The Revolution in Educationby Mortimer J. Adler; Milton Mayer

Download The Revolution in Educationby Mortimer J. Adler; Milton Mayer

Post on 27-Jan-2017




2 download

Embed Size (px)


  • The Revolution in Education by Mortimer J. Adler; Milton MayerReview by: Vernon MallinsonBritish Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2 (May, 1959), pp. 171-173Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Society for Educational StudiesStable URL: .Accessed: 25/06/2014 02:01

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

    .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


    Taylor & Francis, Ltd. and Society for Educational Studies are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserveand extend access to British Journal of Educational Studies.

    This content downloaded from on Wed, 25 Jun 2014 02:01:07 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


    pupils, and came upon a desk on which initials were carved. On looking more closely he found these to be the initials of his own grandfather. 'That desk,' says the authoress, with a sad shake of the head,' is the symbol of the immobility of our school system over the past hundred years.'

    To the student of the history of English education, this book brings home some important truths. We begin to realize that the problems which we have had to face in this country have been comparatively few and simple, because on the whole the social history of Britain in the last hundred years or so has been one of steady progress. Italy has been convulsed with the growing pains of a new-born State; political strife, conflicting party programmes, ultra- national effervescence under the Mussolini regime, the devastation of war, leaving its pitiful trail of homeless and mutilated children. Every dominating influence of the moment has sought to make use of the school for its own purpose. Under Mussolini the children were drilled into an infant militia. There has been the constant conflict between clerical and anti-clerical interests. The Church, which has done so much in the past for Italian education, has been alarmed at the increasing control exercised by the State, and the organization of a system of God-less schools. But the fundamental problem the whole time has been the difficulty of enforcing regular school attendance, and a school-leaving age of fourteen, on an illiterate peasant population which requires child-labour on the farms, and which sees no need fbor academic learning even of the most elementary kind.

    Little wonder, then, that the history of modern Italian education is the record of heartbreaking frustration. This is not to say that there has been no progress. On the contrary, there are encouraging signs, as may be seen from the useful diagram supplied on page 433, showing, in ten-year intervals, the number of children in the different age groups, at school or engaged in other work. Perhaps the most telling of these figures are those of the number of pupils i4-19 attending school in 1881 and 1951 respectively; 20,000 com- pared with 41o,ooo. There has been considerable achievement also in the matter of adult education, in an effort to combat widespread illiteracy. The occupation of the country by American troops during and after the war was beneficial in this respect.

    But an immense amount remains to be done. Miss Jovine recognizes that in the field of educational theory her country has forged ahead-all Europe, indeed, is indebted to Madame Montessori-but in the practical domain the Italian school system lags behind. She places little hope in the governing class. She looks rather to the teachers themselves to be more forceful in their aims and more insistent with regard to their needs. In Italy as elsewhere, more teachers are needed, and Miss Jovine looks with some anxiety at the system of training which they receive.

    She is to be commended for supplying a much-needed survey, for her care and thoroughness in compiling it, and for her frank objective method of treatment. The numerous illustrations, moreover, have been carefully selected, and add considerably to the interest of the book. The result is a handsome volume which may fittingly take its place among the up-to-date histories of education on our shelves, filling a noticeable gap.


    The Revolution in Education. By Mortimer J. Adler and Milton Mayer. Pp. 224. University of Chicago Press and Cambridge University Press, 1958. 28s.

    If I label this book as being primarily of interest to Americans, the British and European reader should not treat the remark as disparaging. Nor should he necessarily assume that he can learn nothing from it. True,


    This content downloaded from on Wed, 25 Jun 2014 02:01:07 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


    there is nothing particularly new about the questions asked. What is new is the way in which the questions asked are pertinently related to the American dilemma in education, and thus have some bearing, however indirect, on our own immediate problems in that field. The authors' main thesis is that the rise of democracy, industry, and modern technological science during the last century have caused a major revolution in the structure of society and in the conduct of life; that this revolution calls for a fundamental reappraisal of educational philosophy; and that this re- appraisal has not yet been fully made. It has not been made, they would claim, because nobody so far has attempted to examine carefully and logically the issues at stake; to show how much of the hot argument now being waged rests more on misunderstandings than on true differences; to isolate the basic philosophic differences that exist on educational issues. All this, they have modestly attempted to do, and they make their points in a downright and challenging manner that compels attention as much as does the clear and lucid style of writing they have adopted.

    Of course, much of what they say and how they say it is to the European mind 'irritating'. Like most Americans, they have to feel comfortable in their generalizations before they can settle down to particulars and worry them out, and one-third of the book is devoted to doing just this. Like most Americans, they have a hankering after statistics and consequently go wrong by persisting in comparing like with unlike. Thus they say that 'today there are over 7,000,000 or approximately 85% of all the children between 14 and 17 years of age' in High School in America. 'No other country attempts to give secondary schooling to more than 20% of its youth'. It all depends on what you mean by secondary schooling, and this definition they con- veniently sidestep. Like all good Americans they have been fully indoctrinated with a comfortable belief in the supremacy of the American way of life to all others that prevents them from advocating any root and branch reforms. They are wedded to the peculiar form of American democracy as surely as they are wedded to Dewey. You may make any quotation you like from Dewey to prove your point and to reject, scorn, despise or praise him. What you must not do, apparently, is to read him to see what he really did say and to fit quotation to context. At least, that is the impression I have gained whilst teaching in America, and this book does nothing to dispel the idea.

    However, once we are through the 'comfortable' first seventy pages, and once the preliminary sparring is over, disputation really begins and the authors conduct it along excellent lines with both clarity and forcefulness of statement. They distinguish six basic philosophical differences of approach to the problem of educating for the times in which we live, and whilst what they have to say is related solely to American problems, we have to admit with them that 'whatever, wherever, whenever the society, the ultimate framework of educational discussion remains the same because man, what- ever his vicissitudes, remains man, with his human potentialities and limita- tions'. And therein lies the interest the book must have for us. They see the battle as joined between the aristocrats and the democrats; between the realists and the idealists; between the traditionalists and the moderns. They trace with considerable cunning the complicated interweaving patterns and show, for example, how there can be such a thing as a democratic-realist, a democratic-idealist, or even (to stretch a point) a traditionalistic-modernist. They pertinently observe that quarrels result, not on a basis of what people really believe, but on a basis of caricatures each side sets up of the others in order to demolish them. Consequently, they take as their main task in this section of the book that of destroying caricatures and arrive by their own process of reasoning at the pithy comment that the modernist and tradi-


    This content downloaded from on Wed, 25 Jun 2014 02:01:07 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • Adolf Reichwein: eine politisch-pddagogische Biographie. By James L. Henderson, translated and edited by Helmut Lindemann. Pp. 224. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1958. No price.

    Executed in 1944 at the age of forty-six for complicity in the July con- spiracy, Adolf Reichwein fell a victim to those forces in German society against which as an educator he had consistently fought. Effective educa- tional resistance was impossible after 1933, but throughout the Weimar period Reichwein and others like him worked with zest and confidence for the moral, social and political regeneration of Germany through education. What were the nature and precise objectives of this activity and why did it fail? These and similar questions Dr. Henderson's political-pedagogical biography-at once much more and much less than a life of Reichwein- sets out to answer.

    Reichwein emerges, in so far as we glimpse the man himself, as a warm, attractive personality, generous, enthusiastic and perennially youthful. In his romantic idealism, his longing to unite the life of contemplation with the life of action, his search for adventure-he trekked across Lapland, sailed as an American seaman to the Far East, and flitted perilously in a light aero- plane about the Europe of the 'twenties-he recalls T. E. Lawrence or Saint-Exupery; one thinks of him as the potential leader of some Outward Bound type of course. It is in fact clear that his influence was largely personal. He was first and foremost a great teacher.

    Pedagogically, as appears from his work as a village schoolmaster under the Nazis, Reichwein was a moderate progressive, employing active, creative methods while deprecating the more extreme individualist doctrines of the reform movement. The most significant aspect of his thought is however his view of the social and political functions of education. He regarded educa- tion and politics as two inseparable forces operating in the same field. Though a convinced socialist, Reichwein was not a Marxist and only joined the Social-Democratic party at the last possible moment as a gesture of defiance. There was much of the religious socialist and something of the English radical about him. Holding that socialism could come ultimately only from within, he considered it the task of the educator to work towards the acceptance by consent of a common socialist ideal. This was the political end towards which all his efforts were directed, at Jena in adult education, in the Prussian Ministry of Culture and, until he was removed by the Nazis, in his Chair at the Paidagogische Akademie at Halle.

    The fate of Reichwein's work was bound up with that of the Weimar Republic. Without dissenting from Dr. Henderson's able analysis of the psychological, social and political factors leading to the collapse of the Republic, one wonders whether Reichwein's political thinking did not itself share a notion which, widespread in the Germany of the 'twenties, did much to weaken the democratic regime. The belief, rooted in German history and philosophy, that salvation lay in allegiance to an almost mystically conceived common ideal, in the attainment of national spiritual unity, led increasingly to a pursuit of the absolute and a neglect of the only form of national agree-



    tionalist alike say 'Prove all things', but that the latter believes that the experience of past ages adds weight to proof.

    To conclude, the great merit of this book is that one could go on arguing indefinitely many of the points made. It is for that reason that all concerned with the training of teachers should read it and make it a basis for seminar discussions. It began life that way, anyhow.


    This content downloaded from on Wed, 25 Jun 2014 02:01:07 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    Article Contentsp.171p.172p.173

    Issue Table of ContentsBritish Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2 (May, 1959), pp. 97-192Front Matter [pp.97-98]The Examination at Eleven Plus [pp.99-117]Techniques in Education [pp.118-124]The Pedigree of the Modern School [pp.125-139]The Origin of the General Certificate [pp.140-148]Some Sources for the History of the Teaching of Science in England [pp.149-160]Notes and NewsThe Standing Conference [p.161]Two New Journals [pp.161-162]The Teachers (Training Authorities) (Scotland) Regulations, 1958 [p.163]

    Reviewsuntitled [pp.164-166]untitled [pp.167-170]untitled [pp.170-171]untitled [pp.171-173]untitled [pp.173-174]untitled [pp.174-175]untitled [pp.175-176]untitled [pp.176-178]untitled [pp.178-179]untitled [pp.179-180]untitled [pp.181-182]untitled [pp.182-183]untitled [pp.183-184]untitled [pp.184-185]untitled [p.186]untitled [pp.186-187]

    Short Noticesuntitled [p.188]untitled [p.188]untitled [p.188]untitled [p.189]untitled [p.189]untitled [pp.189-190]untitled [p.190]untitled [p.190]untitled [p.190]

    Back Matter [pp.191-192]