IN the text of an ancient story we are told that man was made out of the dust of the earth, and according to one version, at least, he was then leaned up against the fence to dry. Afterwards the breath of life was breathed into his nostrils and he became a living soul. This venerable myth, accepted in its substance as truth by a part of the human race for centuries, naturally lent its form to educational theory, and thus profoundly influenced the methods employed in training the young. From earliest times down to a generation ago education was a breathing-in process that simply continued and expanded the original act of creation. Then there arose a new conception concerning the making of a man and educational theory is slowly changing its form. Responding to influences from without, life is an unfolding process from within—this is the conception that is now shaping our methods of instruction.
The most interesting of all subjects of study is the evolution of evolution. That the development and maintenance of the organism depend upon its concessions to environment is a fact that has been recognized, in a general way, from the dawn of the evolutionary idea. The formal statement of the theory of evolution was long anticipated by the practical sense of the world in its knowledge of the dependence of the physical organism upon its material surroundings. But almost half a century has past since that doctrine was stated and even now we but dimly see its profound bearing upon the relation of the spiritual life to spiritual conditions. And the extreme newness of a certain phase of this higher aspect of evolution is evidenced by this meeting itself, which is perhaps the first ever called for the distinct purpose of considering the development of the social nature of the human being under the stimulus of social conditions.
The particular agency in social development that it is proposed to consider here is the school. It is not intended to deny that there are other agencies that have a similar purpose; it is the intention, merely, to maintain the thesis that within the range of its possibilities the school should be organized so that it may operate as a social institu-
- Paper read before The Social Education Congress, Boston, Mass., November 30, 1906.