from Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas, ed. Philip P. Wiener, Vol. II (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons: 1973).


We may begin with the word "education." Through the Latin it is related both to the notion of bringing up or rearing and to that of bringing out or leading forth, but during the centuries its meaning, and that of its equivalents in other languages, has become ever more complex. In relatively recent times, ''education" has come to stand, as "philosophy" and "psychology" do, for a discipline or field of studies, once calls "pedagogics," often set up as a department or school within a college or university, and thought of as subje matter to be taught and developed by further research. One of our tendencies is to make everything just another subject in the educational curriculum, and we have now done this with education itself.

In some uses, however, "education" stands, as it always did until recently, not for the discipline just referred to, but for the enterprise it studies and reflects on. In this sense, which is the more important one for the history of ideas, education is not a study or field of inquiry but an activity or endeavor of a very different kind, one that is related to the discipline of education and the disciplines supporting it (philosophy, psychology, etc.) in something like the way in which building bridges and rockets is related to what is done in engineering schools and science classrooms and laboratories. This enterprise needs theory and science to guide it, once it has developed beyond unreflective practice, and it is the task of the discipline, with the help of other disciplines, to provide this. But it is itsf a kind of action, not of theory or science. What makes it interesting for the history of ideas, however, is the ideas -- the concepts and theories -- behind it, and especially the fact that both it and they have involved many other fields, including philosophy, that are not themselves primarily concerned with education.

For, as Moses Hadas says, ". . . education is man's most important enterprise" (Old Wine, New Bottles [1963], p. 3). If we include self-education, then on it depends "all that makes a man"; everything that raises man above or puts him ahead of the other animals. As Kant put it, "Man can only become man by education. He is merely what education makes of him" (Education [1960], p. 3). The example of wolf-children shows this, though it has always been true. It is only recently that someone was able to add that education is also man's biggest business -- and, indeed, educators are beginning to use language borrowed from commerce and industry. We even speak now of "international education," and, as noted, have whole schools and institutes to develop and teach the discipline of education. The economics of education has become an important study, and people debate the question whether education is a profession.

Even if we consider only formal instruction, it is not too much to say that the enterprise of education either has come to involve everyone alive or is expected to, that every other human endeavor of any importance depends on and is served by it, and that almost every other such enterprise is stimulated by it and plays a role with respect to it, either as a source for its premisses and methods, as part of its curriculum, or as one of its aims. In short, the idea of education behind it, if there is one, is one of the oldest and most important energizing and organizing ideas in Western culture -- ranking with those of government, morality, science, and technology.

The word "idea" may stand either for a concept or for a doctrine or proposition. Thus, "the idea of progress" may denote either the concept of a certain kind of change, i.e., a constant change for the better, or the belief that history actually embodies a change of that kind. And "an idea of man" may mean either a concept of man as a certain kind of animal or being, e.g., as a rational animal or featherless biped, or a belief or set of beliefs about such an animal or being, e.g., the Christian idea of man. Coming to the phrase "idea of education," we find that it has at least four uses:

  1. "the idea of education" may mean either
    1. the concept of education, or
    2. the belief or faith in education;
  2. "an idea of education" may denote either
    1. a concept of education, i.e., a suggested definition of education, or
    2. a belief or set of beliefs about education, about its aims, forms, means, etc.
A large part of our task is to analyze, perhaps somewhat roughly but still helpfully, the four categories thus distinguished. Those referred to in (1a) and (2a) can be discussed together, for an idea of education that really proposes a definition of education is simply an attempt to give an analysis of the idea of education.

It may be argued at once that there is no such thing as the idea or concept of education that underlies or defines the educational enterprise, that there are only ideas of education such as are referred to in (2a) and (2b), for example, President Garfield's idea of education as a log with a student on one end and Mark Hopkins on the other. In fact, this is virtually what T. S. Eliot contends, coming to the conclusion that "education does not appear to be definable" (To Criticize the Critic, and other Writings [1965], p. 120). Actually, he is closer to the truth when he says, somewhat in passing, that we all mean by education some training of the mind or body (p. 75). It is true that the term "education" is ambiguous and vague, or "wobbly" as Eliot so nicely puts it, but its uses do have more clarity and unity than he recognizes. The enterprise of education, as his own passing remark suggests, consists in all forms and places of activity in which some individual or group fosters or seeks to foster in some individual or group some ability, belief, knowledge, habit, skill, trait of character, or "value," and does so by the use of certain methods. There is always someone doing the educating, someone being educated, something being fostered in the second by the first, by some method or combination of methods.

Thus we can and do think of education in different but related ways:

  1. as the activity of the one doing the educating, the act or process of educating or teaching engaged in by the educator,
  2. as the process or experience of being educated or learning that goes on in the one being educated, and
  3. as the result produced in the one being educated by the double process of educating and being educated, i.e., the combination of abilities, etc., that are produced in him or that are possessed by him when he has been educated.
In these three uses of "education" we are referring to the enterprise of education in one way or another, but we also think of education in a fourth way, namely,
  1. as the discipline or study discussed earlier.

Two comments are in order.

  1. The individual or group doing the educating and the one being educated may be the same, as they are in any process of selfeducation.
  2. Education in sense (4) can be defined as the study of (1), (2), and (3); education in sense (3) as the result of (1) and (2); and education in sense (2) as the reverse side of (1). Thus, though the four senses are distinct, there is a nice kind of unity among them.

It will be convenient to use the word "disposition" to denote all of the abilities, beliefs, habits, knowledges, skills, traits, or "values" that education may seek to foster by activities of the kinds just indicated, as Dewey sometimes does, though he elsewhere prefers the term "habit." This is a somewhat extended and unusual use of the word "disposition," since it means designating as dispositions not only things like cheerfulness, but also things like an ability to act, a knowledge of physics, or a belief in God or education. But we need some single term here and any ordinary word we choose must be extended to cover the very varied things under discussion.

We may say, then, that the idea of education is the idea of someone fostering dispositions in someone by activities of certain sorts. More formally, the idea of education may be at least partly explicated as follows:

X educates Y only if X fosters disposition W in Y by method Z.

Strictly, of course, this is an explication only of education in sense (1), but we have already seen that education in the other three senses can be defined in terms of this one. To this extent the formula just given does represent a concept that may be called the idea of education. However, we do not yet have a complete analysis of this concept; to achieve this we must know something more, something about the ranges of the variables involved. May we put just anything in the places of X and Y, any disposition in the place of W, and any method in the place of Z, and still say that education is going on? Rousseau (writing in 1762) talks as if we may when he says that education comes to us from three sources, from nature, from men, and from things, since they all do something for us (Emile [1962], p. 11). It should be observed that our question here is not normative but conceptual. For example, we are not asking, as if education were already defined, what dispositions it should cultivate or what methods it should use; we are still defining it and are asking whether any restrictions on the dispositions that might be cultivated or the means that might be employed are to be built into the very concept of education (i.e., put into our definition).

In reply R. S. Peters has argued very cogently that, unless we extend the term education as Rousseau does, we would not say that X is educating Y if he is fostering undesirable and morally objectionable dispositions or using undesirable and morally objectionable methods; for example, if he is helping Y to form bad habits and false beliefs, or if he is using harmful drugs, brainwashing, or hypnotic suggestion (Concept of Education [1967], pp. 1-6). This seems to be correct. It is true we may say that what X is doing then is "bad education," but we would be more likely to say it is not education at all. Education is, normally at least, a laudatory term and its laudatoriness seems to be built into it. If one says that X is educating Y, one must be thinking that X is cultivating desirable and morally unobjectionable dispositions (excellences) by similar means. Education must foster dispositions and use methods that are desirable and morally unobjectionable, or at least regarded as such, otherwise it is not education.

Does the concept of education impose any further restrictions on the dispositions and methods to be pursued? May or should we build anything more about them into the definition of education? It is sometimes assumed that education is by definition concerned only to promote knowledge and intellectual excellences. Thus, R. M. Hutchins writes, "Education implies teaching. Teaching implies knowledge" (The Higher Leaming [1962], p. 66). And again, "Education deals with the development of the intellectual powers of men. Their moral and spiritual powers are the sphere of the family and the church" (Conflict in Education [1953], p. 69).

One can, of course, so define education, but it is a rather arbitrary limitation of the concept, since we do ordinarily include moral and religious education within it. If one says that such cultivation of moral and spiritual powers is not education, but something else, however desirable it may be, one not only rejects our usual way of speaking; one forces us to look for some other term that covers the whole idea we have throughout history been using "education" and its equivalents to mean.

Peters has also sought to build further criteria into the concept of education. He argues that education is going on only if X is initiating Y into some form of activity, some body of knowledge or mode of conduct that is governed by public standards enshrined in a public language to which both teacher and learner must give allegiance. Education "consists in initiating others into activities, modes of conduct and thought which have standards written into them by reference to which it is possible to act, think, and feel with varying degrees of skill, relevance, and taste" (Education as Initiation [1964], p. 41).

Peters contends, furthermore, that education implies that the teacher and learner both know what they are doing, at least in an embryonic way, and care about it; that, though education does include the cultivation of moral and spiritual powers as well as intellectual ones, it always entails some kind of cognitive or intellectual development, some kind of "knowing-that" as well as "knowing-how"; and that the methods it uses must be appropriate to the dispositions involved in the kind of initiation described, as well as compatible with the learner's knowing what he is doing and caring about it. This is a more adequate view than that of Hutchins, and one is tempted to accept it, at least if it can be made to cover the cultivation of bodily skills, manual training, aesthetic education, and vocational preparation, all of which we ordinarily cover by the word "education."

On the other hand, it is not entirely clear that Peters' definition will cover all of these things. Moreover, he appears to be thinking that the forms of activity and thought into which X is to initiate Y must have been developed in the past and in some public way, and so, though he does try to provide for the teaching of critical thinking, he seems to exclude from education the possibility that X might initiate Y into some new mode of activity or thought with standards not yet publicly accepted -- or possibly into some "form of Life" that involves no standards at all or only those Y comes to regard as his "own thing" or commits himself to by some act of "choice" or "decision." Such possibilities seem to be envisaged by those who are presently advocating a "new" or "free" education, and it does seem a bit arbitrary to say that what they are envisaging just is not a form of education, even if it turns out to be desirable and morally unobjectionable (as it very well may not).

The much-discussed question of the relation of indoctrination to education is relevant here. Indoctrination appears to be one way in which the young might be made to acquire at least some of the dispositions Peters has in mind, though he may be meaning to nule out its use in education by his criterion that the learner must see, if only as a child, what he is doing and why it is desirable. What seems crucial in the debate about it, however, is not whether indoctrination passes this criterion but whether its use is desirable and morally unobjectionable. Those who think it is never so tend to deny that indoctrination is a form of education, while those who think it sometimes is so tend to hold that indoctrination is a kind of education, even if they limit its use. This suggests that we rule indoctrination and other doubtful methods out of education by definition, if and only if we regard them as undesirable or morally objectionable. Should we rule them out of education on any other grounds? To say no here has the disadvantage that, if we find promoting good dispositions by drug, pill, electrode, or hypnotism to be feasible and unobjectionable, then we must recognize such methods as properly educational, which many are admittedly reluctant to do. On the other hand, perhaps we are reluctant to recognize them as educational only because we are certain that they are morally or otherwise objectionable -- or simply so incapable of producing desirable dispositions as not to deserve consideration at all.

So far as the ranges of W and Z go, then, it is not clear that we should build into the definition of education anything more than the requirement that the dispositions sought and the means employed must be desirable on some ground or other and morally unobjectionable. As for the conceptual question about the ranges of X and Y, it seems fairly clear that we would think that X is educating Y only if X and Y both have minds of a human level. It is tnue that Rousseau says we are educated by nature and things as well as by men, and that his way of speaking is not entirely unnatural. Still he is stretching the range of X too far. It is only when "exempt from public haunts" that we find "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks," and "sermons in stones." We do, of course, "learn" from our experience with things, but to call them our "teachers" is surely some kind of metonymy at best if there is a teacher here it is ourselves. What Heidi's grandfather learned from the eagle he taught himself. As for Rousseau's talk about education by nature -- this is simply a mistake. By it he means the fruition of innate dispositions that would take place in our lives if it were not for the action of men and things on us. But automatic realization of dispositions when no one is doing anything to bring it about, not even oneself, is not education but something else. Rousseau's philosophy of education is a philosophy of education only because he thinks that we have to do something to prevent unnatural dispositions from being formed through our experience of men and things. This prevention is a kind of educational activity. But the natural evolution of innate dispositions as such is not, even if they are desirable, as Rousseau assumes.

Some would say that X may be a superhuman being; in The Idea of Christian Education (1957, pp. 255-65), S. F. Bayne says that the basic idea of Christian education is that God is our teacher. Now, if God really does, by some special act on his part (and not just through our own use of our natural faculties), "reveal" things to us, then He can be said to teach us. If X reveals to Y the way to set up a tent he is teaching Y something. Thus the Psalmist writes, "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth . . . ," and, again, "Teach me good judgment and knowledge. . . ." One may then say that God educates man, if one chooses and if one believes that such special divine revelation is available to us. It seems better, however, to follow Plato's Meno in limiting the term "educating" to human activities like practicing and instructing, and to think of God's acts of revelation and regeneration as "gifts," as Christianity itself usually does -- as some kind of divine aid to education rather than as education itself. This would, among other things, accord with Aquinas' doctrine that faith, hope, and love are not acquired by teaching but by divine infusion. One can still argue then, as religious people often have, that education is important only because it is necessary or at least helpful as a preparation for God's act of grace; because it enables one to understand His revelation, or because it equips one to do His work in the world.

If what has been said is accepted, then it follows that the concept of education is a normative concept that is open-textured at two points, since it restricts the ranges of W and Z to what is desirable and morally unobjectionable or judged to be so, but imposes no other restrictions upon them. It also follows that all education is, strictly speaking, "education of men" -- of and by, if not necessarily for, men -- that the idea of education is the idea of a distinctively human activity or enterprise of forming desirable dispositions or excellences by morally unobjectionable means.

Whatever may be thought of this discussion of the conceptual ranges of X, Y, W, and Z, it remains true that the idea of education is the idea of an enterprise in which someone fosters certain dispositions in someone by methods of certain sorts. We may now observe that anyone who consciously embarks upon this enterprise must not only have this concept, he must also have certain beliefs or postulates -- a certain minimal philosophy, if you will. This is made clear by the discussion in Plato's Meno. These presuppositions are:

  1. that some set of dispositions is desirable,
  2. that they are not innate or just naturally or automatically acquired (as Rousseau thought they might be),
  3. that they are not all acquired wholly by luck or by divine gift,
  4. that they may (some of them perhaps wholly, others at least in part) be acquired or passed on by humanly instituted activities of an educational kind, e.g., by practice or instruction, though possibly only "wid a little bit o' luck" or a bounteous divine aid.
Actually, there is another presupposition, not envisaged in the Meno, namely,
  1. that they are not simply created in oneself by an act of choice or decision, out of whole cloth as it were (as so many seemed to think in the 1960's).

One might, of course, conceive of education without making these assumptions, but then it would be the idea of a purely hypothetical endeavor. Any X who actually engages in the enterprise of education can do it only under these presuppositions, for, if they are false, then education is either impossible, unnecessary, or so uncertain of success as to be pointless. X may be relatively optimistic or relatively pessimistic about education, but if he engages in it at all, he must make these assumptions.

We see then that there is such a thing as the idea of education and that it is possible to give something more nearly approaching a definition of it than T. S. Eliot realized. To say that X educates or is educating Y is to say at least that X is fostering desirable and morally unobjectionable dispositions in Y by the use of methods that are also desirable and morally unobjectionable, or at least that X is cultivating dispositions in Y by certain methods. This idea (concept) of education is common to all of the different ideas (doctrines, theories) of education held by Plato, Kant, Dewey, President Garfield. or the Chinese. They all mean by "education" (or its equivalents in their languages) a process, involving an X (educator) and a Y (educated), of forming desirable dispositions by desirable methods. They have different beliefs about education -- about what it should be like -- but they mean the same thing by it. There are also different kinds of education -- physical, moral, vocational, public, etc. -- but these all involve the forming of desirable dispositions by desirable methods. The same basic concept underlies all kinds and theories of education. All kinds and theories of education have the same five basic presuppositions.

We may end our account of the concept of education with a word about its emergence in the history of Western thought. Eliot talks as if our notion of education has undergone a kind of evolution through the centuries, but all he shows is that we have had changing views about what X, Y, Z, and W should be, which is true but does not mean that our basic concept itself has changed. Actually, according to the above account, the concept of education was fully conceived when some individual or people first consciously judged that a certain set of dispositions was desirable, that they were not innate or automatically acquired, nor matters of fortune or divine gift, and that they could (some of them at least in part) be acquired or passed on by some human program of teaching or practice. Just when and where this was we cannot say for certain, even if we consider only the Western world. We must suppose that some kind of education or paideia has been going on since the beginning of human history. The self-making of man, of which Kant speaks, may not be as old as the hills but it must be as old as man. Education must then have been in the world before the concept of it came to anyone's consciousness in an explicit way. As Eliot says, ". . . a long tradition and many educational institutions preceded the time at which the question, 'What is education?' needed to be asked" (p. 121).

By Pindar's day, however, antidemocratic spokesmen were arguing that some men have arete ("excellence") by nature and others do not, and that for the former education is unnecessary, while for the others it is of no avail. Here we find the concept of education as we have defined it becoming clear. It came completely out in the open in the days of Socrates and the Sophists, when the Greek air was full of debate about education, as is shown by the discussion Plato purports to describe in the Protagoras and Meno about the teachability of arete. For Meno begins by asking how arete is acquired and he lists four alternatives:

  1. that it is acquired by teaching,
  2. that it is acquired by practice,
  3. that it is acquired by fortune or divine gift,
  4. that it is possessed by nature.
The ostensible conclusion is that (c) is true and hence that arete is unhappily not acquired by education, but the point is that education is being definitely conceived as the attempt to foster excellences by such methods as teaching and practice. Thus the idea of education is here essentially complete and its postulates understood. This discussion, whenever it first took place, marks the real beginning of the philosophy of education. Indeed, it took place precisely because philosophy was beginning to take a hand in the educational enterprise.


Differing ideas of or views about education must agree with much of what has been said, particularly with the general outlines of the analysis given of the idea of education and with the statement of the presuppositions of any educational enterprise. They may include different views about the ranges of X, Y, W, and Z to be built into the idea or definition of education. However, even if they agree completely about conceptual matters, they may and do still differ about substantive issues. In fact, as Eliot sees, it is precisely these further substantive questions that have been and are the historically and practically most important ones. These substantive questions, which remain open on any plausible definition of education, roughly stated, are:

  1. Are the postulates of education true? Are the excellences cultivatible by education? Need they be so cultivated?
  2. What dispositions are desirable and to be fostered by education? What dispositions are excellences?
  3. By what means or in what ways should education (educators) seek to foster these desirable dispositions?
  4. Who is to be educated? How should educational opportunity be distributed?
  5. Who should educate?

Actually each of these questions is a family or group of questions. They are, moreover, interrelated and hence cannot be answered in entire independence of one another, e.g., (1) and (2), (2) and (4), (3) and (4), and (4) and (5). In what follows, however, we shall have to keep them somewhat separate. It should also be noted that the last four questions are normative since they ask what should be done, or what is desirable, while the first is not.

The main point for our purposes now, however, is the fact that theories and philosophies of education arise as answers to these substantive questions and, apart from conceptual or definitional preliminaries like the above, consist of and are distinguished by their answers to them. Before we discuss the questions and the issues involved in answering them, we must stop to look at such substantive theories and philosophies, to see what they are like, what they include, and how they are or should be put together; this is the second main part of our task -- to analyze the kind of idea of education referred to earlier in (2b).

A theory of education, then, is a set of answers to the above five questions. Since it includes answers to the last four it will be normative, saying what education should be like, not just descriptive, explanatory, or predictive, as a psychological theory of learning or child development would be. In J. S. Mill's language (A System of Logic [1843], Book VI, Chs. V, XI), education is not a science, but an art. It may, however, and no doubt should, make use of such scientific theories of development and learning as a basis for some of its normative conclusions; in fact, Mill thought educational theories should rest their normative "precepts" entirely on such premisses as psychology alone can provide, except for the one basic normative premiss supplied by ethics, which for him was the principle of utility.

What is usually called a philosophy of education is a theory in this normative sense, but not every such theory is properly called a philosophy. For a theory of education might simply assume, without argument, that the dispositions to be promoted and the methods to be used are those regarded as desirable by the society or individual the education is to serve, and then it can be called a philosophy of education only by extreme courtesy. It is better regarded as a minimal theory of education, reserving the title of philosophy of education for fuller theories that provide a reasoned justification for their answers to normative questions about education.

Every theory of education in our sense will, then assume an affirmative answer to the first question, though it may do so dogmatically, without discussion. That is, it assumes that the acquisition of desirable dispositions is not wholly a matter of nature, luck divine gift, or choice, but is in part or to some extent amenable to educational programming. If it seeks to defend these assumptions, it must list these dispositions, analyze them, and show that the claims made in the assumptions are true. In other words, it must establish certain facts about human nature and about the world. To do this it may appeal to science, to metaphysics or to theology -- different thinkers will have different views about what is to be appealed to, views that will depend on their general philosophical orientations.

What means, methods, or practices education is to make use of -- e.g., just what the teacher is to do in the classroom -- will appear in answer to question (3). Even a minimal theory of education may try to give a reasoned reply to this question by seeking to justify its recommendations. How then may a precept about the method of teaching something be justified? Suppose one maintains, as the Greeks did, that in order to foster the moral virtues we should use music of certain sorts, at least during a certain stage in a child's life (a belief that was for the most part given up in the Hellenistic Period, though parents even in the twentieth century sometimes wonder about the possible moral effects of some new combinations of sound that some of their children listen to). To justify this claim one must use an argument something like this:

  1. Education should cultivate moral virtue.
  2. The hearing of such and such kinds of music is conducive to moral virtue.
  3. Therefore education should make use of music of those kinds.
Or suppose we use the dictum that, no matter what disposition is being fostered, learning is by doing. Then our reasoning must be along these lines:
  1. Education should foster an understanding of music.
  2. Any disposition is more effectively fostered if some relevant "doing" on the part of the student is arranged for.
  3. Therefore education should include learning to sing or play an instrument.

Thus, in order to justify any normative conclusion in answer to question (3), whether this is specific or general, one must make use of a normative premiss like (a) in these examples, which says something about dispositions to be promoted, and of a factual premiss like (b) which says that a certain method or practice is necessary, sufficient, or at least helpful for the promotion of those dispositions.

Two things about premisses like (b) should be noted. In the first place, even if they are simply assumed or borrowed from common sense or tradition, they are empirical statements that may in principle be verified by empirical observation and scientific testing, and any theory that seeks to justify them must appeal to experience or to some empirical science. In the second place, they may be of different kinds depending on whether they assert that a certain practice is necessary, sufficient, or neither necessary nor sufficient but still helpful, for the fostering of the disposition referred to in premiss (a), or simply that it is more effective in doing so than other methods are; and the conclusion in (c) must be understood differently, depending on which of these claims they make, though the argument may in each case be read as establishing that the practice in question has some value or desirability.

Arguments like those illustrated do not, however, establish that the practices they defend ought to be employed unless they show the practices to be necessary. Take the following argument:

  1. Education should foster citizenship.
  2. Indoctrination is conducive to citizenship.
  3. Therefore education should include indoctrination.
Even if one accepts its premisses one may reject the conclusion because one does not regard citizenship as having top priority; but, even if one gives citizenship first place, one may reject it because one regards indoctrination as morally wrong. Of course, if one believes that citizenship must be given first place in education, and that indoctrination is necessary for promoting citizenship, then one must conclude that indoctrination should be used. But then one will not regard its use as morally objectionable. This example shows that ethical considerations are important in connection with question (3) as well as scientific ones, since methods must be shown to be morally unobjectionable as well as effective or helpful in producing desirable dispositions before we can consider them justified.

Still, except when ethical premisses by themselves dictate something about educational methods, e.g., that educators should not use lies (except in cases in which lying is morally excusable, if there are any), the justification of answers to question (3) will include a premiss like (a) in our examples that presupposes an answer to question (2), plus, of course, a factual premiss like (b). In this sense, (2) is the central normative question in any theory of education, and the central part of any such theory is a list and description of the dispositions to be fostered by education. How then is one to justify saying that a certain disposition (which is not simply a matter of nature, luck, divine gift, or choice) should be cultivated by education? From what has been said, it follows that one must show that the disposition is desirable on some ground and that it is not morally objectionable. In order to show that it is not morally reprehensible, he must, of course, appeal to some ethical premiss about what is or is not morally wrong, bad, or vicious, and at least sometimes also to a factual premise. For example, to show that a liking for the kinds of music Plato and Aristotle banned from education is not morally bad, one would have to use a premiss telling us what moral virtues we should have and a factual one to the effect that a liking for those kinds of music does not conflict with the acquisition of those virtues.

In order to show that it is desirable to foster a certain morally innocuous disposition by education, one must, again, use premisses of two kinds, namely, ethical or other value premisses stating more ultimate aims or principles of education, and factual ones stating that the disposition in question is necessary, sufficient, or at least helpful in relation to them. For example, one might accept, as many would, the three aims of education discussed by Eliot (p. 69):

  1. To prepare a child to make a living (for a vocation).
  2. To equip him to be a good citizen.
  3. To develop his powers and so enable him to enjoy a good life.
Then to show that education should foster a certain disposition one would show that its acquisition or possession is required by or at least conducive to one of these ends (and not inconsistent with a more important end). The argument would have this form:
  1. Education should promote such and such an end (or principle).
  2. Disposition W is conducive to this end.
  3. Therefore education should foster W.
Here (a) is a normative or value premiss; it belongs to one's ethical or value theory, more specifically, to one's political or social philosophy. Political or social philosophy is thus shown to be of crucial importance in the theory of education. As Aristotle said, it is politike
that ordains which of the sciences are to exist in states, and what branches of knowledge the different classes of citizens are to learn, and up to what point . . . (Ethics 1, 2).

Then (b) is a factual premise saying that a certain disposition is necessary, sufficient, or at least helpful in achieving a certain end (or living by a certain principle); it will usually be of a kind that depends on experience and science for its verification, but in some theories of education it might come from metaphysics or theology.

Thus, answers to question (3) depend on answers to question (2) -- which give us the "proximate" aims of education -- and answers to question (2) depend on answers to a more basic question which give us the more "ultimate" aims or principles of education, factual premisses appearing in both cases. How then are answers to this more basic question, statements about the more ultimate aims of education, to be justified? An educational theorist might stop at this point and refer us to a philosopher or theologian, but, if he is offering us a full-fledged philosophy of education, he will try to justify his statement in (a) of our last example. Then, again, he must appeal to premisses of two kinds: first, a still more basic normative or value premiss, and, second, a still more basic factual one. There is no one form his reasoning must take, but he will make use of premisses like the following:

Such premisses contain no explicit reference to education, and hence do not belong specifically to the philosophy of education but to other branches of philosophy, to science, or to theology. One may, of course, seek to justify them in turn by appeal to more basic premisses, until one finally comes to one's most basic ethical or value premisses and one's most basic beliefs about man and the universe.

To illustrate what has been said, one relatively complete line of argument in education might proceed as follows:

  1. Other things being equal, what is good in itself should be pursued and promoted.
  2. Contemplating the heavens with understanding is good in itself.
  3. Therefore the contemplative understanding of the heavens should be pursued and promoted.
  4. This entails acquiring and fostering the knowledge of astronomy (the disposition called a knowledge of astronomy).
  5. This can be done by education and by education alone.
  6. Therefore education should foster a knowledge of astronomy (other things being equal).
  7. In order to do this it is necessary, among other things, to initiate people into the use of the telescope.
  8. Therefore education should initiate the young into the use of the telescope.
Granting the premisses, this is, as far as it goes, a good argument for its conclusions in (c), (f) and (h).

It is not final, however, for the acquisition of a mastery of astronomy might be incompatible with that of more important dispositions. But arguments to show this would have a somewhat similar structure, and so this example can be used as a basis for a number of points.

  1. Both factual and normative premisses are necessary to answer normative questions about education.
  2. Among the factual premisses must be some empirical or scientific ones, e.g., (e), (g), and possibly (d).
  3. Epistemological premisses are neither necessary nor sufficient to establish educational conclusions, as so many twentieth-century writers on the philosophy of education seem to assume.
  4. Specifically religious, theological, or metaphysical premisses are also neither necessary nor sufficient, as Eliot and many others allege.
  5. The philosophy of education is not autonomous, for it depends on premisses from other fields.
  6. What is basic and central in the philosophy of education is such normative inquiries as ethics, value theory, and social philosophy, as is shown by the role of premisses like (a) and (b) and conclusions like (c) and (f).
  7. Philosophers of education might content themselves with establishing conclusions like (c) and (f), leaving more practical steps like (g) and (h) to educational scientists and practitioners, but they have usually attempted to supply such steps too.

Four points should be added.

  1. Eliot and others who hold that a philosophy of education must ultimately rest on religious or theological premisses assume that the final premisses one appeals to are religious or theological just because they are normative, because they are about the nature of man and the universe, or because they are ultimate. But to say that they must therefore be religious or theological and not just ethical, axiological, philosophical, or scientific is to make them religious or theological simply by a kind of baptism. For then atheism, naturalism, secularism, cynicism, hedonism, perhaps even skepticism, all become forms of religion without undergoing any conversion and without relaxing their opposition to theism or to what usually counts as religious or theological belief; and nothing is gained but a Pyrrhic victory.
  2. One may insist that specifically theistic beliefs must be brought to bear on educational arguments like the above, e.g., in connection with premisses (b), (d), or (e), but this is not obvious and it is not logically necessary; in fact, one can agree to this only if one already shares such theistic beliefs.
  3. It remains true that religious, epistemological, and metaphysical premisses may, so far as the logic of the matter goes, be relevant to the justification of educational conclusions. If one believes, as Thomas Merton did, that the whole work of man in this life is to find God, one may and, indeed, must use this belief as the basis of one's philosophy of education. That epistemological premisses may be relevant even though they are neither necessary or sufficient is shown by one of Cardinal Newman's arguments (1852) for teaching theology in universities:
    1. A university should teach knowledge.
    2. Theology is a form of knowledge.
    3. Therefore a university should teach theology (The Idea of a University [1959], Ch. II).
    Here (b) is an epistemological claim. Incidentally, it should be noticed that neither of Newman's premisses is specifically religious or theological.
  4. Thus, a full normative philosophy of education will contain the following kinds of statements, in addition to definitions, distinctions, and other bits of analysis:
    1. Normative premisses like (a) and (b) in the longer of our last two examples.
    2. Factual premisses like (d), (e), and (g), including at least some empirical or scientific ones.
    3. Normative conclusions answering questions (2) and (3) like (c), (f), and (h).
    It may include epistemological, metaphysical, or religious premisses, though it need not; if so, they will belong under the second heading (unless they are normative).

This brings us to questions (4) and (5) on our earlier list. Answers to these questions are somewhat interwoven with answers to questions (2) and (3), as has been observed, but it is clear that in general they too will depend on premisses of the two kinds already distinguished, normative and factual, and that political and social philosophy in particular will play an important part in establishing them. Among the factual premisses there will be empirical or scientific judgments, for example, about the capacities, needs, and responses of different groups of children, or about the effectiveness of different sorts of teacher training.


The third part of our task is to make, in the light of our analyses thus far, some clarifications of and comments on the "history of educational ideas" and on the chief issues involved in it. Such a history should be distinguished, more than it sometimes is, from a history of education. The former is a history of certain ideas, of certain concepts and theories, and is a part of the general history of thought or ideas; the latter is a history of certain actions, institutions, and practices, and is a part of the general history of what human beings have done and how they did it. The two histories are, of course, very intimately connected, but they should not be confused.

In any case, however, a complete history of theories of education will include, in one way or another, histories of the four kinds of "ideas of education" distinguished early in Section 1. The history of the idea of education would be the story, if it can be told, of the emergence into full consciousness of the concept of education we tried to analyze in the rest of that Section. The closely related history of proposed analyses or definitions of that concept would be a part of the history of analytical philosophy of education, and so might be of interest both for the theory of definition and for the history of ideas. It would certainly appear, if what was said in Section l is correct, that many proposed definitions of education are faulty, and that many apparent definitions are really disguised normative theories about what the aims and means of education should be, in which case they belong to the history of such theories.

The third of our histories would be a history of "the belief (or faith) in education" that has characterized some thinkers and epochs in our culture, and it or parts of it have often been told. Here we can only analyze the belief. It is not a normative belief about the ends or means of education, but a factual conviction about its efficacy and results, such as Socrates sometimes appeared not to have. It entails a belief in the presuppositions of education formulated in Section 1, but it goes beyond them, not just to a confidence that education can in fact produce the dispositions it seeks to produce, but to a conviction that the acquisition of these dispositions will have certain hoped for results. In modern times it has been associated with the idea of progress, and has taken the form of a belief that, through the spread of education, man as a race can and will progress steadily either toward material prosperity or toward some more ideal goal.

It may, however, take two more individualistic forms: the belief that education is the key to an individual's getting ahead or succeeding in the world, or the belief that education is his way to a more ideal happiness, to perfection, or to salvation. An example of the last is Plato's view in the Symposium that the right kind of child-leading will lead him to immortality. In effect, then, the belief in education splits into four beliefs, viz., two kinds of social faith, one idealistic and one materialistic, and two corresponding kinds of individual faith. Perhaps we should also recognize a fifth form of the belief -- the belief in education as a panacea, said to be especially characteristic of Americans, at least until the 1960's.

It is, however, especially about the history of normative theories of education that we are now concerned. Perhaps it is possible to find implicit theories of this sort in Homer and other descriptions of Greek education, but, at any rate, more conscious and fuller theories arose in Greece through a conjunction of two developments -- the rise of philosophy or what Aristophanes called the "Think Shop" and tried to laugh out of existence, and the breakdown of the traditional or "old" educational system. In a real sense, philosophy and thinking about education arose together; philosophers at once set themselves up as teachers and critics, and education gave them a profession and problems to think about.

Between the many ideas of education that have appeared in our history there have been a great many issues of debate of various kinds, more or less independent of or interdependent on one another, but all related in some manner to our schema of analysis. We must now try to identify and analyze them, make some historical remarks about them, and relate them to our schema -- all as an aid to understanding the issues and their history, and to our own thinking about them.

Some of these "great debates" have been more or less perennial; others can be roughly dated in the sense that they peaked early or only recently. One could then take them up in some kind of chronological order. One can, however, also take them up in a more logical order dictated by their relation to our schema of questions. Here they will be dealt with in a mixture of these ways. Some of them are specifically educational, since what is at issue is some normative question explicitly about education, but others are meta-normative rather than normative -- the debate is about the method to be used in determining the answer, say, to question (2) in Section II, or about the kinds of factual premisses that are admissible. Still others are about substantive factual or normative questions that are not specifically about education, though they are relevant to it. In each case, our concern here is primarily analytical and secondarily historical; we cannot attempt to settle the issues involved.

We may begin with three ancient debates.

(1) The discussion in the Meno and Protagoras has already been referred to.

Is a virtue somehow amenable to cultivation by education or is it not?
The question was not whether education is effective in fostering any desirable dispositions whatsoever. This is a much more radical question, which might perhaps also be discussed, but Socrates had no doubt that some knowledge and skills could be taught. The question was about a particular set of desirable dispositions, namely, those the Greeks included in arete, and about the efficacy of traditional methods of moral education in promoting them (one feels that Socrates has some notion of a new method that will be effective where the old ones were not). But it can be asked for any other proposed set of desirable dispositions and for any other proposed methods of education -- and one might wish to add that it makes a difference who the pupil and the teacher are (Plato obviously thought that Socrates could teach virtue to at least some young men). If a certain disposition cannot be fostered in anyone by anyone by any educational method, it cannot realistically be taken as a goal in education anywhere. Even in his own context Socrates did not state the question accurately enough, as Protagoras partly sees. For he does not distinguish, as we have seen one must, between asking whether education is necessary for the acquisition of virtue, whether it is sufficient, or whether it is relevant at all. At most Socrates' crude evidence would show only that it is not sufficient, not that it is not necessary or helpful as far as it goes, in at least some cases. His evidence does not even show that it is not sufficient in some cases.

Before we leave the Mero it will be interesting to notice that later theories of education have approximated more or less closely to one or another of the alternatives, which, accepted without qualification, would make the great enterprise of education "turn awry, and lose the name of action." This is possible within the framework of the five postulates of any educational endeavor (Section I). Thus, Rousseau and the followers of nature in education stay as close as possible to the alternative that the dispositions to be sought in education are in us by nature and are automatically realized if nothing interferes; traditional Christian theory holds that the most desirable dispositions -- faith, hope, and love -- are mainly or wholly a matter of divine gift; and Kant makes the most crucial of them -- good will or moral virtue -- a matter of free noumenal choice that is not determined by anything that goes on in time or space, while the existentialists and their followers come close to making such a "decision" a necessary and sufficient condition of the possession of any disposition whatsoever, thus rendering the very possibility of education problematic.

(2) The debate highlighted by the Meno was connected with another which Plato calls "the ancient war between the poets and the philosophers," itself highlighted in his Republic and in Aristophanes' The Clouds. Ostensibly this was a debate over the question who should teach, that is, who should be the ultimate educator -- the poet, who was also the theologian and historian of Greece, and who depends on divine inspiration, or the philosopher, who was also the scientist of Greece, and, who depends on reason or thinking. It may also be thought of as an issue between two "unified curricula," two unified sets of dispositions, both aiming at truth and virtue, but involving the two radically different approaches indicated. In both of these aspects, it has been continued ever since, especially in the patristic and medieval periods, by the debate in educational theory between the theologians on one side and philosophers and scientists on the other. The high point on the philosophical side was reached in the educational thinking of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle -- or, as some would say in the twentieth century, in that of Dewey. Aquinas' philosophy of education represents the most influential synthesis of the opposing positions. By that time, however, what we usually call poetry had virtually dropped out of contention, except that its study continued to be a part of the educational curriculum, as it still is. Now its scope has been extended to include modern literature and all of the arts, and, as Lionel Trilling has pointed out (Beyond Culture [1965], p. 219), in spite of the recent conflict of "the two cultures" it bids fair, for good or for ill, to be the most important educational influence of the period since World War II.

The debate had another aspect in terms of our schema, for it also involves the question of the source of the basic premisses of any educational theory. Do they come from some kind of inspiration or revelation or are they reached by some human effort of critical and systematic reflection? Here the question is not whether we are to teach poetry or philosophy, religion or science, but whether our conclusions about what to teach, whatever it may be, must be grounded on premisses from one source or from the other. This again is an issue that we still have with us, as Eliot's essay shows. And it is not only religious thinkers who put themselves on the side of the "poets"; a basic antirationalism infects a large part of contemporary educational thinkmg, especially that of the very "newest" writers -- and it is closely connected with developments in the arts.

(3) A third ancient debate concerning education related to both of the others, took place between the Sophists and Socrates, and was continued by Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers on one side, and Isocrates, Quintilian, and other orators and rhetoricians on the other, with Cicero seeking a synthesis of sorts (one might think of this as one aspect of a three-sided war between poets, philosophers, and sophists). At issue here, for one thing, was Protagoras' thesis that education should be based on a study of the poets. But more important was the Sophist tendency to conceive of arete or excellence as consisting of a number of skills, which they claimed to be able to teach. and which could be used to achieve some end or other, or could be enjoyed for their own sakes, but which had no essential reference to truth or moral virtue. For Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle skills that could be used for or against the true or the good were unimportant; what really mattered in education was the moral and intellectual virtues proper, which they conceived of as essentially directed to the good or the true.

This opposition represents one of the main watersheds in the history of educational thinking, for very different visions of education emerge on the two sides. It too is still with us in the question whether the emphasis in education should be on method or skill or on knowledge and truth. It is not unrelated to the question of liberal versus vocational education; at any rate, many "consumers," if not thinkers about education, seem to conceive of it as a tool or a toy, much as the Sophists did.

What was said is roughly true of the Sophists, but it will hardly do for the orators, Isocrates and Quintilian, since they thought of the orator not only as the possessor of a number of skills, but as essentially concerned with truth and virtue. They were, however, relatively antiphilosophical, and did not make anything much in the way of either philosophy or theology a part of education as they conceived of it, as Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers did. For them, education centered, not in philosophy or theology, but in the liberal arts, the trivium and quadrivium of the Middle Ages -- which were roughly speaking originated by the Sophists, and came to form the perennial curriculum of education. For it was not the poets or the philosophers who won that ancient war, or even the theologians though they ruled for centuries, but the Sophists and their followers, those who believed in a curriculum consisting of a number of arts, disciplines, or sciences.

Ultimately everything else was simply added to the number. For long there were only the liberal arts and classical studies, plus the faculties of law, medicine, and theology; but slowly, in fact only recently, the natural and social sciences, modern history, language, and literature, and other arts, were added to the curriculum -- and many other things, including, as was mentioned, education itself -- with nothing dominating the whole as the poets, philosophers, and theologians had each hoped their subject would; though some now think, as Herbert Spencer did (Education [1884], Ch. I) and as C. P. Snow does (The Two Cultures, 1959), that science ought to dominate if it does not do so already. Given this conception of education, of course, the main remaining questions are: Who studies which subject and by what compulsion, if any, must he?

Thus these three Greek debates about education were somewhat complex, involving a number of issues, and, in one form or another, had important subsequent histories. Let us now approach other issues in a more logical manner.

(4) As we saw, the central problem in the theory of education is question (2): What dispositions are to be fostered? But this question immediately raises another: How are we to determine what dispositions education should foster? For some the answer is relatively easy. They assume that education is to promote the dispositions regarded as desirable by the society in which it is going on. Or they look at the various arts, disciplines, and sciences referred to a moment ago -- all there, like mountains to be climbed -- and juggle them into a curriculum or simply let students "elect" from among them. Such approaches have their practical advantages. But a less minimal theory of education must give more of a rationale than this, and how is it to proceed?

The usual method is to look for "the aims of education." But this method has been much criticized by Dewey (Democracy and Education [1916], Chs. 4, 8, 18) and his followers and more recently by analytical philosophers like Peters (Authority . . . [1959], Ch. 7). Especially objected to is the notion that education has an end beyond or external to itself. Aims in education, and even criteria or principles of education, are not under attack, only "aims of" or "external" to education. For education is life and life can hardly have an aim external to itself. Comment here must be brief.

To begin with, education in sense (1), i.e., the activity of the educator, does and must have an end beyond itself, viz., the fostering of a disposition in the one being educated. There are criteria for determining whether he is educating and principles according to which he must act, but his actions must have an aim -- a proximate aim -- to foster some ability, belief, knowledge, skill, trait, or value. One may also say that the aim of education in sense (1), as distinguished earlier, is education in senses (2) and (3). The question is whether it must have any aim beyond that of forming desirable dispositions, whether the dispositions are somehow means to something further. Some certainly are, for example, the habit of brushing one's teeth. Here the activity in which the disposition manifests itself has value only or at least primarily as a means. The same is true, as Aristotle argued, of the activities in which any techne like a mastery of carpentry manifests itself; they have an end, which is to build things like houses. On the other hand, the exercise of some dispositions like an ability to play a flute or a knowledge of geometry may or may not have an end beyond itself -- it may be engaged in simply for its own sake, because it is worthwhile in itself. But even then one may say that the earlier activity of the educator and of the one being educated have the aim of putting the latter in a position of being able to engage in those activities at will, and so have an end beyond themselves, though not necessarily one external to the latter's life. Whether they must also have an end external to his life, as Eliot (pp. 75, 109, 117) and Marrou think (History of Education [1964], pp. 307f.), is another question, the answer to which depends on one's most basic factual and normative beliefs.

It remains true that one's ultimate normative premisses need not be statements about aims or ends to be pursued. They might be principles like Kant's first or second forms of the categorical imperative, which serve as the bases of his philosophy of education. Which form they take depends on one's ethical theory. Even so, it is hard to see how one can avoid saying that some experiences and activities are worthwhile in themselves or, as Dewey prefers to say, consummatory -- and what is this but to say that we should aim at having or engaging in them, and at helping others to have or engage in them?

(5) Another meta-normative issue that runs through the history of educational theory has to do with the question concerning what kinds of premisses may or must be appealed to in determining what dispositions are to be formed by education: ethical, epistemological, metaphysical, scientific, or theological. This issue has already been touched on more than once, but we may add that theories of education may be classified according to the kinds of premisses they appeal to. Thus a "scientistic" theory will ultimately appeal only to scientific premisses, claiming, as Dewey does, that ethical judgments rest or should rest on scientific ones. A positivistic theory, like Mill's, may deny this claim, but will insist that, apart from one's normative premisses, one should appeal only to scientific ones. A religious theory would contend, as Eliot does, that theological premisses must, or at least may and should be appealed to. And so on. It should be repeated, however, that though the issues between such opposing views are relevant to educational conclusions, and philosophers of education must be prepared to discuss them, they belong to philosophy generally, and not specifically to the philosophy of education.

(6) Another relatively abstract, though normative, issue or group of issues, very crucial in the history of educational ideas, is that between the Absolutists and the Relativists. The Absohltists maintain that there is a certain set of dispositions (they may differ about what it is) that ought to be fostered by education, or by some central part or kind of education (e.g., liberal or general education), everywhere and at all times, in everyone capable of acquiring these dispositions and to the extent to which he is capable of acquiring them. This contention, of course, presupposes that human beings all have the same basic nature and differ only in the degree in which they have it (and in "accidental" ways, like sex or color of skin), though one may accept this presupposition and yet not be an Absolutist in educational theory -- Aristotle accepts it (with some doubts about barbarians, slaves, and women) but he holds that education should be relative to the political constitution of the state, and, even in the case of the ideal state, offers rather different kinds of education to freemen, slaves, workers, and women.

Though philosophers have a natural penchant for being Absolutists when they write about education, it is surprisingly hard to find good examples of this position -- was Plato an Absolutist? -- but we may cite R. M. Hutchins, M. J. Adler, and perhaps Kant (though he too had doubts about women).

Relativists about education may be and have been of many different kinds, depending on what they hold education should be relative to. They all hold that no important kind or part of education need or should be the same everywhere and at all times, that every kind or part of education of any significance must and should vary according to some principle, i.e., should cultivate different dispositions. The following principles at least have all had followings:

  1. that education should be relative to the desires or value-judgments of the society in question, e.g., perhaps, H. I. Marrou and W. H. Woodward;
  2. that it should follow the flag in the sense of varying with the political constitution of the state, and cultivate, not "the virtues of the good man" but "the virtues of the good citizen" as defined by that constitution; this was Aristotle's view and in places Rousseau's, and seems to be that of those who think that American or democratic education must take a different form from other educations, including possibly Dewey;
  3. that it should vary with vocation or station in life, e.g., Rousseau in other places;
  4. that it should be relative to the historical situation in which it goes on or to the problems facing society and its members at the time, e.g., Theodore Brameld and other "reconstructionists," and, in some passages, P. H. Phenix;
  5. that it should be relative to individual capacity, commitments, interests, needs, native dispositions, or decisions, e.g., Rousseau, in still other places, and other proponents of "child-centered" education.

Further discussion is hardly possible, but a few comments are necessary. This debate shows the central role of political and social philosophy and of psychology and conceptions of human nature. One may, of course, hold some kind of combination of views, one for one kind or part of education, and another for another. One might, for example, be an Absolutist about liberal and a Relativist about vocational education. One can also be an Absolutist about the dispositions to be promoted, but hold that the methods to be used are relative in one of the ways indicated. If Dewey's view is not wholly relativist in sense (3), then he is most likely holding that all education should foster certain dispositions (e.g., scientific intelligence) but that it should gear its methods to the capacities and interests of the individual child.

(7) One of the modern educational wars has been what Dewey called "the case of Child vs. Curriculum" that accompanied one of the four main revolutions in the theory of education of modern times, the shift from subject-centeredness to child-centeredness. We may distinguish at least the following issues in this debate, which is an aspect of the one just described:

  1. Are the dispositions to be fostered in a child to be determined by him, i.e., by his own choice or decision? There is a strong tendency today to say yes to this question-in existentialism, "the new morality," "free" education, and "do-your-own-thingism."
  2. Are these dispositions to be determined by the educator but wholly through a study of the child's desires, needs, capacities, experience, situation, welfare, etc? If so, is the educator, to consider only "present" interests, etc., or also the child's future?
  3. Are they to be determined by the educator and the educated jointly, by mutual participation and agreement alone, no matter how young the latter is? If not, at what age is the line to be drawn and on what basis?
  4. The question corresponding to (a) about the methods to be used.
  5. The question corresponding to (b) about the methods to be used.
  6. The question corresponding to (c) about the methods to be used.
It should be observed that these questions, some of which overlap, are normative and must be answered, as indicated earlier, on the basis of normative premisses from ethics and social philosophy and factual premisses from the empirical sciences and any other source thought to be available. In any case, they are clearly the most pressing educational questions of the present time. Closely related to them, of course, is the question whether any part or kind of education is to be compulsory or not.

(8) We saw that reasoned answers to question (2) presuppose normative premisses stating the more ultimate aims or principles of education, and that these in turn depend on yet more basic normative premisses that do not mention education, like the principle of utility and Kant's categorical imperative. Here is a large area for debate, of course, but since the basic issues are not specifically educational, we can hardly stop to look at them, except to say that they will be of two kinds in a way that is not always noticed. We must distinguish, at least prima facie, between what is morally good or morally right and what is good in a nonmoral sense; between the morally good life and a life that is desirable, good, or worthwhile in itself in the sense in which a pleasant, happy, contemplative life, or a life of excellent activity or exercises of one's powers, may and have been said to be the good life; in this sense it is not a pleonasm to say, as many have, that the morally virtuous life is the good or best life.

There is, of course, the view that the morally good or right way for a person to live simply is to do what will give him the good life in this sense, but this view (ethical egoism) is only one among many possible positions, and a dubious one at that. Except on this view, at any rate, there will be two kinds of ultimate normative issues, moral ones and nonmoral ones. The former are illustrated by the debate in ethics between the utilitarians, the ethical egoists, and deontologists like Kant, the latter by the debate in value theory about the good -- whether it is pleasure, excellent activity, virtue, self-realization, etc.

However these two sorts of issues are resolved, there is likely to be agreement that education, considered as a whole, should foster both the dispositions required by or conducive to the moral life and those required by or conducive to the good life, whatever these are. The most serious disagreement with this position would come from certain Relativists, e.g., from those who hold, as Aristotle does, that the virtues of the good citizen and those involved in the moral life or in the good life do not coincide, and that, when they do not, the former must be given precedence in education. This is why Eliot, who rather surprisingly accepts the principle of "the relativity of educational theory and practice to a prevailing order" (p. 95), tries so hard to show that the good citizen and the good man are the same in any society. If one adds, as it is plausible to do, that, inasmuch as being alive, healthy, and able to make a living are conditions of leading a moral life and of having a good one, education should also foster certain physical and vocational dispositions. Then one arrives at the threefold view of the aims of education borrowed earlier from Eliot. Even if one accepts this rather common view one is not out of the woods, however; one must still wrestle, as Eliot so helpfully does, with the problem of the interrelation and possible conflict of the three aims, and also of the means of realizing them. For example, one must decide what, if anything, is the primary aim of education: character, knowledge, excellence, the general good, personal fulfilment, success, or pleasure.

(9) More specific matters relating to the aims and means of education in connection with questions (2) and (3) we must leave untouched, for example, questions about the curriculum, about the places of the arts, humanities, and sciences, about teaching methods, or about stages in the ordering of education. But we must at least mention some issues relating to questions (4) and (5). If we list the outstanding revolutions in educational theory of modern times, then, besides the movement toward child-centeredness, the rise of secularism, and the introduction of science and other modern subjects into the curriculum, we must add the advent of a belief in universal education as an answer to question (4). For, until relatively recently, Occidental education was always thought of as virtually a prerogative of a larger or smaller -- male, white, elite class, defined in one way or another. The adoption of a belief in universal education, generally thought of as in large part compulsory, free, and public, is one of the reasons our educational theory is so much of a problem. In a sense, all societies have always provided everyone -- women, slaves, peasants -- with some kind of education. They have all been taught to walk erect, to speak a language, to obey instructions, to cook, to hunt, to farm, to practice certain rites, and so on. Again, the example of wolf children proves this. The issue is not whether everyone is to be educated, but what education each is to have, and how much choice he is to have in the matter. What is special about the doctrine of universal education is the belief that everyone is to have or at least to be offered a formal education of one or another of a few general types, at least up to a certain age or stage, the main differences of opinion being about the cost to him, the amount of compulsion involved, just what kinds of education to provide, and where to set the point at which one is on one's own.

As for question (5) -- one aspect of it is whether education or a certain kind or part of education should be public or not, whether the state should be an educator in the sense of regulating and supporting some or all of the educational enterprise within its bounds. The Greeks tended to answer in the affirmative, the Romans in the negative. The typical modern answer is that at least a large part of education should be public, making it a question whether this part of education can be in any way religious, and whether private systems of education should be led free in their choice of dispositions to be fostered or of means to be used in doing so.

Other problems relating to question (5) are those of the amount and kind of training educators are to have, how teachers are to be recruited, what salaries and what status they are to receive. As has been indicated, however, the most crucial problem here is the extent to which each one of us, however young, is to be his own educator -- how far Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew is right for all children when she says,

Why, gentlemen, you do me double wrong,
To strive for that which resteth in my choice.
I am no breaching scholar in the schools;
I'll not be tied to hours nor 'pointed times.
But learn my lessons as I please myself

(111, i, lines 16-20)


Background material, historical or systematic, may be found in

E. E. Cubberly, The History of Education (New York, 1920);
S. J. Curtis and M. E A. Boultwood, A Short History of Educational Ideas, 3rd ed. (London, 1961);
W. K. Frankena, Three Historical Philosophies of Education (Chicago, 1965);
J. W. Tibble, The Study of Education (London, 1966).

Works referred to in the text are:

M. J. Adler, "In Defense of the Philosophy of Education," 41st Yearbook of National Society for Study of Education, Part I (Chicago, 1942).
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Politics; any edition.
Theodore Brameld, Education as Power (New York, 1965).
John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York, 1916).
T. S. Eliot, To Criticize the Critic, and Other writings (New York, 1965).
Moses Hadas, Old Wine, New Bottles (New York, 1963).
R. M. Hutchins, The Conflict in Education (New York, 1953);
R. M. Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America (New Haven, 1962).
W. Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, trans. Gilbert Highet, 3 vols. (New York, 1939-44).
Immanuel Kant, Education (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1960)
H. I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (New York, 1964).
J. S. Mill, A System of Logic (London, 1843).
J. H. Newman, The Idea of a University (1852; Garden City, N.Y., 1959).
R. S. Peters, Education as Initiation (London, 1964);
R. S. Peters, The Concept of Education (London and New York, 1967);
R. S. Peters, Authority, Responsibility, and Education (London, 1959; New York, 1966).
P H. Phenix, Education and the Common Good (New York, 1961).
Plato, Meno; Protagoras; Republic; many editions.
J. J. Rousseau, Emile (1762), trans. and ed. W. Boyd (New York, 1962).
C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge and New York, 1959).
Herbert Spencer, Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1861; New York, 1884).
Lionel Trilling, Beyond Culture (New York, 1965).
W. H. Woodward, Studies in Education during the Age of the Renaissance, 1400-1600 (New York. 1967).