From the Introduction.
THERE is a fundamental community in the method of human experience which transcends the bounds of space or the limitations of time. In spite of the apparent multiplicity of the materials and notwithstanding the obvious variety of ways of teaching and learning, the underlying process of education is essentially the same, for it involves the organization, the control, and the interpretation of the experience of an individual who is developing his personality in a human environment. When, from the point of view of the race, this process of development is raised to social consciousness, Education comes into being as an organised social process of personal development.
Since it is conditioned on the one hand by the limitations of the so-called educational materials, and since it is clearly dependent, on the other hand, upon the progressive development of philosophical thought, the method of education has had a varied history and has, at different times, emphasised now one and now another aspect of experience. One has but to glance at the history of education in China, in Greece, in medieval Europe, and in present-day America, to realise the great changes that have taken place in the materials of education, and one has only to mention at random such names as Socrates, Milton, Rousseau, and Spencer, to realise that the methods of teaching have differed at least as much in character as in chronology.
The greater emphasis in educational thought has hitherto been placed upon the materials of education or upon special details of educational procedure from a purely formal standpoint, rather than upon the materials in their relation to the process. This tendency has manifested itself in two different ways:
(1) In the course of study, the program, or the curriculum there has been inquiry into the nature of the materials and a reorganisation of these upon the basis of recent psychological study of the needs and capacities of the child.
(2) There has been an attempt to psychologise material, but in such a way that the point of view of the child has tended to prevail over the social aspect of education, and method has been conceived of as something which the teacher can apply to the material she gives the child, instead of being regarded as the very process of interaction between herself and the child and the material, all in one process of experience.
There is, however, in educational thought, as in all other branches of scientific and philosophical inquiry, especially when the materials are in process of reorganization, the tendency to overlook characteristic underlying ideas. It is these very ideas which give significance to the materials by showing their organic interrelation as factors in the experience process, be it individual, social, or racial. It is these dominant ideas of principles which give unity and form to all activity, whether it be in what we call the world of nature or in the world of social action….