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This pamphlet is based upon three papers read at the national educational meetings in February of this year. One was read before the Progressive Education Association in Bal- timore, a second before a division of the De- partment of Superintendence in Washington, and a third before the National Council of Education, also in Washington. The titles of these papers were respectively: Dare Progres- sive Education Be Progressive, Education Through Indoctrination, and Freedom, Cul- ture, Social Planning, and Leadership. Be- cause of the many requests for the papers which have come in from the most diverse quarters and through the courtesy of the John Day Company they are now combined and issued in pamphlet form.

GEORGE S. COUNTS. April 15, 1932.

IKE all simple and unsophisticated peoples we Americans have a sublime faith in education. Faced with any difficult problem of life we set our minds at rest sooner or later by the appeal to the school. We are convinced that education is the one unfailing remedy for every ill to which man is subject, whether it be vice, crime, war, poverty, riches, injustice, racketeering, political corruption, race hatred, class conflict. or just plain original sin. We even speak glibly and often about the general reconstruction of society through the school. We cling to this faith in spite of the fact that the very period in which our troubles have mul- tiplied so rapidly has witnessed an unprece- dented expansion of organized education. This would seem to suggest that our schools, in- stead of directing the course of change, are themselves driven by the very forces that are transforming the rest of the social order.

The bare fact, however, that simple and un- sophisticated peoples have unbounded faith in education does not mean that the faith is un- tenable. History shows that the intuitions of



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such folk may be nearer the truth than the weighty and carefully reasoned judgments of the learned and the wise. Under certain con- ditions education may be as beneficent and as powerful as we are wont to think. But if it is to be so, teachers must abandon much of their easy optimism, subject the concept of educa- tion to the most rigorous scrutiny, and be pre- pared to deal much more fundamentally, real- istically, and positively with the American so- cial situation than has been their habit in the past. Any individual or group that would as- pire to lead society must be ready to pay the costs of Jeadership: to accept responsibility, to suffer calumny, to surrender security, to risk both reputation and fortune. If this price, or some important part of it, is not being paid, then the chances are that the claim to leader- ship is fraudulent. Society is never redeemed without effort, struggle, and sacrifice. Au- thentic leaders are never found breathing that rarefied atmosphere lying above the dust and smoke of battle. With regard to the past we always recognize the truth of this principle, but when we think of our own times we pro- fess the belief that the ancient rôles have been reversed and that now prophets of a new age receive their rewards among the living.

That the existing school is leading the way


to a better social order is a thesis which few informed persons would care to defend. Ex- cept as it is forced to fight for its own life during times of depression, its course is too serene and untroubled. Only in the rarest of instances does it wage war on behalf of prin- ciple or ideal. Almost everywhere it is in the

grip o of conservative forces and is serving the

cause of perpetuating ideas and institutions suited to an age that is gone. But there is one

movement above the educational horizon ,

which would seem to show promise of genuie and creative leadership. I refer to the Pro- gressive Education movement. Surely in this . union of two of the great faiths of the Amer- ican people, the faith in progress and the faith in education, we have reason to hope for light and guidance. Here is a movement which would seem to be completely devo ed to the

“Promotion of. social welfare through educa- ee RTI ge.


Even a casual examination of the program and philosophy of the Progressive schools, however, raises many doubts in the mind. To be sure, these schools have a number of large achievements to their credit. They have fo- | cused attention squarely upon the child; they | have recognized the fundamental importance of the interest of the learner; they have de-/ 5

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fended the thesis that activity hes at the root

of all true education; they have conceived | learning in terms of life situations and growth

of character; they have championed the rights of the child as a free personality. Most of this is excellent, but in my judgment it is not enough. It constitutes too narrow a concep- tion of the meaning of education; it brings into the picture but one-half of the landscape.

If an educational movement, or any other movement, calls itself progressive, it must have orientation; it must possess direction. The word itself imphes moving forward, and mov- ing forward can have little meaning in the ab- sence of clearly defined purposes. We cannot, like Stephen Leacock’s horseman, dash off in all directions at once. Nor should we, like our presidential candidates, evade every disturb- ing issue and be all things to all men. Also we must beware lest we become so devoted to mo- tion that we neglect the question of direction and be entirely satisfied with movement in circles. Here, I think, we find the fundamental weakness, not only of Progressive Education,

_ but also of American education generally. Like

es 6

a baby shaking a rattle, we seem to be utterly content with action, provided it is sufficiently vigorous and noisy. In the last analysis a very large part of Am American educational thought,


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inquiry, and experimentation is much ado about nothing. And, if we are permitted to “push the analogy of the rattle a bit further, our consecration to motion is encouraged and supported in order to keep us out of mischief. At least we know that so long as we thus busy ourselves we shall not incur the serious dis- pleasure of our social elders.

The weakness of Progressive Education thus lies in the fact that it has elaborated no

theory of social welfare, ‘unless it be that of

Atta tod

kan .

“anarchy or extreme individualism. In this, of _ course, it is but reflecting the viewpoint of the .

members of the liberal-minded upper middle class who send their children to the Progres- sive schools—persons who are fairly well-off, who have abandoned the faiths of their fathers, who assume an agnostic attitude towards all important questions, who pride themselves on their open-mindedness and tolerance, who fa- vor in a mild sort of way fairly liberal pro-

. grams of social reconstruction, who are full of

good will and humane sentiment, who have vague aspirations for world peace and human brotherhood, who can be counted upon to re- spond moderately to any appeal made in the name of charity, who are genuinely distressed at the sight of wnwonted forms of cruelty, mis- ery, and suffering, and who perhaps serve to 7

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soften somewhat the bitter clashes of those real forces that govern the world; but who, in spite of all their good qualities, have no deep and abiding loyalties, possess no convictions

: for which they would sacrifice over-much,

? would find it hard to live without their cus-

tomary material comforts, are rather insensi- tive to the accepted forms of social injustice, are content to play the rôle of interested spec- tator in the drama of human history, refuse to see reality in its harsher and more disagree- able forms, rarely move outside the pleasant circles of the class to which they belong, and in the day of severe trial will follow the lead

of the most powerful and respectable forces | in society and at the same time find good rea-

sons for so doing. These people have shown themselves entirely incapable of dealing with any of the great crises of our time—war, pros- perity, or depression. At bottom they are ro- mantic sentimentalists, but with a sharp eye

on the main chance. That they can be trusted \

to write our educational theories and shape our educational programs is highly improbable. Among the members of this class the num-

` ber of children is small, the income relatively

high, and the economic functions of the home

greatly reduced. For these reasons an inordi-

nate emphasis on the child and child interests 8

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is entirely welcome to them. They wish to guard their offspring from too strenuous en- deavor and from coming into too intimate con- tact with the grimmer aspects of industrial society. They wish their sons and daughters to succeed according to the standards of their class and to be a credit to their parents. At heart feeling themselves members of a superior human strain, they do not want their children to mix too freely with the children of the poor or of the less fortunate races. Nor do they want them to accept radical social doctrines, espouse unpopular causes, or lose themselves in quest of any Holy Grail. According to their views education should deal with life, but with life at a distance or in a highly diluted form. They would generally maintain that life should be kept at arm’s length, if it should not be han- dled with a poker.

If Progressive Education is to be sendy progressive, it must emancipate itself from the

m mara ee rere

influence of this class, face squarely and eo cou-

pay aaae n

rageously every social issue, come to grips with

life i e in all of its stark reality, establish an or- ganic relation with the community, develop a realistic and compr ehensive theory of welfare, fashion a compelling and challenging vision of

human destiny, and become less frightened


than it is today at the bogies of imposition and 9

. indoctrination. In a word, Progressive Educa- tion cannot place its trust in a child-centered school.

This brings us to the most crucial issue in education—the question of the nature and ex- tent of the influence which the school should exercise over the development of the child. The advocates of extreme freedom have been so successful m championing what they call the rights of the child that even the most skill- ful practitioners of the art of converting others to their opinions disclaim all intention of molding the learner. And when the word in- doctrination is coupled with education there is scarcely one among us possessing the hardi- hood to refuse to be horrified. This feeling is so widespread that even Mr. Lunacharsky, Commissar of Education in the Russian Re- public until 1929, assured me on one occasion that the Soviet educational leaders do not be- lieve in the indoctrination of children in the ideas and principles of communism. When I asked him whether their children become good communists while attending the schools, he replied that the great majority do. On seeking from him an explanation of this remarkable phenomenon he said that Soviet teachers merely tell their children the truth about hu- man history. As a consequence, so he asserted,



practically all of the more intelligent boys and į

girls adopt the philosophy of communism. I recall also that the Methodist sect in which I was reared always confined its teachings to the truth!

The issue is no doubt badly confused by his- torical causes. The champions of freedom are obviously the product of an age that has broken very fundamentally with the past and is equally uncertain about the future. In many cases they feel themselves victims of narrow orthodoxies which were imposed upon them during childhood and which have severely cramped their lives. At any suggestion that the child should be influenced by his elders they therefore envisage the establishment of a state church, the formulation of a body of sacred doctrine, and the teaching of this doctrine as fixed and final. If we are forced to choose be- tween such an unenlightened form of peda- gogical influence and a condition of complete freedom for the child, most of us would in all probability choose the latter as the lesser of two evils. But this is to create a wholly artificial situation: the choice should not be limited to these two extremes. Indeed today neither ex- treme is possible.

I believe firmly that a critical factor must play an important role in any adequate edu-



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cational program, at least in any such pro- gram fashioned for the modern world. An education that does not strive to promote the fullest and most thorough understanding of the world is not worthy of the name. Also there must be no deliberate distortion or suppression of facts to support any theory or point of view. On the other hand, I am prepared to defend the thesis that all education contains a large element of imposition, that in the very nature of the case this is inevitable, that the existence and evolution of society depend upon it, that it is consequently* eminently desirable, and that the frank acceptance of this fact by the educator is a major professional obligation. I the clothmg of one’s own deepest prejudices in the garb of universal truth and the intro- duction into the theory and practice of educa- tion of an element of obscurantism. In the development of this thesis I shall examine a number of widespread fallacies which seem to me to underlie the theoretical opposition to all

forms of imposition. Although certain of these

fallacies are very closely related and to some extent even cover the same territory, their

* Some persons would no doubt regard this as a non sequitur, but the great majority of the members of the human race would, I think, accept the argument.



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separate treatment will help to illuminate the problem.


1. There is the fallacy that man is born free. As a matter of fact, he is born helpless. He achieves freedom, as a race and as an indi- vidual, through the medium of culture. The most crucial of all circumstances conditioning human hfe is birth into a particular culture. By birth one becomes a Chinese, an English- man, a Hottentot, a Sioux Indian, a Turk, or a one-hundred-percent American. Such a range of possibilities may appear too shocking to contemplate, but it is the price that one must pay in order to be born. Nevertheless, even if a given soul should happen by chance to choose a Hottentot for a mother, it should thank its lucky star that it was born into the Hottentot culture rather than entirely free.

By being nurtured on a body of culture, how-

ever backward and limited it may be compar- atively, the individual is at once imposed upon and liberated. The child is terribly imposed upon by being compelled through the acci- dents of birth to learn one language rather than another, but without some language man would never become man. Any language, even 13


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the most poverty-stricken, is infinitely better than none at all. In the life cycle of the indi- vidual many choices must of necessity be made, and the most fundamental and decisive of these choices will always be made by the group. This 18 so obvious that it should require no elabora- tion. Yet this very obvious fact, with its im- plications, is commonly disregarded by those who are fearful of molding the child.

One of the most important elements of any culture is a tradition of achievement along a particular line—a tradition which the group imposes upon the young and through which the powers of the young are focused, dis- _ ciplined, and developed. One people will have a fine hunting tradition, another a maritime tradition, another a musical tradition, another a military tradition, another a scientifie tra- dition, another a baseball tradition, another a business tradition, and another even a tradi- tion of moral and religious prophecy. A par- ticular society of the modern type commonly has a vast number of different traditions all of which may be bound together and integrated more or less by some broad and inclusive tra- dition. One might argue that the imposing of these traditions upon children involves a se- vere restriction upon their freedom. My thesis is that such imposition, provided the tradition


is vital and suited to the times, releases the energies of the young, sets up standards of ex- cellence, and makes possible really great achievement. The individual who fails to come under the influence of such a tradition may enjoy a certain kind of freedom, but it is scarcely a kind of freedom that anyone would covet for either himself or his children. It is the freedom of mediocrity, incompetence, and aimlessness.

2. There is the fallacy that the child is good by nature. The evidence from anthropology, as well as from common observation, shows that

on entering the world the individual is neither | good nor bad; he is merely a bundle of po- tentialities which may be developed in mani-

fold directions. Guidance is, therefore, not to be found in child nature, but rather in the cul- ture of the group and the purposes of living. There can be no good individual apart from some conception of the character of the good society; and the good society is not something that is given by nature: it must be fashioned by the hand and brain of man. This process of building a good society is to a very large de- gree an educational process. The nature of the child must of course be taken into account in the organization of any educational program, but it cannot furnish the materials and the 15

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guiding principles of that program. Squirm and wriggle as we may, we must admit that the bringing of materials and guiding princi- ples from the outside involves the molding of the child.

3. There is the fallacy that the child lives in a separate world of his own. The advocates of freedom often speak of the adult as an alien influence in the life of the child. For an adult to intrude himself or his values into the do- main of boys and girls is made to take on the appearance of an invasion by a foreign power. Such a dualism is almost wholly artificial. Whatever may be the view of the adult, the

child knows but one society; and that is a SO-

ciety including persons of all ages. This does not mean that conflicts of interest may not occur or that on occasion adults may not abuse and exploit children. It does mean that in a proper kind of society the relationship is one of mutual benefit and regard in which the young repay in trust and emulation the pro- tection and guidance provided by their elders. The child’s conception of his position in so- ciety is well expressed in the words of Plenty-

‘coups, the famous Crow chieftain, who spoke

thus of his boyhood: “We followed the buffalo

herds over our beautiful plains, fighting a bat-

tle one day and sending out a war-party 16


against the enemy the next. My heart was afire. I wished so to help my people, to dis- tinguish myself, so that I might wear an eagle’s feather in my hair. How I worked to make my arms strong as a grizzly’s, and how I practiced with my bow! A boy never wished to be a man more than I.” Here is an emphatic and un- equivocal answer to those who would raise a barrier between youth and age. Place the child in a world of his own and you take from him the most powerful incentives to growth and achievement. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of contemporary society lies in the fact that the child is becoming increasingly isolated from the serious activities of adults. Some would say that such isolation is an in- evitable corollary of the growing complexity of the social order. In my opinion it is rather the product of a society that is moved by no great commanding ideals and is consequently victimized by the most terrible form of human madness—-the struggle for private gain. As primitive peoples wisely protect their children from the dangers of actual warfare, so we guard ours from the acerbities of economic strife. Until school and society are bound to- gether by common purposes the program of education will lack both meaning and vitality.

4. There is the fallacy that education is some


pure and mystical essence that remains un- changed from everlasting to everlasting. Ac- cording to this view, genuine education must be completely divorced from politics, live apart from the play of social forces, and pursue ends peculiar to itself. It thus becomes a method existing independently of the cultural milieu and equally beneficent at all times and in all places. This is one of the most dangerous of fallacies and is responsible for many sins com- mitted in different countries by American educators traveling abroad. They have carried the same brand of education to backward and advanced races, to peoples living under rela- tively static conditions and to peoples passing through periods of rapid and fundamental transition. They have called it Education with a capital Æ, whereas in fact it has been Amer- ican education with a capital A and a small e. Any defensible educational program must be adjusted to a particular time and place, and the degree and nature of the imposition must vary with the social situation. Under ordinary conditions the process of living suffices in it- self to hold society together, but when the forces of disintegration become sufficiently powerful it may well be that a fairly large measure of deliberate control is desirable and even essential to social survival. 18

5. There is the fallacy that the school should be impartial in its emphases, that no bias should be given instruction. We have already ob- served how the individual is inevitably molded by the culture into which he is born. In the case of the school a similar process operates and presumably is subject to a degree of con- scious direction. My thesis is that complete impartiality is utterly impossible, that the school must shape attitudes, develop tastes, and even impose ideas. It is obvious that the whole of creation cannot be brought into the school. This means that some selection must be made of teachers, curricula, architecture, methods of teaching. And in the making of the selection the dice must always be weighted in favor of this or that. Here is a fundamental truth that cannot be brushed aside as irrelevant or unimportant; it constitutes the very es- sence of the matter under discussion. Nor can the reality be concealed beneath agreeable phrases. Professor Dewey states in his De- mocracy and Education that the school should provide a purified environment for the child. With this view I would certainly agree; prob- ably no person reared in our society would favor the study of pornography in the schools. I am sure, however, that this means stacking the cards in favor of the particular systems of


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value which we may happen to possess. It is one of the truisms of the anthropologist that there are no maxims of purity on which all peoples would agree. Other vigorous oppo- nents of imposition unblushingly advocate the “cultivation of democratic sentiments” in chil- dren or the promotion of child growth in the direction of “a better and richer life.” The first represents definite acquiescence in imposition ; the second, if it does not mean the same thing, means nothing. I believe firmly that demo- cratic sentiments should be cultivated and that a better and richer life should be the outcome of education, but in neither case would I place responsibility on either God or the order of nature. I would merely contend that as edu- cators we must make many choices involving the development of attitudes in boys and girls and that we should not be afraid to acknowl- edge the faith that is in us or mayhap the forces that compel us.

6. There is the fallacy that the great object of education is to produce the college pro- fessor, that is, the individual who adopts an agnostic attitude towards every important so- cial issue, who can balance the pros against the cons with the skill of a juggler, who sees all sides of every question and never commits himself to any, who delays action until all the


facts are in, who knows that all the facts will never come in, who consequently holds his Judgment in a state of indefinite suspension, and who before the approach of middle age sees his powers of action atrophy and his so- cial sympathies decay. With Peer Gynt he can exclaim:

Ay, think of it—wish it done—will it to boot, But do it—! No, that’s past my understanding!

This type of mind also talks about waiting until the solutions of social problems are found, when as a matter of fact there are no solutions in any definite and final sense. For any complex social problem worthy of the name there are probably tens and even scores, if not hundreds, of “solutions,” depending upon the premises from which one works. The meeting of a social situation involves the making of decisions and the working out of ad- justments. Also it involves the selection and re- jection of values. If we wait for a solution to appear like the bursting of the sun through the clouds or the resolving of the elements in an algebraic equation, we shall wait in vain. Al- though college professors, if not too numerous, perform a valuable social function, society re- quires great numbers of persons who, while 21

“ra ve.

capable of gathering and digesting facts, are at the same time able to think in terms of life, make decisions, and act. From such persons will come our real social leaders.

7. There is the closely related fallacy that education is primarily intellectualistic in its processes and goals. Quite as important is that ideal factor in culture which gives meaning, direction, and significance to life. I refer to the element of faith or purpose which lifts man out of himself and above the level of his more narrow personal interests. Here, in my judgment, is one of the great lacks in our schools and in our intellectual class today. We are able to contemplate the universe and find that all is vanity. Nothing really stirs us, un- less it be that the bath water is cold, the toast burnt, or the elevator not running; or that per- chance we miss the first section of a revolving door. Possibly this is the fundamental reason why we are so fearful of molding the child. We are moved by no great faiths; we are touched by no great passions. We can view a world order rushing rapidly towards collapse with no more concern than the outcome of a horse race; we can see injustice, crime and misery in their most terrible forms all about us and, if we are not directly affected, register the emotions of a scientist studying white rats


in a laboratory. And in the name of freedom, objectivity, and the open mind, we would transmit this general attitude of futility to our children. In my opinion this is a confession of complete moral and spiritual bankruptcy. We cannot, by talk about the interests of children and the sacredness of personality, evade the responsibilty of bringing to the younger gen- eration a vision which will call forth their ac- tive loyalties and challenge them to creative and arduous labors. A generation without such a vision is destined, like ours, to a life of absorption in self, inferiority complexes, and frustration. The genuinely free man is not the person who spends the day contemplating his own navel, but rather the one who loses him- self in a great cause or glorious adventure.

8. There is the fallacy that the school is an all-powerful educational agency. Every pro- fessional group tends to exaggerate its own importance in the scheme of things. To this general rule the teachers offer no exception. The leaders of Progressive Education in par- ticular seem to have an over-weening faith in the power of the school. On the one hand, they speak continually about reconstructing society through education; and on the other, they ap- parently live in a state of perpetual fear lest the school impose some one point of view upon


\ Í | }

all children and mold them all to a single pattern. A moment’s reflection is sufficient to show that life in the modern world is far too complex to permit this: the school is but one formative agency among many, and certainly not the strongest at that. Our major concern consequently should be, not to keep the school from influencing the child in a positive direc- tion, but rather to make certain that every

Progressive school will use whatever power it

may possess in “Opposing and checking the

“forces of social conservatism and | reaction. We

know full well that, if the school should en- deavor vigorously and consistently to win its pupils to the support of a given social pro- gram, unless it were supported by other agen- cies, it could act only as a mild counterpoise to restrain and challenge the might of less en- lightened and more selfish purposes.

9. There is the fallacy that ignorance rather than knowledge is the way of wisdom. Many who would agree that imposition of some kind is inevitable seem to feel that there is some- thing essentially profane in any effort to un-

- derstand, plan, and control the process. They

will admit that the child is molded by his en- vironment, and then presumably contend that in the fashioning of this environment we

should close our eyes to the consequences of 24

our acts, or at least should not endeavor to

control our acts in the light of definite knowl-

edge of their consequences. To do the latter would involve an effort to influence deliber- ately the growth of the child in a particular direction—to cause him to form this habit rather than that, to develop one taste rather than another, to be sensitive to a given ideal rather than its rival. But this would be a violation of the “rights of the child,” and therefore evil. Apparently his rights can be protected only if our influence upon him is thoroughly concealed under a heavy veil of ignorance. If the school can do no better than this, it has no reason for existence. If it is to be merely an arena for the blind play of psy- chological forces, it might better close its doors. Here is the doctrine of laissez faire, driven from the field of social and political theory, seeking refuge in the domain of peda- gogy. Progressive Education wishes to build a new world but refuses to be held account- able for the kind of world it builds. In my judgment, the school should know what it is doing, in so far as this is humanly possible, and accept full responsibility for its acts.

10. Finally, there is the fallacy that in a dynamic society like ours the major respon- sibility of education is to prepare the individ-


mto ee alli al ai TT arate

mee E C a a ae. ee i v

ual to adjust himself to social change. The argument in support of this view is fairly

cogent. The world is changing with great

rapidity; the rate of change is being acceler- ated constantly; the future is full of uncer- tainty. Consequently the individual who is to lve and thrive in this world must possess an agile mind, be bound by no deep loyalties, hold all conclusions and values tentatively, and be ready on a moment’s notice to make even fundamental shifts in outlook and phi- losophy. Like a lumberjack riding a raft of logs through the rapids, he must be able with lightning speed to jump from one insecure foundation to another, if he is not to be over- whelmed by the onward surge of the cultural stream. In a word, he must be as willing to adopt new ideas and values as to install the most up-to-the-minute labor saving devices in his dwelling or to introduce the latest inven- tions into his factory. Under such a concep- tion of life and society, education can only bow down before the gods of chance and re- flect the drift of the social order. This con- ception is essentially anarchic in character,

‘exalts the irrational above the rational forces

of society, makes of security an individual rather than a social goal, drives every one of

us into an insane competition with his neigh- 26

bors, and assumes that man is incapable of controlling in the common interest the crea- tures of his brain. Here we have imposition with a vengeance, but not the imposition of the teacher or the school. Nor is it an enlightened form of imposition. Rather is it the imposition of the chaos and cruelty and ugliness pro- duced by the brutish struggle for existence and advantage. Far more terrifying than any indoctrination in which the school might indulge is the prospect of our becoming com- pletely victimized and molded by the me- chanics of industrialism. The control of the machine requires a society which is dominated

less by the ideal of individual advancement

and more by certain far-reaching purposes and plans for social construction. In such a society, instead of the nimble mind respon- sive to every eddy in the social current, a firmer and more steadfast mentality would be preferable.


If we may now assume that the child will be imposed upon in some fashion by the vari- ous elements in his environment, the real ques- tion is not whether imposition will take place, but rather from what source it will come. If






fwe were to answer this question in terms of

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