In Praise of the Cognitive Emotions and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Education

By Israel Scheffler | Go to book overview

12
Vice Into Virtue, or
Seven Deadly Sins of
Education Redeemed

Introduction

My purpose in what follows is to reveal some of the virtues hidden in what are typically deemed unqualified educational vices. I am encouraged in this purpose by one of William James's celebrated Talks to Teachers, in which he urged his hearers not to disparage passions "often . . . considered unworthy . . . to appeal to in the young," but rather to redirect them to good educational use, "reaping [their] advantages . . . in such a way as to [achieve] a maximum of benefit with a minimum of harm." Thus, as against Rousseau, who, in his Emile, had attacked the use of rivalry as a motive in education, James defended "the feeling of rivalry" as "[lying] at the very basis of our being, all social improvement being largely due to it. There is a noble and generous kind of rivalry," James wrote, "as well as a spiteful and greedy kind; and the noble and generous form is particularly common in childhood. All games owe the zest which they bring with them to the fact that they are rooted in the emulous passion, yet they are the chief means of training in fairness and magnanimity. Can the teacher afford to throw such an ally away?" 1

Similarly, James defended appeal to the pupil's pride and pugnacity since "in their more refined and noble forms they play a great part in the schoolroom and in education generally, being in some characters most potent spurs to effort. Pugnacity," he continued,

need not be thought of merely in the form of physical combativeness. It can be taken in the sense of a general unwillingness to be beaten by any kind of difficulty. It is what makes us feel "stumped" and challenged by arduous achievements, and is essential to a spirited and enterprising character. . . . It is nonsense to suppose that every step in education can

____________________
Presented 25 April 1989 at Framingham State College, as part of its Sesquicentennial Celebration. Reprinted from Teachers College Record 91, no. 2 ( 1989): 177-89.

-126-

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In Praise of the Cognitive Emotions and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Part I Human Nature 1
  • Part Ii Symbolism 43
  • Part III Curriculum 69
  • Part Iv Education 101
  • 12: Vice into Virtue, or Seven Deadly Sins of Education Redeemed 126
  • Part V Pragmatic Perspectives 141
  • Index 171
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