Cambridge Essays on Education eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about Cambridge Essays on Education.


There is no institution in national life which can free itself from the responsibility of training for citizenship those who come under its influence, whether they be men or women.  The problem is common to all institutions, although it may present itself in diverse forms appropriate to varying ages and experiences.  It is primarily the problem of all schools and places of education.

The aim of education, according to Comenius, is “to train generally all who are born to all that is human.”  From that definition it follows that the purpose of any school must be to bear its part in developing to the utmost the powers of body, mind and spirit for the common good.  It must be to secure the application of the finest attributes of the race to the work of developing citizenship, which is the art of living together on the highest plane of human life.

Citizenship is, in reality, the focusing point of all human virtues though it is often illuminated by the consciousness of a city not made with hands.  It represents in a practical form the spirit of courage, unselfishness and sympathy consecrated to service in time of war and peace.  Generally speaking, in England and her Dominions, citizenship is developed in harmony with an ideal of democracy.

     “The progress of democracy is irresistible,” says De Tocqueville,
     “because it is the most uniform, the most ancient and the most
     permanent tendency to be found in history.”

But its right working is dependent entirely upon uplift not only of mind but of spirit.  The democratic community, above all other communities, must have within itself schools which at one and the same time impart information concerning the theory and methods of its government and inspire consecration to social service rather than to individual welfare, schools which reveal the transcendence of the interests of the State as compared with the interests of any individual or group of individuals within it.  The democratic State has been compared to “one huge Christian personality, one mighty growth or stature of an honest man.”  Out of this comparison arises the idea of citizenship reaching out beyond the boundaries of a single State—­one honest man among many—­and thus responsibility is placed upon the schools to develop knowledge of, and sympathy with, the activities and aspirations of human life in many nations.  The comity of nations depends directly upon the intellectual and spiritual honesty which obtains in each of them, and true strength of nationality arises more from the exercise of these qualities than from extent of area or of productive power.

Every subject taught in a school should serve the needs of the larger citizenship; if it fails to do so it is either wrongly taught or superfluous.

Social welfare depends upon the right use of knowledge by the individual, however restricted or developed that knowledge may be, whether it be acquired in elementary school or university.

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