Education is a group enterprise. We establish schools in which we seek

to develop whatever capacities or abilities the individual may possess

in order that he may become intelligently active for the common good.

Schools do not exist primarily for the individual, but, rather, for the

group of which he is a member. ndividual growth and development are

significant in terms of their meaning for the welfare of the whole

p. We believe that the greatest opportunity for the individual, as

well as his greatest satisfaction, are secured only when he works with

others for the common welfare. n the discussions which follow we are

concerned not simply with the individual's development, but also with

the necessity for inhibitions. There are traits or activities which

develop normally, but which are from the social point of view

undesirable. t is quite as much the work of the teacher to know how to

provide for the inhibition of the type of activity which is socially

undesirable, or how to substitute for such reactions other forms of

expression which are worthy, as it is to stimulate those types of

activity which promise a contribution to the common good. t is assumed

that the aim of education can be expressed most satisfactorily in terms

of social efficiency.

An acceptance of the aim of education stated in terms of social

efficiency leads us to discard other statements of aim which have been

more or less current. Chief among these aims, or statements of aim, are

the following: (1) culture; (2) the harmonious development of the

capacities or abilities of the individual; (3) preparing an individual

to make a living; (4) knowledge. We will examine these aims briefly

before discussing at length the implications of the social aim.

Those who declare that it is the aim of education to develop men and

women of culture vary in the content which they give to the term

culture. t is conceivable that the person of culture is one who, by

virtue of his education, has come to understand and appreciate the many

aspects of the social environment in which he lives; that he is a man of

intelligence, essentially reasonable; and that he is willing and able to

devote himself to the common good. t is to be feared, however, that the

term culture, as commonly used, is interpreted much more narrowly. For

many people culture is synonymous with knowledge or information, and is

not interpreted to involve preparation for active participation in the

work of the world. Still others think of the person of culture as one

who has a type or kind of training which separates him from the ordinary

man. A more or less popular notion of the man of culture pictures him as

one living apart from those who think through present-day problems and

who devote themselves to their solution. t seems best, on account of

this variation in interpretation, as well as on account of the

unfortunate meaning sometimes attached to the term, to discard this

statement of the aim of education.

The difficulty with a statement of aim in terms of the harmonious

development of the abilities or capacities possessed by the individual

is found in the lack of any criterion by which we may determine the

desirability of any particular kind of development or action. We may

well ask for what purpose are the capacities or abilities of the

individual to be developed. t is possible to develop an ability or

capacity for lying, for stealing, or for fighting without a just cause.

What society has a right to expect and to demand of our schools is that

they develop or nourish certain tendencies to behave, and that they

strive earnestly to eliminate or to have inhibited other tendencies just

as marked. Another difficulty with the statement of aim in terms of the

harmonious development of the capacities is found in the difficulty of

interpreting what is meant by harmonious development. Do we mean equal

development of each and every capacity, or do we seek to develop each

capacity to the maximum of the individual's possibility of training? Are

we to try to secure equal development in all directions? Of one thing we

can be certain. We cannot secure equality in achievement among

individuals who vary in capacity. One boy may make a good mechanic,

another a successful business man, and still another a musician. t is

only as we read into the statement of harmonious development meanings

which do not appear upon the surface, that we can accept this statement

as a satisfactory wording of the aim of education.

The narrow utilitarian statement of aim that asserts that the purpose of

education is to enable people to make a living neglects to take account

of the necessity for social cooeperation. The difficulty with this

statement of aim is that it is too narrow. We do hope by means of

education to help people to make a living, but we ought also to be

concerned with the kind of a life they lead. They ought not to make a

living by injuring or exploiting others. They ought to be able to enjoy

the nobler pleasures as well as to make enough money to buy food,

clothing, shelter, and the like. The bread-and-butter aim breaks down as

does the all-around development aim because it fails to consider the

individual in relation to the social group of which he is a member.

To declare that knowledge is the aim of education is to ignore the issue

of the relative worth of that which we call knowledge. No one may know

all. What, then, from among all of the facts or principles which are

available are we to select and what are we to reject? The knowledge aim

gives us no satisfactory answer. We are again thrown back upon the

question of purpose. Knowledge we must have, but for the individual who

is to live in our modern, industrial, democratic society some knowledges

are more important than others. Society cannot afford to permit the

school to do anything less than provide that equipment in knowledge, in

skill, in ideal, or in appreciation which promises to develop an

individual who will contribute to social progress, one who will find his

own greatest satisfaction in working for the common good.

n seeking to relate the aim of education to the school activities of

boys and girls, it is necessary to inquire concerning the ideals or

purposes which actuate them in their regular school work. _deals of

service_ may be gradually developed, and may eventually come to control

in some measure the activities of boys and girls, but these ideals do

not normally develop in a school situation in which competition is the

dominating factor. We may discuss at great length the desirability of

working for others, and we may teach many precepts which look in the

direction of service, and still fail to achieve the purpose for which

our schools exist. An overemphasis upon marks and distinctions, and a

lack of attention to the opportunities which the school offers for

helpfulness and cooeperation, have often resulted in the development of

an individualistic attitude almost entirely opposed to the purpose or

aim of education as we commonly accept it.

There is need for much reorganization in our schools in the light of our

professed aim. There are only two places in our whole school system

where children are commonly so seated that it is easy for them to work

in cooeperation with each other. n the kindergarten, in the circle, or

at the tables, children normally discuss the problems in which they are

interested, and help each other in their work. n the seminar room for

graduate students in a university, it is not uncommon to find men

working together for the solution of problems in which they have a

common interest. n most classrooms in elementary and in high schools,

and even in colleges, boys and girls are seated in rows, the one back of

the other, with little or no opportunity for communication or

cooeperation. ndeed, helping one's neighbor has often been declared

against the rule by teachers. t is true that pupils must in many cases

work as individuals for the sake of the attainment of skill, the

acquirement of knowledge, or of methods of work, but a school which

professes to develop ideals of service must provide on every possible

occasion situations in which children work in cooeperation with each

other, and in which they measure their success in terms of the

contribution which they make toward the achievement of a common end.

The socially efficient individual must not only be actuated by ideals of

service, but must in the responses which he makes to social demands be

governed by his own careful thinking, or by his ability to distinguish

from among those who would influence him one whose solution of the

problem presented is based upon careful investigation or inquiry.

Especially is it true in a democratic society that the measure of the

success of our education is found in the degree to which we develop the

scientific attitude. Even those who are actuated by noble motives may,

if they trust to their emotions, to their prejudices, or to those

superstitions which are commonly accepted, engage in activities which

are positively harmful to the social group of which they are members.

Our schools should strive to encourage the spirit of inquiry and


A large part of the work in most elementary schools and high schools

consists in having boys and girls repeat what they have heard or read.

t is true that such accumulation of facts may, in some cases, either at

the time at which they are learned, or later, be used as the basis for

thinking; but a teacher may feel satisfied that she has contributed

largely toward the development of the scientific spirit upon the part of

children only when this inquiring attitude is commonly found in her

classroom. The association of ideas which will result from an honest

attempt upon the part of boys and girls to find the solution of a real

problem will furnish the very best possible basis for the recall of the

facts or information which may be involved. The attempt to remember

pages of history or of geography, or the facts of chemistry or of

physics, however well they may be organized in the text-book, is usually

successful only until the examination period is passed. Children who

have engaged in this type of activity quite commonly show an appalling

lack of knowledge of the subjects which they have studied a very short

time after they have satisfied the examination requirement. The same

amount of energy devoted to the solution of problems in which children

may be normally interested may be expected not only to develop some

appreciation of scientific method in the fields in which they have

worked, but also to result in a control of knowledge or a memory of

facts that will last over a longer period of time.

Recitations should be places where children meet for the discussion of

problems which are vital to them. The question by the pupil should be as

common as the question by the teacher. Laboratory periods should not

consist of following directions, but rather in undertaking, in so far as

it is possible, real experiments. We may not hope that an investigating

or inquiring turn of mind encouraged in school will always be found

operating in the solution of problems which occur outside of school, but

the school which insists merely upon memory and upon following

instructions may scarcely claim to have made any considerable

contribution to the equipment of citizens of a democracy who should

solve their common problems in terms of the evidence presented. The

unthinking acceptance of the words of the book or the statement of the

teacher prepares the way for the blind following of the boss, for faith

in the demagogue, or even for acceptance of the statements of the quack.

The ideal school situation is one in which the spirit of inquiry and

investigation is constantly encouraged and in which children are

developing ideals of service by virtue of their _activity_. A high

school class in English literature in which children are at work in

small groups, asking each other questions and helping each other in the

solution of their problems, seems to the writer to afford unusual

opportunity for the realization of the social aim of education. A first

grade class in beginning reading, in which the stronger children seek to

help those who are less able, involves something more significant in

education than merely the command of the tool we call reading. A teacher

of a class in physics who suggested to his pupils that they find out

which was the more economical way to heat their homes,--with hot air,

with steam, or with hot water,--evidently hoped to have them use

whatever power of investigation they possessed, as well as to have them

come to understand and to remember the principles of physics which were

involved. n many schools the cooeperation of children in the preparation

of school plays, or school festivals, in the writing and printing of

school papers, in the participation in the school assembly, in the

making of shelves, tables, or other school equipment, in the working for

community betterment with respect to clean streets and the like, may be

considered even more significant from the standpoint of the realization

of the social aim of education than are the recitations in which they

are commonly engaged.

We have emphasized thus far the meaning of the social aim of education

in terms of methods of work upon the part of pupils. t is important to

call attention to the fact that the materials or content of education

are also determined by the same consideration of purposes. f we really

accept the idea of participation upon the part of children in modern

social life as the purpose of education, we must include in our courses

of study only such subject matter as may be judged to contribute toward

the realization of this aim. We must, of course, provide children with

the tools of investigation or of inquiry; but their importance should

not be overemphasized, and in their acquirement significant experiences

with respect to life activities should dominate, rather than the mere

acquisition of the tool. Beginning reading, for example, is important

not merely from the standpoint of learning to read. The teaching of

beginning reading should involve the enlarging and enriching of

experience. Thought getting is of primary importance for little children

who are to learn to read, and the recognition of symbols is important

only in so far as they contribute to this end. The best reading books no

longer print meaningless sentences for children to decipher. Mother

Goose rhymes, popular stories and fables, language reading lessons, in

which children relate their own experience for the teacher to print or

write on the board, satisfy the demand for content and aid, by virtue of

the interest which is advanced, in the mastering of the symbols.

t is, of course, necessary for one who would understand modern social

conditions or problems, to know of the past out of which our modern life

has developed. t is also necessary for one who would understand the

problems of one community, or of one nation, to know, in so far as it is

possible, of the experiences of other peoples. History and geography

furnish a background, without which our current problems could not be

reasonably attacked. Literature and science, the study of the fine arts,

and of our social institutions, all become significant in proportion as

they make possible contributions, by the individual who has been

educated, to the common good.

Any proper interpretation of the social purpose of education leads

inevitably to the conclusion that much that we have taught is of very

little significance. Processes in arithmetic which are not used in

modern life have little or no worth for the great majority of boys and

girls. Partnership settlements involving time, exact interest, the

extraction of cube and of square roots, partial payments, and many of

the problems in mensuration, might well be omitted from all courses of

study in arithmetic. Many of the unimportant dates in history and much

of the locational geography should disappear in order that a better

appreciation of the larger social movements can be secured, or in order

that the laws which control in nature may be taught. n English, any

attempt to realize the aim which we have in mind would lay greater

stress upon the accomplishment of children in speaking and writing our

language, and relatively less upon the rules of grammar.

t may well be asked how our conception of aim can be related to the

present tendency to offer a variety of courses of instruction, or to

provide different types of schools. The answer is found in an

understanding and appreciation of the fact that children vary

tremendously in ability, and that the largest contribution by each

individual to the welfare of the whole group can be made only when each

is trained in the field for which his capacity fits him. The movement

for the development of vocational education means, above all else, an

attempt to train all members of the group to the highest possible degree

of efficiency, instead of offering a common education which, though

liberal in its character, is actually neglected or refused by a large

part of our population.

Our interest in the physical welfare of children is accounted for by the

fact that no individual may make the most significant contribution to

the common good who does not enjoy a maximum of physical efficiency. The

current emphasis upon moral training can be understood when we accept

that conception of morality which measures the individual in terms of

his contribution to the welfare of others. However important it may be

that individuals be restrained or that they inhibit those impulses which

might lead to anti-social activity, of even greater importance must be

the part actually played by each member of the social group in the

development of the common welfare.

f we think of the problems of teaching in terms of habits to be fixed,

we must ask ourselves are these habits desirable or necessary for an

individual who is to work as a member of the social group. f we

consider the problem of teaching from the standpoint of development in

intelligence, we must constantly seek to present problems which are

worth while, not simply from the standpoint of the curiosity which they

arouse, but also on account of their relation to the life activities

with which our modern world is concerned. We must seek to develop the

power of appreciating that which is noble and beautiful primarily

because the highest efficiency can be secured only by those who use

their time in occupations which are truly recreative and not enervating.

As we seek to understand the problem of teaching as determined by the

normal mental development of boys and girls, we must have in mind

constantly the use to which their capacities and abilities are to be

put. Any adequate recognition of the social purpose of education

suggests the necessity for eliminating, as far as possible, that type of

action which is socially undesirable, while we strive for the

development of those capacities which mean at least the possibility of

contribution to the common good. We study the principles of teaching in

order that we may better adapt ourselves to the children's possibilities

of learning, but we must keep in mind constantly that kind of learning

and those methods of work which look to the development of socially

efficient boys and girls. We must seek to provide situations which are

in themselves significant in our modern social life as the subject

matter with which children may struggle in accomplishing their

individual development. We need constantly to have in mind the ideal of

school work which will value most highly opportunities for cooeperation

and for contribution to the common good upon the part of children, which

are in the last analysis entirely like the situations in which older

people contribute to social progress. More and more we must seek to

develop the type of pupil who knows the meaning of duty and who gladly

recognizes his obligations to a social group which is growing larger

with each new experience and each new opportunity.


1. Why would you not be satisfied with a statement of the aim of

education which was expressed in terms of the harmonious development of

an individual's abilities and capacities?

2. Suggest any part of the courses of study now in force in your school

system the omission of which would be in accordance with the social aim

of education.

3. Name any subjects or parts of subjects which might be added for the

sake of realizing the aim of education.

4. How may a teacher who insists upon having children ask permission

before they move in the room interfere with the realization of the

social aim of education?

5. Can you name any physical habits which may be considered socially

undesirable? Desirable?

6. What is the significance of pupil participation in school government?

7. How does the teacher who stands behind his desk at the front of the

room interfere with the development of the right social attitude upon

the part of pupils?

8. Why is the desire to excel one's own previous record preferable to

striving for the highest mark?

9. n one elementary school, products of the school garden were sold and

from the funds thus secured apparatus for the playground was bought. n

another school, children sold the vegetables and kept the money. Which,

in your judgment, was the most worth while from the standpoint of the

social development of boys and girls?

10. A teacher of Latin had children collect words of Latin origin,

references to Latin characters, and even advertisements in which Latin

words or literary references were to be found. The children in the class

were enthusiastic in making these collections, and considerable interest

was added to the work in Latin. Are you able to discover in the exercise

any other value?

11. Describe some teaching in which you have recently engaged, or which

you have observed, in which the methods of work employed by teacher and

pupils seemed to you to contribute to a realization of the social

purpose of education.

12. How can a reading lesson in the sixth grade, or a history lesson in

the high school, be conducted to make children feel that they are doing

something for the whole group?

13. n what activities may children engage outside of school which may

count toward the betterment of the community in which they live?

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