The Purposes of Education in American Democracy

By Educational Policies Commission | Go to book overview

IV.
THE OBJECTIVES OF SELF-REALIZATION

And, if we think of it, what does civilization itself rest upon . . . but rich, luxuriant, varied personalism? To that all bends; and it is because toward such result democracy alone, on anything like Nature's scale, breaks up the limitless fallows of humankind, and plants the seed, and gives fair Play, that its claims now precede the rest. The literature, songs, esthetics, etc., of a country are of importance principally because they furnish the materials and suggestions of personality for the women and men of that country, and enforce them in a thousand effective ways.

The purpose of democracy . . . is, through many transmigrations, and amid endless ridicules, arguments and ostensible failures, to illustrate, at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that man, properly trained in sanest, highest freedom, may and must become a law, and series of laws, unto himself. . . .

-- WALT WHITMAN.

It is appropriate to begin a survey of educational purposes with a program for the development of the individual learner. There exists at the moment great pressure on schools and other social agencies to "mold" the child in the interest of his future economic efficiency, his future adult citizenship, his future membership in the family. There is real danger that our preoccupation with "preparedness" in education may defeat itself by weakening our concern for the child as he is, as a growing individual human being, quite apart from remote social preparatory ends.

Here is no unsocial motive, for after all, as we have already seen, it is only through individual growth that social

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