A History of Educational Thought

A History of Educational Thought

A History of Educational Thought

A History of Educational Thought

Excerpt

What is the history of education? It is, in the first place, the outcome of an application of the historical method to education, whatever that may be. As to the historical method, its canons are fairly well known. It is scientific. It does not treat all authorities as of equal value. It is not content with secondary authorities, when primary sources may be consulted. It recognizes the possibility that even primary source-material may be vitiated by the corruption of texts, as well as by the ignorance or bias of the authors. It avoids generalizations which are not founded upon the adequate examination of facts; in short, it has an inductive character. Yet, if these canons of method be granted, there remains the further question -- What is education?

Clearly, the scope and limits of the history of education depend entirely upon the definition of education itself. There is, unfortunately, no accepted definition of education; or rather, there are so many definitions that the offer of another is inevitable. What is sought at present is the most useful definition for the purposes of the historical investigator. For the present purpose, indeed, some definitions, although good enough in themselves, are of little value. For example, education has been defined as a process aiming at the harmonious development of the faculties; but a history of this process would be inadequate as a history of education. For historical purposes, the definition should refer to society as well as to the individual. When any given field is viewed by the historian of education, he perceives that the people are divided into two main classes, those of mature mind, and those whose mind is in process of development towards maturity. Accordingly, the reader of these pages will understand that their scope and limits are determined by the following definition: education is the process by which the more mature members of a community train and instruct the less mature, in order that the latter may conform to certain standards, and inherit certain social acquisitions.

If the definition offered be accepted, it follows that the history of education involves not a simple, but a twofold investigation. Something must be known of the aims, the standards, and the general civilization of a community, before the means of education which it adopts become intelligible. This is particularly true of the old Greek . . .

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