Education and the Common Good: A Moral Philosophy of the Curriculum by Philip H. Phenix
Philip H. Phenix was educated at Princeton University, Union Theological Seminary, and Columbia University. He was formerly Dean of Carleton College, and was professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Published by Harper & Brothers, 1961. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Chapter 7: Work
Work is a third domain of creative activity. Broadly speaking, work is an art. The worker is an "artisan," a molder and maker of things. Good work requires skill in production, careful design, and excellence of form. It is criteria such as these that link the values of work with those of esthetic excellence and good manners within the general category of creative effort.
The evaluation of work in the economy of life is directly related to the general character of the social system. In particular, the development of democratic forms of social organization has profoundly affected the outlook on work. In the aristocratic society, labor is for slaves, not for free men. The mark of a gentleman is having leisure -- not having to work. Labor is regarded as degrading, as beneath the dignity of a man, as a burden to be borne by those who live under the command of others. However, this aristocratic denigration of work applies chiefly to manual labor, for the intellectual tasks of management, of government, of scholarship, and of artistic creation are regarded as quite appropriate for free men.
Democratic society repudiates the contrast of slave and free and thereby universalizes the responsibility for work. In principle no one is exempt from work, and no fixed classes of persons are assigned to the labor of hand and brain, respectively. Society is not expected to be stratified with respect to labor and leisure, for work is accepted as an intrinsic and universal component of the human situation.
The climax of the democratization of work has come about through machine technology, under which machines are used to perform most of what was formerly done by slaves, and much more besides. Machines have radically altered the nature of work, largely by eliminating man as a source of animal power and by reducing to a minimum the routine and repetitive types of work that men must perform. With the continued development of automatic machines, the proportion of jobs requiring intellectual rather than sheer physical effort is rapidly increasing, with the prospect that before long virtually all labor will be technical, managerial, or creative. Even complex intellectual processes are more and more being performed by machines, thus moving the requirements of labor still further in the direction of imaginative planning and evaluative judgment.
Thus, modern inventions have reinforced the democratization of society by obliterating the duality of manual labor and intellectual labor and by making it possible -- even necessary for the sake of efficiency -- for everyone to engage in the kinds of work reserved in aristocratic societies for gentlemen.
The universalizing of work has been an important factor in the growth of democratic education. Since work is everyone’s responsibility, means must be provided for preparing workers to do their jobs effectively. Furthermore, as the nature of the tasks needing to be done has become increasingly complex and as the intellectual factors in work have become dominant, the required duration and attainment level of education have sharply advanced. Hence, education in modern industrial society is strongly oriented toward occupational preparation. It follows that work and education are closely interrelated in contemporary culture. Prevailing attitudes toward work are reflected in educational programs and objectives, and educational ideals and practices have an influence on vocational life. The nature of democratic vocational values is accordingly of major importance to all who teach.
Contemporary vocational life mainly reflects the concerns of the acquisitive outlook characteristic of the democracy of desire, and education largely follows this pattern. According to this prevailing conception, work is regarded primarily as a means of getting what one wants. A person works in order to achieve, and achievement means reaching the goals one has set for himself, securing the goods and position he craves, fulfilling the ambitions he has entertained, satisfying the demands he has made on life. In short, the goal of work is success. The purpose of labor is to overcome obstacles to progress. One makes progress by "getting ahead" (of other people). According to this view, the harder a person works, the more he is likely to succeed. The more diligently and skillfully he does his job -- and, hence, the better his educational preparation for it -- the more he will be rewarded for his efforts.
Work is thus regarded as a price to be paid for subsequent satisfaction, beyond the work. The laborer "slaves" at his job in order to become "free" for enjoyment when the job is done. The goal is outside of and beyond the task, in the rewards that are due for accomplishment. Under undemocratic autocracies the workers labored by compulsion, without hope of real reward and hence without any opportunity for "success." In the democracy of desire, rewards are proportioned to productive achievement, so that the degree to which a person may satisfy his desires is directly related to his labor output.
The freedom-for-satisfaction which is secured by labor under this system is perfected by the money system. The worker is not rewarded by payment in specified goods and services but in money which can be exchanged for whatever is needed or desired. Money is the guarantee of liberty in the fulfillment of wants. It is the source of independence outside of work, the proof that beyond the job one is truly a free man and not a slave.
Money is the modern symbol of autonomy, of unrestrained self-determination. It is easy to understand, then, why the rewards sought for work are conceived in monetary terms. To labor for money is to secure the right to autonomy. Money is the assurance of having whatever the heart desires. In a democracy of desire, money is the absolute good, from which all blessings flow, precisely because it is neutral in respect to values: it contains no judgments of better or worse, no directions about right or wrong. It is the token of unconditional power, of unrestricted liberty. Money is the measure of success, for the meaning of success in such a society is having the power to command what one wants.
When want-satisfaction is thus dominant, work becomes of first importance, for it is the prime road to success. A person’s whole destiny depends upon getting a job that pays well. The ideal of character is the "productive personality," one who "gets things done," the "go-getter." Such a person need not be overtly aggressive, like the rugged individualists who dominated the American business scene in the late nineteenth century. Instead, he may follow the way of the "organization man," who merges his life into the corporate pattern. In either case the goal is the same -- namely, success in the job. The conditions of success may differ from one type of work to another or from era to era, but the achievement objectives are identical.
In the success-oriented society, education is completely vocationalized. All teaching and learning are justified in the light of their contribution to work. Education is the key to social mobility, via the ladder of occupational achievement. The prime motive for going to school, for doing well in studies, and for staying in school to the highest level possible is to secure a good job. This vocational emphasis affects not only the manifestly practical fields of study, such as the technical and professional disciplines, but even the "pure" liberal arts and sciences, which have commonly been represented as the studies appropriate for the nurture of the free man -- studies whose justification and worth lie solely in themselves and not in any extrinsic purposes. In our acquisitive society it is now the fashion to insist that there is nothing so practical as theory (thus defending the study of "pure" and apparently useless subjects), and that a broad humanistic education is really the best preparation for ambitious young people today because their work as executives will require a deep understanding of human motives and the capacity, gained from a wide cultural perspective, to adapt readily to the new circumstances of a dynamic civilization. Though there is doubtless much truth in these claims, their validity is not the point of present interest, which is rather the further evidence they provide of the pervasiveness of vocational criteria and motives in contemporary education.
Under the desire-dominated philosophy of work the hunger for rewards stimulates a vast outpouring of human energy. Enterprise flourishes. Eager and ambitious men, women, and children vie with one another for pre-eminence in production in order to secure a larger share of the rewards that accrue from these efforts. Meanwhile, work takes on the aspect of an unbearable burden. Dominated as it is by the limitless demands for rewards, after which others too, are grasping, work becomes an oppressive and destructive force in human life. Because of the strain and anxiety occasioned by it, the intrinsic satisfactions in labor are lost and the extrinsic satisfactions, which are supposed to be the reward of effort, are themselves spoiled by the ever-present consciousness of the human price being paid for them.
In order to justify the unpleasant and anxious exertions required in this competitive scheme, the worker searches for more intense kinds of satisfaction which will enable him to forget his burdens for a time and to prove to himself and to others that the struggle is worth while. He engages in acts of conspicuous consumption, of extravagant display, and of debauchery, which put even heavier pressure on him to earn enough to pay for them and at the same time drain him of the energy needed to compete successfully. The result is a vicious circle of alternating determined effort and frenetic grasping for enjoyment, both increasingly destructive of personal well-being.
Thus, man is reduced to the condition of slavery by the very work that is meant to liberate him. The harder he works for the liberty that is supposed to be its fruit, the more tightly the shackles are fastened upon him. This condition is a consequence of the unlimited nature of human wants. As long as the fulfillment of desire is the criterion of human good, mankind follows a path of certain futility, for each craving supplied leads only to a new and larger demand. Attainment of each goal opens up the vista of even more ambitious objectives to be reached. Success is an insatiable overlord. Linking work to want-satisfaction places an unbounded demand on the worker, thus committing him to abject servitude.
This overpowering compulsion to work under the desire philosophy is accompanied by a basic devaluation of labor. Work is regarded as the means to an end different and distinct from itself. One does the job for the sake of what comes after the day’s work. The monetary rewards are what count, and for their sake the burdens of labor are endured. Of course, if desires can be satisfied and rewards can be obtained without work, so much the better. Hence, alongside the emphasis on work appears a pervasive rejection of labor. A person works in order to get out of work. For many people the whole meaning of a job is contained in the promise of vacation with pay. Stenographers will sit for fifty weeks at their typewriters sustained by the prospect of two weeks in Bermuda. Teachers will endure nine months of torture in the classroom and six weeks of drudgery in summer school for the sake of a month in Europe or at a resort. Similarly, many workers are buoyed up during their years of labor by the thought of a happy retirement, while still others are spurred to extraordinary effort or are willing to undertake unusually hazardous or unpleasant assignments so as to make enough money to retire early. Unfortunately the dehumanizing effects of protracted, intense labor without intrinsic meaning generally render the worker incapable of enjoying the retirement freedom which he so eagerly anticipated.
Further evidence of the rejection of work is the multiplication of labor-saving devices in our advanced industrial society. There can be no question about the value of machines that make it unnecessary for men to serve as beasts of burden, greatly increase the efficiency of the craftsman, and release human beings for higher forms of activity. However, a host of modern gadgets, of which electric can openers and push-button automobile window lifts are typical, are not primarily functional but are toys for the amusement of people "who have everything," and are symbols of the repudiation of labor. Again, there is the curious self-contradiction of a society with ingenious and industrious people expending great productive efforts to avoid the necessity of expending efforts.
In still another direction the attitude toward work when the interest philosophy prevails is evident in the phenomena of criminality, particularly in the various forms of larceny. Graft, bribery, misappropriation of funds, forgery, and allied criminal acts are attempted short cuts to satisfaction. They are ways of getting what is desired without working for it. In recent years in the United States there has been a mounting number of thefts by "respectable" white-collar employees and officials as well as by the usual professional criminals. This is not surprising in a society so largely devoted as ours is to pecuniary gain and so ambivalent about work.
Less spectacular but safer are the many legitimate ways of getting something for little or nothing. Sinecures that pay well but make few demands are considered a great prize. Many a corporation or government official draws his salary but renders scarcely any services. Strong labor unions protect many men in positions that technical advances have rendered unnecessary and obsolete. Capping all these ways of winning without working are stock market and real estate speculation. For many people nothing better epitomizes the American Dream than the possibility of making a fortune simply by paper transactions without ever engaging in any real labor.
Phenomena such as those described above seem to require the following view of the relation between interest and effort: When the good is defined by reference to the pursuit of interests, work will be expended only when it is necessary to gain the desired ends. When desires can be attained without effort, no work will be done. Thus arises the attitude that the good life is a life without work, and that the measure of the value of existence is freedom from toil. This view is accompanied by the expectation that the benefits of civilization will continue to accrue, as gifts of nature, without any demand on the energies of men for their creation and maintenance. This is the situation so tellingly treated in Ortegay Gasset’s Revolt of the Masses. Modern man takes the products of civilization for granted, as if they were dropped from trees in a tropical paradise. He rejects the demand placed upon him continually to make and remake culture. He denies the need for unremitting effort by each generation to re-create the forms of life that lift mankind above the beast.
The consequences of this devaluing of work are twofold. First, men are afflicted with an oppressive feeling of boredom. The freshness and vigor of life are replaced by dispirited lassitude. The capacity for keen enjoyment departs, and one is beset by a sense of meaninglessness. One no longer feels needed or wanted. The stimulus of high purposes and exciting goals is gone, and one comes to regard himself as a worthless parasite.
The subjective woes are accompanied by objective ones. In the work-despising society, culture is imperiled. The hard-won institutions of civilization decay and disintegrate. Refinement lapses into grossness, and profundity fades into triviality. Standards deteriorate, and qualitative discriminations disappear. A pall of dull mediocrity hangs over the land.
Homes and schools are necessarily implicated in these conditions. Education cannot escape the ultimate effects of the acquisitive philosophy. With the growth of American industrial society in the nineteenth century, it became apparent that education was an important road to success. If young people were to rise above the level of their parents, they clearly needed the knowledge and skill that education could supply. Schools and colleges were established in great numbers, and more and more young people took advantage of this great new opportunity for upward movement on the ladder of success. It was hard work, but the rewards of educational achievement were great and worthy of the effort.
As education to ever higher levels became a general obligation, it assumed more and more the aspect of a burden rather than an opportunity. Students increasingly occupied themselves with finding ways of avoiding the tasks set for them, and teachers spent more and more energy in the disciplinary role of trying to keep the students on the job.
Partly to meet this unsatisfactory condition, a progressive movement in education was inaugurated. Its proponents sought to re-establish the vital connection between the student and the curriculum and thus to make the effort of learning meaningful, by relating studies to the student’s own actual life situations. This was in some respects an admirable and well-conceived direct attack on the problem of work devaluation. In the hands of skillful teachers the new methods of instruction, appealing to the active or latent concerns of the students, were the basis for outstanding educational achievement. The new philosophy above all provided a foundation for the continual reconstruction of the curriculum by removing it from its traditional position of static detachment and setting it into direct relationship with the changing interests and problems of human life.
Despite its merits, the new education proved to be corruptible. Why? The corruption came from emphasizing the child and forgetting the curriculum. The new theories provided no sufficient foundation for knowledge and values. The focus was on man as an intelligent social organism seeking to solve his problems and satisfy his wants. The true and the good were dislodged from their positions of independence, priority, and permanence and were subordinated to considerations of human interest and satisfaction. Success-oriented education in the long run leads to enslavement by work and to a countermove to reject work. This explains the curious phenomenon of "soft pedagogy" arising out of an educational philosophy aimed at stimulating serious effort by students. The concern for making studies interesting, useful, and relevant degenerated into the attempt to make students comfortable. The rigors of academic discipline were supplanted by painless studies which everyone could enjoy -- but which few were able to respect.
The widespread practice of academic dishonesty is a further reflection of the prevailing view of work. If results can be obtained without labor, no effort will be expended. If the desired grades and certificates can be secured by the short-cut route of cheating on papers and examinations, why undergo the pain of doing the work honestly? Recent surveys indicate that most students do not regard cheating as a serious offense, and that many accept it without difficulty as one of the tools of academic success.
It is instructive to reflect on the fact that the main challenge to the softness and triviality in the modern American curriculum has come as a result of communist successes. We have been frightened into re-examining our educational system by the spectacle of Soviet achievement in science and technology. The frenzy of our reaction is a symptom of our involvement in precisely the same success system that underlies the communists’ zeal. Despite its rejection of private property, communism is the extreme case of a gain-motivated social system. Ambition to succeed, the will to compete, and the pursuit of power are central to communist ideology. The autonomy of man (through collective organization) is the central article of communist faith. Communist will to work will eventually be dissolved in a sea of meaninglessness. Successors to the present generation of revolutionists will enjoy the affluence of the people’s paradise, they, too, will look upon work as something to be avoided, and they will at length also suffer the oppression of boredom in a world without values. Thus, though Americans may indeed need to reconstruct their educational system, it should not be done in the light of the communist model, whose central success principle is already at work undermining our own civilization.
Thus far our analysis of the democracy of desire as it bears upon work has concentrated on the resulting alternation between slavish effort and avoidance of labor. Two further consequences of this philosophy merit consideration: the obliteration of qualitative distinctions between kinds of work, and the atomization of the occupational structure. When the only important concern is the rewards of work, and when labor is regarded simply as a means to monetary gain, the nature of the occupation is of secondary importance. Work is work, and what one does is determined by the rewards offered. The choice of occupation is then governed largely by marketplace considerations. The fundamental questions are not: What will I contribute? What is the value of the service I will render? -- but: What inducements and privileges are provided? What are the salary and fringe benefits? What opportunities for advancement are offered?
When this system prevails, education is commandeered into the service of the work market. Curriculums are arranged in response to occupational demands. Schooling is regarded mainly as job preparation. If the biggest rewards are offered in business, then business schools and prebusiness courses thrive. If the current demand is for scientists and engineers, institutions and studies designed to equip them for this work are created. Consistent with the general pattern, qualitative distinctions and independent evaluations even in education are subordinated to criteria of demand.
The other consequence of the acquisitive philosophy is the atomizing of the occupational structure in modern industrial society. If gain is the criterion of value in work, efficiency --maximum results from minimum effort -- is the major consideration. This efficiency requires a high degree of occupational specialization. Each worker performs one kind of task, which he learns to accomplish with great speed and accuracy. The specialists must be directed and coordinated by managers whose job it is to maintain effective organization of the parts. In this kind of society essential qualities of human nature are sacrificed to productive efficiency (and to the consequent consumptive abundance ) . Human beings lose their full, many-sided humanity when they specialize too narrowly. They become things rather than persons when they are trained only to do a particular limited set of tasks according to a standard formula. They fail to rise to their stature as creative individuals when they are treated as interchangeable and replaceable parts in the social machine. By concentrating on one activity they miss the sense of the whole, which is a major source of the sense of meaning and purpose in work. Moreover, the development of a managerial hierarchy powerful enough to weld the specialist workers into an effective unity presents a threat to democratic freedom and engenders habits of mind that undermine the individual’s sense of civic responsibility.
The dominance of specialism is clearly evident in modern education. Success in scholarly production, like success in other kinds of work, requires high concentration of effort. Furthermore, the various occupational specialties depend upon training programs of a correspondingly narrow and intense character. Specialized scholars stand at the summit of academic prestige, and subject-matter compartmentalization characterizes the curriculum, even to some extent in the elementary schools. Academic generalists are regarded with pity, condescension, or contempt and usually find it possible to survive in the academic scramble only by redeeming their generality through affiliation with one of the specialized disciplines. Broadly humanistic studies suffer, while technical disciplines thrive.
In a democracy of worth, work is not a means to achieve desired benefits, but a response to the call of duty and a channel for devoted service. It is a way of fulfilling responsibilities and of creating and sustaining things of value. The obligation to work is universal, since responsibility for the right belongs to everyone alike. This universality of duty is the ground of the democratic character of work. Responsibility for the right is no respecter of persons, groups, or classes; none are exempt from its claims.
The measure of goodness is neither productivity nor the satisfaction of wants. It is qualitative, not quantitative. Since work measured by such standards is no longer subject to the command of boundless desires, the furious striving of the success-oriented society is absent. Instead, work is regarded as creative activity performed in obedience to the ideal of goodness. It is accepted in proper relation to other activities of life. It is not alternately grasped and rejected, as it is when desire governs. It is regarded in perspective and with a sense of proportion in the total economy of life. With this attitude, work is not a burden, but a creative opportunity. One is not a slave, subject to the tyranny of the drive for success, but a willing servant of the good.
More important still, labor done out of devotion to the good is justified not by extrinsic rewards but by the quality of the work itself. Thus it is a source of meaning. It has intrinsic value. It is accepted and welcomed as a significant and essential feature of life -- as a necessary ingredient of the human situation. When work is valued in itself and is seen as a means of expressing one’s loyalty to the good, it is welcomed rather than avoided. It is an occasion for rejoicing, for enthusiastic endeavor different in spirit from the feverish, anxious striving of the ambitious. There is no thought of resort to dishonest means to escape effort, no subterfuge, and no bypassing aimed at getting something for nothing, since the whole motive for work is not getting but giving, making, serving, creating.
In the democracy of worth a person works because he sees an opportunity to advance a good cause, to meet a real need. Life without work is viewed with aversion, and the right kind of work is embraced with thankfulness as a source of personal and social well-being. Constructive activity is essential to health of mind and body. Human beings are endowed with capacities that need to be employed; if they are not used, they atrophy, and personality deteriorates. The elemental necessity for work and its fundamental standard of rightness stem from this basic human requirement for the active exercise of native capabilities. Besides this personal need for life-giving activity, work is necessary for the preservation and advancement of civilization. Under the philosophy of worth each generation accepts its responsibility for making and remaking the culture. It is understood that the benefits of civilization do not come automatically from the cornucopia of nature but must be continually created and renewed by human effort.
While education in such a society contributes to the preparation of workers, the whole educational effort is not vocationalized. Preparation for an occupation is only one among several major objectives of the schools, and this goal is always pursued with due regard for the basic needs of human nature and of the good society. When the universal obligation to work is an unquestioned assumption, teachers and parents can require and expect serious work by children. Sustained labor is regarded not as an imposition to be avoided but as a normal and just component of human existence. Teachers and pupils do not judge the desirability of various studies and learning activities by the pleasure, comfort, or satisfaction they yield; their sole concern is for the contribution made to the development of right habits of thought and conduct. Young people readily learn to respect parents and teachers who respect them enough to make demands upon them commensurate with their ability and inspired by concern for truth and right. They cannot respect parents and teachers who either exercise arbitrary power over them or are guided primarily by their wants and wishes.
Human beings are made for hard work; they grow and thrive on its challenge and find zest in submitting faithfully to its yoke. Yet young people will not normally discover this without the sustained and patient insistence by adults that they expend effort in significant work. This is the obligation of home and school. The key to effectiveness in such adult leadership is the sincere appreciation by those who teach of the intrinsic worth of the work they ask their students to do. And this appreciation grows out of the teachers’ own loyalty and enthusiasm for the work to which they are called.
When values, instead of interests, are the governing consideration, discrimination among different kinds of work becomes important. People do not choose their jobs simply on the basis of money return; their first concern is the worth of the work, the contribution it makes to a significant life. Furthermore, the distribution of occupations within society is not determined simply by the pressures of the market. Instead, workers are apportioned to various jobs with due regard for both individual competences and the needs of the good society. Ideally the desirable distribution should be achieved through choice by individual workers, with maximum freedom to change from one position to another. To accomplish the ideal, this freedom must be accompanied by adequate information about personal capabilities and the needs of society, together with a widespread sense of individual responsibility for the good of all.
In attaining this goal, education plays an important part. One of the main tasks of the school is competent vocational guidance, which is governed primarily not by the principle of helping the student prepare for and get the position he wants, but by the objective of teaching students to know their own abilities and the nature of their society and persuading and inspiring them to devote their energies to the tasks that most urgently need to be done.
An obviously crucial question is: Which work is good, significant, and right, and which is not? No simple and direct answer to this question is possible. The response can only be an indirect one, to the effect that the goodness of work is measured by its contribution to personal and social excellence, the standards of which cover the whole range of human concerns. Thus, an occupation that makes use of intellectual powers consistently with the canons of true knowledge and dedicated inquiry is in that respect valuable, as compared with one that neglects, degrades, or misuses the gift of intelligence. Employment in the mass media is worthy if it is devoted to the publication of true, significant, and elevating materials; otherwise, it is not. Jobs that promote refined tastes and richness of esthetic life for the community are in that respect good. Similarly, work that conserves the resources of the earth, advances mental and physical health, sustains love and fidelity in family relations, minimizes arbitrary class and race distinctions, subserves the principles of economic and political justice and the cause of international cooperation, and as a true vocation becomes a service of worship: such work is, in these several respects, good.
Hence, proper vocational guidance requires a comprehensive set of value standards. It is not sufficient merely to appraise personal abilities and social demands and to find the best balance between the two. Human beings are capable of both good and evil conduct, and societies make both right and wrong demands. Occupational counseling is both a technical and an ethical enterprise, but the ethical aspect is the more fundamental of the two and the one more neglected in contemporary practice. Probably no other step a young person takes is as crucial for the total significance of his life as the choice of work, including the educational preparation necessary for it. In this decision the primary orientation toward giving or getting comes to the fore, and with it a host of consequences and applications in a great variety of more specific human concerns, as indicated in the preceding paragraph. Vocational advisement, if it is to be of real educational value, should consist not in one or a few interviews on entering or leaving school, but in a continuing dialogue between the student and his parents and teachers in all fields as well as with professional guidance officers. This dialogue should be regarded as the primary opportunity for teaching true democratic values, for in it the issues of what is really worthful and whether one shall live for satisfaction or for service become "existential"--personally decisive -- rather than merely theoretical and speculative. In the continuing discussion of vocation the student must face the questions: Who am I? Who shall I become? What shall I make of my life? A counselor can help a student to answer these questions if he believes there are values worthy of loyalty and if he has reflected long enough and deeply enough to arrive at some conviction as to what some of those values are.
One further consequence of orientation around values instead of around success is the moderation of specialization. Concern shifts from productive efficiency alone to the requirements of the good life. Specialization is regarded as a means for increasing the individual’s qualitative excellence of achievement and for making possible higher forms of cultural life through the organization of differentiated skills. The gains from differentiation are balanced against the need for wholeness and variety in the development of personality. Furthermore, while specialists in organization and management may properly be used, the whole responsibility for the coordination of work does not rest upon them. Every person needs to be conscious of his place within the social complex and aware of the relation between his special contribution and the services performed by others. He must then assume responsibility for the welfare of his organization and of the human commonwealth as a whole. This he can do only if he has both specialized skills and breadth of understanding.
In education this value orientation with respect to work results in emphasis on general studies that is, studies that are devoted to the growth of humane values and not simply to technical competence. General education is concerned with what a person needs to know and to become as a human being, not merely as a cog in the corporate mechanism. Generality does not preclude high concentration. It does preclude the narrow pursuit of knowledge and skill without concern for their relevance to the whole pattern of truth and right. Properly speaking, general education is not superficial, despite the contrary testimony of some efforts bearing that name. True generality is necessarily profound, because it involves a consideration of complex relationships, the discernment of fundamental relevancies, and the exhibition of value premises. Nor is general study, rightly conceived, only elementary and introductory in nature. It is by nature more advanced and reflects a higher level of cultural attainment than specialized disciplines, because it presupposes and goes beyond the particular competences to an analysis of their larger bearings and grounds for justification. Thus, in a democracy of worth the program of education is conceived not solely or mainly as preparation for successful pursuit of an occupation but as the gateway to a worthy life, in which work has its proper place within the larger vocation of being a civilized human being in a humane society.
Viewed 77845 times.