Teachers and school officers find before them not mere types of humanity, with abstract virtues and vices, general habits, faculties, and powers waiting to be cultivated for “life” as it may be philosophically defined; they have to deal with real and ever-varying human beings, whose impulses, emotions, and purposes reach forward to the actual challenge of the specific duties, interests, and rewards of the real world. To provide, for every normal individual, whatever his endowment, nurture, or experience, an opportunity to prepare himself for a part in the legitimate work of the world, a share in its proper pleasures, and an understanding of the meaning and value of the life he leads—this is the problem to be solved. What are the things men do in which the public interest calls for intelligence and efficiency such as may be got in schools? For the getting of such intelligence and efficiency in the doing of such things, what schools are needed? In these schools what subjects shall be taught and how?

These questions present the problem of education as it must be viewed from the standpoint of the common good—and the questions presented by education viewed from any other standpoint are far less important. No doubt we need, in the crash and strain of modern life, remembrance of the old ideal of personal distinction. Grace is worth too much to lose it beyond retrieving, even for efficiency. But how impoverished now appears that aristocratic ideal which made much of personal charm and little of social worth—for which the education of women could consist chiefly of dancing, French, and hand embroidery! Whatever its faults and dangers, it is a stronger age which approves for women schools of household economy, of nursing, or philanthropy, so say nothing of clerical training, medicine, or law. But he interprets the modern ideal too narrowly who would have it take no account of beauty, leisure, or reflection. The work of the world is fundamental, and in itself neither selfish nor undignified; but the world’s play—its generous sport, its curious science, its philosophic speculation, its art, and its worship—is a region of enduring values. It is only the separation of work and play that belittles either. A social conception of the ends of education finds reason for folk-dancing and pageants in the public schools, but none for the exploitation of children through premature industrial training. The common good demands education for play no less than education for work, education for the larger efficiency of insight, breadth of view, and reflective intelligence no less than education for the narrower efficiency of habit. Democracy cannot perpetuate slavery through schools.

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