Conflicting Psychologies of Learning

By Boyd Henry Bode | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
EDUCATION FROM A PRAGMATIC POINT OF VIEW

Our whole discussion, up to the present point, is only an elaboration of the thesis that theories of learning are embodiments or applications of conceptions regarding the nature of mind. The history of education bears testimony to the fact that influential theories of the mind translate themselves at some point into educational practice. If we assume that the mind exists antecedently waiting to be trained, the natural result of this assumption is formal discipline. Or if we take for granted that the mind consists of a collection of impressions or mental states, we may then easily exalt the rôle of the teacher and formalize the process of instruction. In the one case the mind is, indeed, a source of energy or power, but the primary use of subject matter is to serve as gymnastic material. In the other case the emphasis falls primarily on the acquisition and organization of material, but with little regard for the development of individual capacity and interest. In both cases the conception of mind that is basic to the corresponding educational practice tends to set the mind apart as something to be trained or moulded. The selection and organization of subject matter is not determined by a purpose or aim that the learner is seeking to realize, but is imposed from without; with the result that education becomes formalized.

If we abandon this ancient dualism, we limit the native equipment of the individual to a certain set or group of

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