Conflicting Psychologies of Learning

By Boyd Henry Bode | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE REACTION AGAINST FORMAL DISCIPLINE

For many generations the doctrine of formal discipline was the dominant educational philosophy of the Occidental world. Occasional protests were heard, to be sure, notably from the camp of the Herbartians, but these protests did not succeed in making a very strong impression. With the beginning of the present century, however, there came a sharp reaction. It became more or less the fashion to decry formal discipline and to insist upon the need of specific objectives in education. A very different attitude and temper of mind began to assert itself.

In education, as in government, revolutions are a long time in the making. When habits of thinking and of practice prevail for a long time, they become exceedingly difficult to change. A great deal of pressure must accumulate before it becomes possible to break through the crust of inertia; and when the change does come its results are often less significant than the surface facts would seem to indicate. The French Revolution, for example, was a tremendous explosion. An observer might easily have supposed that the French people were done forever with the idea of monarchy; yet within a few years the monarchy was reëstablished under Napoleon. The Revolution did not change the mental habits of the people overnight, just as a New Year's pledge does not automatically change the habits of the person who signs the pledge. In a similar

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