Page:Democracy and Education.djvu/262

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CHAPTER XVI

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY

1. Extension of Meaning of Primary Activities.—Nothing is more striking than the difference between an activity as merely physical and the wealth of meanings which the same activity may assume. From the outside, an astronomer gazing through a telescope is like a small boy looking through the same tube. In each case, there is an arrangement of glass and metal, an eye, and a little speck of light in the distance. Yet at a critical moment, the activity of an astronomer might be concerned with the birth of a world, and have whatever is known about the starry heavens as its significant content. Physically speaking, what man has effected on this globe in his progress from savagery is a mere scratch on its surface, not perceptible at a distance which is slight in comparison with the reaches even of the solar system. Yet in meaning what has been accomplished measures just the difference of civilization from savagery. Although the activities, physically viewed, have changed somewhat, this change is slight in comparison with the development of the meanings attaching to the activities. There is no limit to the meaning which an action may come to possess. It all depends upon the context of perceived connections in which it is placed; the reach of imagination in realizing connections is inexhaustible.

The advantage which the activity of man has in appropriating and finding meanings makes his education something else than the manufacture of a tool or the training of an animal. The latter increase efficiency; they do not develop significance. The final educational importance of such occupations in play

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