-
ly insisted on doing.

My son’s worksheets are a symptom of a far graver edu-
cational danger. More than the practice of a few teachers,
they represent the dominant purposes of schooling and the
choices of curriculum in our nation. We are engaged in fill-
in-the-blank schooling. One of the most telling statistics
about our schools has absolutely nothing to do with stan-
dardized test scores: on a typical day most Americans 16
years old and older never read a newspaper or a book.1

My son’s experience of school is little different from my
own when I was his age. My schooling was dominated by
textbooks, teacher lectures, silent students, and those same
worksheets. And it is identical to what my current teacher
education students endured when they were in school and
also to what they see today in their clinical experiences. My
college students are, by their own admission, poster children
for our factory-model 400-worksheet schools and their su-
perficial and sanitized curricula.

We are living a schooling delusion. Do we really believe
that our schools inspire our children to live a life of thought-
fulness, imagination, empathy, and social responsibility? Any
regular visitor to schools will see firsthand that textbooks
are the curriculum. A fifth-grader is expected to read about
2,500 textbook pages a year. For all 12 grades that student
is expected to “learn” 30,000 pages of textbooks with a never-
ending barrage of facts, most of which we know are for-
gotten by the time the student flips on his or her TV or iPod
after school. Far more than reading to learn, our children
are learning to hate reading. More than learning any of the
content, they learn to hate learning.

Will those 30,000 pages of textbooks and years of sit-
ting at a classroom desk inspire a child to be a lifelong reader
and learner and thinker? Who are we kidding? I’m inside
schools a lot, and I usually see what John Goodlad described
a generation ago in his classic study, A Place Called School.
After observing classrooms across the country and more than
27,000 students, he wrote, “I wonder about the impact of
the flat, neutral emotional ambience of most of the classes

A fifth-grader is expected to read about
2,500 textbook pages a year. For all
12 grades that student is expected to
“learn” 30,000 pages of textbooks
with a never-ending barrage of facts,
most of which we know are forgotten
by the time the student flips on his or
her TV or iPod after school.

650 PHI DELTA KAPPAN

able to think for themselves. None of this should surprise
us. Passive schooling creates passive people. If we want peo-
ple to think, learn, and care about the many dimensions of
life, if we want neighbors who accept the responsibility of
tending to the world and working to make it a better place,
then we need schools and curricula that are actually about
life and the world. Instead, we have schools that prepare
children to think like a toaster.

OFF TO SCHOOL WE GO

Each day millions of American children enter their class-
rooms. Why? What is the purpose of school? What should
its purpose be? As our children leave our classes and grad-
uate from our schools, how do we want them to be? Not
just what do we want them to know, but how do we want
them to be? What habits of mind? What attitudes? What
character? What vision? What intellect? Yes, we want them
to have acquired certain factual knowledge, such as the
dates of the Civil War, how to work with fractions, how to
write a letter, and at least an acquaintance with the miracle
of photosynthesis. But what do we want them to care about?
Do we want them to watch TV for three hours a day? Do
we want them to look at trees with awe? Do we want them
to read great books? Do we want them to wallow in political
and cultural ignorance? Do we want them to vote? Do we
want them to feel empathy for the poor and oppressed? Do
we want them to appreciate the poetry of William Carlos
Williams? Do we want them to define their self-identity by
the walls of an office cubicle? What life do we want to in-
spire them to live?

Of course, my question, Why go to school? is not new;
it has been vigorously debated for millennia. Plato, Thomas
Jefferson, Rousseau, Leo Tolstoy, Dewey, Franklin Bobbitt,
and Alfred North Whitehead, among countless others, have
joined the debate about the aims of schooling. More re-
cently, people from all over the political and pedagogical
map, from E. D. Hirsch to Alfie Kohn to Maxine Greene to
James Moffett to Carl Rogers, have argued for their vision
of what and why our schools should be. And once each
of us answers that question, we are morally bound to cre-
ate curricula and classrooms that strive to fulfill those pur-
poses. Otherwise our words and passions are nothing but
empty rhetoric, just like so many school mission statements
with their language of “global citizens” and “critical think-
ers.” So we must publicly reinvigorate what Nel Noddings
refers to as the “aims talk” of school.5 We must deeply ques-
tion the schools and curricula we have; we must ask what
it means to be educated and what it means to be human.

There is no neutral ground here; we have decisions to
make. Either we remake our schools into vibrant workshops

for personal, social, and global transformation, or we must
own up to our complicity in perpetuating a superficial, un-
thinking, and unjust world.

SCHOOLING FOR WORKERS

The real barometer of the aims of our schools today is
what’s being said in our newspapers and our legislative as-
semblies. These mainstream voices and the proclamations
emanating from the bully pulpit — be they newspaper edi-
torials or speeches by the President — rule the public con-
versation and create our national school identity. And what
do these powerful voices have to say? What is the “offi-
cial” public discussion about the aims of our schools?

If aliens from outer space landed on Earth and read our
newspapers, listened to our elected representatives talk about
our “failing” schools, and observed inside our classrooms,
what would they conclude are the aims of our schools?
That’s easy. Our children go to school to learn to be work-
ers. Going to school is largely preparation either to punch
a time clock or to own the company with the time clock
— depending on how lucky you are in the social-class sort-
ing machine called school. Why else give kids 400 work-
sheets? Why else give children so little voice in what to learn?
Why else teach children a curriculum that avoids contro-
versy and debate and open inquiry? When the United States
was building up to attack Iraq, some of my graduate stu-
dents were forbidden by their school administrators to dis-
cuss the war with their students. Not talk about a war? How
can a democracy silence its schools and teachers? What
are we afraid of?

Virtually every newspaper article and editorial, every
radio report and discussion, every political speech and gov-
ernment policy that I read or hear says, either implicitly or
explicitly, that the aim of our schools is to prepare future
workers. The specific language may differ, but the message
is the same and crystal clear. Remember the opening para-
graph of A Nation at Risk:

Our nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged pre-
eminence in commerce, industry, science, and tech-
nological innovation is being overtaken by competi-
tors throughout the world. This report is concerned
with only one of the many causes and dimensions
of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds
American prosperity, security, and civility.6

And there we have the primary aim of our 400-work-
sheets-a-year schools: money. The United States is the rich-
est and most powerful country on Earth, and our schools
exist to keep it that way, even if our role as citizens should
be to question those assumptions and the exercise of that

MAY 2007 651

power. Here is a typical example from an article in the
New York Times on the push to move away from so-called
fuzzy math and teach more math “basics”:

The frenzy has been prompted in part by the grow-
ing awareness that, at a time of increasing globali-
zation, the math skills of children in the United States
simply do not measure up: American eighth-graders
lag far behind those from Singapore, South Korea,
Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere.7

While the article does quote an advocate of “fuzzy” math,
the assumption that adapting to globalization — that is, main-
taining American economic dominance — should dictate
our math curriculum goes completely unchallenged.

A recent issue of Time bore the cover line “How to
Build a Student for the 21st Century” (an unintentionally
ironic title using a 19th-century metaphor of manufactur-
ing). The authors of the cover story articulated their vision
of the schools we need. In the entire article, they mentioned
just one purpose for school: preparing our children to suc-
ceed in the “global economy.”8 That’s it. The bottom line.

These economic purposes of our schools are so entrenched
that they have seeped into our children’s consciousness. Ask
adolescents why they go to school, and you will almost uni-
versally hear a response solely concerned with their future
employment. What does it say about a nation whose chil-
dren define “education” as little more than preparation for
work? Nel Noddings writes:

It is as though our society has simply decided that the
purpose of schooling is economic — to improve the
financial condition of individuals and to advance the
prosperity of the nation. Hence students should do
well on standardized tests, get into good colleges, ob-
tain well-paying jobs, and buy lots of things. Surely
there must be more to education than this?9

Adults like to tell children that they will be judged by
their actions. The same is true for our schools. Here are the
values of our schools based on their actions: kids don’t need
to appreciate art to compete with South Koreans; they don’t
need intellectual curiosity to sit at a desk and do tax returns;
they don’t need creativity and imagination to plan a business
meeting; they don’t need to be media literate to sell heat-
ing and cooling systems; they don’t need to promote peace
to manage a grocery store; they don’t need to care for the
environment to be a lawyer; and they don’t need to nurture
a happy family to be a chemist. So the content that would
foster these unnecessary dispositions gets little time in school.
While a thoughtful democratic nation requires people who
read widely, a nation of workers just needs people with the
technical ability to read a manual or product distribution re-

port. A nation of workers does not need to vote, feel his-
torical empathy, be informed of current events, act to end
prejudice, question cultural assumptions, or care for peo-
ple in other countries. Workers just need to produce and
fulfill their role as consumers. In the end, the only educa-
tional data that really matter aren’t our children’s GPAs,
they’re the GDP and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

SCHOOLING FOR ANTI-CITIZENSHIP

While the preparation of “citizens” may be in every school
mission statement, our performance in that area is dread-
ful. We barely get half of our citizens to vote, and our young-
est voters — 18- to 24-year-olds right out of high school
and college — continually shun the ballot box in the great-
est numbers. In 2000, only 36% of that group cast a ballot
for President; in 2004, only 47% voted; in our most recent
2006 midterm elections — with a war raging in Iraq — only
24% of 18- to 29-year-olds voted.10 In one survey less than
10% of American 17- to 24-year-olds reported they “follow
public affairs.”11 In another survey barely 13% of 18- to 24-
year-olds agreed with the statement “I am interested in pol-
itics.”12 In yet another survey almost twice as many Ameri-
cans could name the Three Stooges (73%) as could name
the three branches of government (42%).13

My college students know virtually nothing of current
events. Even most of those who do vote admit they do so
with little understanding of the issues and the candidates’
positions. I assign my social studies methods class to write
an “ideology paper” setting forth their personal opinions on
three controversial political issues. I tell them they cannot
inspire their students to shape their ideologies if they are
not actively shaping their own. My students fret about this
assignment; they don’t know what to think. As one student
blurted out in class, “But I was never taught how to do this!”
And we wonder why so few Americans read a newspaper
or understand foreign policy. It’s the schools, stupid.

Why are there no blazing headlines condemning our
schools for failing to prepare an educated and active citi-
zenry? Because, contrary to the political and educational
rhetoric, civic engagement for “strong democracy” isn’t
really an aim of our schools.14 If it were, then dramatically
different things would be happening inside our classrooms.
Rather than reading the Disney version of our democracy in
a textbook, our students would be living the complex and
“messy” realities of democracy in their classrooms. Rather
than being places where students sit in silence as their
teachers talk all day, our classrooms would be dynamic
public spaces where the authentic and vibrant discourse of
daily democracy would be an essential part of the school
experience.15 Rather than providing all of the “answers” in

652 PHI DELTA KAPPAN

the form of textbooks, our schools would use critical and
moral inquiry as a way to shape individual identity, build a
better nation, and create a more caring world. Our schools
would be helping students to ask the questions and then
to seek out — as true communities of learners — the pos-
sibilities.

WHAT DOES SCHOOL NOT TEACH?

Over 20 years ago Alex Molnar asked, “Are the issues
studied in school the most important issues facing man-
kind?”16 He surveyed teachers and administrators and asked
them to list the most important issues facing our world and
to indicate whether they were studied in school. They listed
nuclear disarmament, environmental destruction, poverty,
racism, sexism, genetic engineering, and “alternatives to
existing forms of U.S. political, social, and economic or-
ganization.” Overwhelmingly the respondents felt these
topics should be an important part of school, but not many
felt they were a significant part of any curriculum. Why not?
How can a nation as “smart” as the United States ignore the
knowledge and dispositions essential for creating a thought-
ful, just, and joyful citizenry? How can adults allow such
a superficial and damaging vision of what it means to be
“educated” to persist?

To see the gaping holes in the curricula of most of our
schools, we need to get specific. I’ll now offer a brief over-
view — quite assuredly incomplete — of what our schools
choose not to teach because of their unquestioned devotion
to preparing workers, rather than educating people. Of course,
all across our nation there are heroic schools and teachers
that make this neglected content a vital part of their stu-
dents’ school experiences. Unfortunately, these are the ex-
ceptions to the rule, and they usually exist within a sys-
tem of schooling that is hostile to those who question the
status quo and the economic purposes of our schools. Cre-
ative and critical teachers are working more often in oppo-
sition to the system than with it.

There are several ideas common to all of the following
suggestions for content schools should be teaching but
aren’t. First is the idea of making school inquiry-based. A
curriculum built around inquiry — that is, questioning, in-
vestigating, and analyzing our lives and the world in depth
with authentic resources and projects — makes the inquiry
process itself part of the content to be learned. By doing
“inquiry” across the curriculum, children learn to ask ques-
tions, seek knowledge, understand multiple perspectives,
and wonder about the world. Second, this content is not
just for middle school or high school but should be an im-
portant part of every grade beginning in kindergarten. And
third, we must honor our children’s uniqueness. There is not

just one way to learn anything. The fact that our schools take
children who are very different and seek to force them in-
to the same schooling and learning mold is just further evi-
dence of their disrespect for children as individuals.

Self. Who are you? What defines you? If your entire be-
ing were turned into a list of ingredients, what would be
listed first? Parent? Veteran? Poet? Pacifist? American? Artist?
Friend? Or would it be Employee? I doubt many people
would list their job first. While our jobs are important to
many of us, they do not define who we are; they are just
one part of our being. Yet our schools operate as if the only
part of us worth educating is the part that will determine
our future as an economic cog. When Johnny graduates,
do we really know Johnny as a distinctive being? Did we
appreciate his unique self? Have we helped Johnny to know
Johnny at all?

Patrick Shannon writes that schools are in the “identity
creation business.”17 We may think school is about math
and history, but it’s equally about shaping who we will be
and who we will not be. Ask Johnny what school is about,
and he will list school subjects like math and reading, but
what he will never say is that school is about me. The iden-
tities that our schools purposely shape are directed by the
demands of American capitalism rather than the needs of
human beings. School defines people by test scores, stanines,
and GPAs. Johnny the fourth-grader is no longer Johnny; he
is 4.3 and 3.9 and 5.2.

In contrast, schools could help children explore the ques-
tions “Who am I?” “How did I become me?” and “Who do
I want to be?” Then the most important “subject” in school
is no longer reading or science, but Johnny. Environmental
educator David Orr writes, “We must remember that the
goal of education is not mastery of knowledge, but the mas-
tery of self through knowledge — a different thing altogeth-
er.”18 If school is not helping children to consciously shape
their cultural, political, and moral identities, then we are fail-
ing to educate our children to reach their greatest poten-
tial.

A love for learning. Is it really possible to inspire peo-
ple to live a life of learning and wonder, if throughout their
schooling children are always told what to learn, when to
learn, and how to learn? How will we ever own our learn-
ing — and even own our mind — outside of school if we
are rarely allowed to own either inside our classrooms? If
we’re serious about nurturing lifelong learners, then we must
allow them some significant ownership of their learning.
This means giving students some control over what they study
and how they show their learning. Children should have reg-
ular opportunities across the curriculum to initiate learning,
explore their own questions, and learn about their own in-
terests. Choice and ownership can easily be made part of

MAY 2007 653

every school day. We can allow children to choose what
books to read for independent reading, what topic to re-
search in a unit on South America, what genres to write in
during writing workshop, and what project to create to show
what they learned in their science unit on ocean ecosys-
tems. And by allowing students some control over their
learning, we are honoring their “intelligences” and respect-
ing their unique strengths.

We can also give children one hour each day to study
topics of their own choosing. I did this as a teacher, and
our “morning project time” was bustling with students pur-
suing their questions about the world. For example, at one
time my fourth- and fifth-graders were studying cheetahs,
the CIA, turtles, Georgia O’Keefe, becoming a teacher, the
history of pencils, architecture, bats, dinosaurs, Beethoven,
pandas, the court system, roof shingles, the space shuttle,
the atomic bomb, dolphins, artificial intelligence, jaguars,
the history of pizza, Native Americans of the Northwest,
and endangered species of Africa.19 These projects were not
done frivolously; I had high expectations for their work.
The students initiated the topics and then, collaboratively
with me, shaped them into meaningful and purposeful in-
quiry-based projects. There is little that is more important
for our schools to teach children than to pursue their own
intellectual curiosity about the world.

Any school aiming to nurture a love of learning must
also aim for a love of reading. A lifelong reader is a life-
long learner. But schools must do more than teach a love
for reading; they must reduce or eliminate practices that teach
children that reading is a laborious “school thing.” I have
never met a child who ran home to crack open The Rise of
the American Nation. We know perfectly well that children
hate reading textbooks, because we hated reading them too.
Using textbooks should be the exception, not the rule; in-
stead, students should be immersed in reading authentic,
fascinating, interesting, critical, thoughtful, and relevant texts.
And school must surround students with the astonishing
children’s and young adult literature available today, which,
besides including great stories and beautiful writing, is one

of the very best ways to teach the content advocated in this
article.

Caring and empathy. Nel Noddings has written exten-
sively and eloquently about the vital need to teach for car-
ing in our classrooms. She writes that caring should be the
foundation of our curriculum and that its study should in-
clude caring for self, family, friends, “strangers and distant
others,” animals and plants, the Earth and its ecosystems,
human-made objects, and ideas.20 What can be more es-
sential to the health of a democracy than caring citizens?
Yet explicitly teaching “caring” rarely goes beyond kinder-
garten. In schools obsessed with teaching “technical” knowl-
edge and questions with single correct answers, the idea of
teaching children and young adults to care is seen as not
being sufficiently “rigorous.” Rather than being applauded
as essential to nurturing empathetic and thoughtful people,
caring is considered a “touchy-feely” hindrance to prepar-
ing workers who can win the game of global competition.

Each day 30,000 children die from poverty. Half of our
planet — that’s three billion people — lives on less than two
dollars a day. Recently we celebrated our new millennium,
yet the century we left behind was easily the bloodiest and
most horrific in human history. We say we must teach about
the Holocaust so that we never forget, yet since the defeat
of the Nazis we have witnessed at least half a dozen more
genocides. It certainly seems the more “civilized” we be-
come as a species, the more brutal we become as people.
What does the 21st century hold in store for us? Will we
survive? What are schools doing to improve our chances?

Environmental literacy. In 2001 Ari Fleischer, President
Bush’s press secretary at the time, held a White House press
briefing on American energy issues that included the follow-
ing exchange with a reporter:

Question: Is one of the problems with this, and
the entire energy field, American lifestyles? Does the
President believe that, given the amount of energy
Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds
any other citizen in any other country in the world,
does the President believe we need to correct our
lifestyles to address the energy problem?

Mr. Fleischer: That’s a big no. The President be-
lieves that it’s an American way of life, and that it
should be the goal of policy makers to protect the
American way of life. The American way of life is a
blessed one.21

If there is anything that should be ripe for critical inquiry
inside our schools, it is the “American way of life” and its
effect on the environment. School should be the primary
place we engage children in a collective critique of how we
live. There are serious global consequences to our “blessed”
American way of life. Yet once again, rather than helping chil-

Schools must do more than teach a love
for reading; they must reduce or eliminate
practices that teach children that reading
is a laborious “school thing.” I have never
met a child who ran home to crack open
The Rise of the American Nation.

654 PHI DELTA KAPPAN

dren to analyze how we live, our schools actually perpetu-
ate — even advocate — the unquestioned habits of our daily
lives.

An honest study of the environment would address one
of the gravest dangers to our planet: rampant consumer-
ism. Rather than teaching consumerism as simply the good
engine of economic growth, we should engage children in
inquiry about how we spend and what we buy — both in-
dividually and collectively — and the moral and ecological
implications of our …

Dewey, J. (1907). The School and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Chapter 1: The School and Social Progress

We are apt to look at the school from an individualistic standpoint, as something between teacher and pupil, or between teacher and parent. That which interests us most is naturally the progress made by the individual child of our acquaintance, his normal physical development, his advance in ability to read, write, and figure, his growth in the knowledge of geography and history, improvement in manners, habits of promptness, order, and industry — it is from such standards as these that we judge the work of the school. And rightly so. Yet the range of the outlook needs to be enlarged. What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy. All that society has accomplished for itself is put, through the agency of the school, at the disposal of its future members. All its better thoughts of itself it hopes to realize through the new possibilities thus opened to its future self. Here individualism and socialism are at one. Only by being true to the full growth of all the individuals who make it up, can society by any chance be true to itself. And in the self-direction thus given, nothing counts as much as the school, for, as Horace Mann said, “Where anything is growing, one former is worth a thousand re-formers.”

Whenever we have in mind the discussion of a new movement in education, it is especially necessary to take the broader, or social view. Otherwise, changes in the school institution and tradition will be looked at as the arbitrary inventions of particular teachers; at the worst transitory fads, and at the best merely improvements in certain details — and this is the plane upon which it is too customary to consider school changes. It is as rational to conceive of the locomotive or the telegraph as personal devices. The modification going on in the method and curriculum of education is as much a product of the changed social situation, and as much an effort to meet the needs of the new society that is forming, as are changes in modes of industry and commerce.

It is to this, then, that I especially ask your attention: the effort to conceive what roughly may be termed the “New Education” in the light of larger changes in society. Can we connect this “New Education” with the general march of events? If we can, it will lose its isolated character, and will cease to be an affair which proceeds only from the over-ingenious minds of pedagogues dealing with particular pupils. It will appear as part and parcel of the whole social evolution, and, in its more general features at least, as inevitable. Let us then ask after the main aspects of the social movement; and afterwards turn to the school to find what witness it gives of effort to put itself in line. And since it is quite impossible to cover the whole ground, I shall for the most part confine myself to one typical thing in the modern school movement — that which passes under the name of manual training, hoping if the relation of that to changed social conditions appears, we shall be ready to concede the point as well regarding other educational innovations.

I make no apology for not dwelling at length upon the social changes in question. Those I shall mention are writ so large that he who runs may read. The change that comes first to mind, the one that overshadows and even controls all others, is the industrial one — the application of science resulting in the great inventions that have utilized the forces of nature on a vast and inexpensive scale: the growth of a world-wide market as the object of production, of vast manufacturing centers to supply this market, of cheap and rapid means of communication and distribution between all its parts. Even as to its feebler beginnings, this change is not much more than a century old; in many of its most important aspects it falls within the short span of those now living. One can hardly believe there has been a revolution in all history so rapid, so extensive, so complete. Through it the face of the earth is making over, even as to its physical forms; political boundaries are wiped out and moved about, as if they were indeed only lines on a paper map; population is hurriedly gathered into cities from the ends of the earth; habits of living are altered with startling abruptness and thoroughness; the search for the truths of nature is infinitely stimulated and facilitated and their application to life made not only practicable, but commercially necessary. Even our moral and religious ideas and interests, the most conservative because the deepest-lying things in our nature, are profoundly affected. That this revolution should not affect education in other than formal and superficial fashion is inconceivable.

Back of the factory system lies the household and neighborhood system. Those of us who are here today need go back only one, two, or at most three generations, to find a time when the household was practically the center in which were carried on, or about which were clustered, all the typical forms of industrial occupation. The clothing worn was for the most part not only made in the house, but the members of the household were usually familiar with the shearing of the sheep, the carding and spinning of the wool, and the plying of the loom. Instead of pressing a button and flooding the house with electric light, the whole process of getting illumination was followed in its toilsome length, from the killing of the animal and the trying of fat, to the making of wicks and dipping of candles. The supply of flour, of lumber, of foods, of building materials, of household furniture, even of metal ware, of nails, hinges, hammers, etc., was in the immediate neighborhood, in shops which were constantly open to inspection and often centers of neighborhood congregation. The entire industrial process stood revealed, from the production on the farm of the raw materials, till the finished article was actually put to use. Not only this, but practically every member of the household had his own share in the work. The children, as they gained in strength and capacity, were gradually initiated into the mysteries of the several processes. It was a matter of immediate and personal concern, even to the point of actual participation.

We cannot overlook the factors of discipline and of character-building involved in this: training in habits of order and of industry, and in the idea of responsibility, of obligation to do something, to produce something, in the world. There was always something which really needed to be done, and a real necessity that each member of the household should do his own part faithfully and in cooperation with others. Personalities which became effective in action were bred and tested in the medium of action. Again, we cannot overlook the importance for educational purposes of the close and intimate acquaintance got with nature at first hand, with real things and materials, with the actual processes of their manipulation, and the knowledge of their social necessities and uses. In all this there was continual training of observation, of ingenuity, constructive imagination, of logical thought, and of the sense of reality acquired through first-hand contact with actualities. The educative forces of the domestic spinning and weaving, of the saw-mill, the gristmill, the cooper shop, and the blacksmith forge, were continuously operative.

No number of object-lessons, got up as object-lessons for the sake of giving information, can afford even the shadow of a substitute for acquaintance with the plants and animals of the farm and garden, acquired through actual living among them and caring for them. No training of sense-organs in school, introduced for the sake of training, can begin to compete with the alertness and fullness of sense-life that comes through daily intimacy and interest in familiar occupations. Verbal memory can be trained in committing tasks, a certain discipline of the reasoning powers can be acquired through lessons in science and mathematics; but, after all, this is somewhat remote and shadowy compared with the training of attention and of judgment that is acquired in having to do things with a real motive behind and a real outcome ahead. At present, concentration of industry and division of labor have practically eliminated household and neighborhood occupations — at least for educational purposes. But it is useless to bemoan the departure of the good old days of children’s modesty, reverence, and implicit obedience, if we expect merely by bemoaning and by exhortation to bring them back. It is radical conditions which have changed, and only an equally radical change in education suffices. We must recognize our compensations — the increase in toleration, in breadth of social judgment, the larger acquaintance with human nature, the sharpened alertness in reading signs of character and interpreting social situations, greater accuracy of adaptation to differing personalities, contact with greater commercial activities. These considerations mean much to the city-bred child of today. Yet there is a real problem: how shall we retain these advantages, and yet introduce into the school something representing the other side of life — occupations which exact personal responsibilities and which train the child with relation to the physical realities of life?

When we turn to the school, we find that one of the most striking tendencies at present is toward the introduction of so-called manual training, shop-work, and the household arts — sewing and cooking.

This has not been done “on purpose,” with a full consciousness that the school must now supply that factor of training formerly taken care of in the home, but rather by instinct, by experimenting and finding that such work takes a vital hold of pupils and gives them something which was not to be got in any other way. Consciousness of its real import is still so weak that the work is often done in a half-hearted, confused, and unrelated way. The reasons assigned to justify it are painfully inadequate or sometimes even positively wrong.

If we were to cross-examine even those who are most favorably disposed to the introduction of this work into our school system, we should, I imagine, generally find the main reasons to be that such work engages the full spontaneous interest and attention of the children. It keeps them alert and active, instead of passive and receptive, it makes them more useful, more capable, and hence more inclined to be helpful at home; it prepares them to some extent for the practical duties of later life — the girls to be more efficient house managers, if not actually cooks and seamstresses; the boys (were our educational system only adequately rounded out into trade schools) for their future vocations. I do not underestimate the worth of these reasons. Of those indicated by the changed attitude of the children I shall indeed have something to say in my next talk, when speaking directly of the relationship of the school to the child. But the point of view is, upon the whole, unnecessarily narrow. We must conceive of work in wood and metal, of weaving, sewing, and cooking, as methods of life not as distinct studies.

We must conceive of them in their social significance, as types of the processes by which society keeps itself going, as agencies for bringing home to the child some of the primal necessities of community life, and as ways in which these needs have been met by the growing insight and ingenuity of man; in short, as instrumentalities through which the school itself shall be made a genuine form of active community life, instead of a place set apart in which to learn lessons.

A society is a number of people held together because they are working along common lines, in a common spirit, and with reference to common aims. The common needs and aims demand a growing interchange of thought and growing unity of sympathetic feeling. The radical reason that the present school cannot organize itself as a natural social unit is because just this element of common and productive activity is absent. Upon the playground, in game and sport, social organization takes place spontaneously and inevitably. There is something to do, some activity to be carried on, requiring natural divisions of labor, selection of leaders and followers, mutual cooperation and emulation. In the schoolroom the motive and the cement of social organization are alike wanting. Upon the ethical side, the tragic weakness of the present school is that it endeavors to prepare future members of the social order in a medium in which the conditions of the social spirit are eminently wanting.

The difference that appears when occupations are made the articulating centers of school life is not easy to describe in words; it is a difference in motive, of spirit and atmosphere. As one enters a busy kitchen in which a group of children are actively engaged in the preparation of food, the psychological difference, the change from more or less passive and inert recipiency and restraint to one of buoyant outgoing energy, is so obvious as fairly to strike one in the face. Indeed, to those whose image of the school is rigidly set the change is sure to give a shock. But the change in the social attitude is equally marked. The mere absorption of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat. Indeed, almost the only measure for success is a competitive one, in the bad sense of that term — a comparison of results in the recitation or in the examination to see which child has succeeded in getting ahead of others in storing up, in accumulating the maximum of information. So thoroughly is this the prevalent atmosphere that for one child to help another in his task has become a school crime. Where the school work consists in simply learning lessons, mutual assistance, instead of teeing the most natural form of cooperation and association, becomes a clandestine effort to relieve one’s neighbor of his proper duties. Where active work is going on all this is changed. Helping others, instead of being a form of charity which impoverishes the recipient, is simply an aid in setting free the powers and furthering the impulse of the one helped. A spirit of free communication, of interchange of ideas, suggestions, results, both successes and failures of previous experiences, becomes the dominating note of the recitation. So far as emulation enters in, it is in the comparison of individuals, not with regard to the quantity of information personally absorbed, but with reference to the quality of work done — the genuine community standard of value. In an informal but all the more pervasive way, the school life organizes itself on a social basis.

Within this organization is found the principle of school discipline or order. Of course, order is simply a thing which is relative to an end. If you have the end in view of forty or fifty children learning certain set lessons, to be recited to a teacher, your discipline must be devoted to securing that result. But if the end in view is the development of a spirit of social cooperation and community life, discipline must grow out of and be relative to this. There is little order of one sort where things are in process of construction; there is a certain disorder in any busy workshop; there is not silence; persons are not engaged in maintaining certain fixed physical postures; their arms are not folded; they are not holding their books thus and so. They are doing a variety of things, and there is the confusion, the bustle, that results from activity. But out of occupation, out of doing things that are to produce results, and out of doing these in a social and cooperative way, there is born a discipline of its own kind and pet Our whole conception of school discipline changes when we get this point of view. In critical moments we all realize that the only discipline that stands by us, the only training that becomes intuition, is that got through life itself. That we learn from experience, and from books or the sayings of others only as they are related to experience, are not mere phrases. But the school has been so set apart, so isolated from the ordinary conditions and motives of life’ that the place where children are sent for discipline is the one place in the world where it is most difficult to get experience — the mother of all discipline worth the name. It is only where a narrow and fixed image of traditional school discipline dominates, that one is in any danger of overlooking that deeper and infinitely wider discipline that comes from having a part to do in constructive work, in contributing to a result which, social in spirit, is none the less obvious and tangible in form — and hence in a form with reference to which responsibility may be exacted and accurate judgment passed.

The great thing to keep in mind, then, regarding the introduction into the school of various forms of active occupation, is that through them the entire spirit of the school is renewed. It has a chance to affiliate itself with life, to become the child’s habitat, where he learns through directed living; instead of being only a place to learn lessons having an abstract and remote reference to some possible living to be done in the future. It gets a chance to be a miniature community, an embryonic society. This is the fundamental fact, and from this arise continuous and orderly sources of instruction. Under the industrial regime described, the child, after all, shared in the work, not for the sake of the sharing, but for the sake of the product. The educational results secured were real, yet incidental and dependent. But in the school the typical occupations followed are freed from all economic stress. The aim is not the economic value of the products, but the development of social power and insight. It is this liberation from narrow utilities, this openness to the possibilities of the human spirit that makes these practical activities in the school allies of art and centers of science and history.

The unity of all the sciences is found in geography. The significance of geography is that it presents the earth as the enduring home of the occupations of man. The world without its relationship to human activity is less than a world. Human industry and achievement, apart from their roots in the earth, are not even a sentiment, hardly a name. The earth is the final source of all man’s food. lt is his continual shelter and protection, the raw material of all his activities, and the home to whose humanizing and idealizing all his achievement returns. It is the great field, the great mine, the great source of the energies of heat, light, and electricity; the great scene of ocean, stream, mountain, and plain, of which all our agriculture and mining and lumbering, all our manufacturing and distributing agencies, are but the partial elements and factors. It is through occupations determined by this environment that mankind has made its historical and political progress. It is through these occupations that the intellectual and emotional interpretation of nature has been developed. It is through what we do in and with the world that we read its meaning and measure its value.

In educational terms, this means that these occupations in the school shall not be mere practical devices or modes of routine employment, the gaining of better technical skill as cooks, seamstresses, or carpenters, but active centers of scientific insight into natural materials and processes, points of departure whence children shall be led out into a realization of the historic development of man. The actual significance of this can be told better through one illustration taken from actual school work than by general discourse.

There is nothing which strikes more oddly upon the average intelligent visitor than to see boys as well as girls of ten, twelve, and thirteen years of age engaged in sewing and weaving. If we look at this from the standpoint of preparation of the boys for sewing on buttons and making patches, we get a narrow and utilitarian conception — a basis that hardly justifies giving prominence to this sort of work in the school. But if we look at it from another side, we find that this work gives the point of departure from which the child can trace and follow the progress of mankind in history, getting an insight also into the materials used and the mechanical principles involved. In connection with these occupations, the historic development of man is recapitulated. for example, the children arc first given the raw material — the flax, the cotton plant, the wool as it comes from the back of the sheep (if we could take them to the place where the sheep are sheared, so much the better). Then a study is made of these materials from the standpoint of their adaptation to the uses to which they may be put. For instance, a comparison of the cotton fiber with wool fiber is made. I did not know until the children told me, that the reason for the late development of the cotton industry as compared with the woolen is, that the cotton fiber is so very difficult to free by hand from the seeds. The children in one group worked thirty minutes freeing cotton fibers from the boll and seeds, and succeeded in getting out less than one ounce. They could easily believe that one person could only gin one pound a day by hand, and could understand why their ancestors wore woolen instead of cotton clothing. Among other things discovered as affecting their relative utilities, was the shortness of the cotton fiber as compared with that of wool, the former being one-tenth of an inch in length, while that of the latter is an inch in length; also that the fibers of cotton are smooth and do not cling together, while the wool has a certain roughness which makes the fibers stick, thus assisting the spinning. The children worked this out for themselves with the actual material, aided by questions and suggestions from the teacher.

They then followed the processes necessary for working the fibers up into cloth. They re-invented the first frame for carding the wool — a couple of boards with sharp pins in them for scratching it out. They re-devised the simplest process for spinning the wool — a pierced stone or some other weight through which the wool is passed, and which as it is twirled draws out the fiber; next the top, which was spun on the floor, while the children kept the wool in their hands until it was gradually drawn out and wound upon it. Then the children are introduced to the invention next in historic order, working it out experimentally, thus seeing its necessity, and tracing its effects, not only upon that particular industry, but upon modes of social life — in this way passing in review the entire process up to the present complete loom, and all that goes with the application of science in the use of our present available powers. I need not speak of the science involved in this — the study of the fibers, of geographical features, the conditions under which raw materials are grown, the great centers of manufacture and distribution, the physics involved in the machinery of production; nor, again, of the historical side — the influence which these inventions have had upon humanity. You can concentrate the history of all mankind into the evolution of the flax, cotton, and wool fibers into clothing. I do not mean that this is the only, or the best, center. But it is true that certain very real and important avenues to the consideration of the history of the race are thus opened — that the mind is introduced to much more fundamental and controlling influences than usually appear in the political and chronological records that pass for history.

Now, what is true of this one instance of fibers used in fabrics (and, of course, I have only spoken of one or two elementary phases of that) is true in its measure of every material used in every occupation, and of the processes employed. The occupation supplies the child with a genuine motive; it gives him experience at first hand ; it brings him into contact with realities. It does all this, but in addition it is liberalized throughout by translation into its historic values and scientific equivalencies. With the growth of the child’s mind in power and knowledge it ceases to be a pleasant occupation merely, and becomes more and more a medium, an instrument, an organ — and is thereby transformed.

This, in turn, has its bearing upon the teaching of science. Under present conditions, all activity, to be successful, has to be directed somewhere and somehow by the scientific expert — it is a ease of applied science. This connection should determine its place in education. It is not only that the occupations, the so-called manual or industrial work in the school, give the opportunity for the introduction of science which illuminates them, which makes them material, freighted with meaning, instead of being mere devices of hand and eye; but that the scientific insight thus gained becomes an indispensable instrument of free and active participation in modern social life. Plato somewhere speaks of the slave as one who in his actions does not express his own ideas, but those of some other man. It is our social problem now, even more urgent than in the time of Plato, that method, purpose, understanding, shall exist in the consciousness of the one who does the work, that his activity shall have meaning to himself.

When occupations in the school are conceived in this broad and generous way, I can only stand lost in wonder at the objections so often heard, that such occupations are out of place in the school because they are materialistic, utilitarian, or even menial in their tendency. It sometimes seems to me that those who make these objections must live in quite another world. The world in which most of us live is a world in which everyone has a calling and occupation, something to do. Some are managers and others are subordinates. But the great thing for one as for the other is that each shall have had the education which enables him to see within his daily work all there is in it of large and human significance. How many of the employed are today mere appendages to the machines which they operate! This may be due in part to the machine itself, or to the regime which lays so much stress upon the products of the machine; but it is certainly due in large part to the fact that the worker has had no opportunity to develop his imagination and his . sympathetic insight as to the social and scientific values found in his work. At present, the impulses which lie at the basis of the industrial system are either practically neglected or positively distorted during the school period. Until the instincts of construction and production are systematically laid hold of in the years of childhood and youth, until they are trained in social directions, enriched by historical interpretation, controlled and illuminated by scientific methods, we certainly are in no position even to locate the source of our economic evils, much less to deal with them effectively.

If we go back a few centuries, we find a practical monopoly of learning. The term possession of learning as, indeed, a happy one. Learning was a class matter. This was a necessary result of social conditions. There were not in existence any means by which the multitude could possibly have access to intellectual resources. These were stored up and hidden away in manuscripts. Of these there were at best only a few, and it required long and toilsome preparation to be able to do anything with them. A high-priesthood of learning, which guarded the treasury of truth and which doled it out to the masses under severe restrictions, was the inevitable expression of these conditions. But, as a direct result of the industrial revolution of which we have been speaking, this has been changed. Printing was invented; it was made commercial. Books, magazines, papers were multiplied and cheapened. As a result of the locomotive and telegraph, frequent, rapid, and cheap intercommunication by mails and electricity was called into being. Travel has been rendered easy; freedom of movement, with its accompanying exchange of ideas, indefinitely facilitated. The result has been an intellectual revolution. Learning has been put into circulation. While there still is, and probably always will be, a particular class having the special business of inquiry in hand, a distinctively learned class is henceforth out of the question. It is an anachronism. Knowledge is no longer an immobile solid; it has been liquefied. It is actively moving in all the currents of society itself.

It is easy to see that this revolution, as regards the materials of knowledge, carries with it a marked change in the attitude of the individual. Stimuli of an intellectual sort pour in upon us in all kinds of ways. The merely intellectual life, the life of scholarship and of learning, thus gets a very altered value. Academic and scholastic, instead of being titles of honor, are becoming terms of reproach.

But all this means a necessary change in the attitude of the school, one of which we are as yet far from realizing the full force. Our school …

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