Page images

work in the junior high and intermediate schools should prove a stimulating factor to large vocational enrolment.

A new industrial world has come to pass. No longer will capital hold absolute sway. The long-delayed recognition of the place of labor is being made. The day of the trained, educated workman has dawned. The necessity of his practical training for national tasks in industry has deepest social significance. It is the surest guaranty against class cleavage and public unrest. Samuel Gompers, captain of the hosts of industry, has voist the sentiment that the American workman will insist that the public schools shall generally furnish education for efficient, intelligent, skilled labor, and that the instruction shall be made democratic."




UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK, N.Y. Society, as it becomes more complex and develops higher standards of individual and social well-being, is always requiring more of its schools, those specialized educational agencies to which are progressively transferred functions of training and instruction heretofore performed incidentally or informally thru life itself, apart from the school. During the last ten years all progressive educators have been industriously studying and planning the development of vocational schools to supplement, in response to the insistently voist demands of many social agencies, the historic forms of general or liberal education which had already been freely developt in public schools. Now that we have achieved substantial results in laying the foundations of public vocational schools, I predict that the next great question which will, for many years, engage the efforts of the public and of educators who can think and plan will be that of the moral education which can produce in individuals the moral character required to meet the needs of a highly developt democracy in the twentieth century.

In facing the problems of what will in this paper, for the sake of brevity, be called "character education," it is of the utmost importance that the National Education Association, thru its members or thru select committees, give especial attention to the following questions: (a) What are the present and future urgent needs for better character education than we now get thru the home, the church, and other social agencies than the schools ? (6) What do our public schools now accomplish toward character education? (c) What are some of the possibilities of improved character education in the schools in the near future? (d) What are the needs of further investigation and research?

a) The acute problems of character education for our age and conditions begin when the youth, at ten or twelve years of age, begins to share actively in social life outside the home. Here he finds himself in the atmosphere of independence and free judgment produced by democracy and the scientific spirit of our time. It helps us not at all to say that he is not ready for this new freedom. The simple social fact is that such freedom exists in the social surroundings of at least 95 per cent of the young people of America today. At ten or twelve years of age the girl almost always, and the boy often, are still plastic and responsive to the controls of the only social pressures that greatly affect them—the home, the school, and sometimes the church. Within six or eight years at most a majority of the girls and almost all the boys have, during their active waking hours, come to live in a social environment which is little influenst by standards of home, church, or even school in the narrower academic sense. In this environment, in curiously mixt ways, independence of judgment, disregard of authority as such, and liberty of action prevail and are even cherisht, except within and with reference to the limited social groups which, under the influence of instinct and custom and sometimes strong leadership, constitute the central facts of social life for most young persons. For them these six or eight years usually constitute their period of initiation into self-supporting employment, power to live almost completely away from the home, readiness to take part in political movements, and the beginnings of courtship acquaintance with the opposite sex. Here lie the most acute needs and the most pressing problems of character education.

b) But let us not make the mistake of undervaluing or misinterpreting the present accomplishments of the schools in character education. In a very real sense our existing schools do the work now expressly committed to them fairly well as respects both character education and other forms of education. Upon the American high school, as an educational agency, for example, there are laid, by controlling authorities, just two types of work and responsibility: first, to teach, in accordance with well-understood standards, certain subjects giving knowledge and skill, such as algebra, history, chemistry, typewriting, English language, civil government, and the like; and secondly, while doing this, to insure, by means of the personalities and examples of teachers, machinery of discipline, and some influence exerted on those voluntary activities of the pupils which intimately affect their school life and work, that the school as a little social world shall itself be orderly, harmonious, cooperative, refined, elevating, and withal democratic. Do we explicitly ask the school to do any more than this ?

Is it not a fact that in view of the demands thus explicitly made and the means provided the American high school is doing these tasks fairly well ?

Let the American teachers as well as the American people take no small credit to themselves for the relative excellence of the social life of our schools. Year by year the public demands that our teachers shall be yet more inspiring in their personality, clean in their morals, refined in their manner, democratic in their attitude. The old school vices—bullying, obscenity, destructive mischief, lying, cheating, brutality of teachers, servility of pupils—have been waning for many years. The typical primary school today is one to which children go enthusiastically and unafraid, and from which they come uncowed, unbrutalized, unroughened. The typical school of the upper grades carries a sad load in its enforst attendance of unadjusted pupils, its unvitalized curriculum, and its unspecialized teaching force; nevertheless, even here, the machinery of control and the personalities of teachers maintain a little society orderly enough for the work that can be done. The typical high school is of course attended only by the select of the community; nevertheless we can well wonder at the orderly and attractive social spirit which prevails.

c) Our schools then, we may say, are now reasonably effective agencies of character formation so far as that character is essential to the social requirements of the school group life itself. But is this any adequate guaranty that the men and women finally produced will be properly socialized for the larger responsibilities of life? It certainly is not. Sometimes the virtues produced in the social environment of the school carry over into later life and sometimes they do not.

Superficially considered, at least, we should expect the standards of dress and personal tidiness required in high school to carry over into later life, because these are standards largely developt during adolescence in all cases. Habitual forms of behavior establisht between boys and girls during the high-school period will probably continue operative, for the same reasons, at least as between social equals, for many years. On the other hand, it may well be doubted whether the standards of "fair play" maintained on the playground can be expected to carry over into adult business and politics where conditions and incitements are necessarily so different. We expect that the boy who has displayed industriousness and initiative in the high school will continue to display these qualities in adult life; but the opposite expectation, that the boy lacking in application and industry in school will not improve or change when he comes under the social pressure of working for rewards that he greatly desires, is so often negatived by experience that we can as yet draw no reliable conclusions.

The possibilities of improving the character education of the schools are therefore of two kinds: we may in specific respects improve-upon the procedures already reasonably good, by which we now make the school an effective little social community toward the service of its own ends; and we can seek to discover ways and means whereby we can use the school life of the pupil to produce the qualities now most required in adult social life and which existing agencies fail adequately to produce.

We are continually at work, of course, on the improvement of school society. We are increasing the rewards of public school teaching and therefore the attractiveness of the profession (if the courtesy-title can yet be allowed) to persons, especially unmarried women, of fine personality and good character. Public demand is steadily enforcing higher standards of social order in the schools. Experiments in establishing some form of selfgovernment for school or classroom, in providing more abundant outlets for surplus physical energy in play and sports, in surrounding school life with the social sedatives of recreational reading and play, in providing thru the practical arts studies for the orderly expression of workmanship instincts, in forming parents into conferences whereby home and school control can be made mutually to reinforce each other-all these, and scores of other old processes being improved or new ones being introduced represent, in their composite form, movements of much magnitude looking to the conscious, progressive evolution of the school.

What can the public school do, in any of its grades or types, as conscious character education toward the requirements of the adult society which as yet lie far ahead ? For the purposes of a character education that shall function specifically in good adult citizenship our more promising opportunities are in schools dealing with youth from twelve years of age upward. Here some promising developments have already been begun. Within moderate limits we believe now that, given a mastery of means and methods yet to be workt out, we can enable the youth to obtain some intellectual apprehension of the structure and functions of the community social life in which, a few years hence, he must play his part. By means of socialscience studies yet to be developt and probably by studies of history pedagogically organized in ways as yet only beginning to be understood we can give the prospective citizen really vital appreciations of the complexity of the social machinery of which he is a part, and of the importance of his playing a worthy rôle therein. In this transitional adolescent age we realize more perhaps than did our forebears the importance of those ideals which, deeply felt and concretely perceived, have the effect often of becoming the incitements of definite and persisting motives. We do not yet know how to produce these ideals as a steady crop; but having in mind the tremendous influence of rare personalities, of certain types of vital literature and other art, and of new social groupings like the Boy Scouts and boys' clubs, we are slowly developing the conviction that there are yet to be discovered pedagogic ways and means whereby, over long eras and on a large scale, we can realize the valuable results for which we are now indebted to volunteer and, almost of necessity, more or less sporadic effort.

From many sources we educators are slowly building up a body of convictions, resolves, and partial insights which will yet serve as the fertile soil out of which workable and effective programs shall spring. We are beginning to see our present high-school curricula in their true light-as withered and almost unserviceable survivals of ancient practices and mistaken conceptions of educational means. We have ceast to have faith in the traditional organization of our schools for children from twelve to fourteen years of age; and as we proceed to put into effect reorganizations already planned here, we shall undoubtedly open the way for the beginnings of some really vital character education toward the ends of adult life. A thousand signs in the field of adolescent education point the way to new analyses of educational goals, to new developments of means and methods, and to new achievements of results on a plane much higher than that on which we have heretofore workt.

d) Progress in education in the past has come as the result of a slow trial-and-error process, varied occasionally by the minor revolutions wrought by the dynamic powers of some creative thinker or exceptionally forceful executive. Of progress due to scientific inquiry, carefully planned experimentation, or the execution of deliberately matured programs, education has almost none to show as yet. Nevertheless every forward-looking educator eagerly anticipates the day when educational aims and processes can be systematically improved and advanst by methods that can properly be called scientific. We are at present hardly within sight, in any concrete and comprehensive sense, of such a vision, but we have come to the stage of promising beginnings. Where some of the adjuncts of education are concerned-lighting and ventilation of classrooms, cost accounting, etc. recent developments have been in a measure along scientific lines. The effectiveness of different methods of training or instruction in the more formal of primary-school studies, as well as objectives in at least two, spelling and arithmetic, has recently been subjected to tests conceived in a scientific spirit and so executed as to give large promise of valuable results in practice in the near future. Contemporary efforts to supplement existing public schools of general education by others designed to offer to the rank and file of workers certain specific forms of vocational education have been made at least partially effective by inquiries of a reasonably scientific character.

Toward furthering the extensions and readjustments of education for the formation of moral character, as discust in this paper, are there practicable, scientific inquiries, well-sustained experiments, systematic applications on a generous scale to objectives and methods of already demonstrated worth? Must the further development of programs in this field wait the outcome of endless exchanges of half-metaphysical dialectics, and the blind fumblings of innovators driven by force of external conditions or lured by a faint inner light ? Surely in these days when social consciousness in individuals, and even in many groups, is so wide-awake we can hope for something better. The National Education Association has not ignored its responsibilities and its opportunities in this field heretofore; but assuredly its duty is as yet far from being done.

Under the auspices of the National Education Association, as well as of other educational organizations, can be formed committees created especially for the discovery, analysis, and documentary statement of the specific problems of character education which lie ahead of us.

The members of all teachers' organizations can do much to cooperate, by moral encouragement and by discriminating study of findings, with the endowed and other voluntary agencies now working on the problem involved. In time, if not now, certain of the results of the work of these

« PreviousContinue »