IV. Traditional Theories of Education

In this section, I will introduce the main points of certain traditional theories of education. By comparing the Unification Theory of Education with these theories, it will be possible to more clearly understand the historical significance of the Unification Theory of Education.

Plato’s View of Education

According to Plato (427-347 BC), the human soul consists of three parts, namely, the “appetitive part,” the “spirited part,” and the “rational part.” The virtue required in the appetitive part is temperance; the virtue required in the spirited part is courage; and the virtue required in the rational part is wisdom. The virtue that manifests itself when these three virtues are harmonized is justice. There are three social classes in the nation corresponding to these three parts of the soul. The mass of citizens, including farmers, artisans, and tradesmen who form the lower class, correspond to the appetitive part of the soul. Public officials (guardians) form the middle class, corresponding to the spirited part of the soul. Finally, rulers form the upper class, corresponding to the rational part of the soul.

When those capable men who have gained knowledge of the “Idea of the Good” rule the nation, an ideal nation is realized. For Plato, the purpose of education is to bring people closer to the world of Ideas. Specifically, this aims at the education of the “philosopher-king” who is the educated ruler. Plato’s image of an ideal person was that of “one who loves wisdom” (a philosopher) and that of “one who is harmonized,” namely, a person whose mind and body are harmonized, possessing the four virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. The ultimate purpose of education would be to realize an ideal nation, where the Idea of the Good is embodied.

The Christian View of Education in the Middle Ages

Whereas in the age of ancient Greece, education served the goal of developing good people who would serve the society, in the Christian society of the Middle Ages, education served to cultivate people who would realize the Christian ideal. The image of the ideal person was that of a “religious person,” a person who would love and respect God, while loving his neighbors. With the purpose of cultivating such ideal persons, a strict education was given, particularly in monasteries. This was an education to attain a perfect spiritual life, with the virtues of purity, honest poverty, and submission. The purpose of this education was to cultivate people to become ideal Christians and to prepare them for life after death.

The View of Education During the Renaissance

In the age of the Renaissance, a human-centered world view, which valued human dignity, came into being, displacing the God-centered world view which had regarded obedience and abstinence as virtues. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1515) was the main representative of this new, humanistic view of education. He asserted that the purpose of education is to teach people, who are originally free, to attain the complete development of their human nature and to acquire a culture rich in individuality. He emphasized the humanistic aspects of culture, such as literature, the fine arts, and science. Emphasis was also given to physical education, which had been neglected in the Middle Ages. The image of the ideal person in the Renaissance Age was an “all-round man of culture,” whose mind and body are harmoniously developed. Erasmus’ idea of the return to the original human nature was inherited by Johann A. Comenius and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Comenius’ View of Education

For Johann A. Comenius (1592-1670), the ultimate purpose of human life was to become united with God and obtain eternal bliss in the life after death, with life here on earth being the preparation for life after death.

For that purpose, everyone should (1) know all things, (2) become a person who can control things as well as oneself, and (3) become like the image of God. He advocated the necessity of three kinds of education: intellectual education, moral education, and religious education. To teach “all things to all men” was the theme of Comenius’ theory of education, which was called pansophia.

According to Comenius, the character to be achieved through education is naturally inherent in human beings, and it is the role of education to draw out this natural gift, namely, “nature.” Comenius said that originally parents are responsible for education, but should they become unable to do it, schools would become necessary to replace them.

The image of the ideal person, according to Comenius, was that of a “pansophist,” or a person who has learned all knowledge concerning God, nature, and human beings. The purpose of education is to raise practical Christians who have learned everything knowable, and to realize the peaceful unification of the world through Christianity.

Rousseau’s View of Education

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) in the Enlightenment Age wrote an educational novel entitled Émile, in which he said, “God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.” Thus, he insisted on educating children in a natural way. He asserted that since man possesses an inherent “natural goodness,” his “nature” should be developed as it exists originally. Education, as advocated by Rousseau, should aim to develop people naturally through eliminating the factors that obstruct the development of their natural gifts, such as indoctrination by the established system of culture and by moral and religious teachings. Yet, in reality, “natural man” in the state of nature would not be well-suited to the existing fallen society. Concerning this point, he said that in the ideal republican society, the individual as a “natural man” and the individual as a citizen of society would get along well. Thus, he also advocated the necessity for educating people so that they can become full-fledged members of society.

The image of the ideal person in Rousseau’s theory of education was that of a “natural man,” and the purpose of education, in his view, was to nurture this “natural man” and realize an ideal republican society, in which this “natural man” would become a citizen. Rousseau’s theory of education was inherited by Kant, Pestalozzi, Herbart, Dewey, and others.

Kant’s View of Education

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) said that “man is the only being who needs education” and that “man can only become man by education,” advocating the importance of education. Kant’s view of education was influenced by Rousseau.

According to Kant, the mission of education is to develop people’s natural gifts in a harmonious way, and to cultivate those who can act freely while following moral laws. Also, Kant asserted that education should not aim at adjusting to any particular society, but rather it should aim, more generally, at the perfection of humankind. Thus, he said, education must become cosmopolitan.

On the other hand, Kant recognized that there is in human nature a fundamental evil. According to him, evil comes into being when the moral law is subordinated to self-love. Therefore, Kant said that through inner conversion, one should come to place the moral law above self-love, and that duty so orders it. Respect for morality, trust in science and reverence for God characterize his view on education and on humankind. For Kant, the ideal image of a human being is that of a “good man,” and the purpose of education is to perfect one’s human nature as a cosmopolitan person, thereby establishing everlasting international peace.

Pestalozzi’s View of Education

Under the influence of Rousseau, Johann H. Pestalozzi (1741-1827) advocated an education in conformity with “nature” and sought to liberate human nature, the noble nature inherent in all people. He held that when people based themselves upon something simple and pure, they come to do good by intuitively understanding fundamental principles. He also held that education starts from maternal love in the family, and asserted that family education forms the basis of education.

Pestalozzi said that there are three fundamental forces forming human nature, namely, mental power, heart power, and technical power; these three, he held, correspond to mind, heart, and hand. According to him, an education of mind is an education of knowledge, an education of heart is a moral and religious education, and an education of hand is technical education (including physical education). The internal power that unites these powers is love. Love is the basis of heart power and the driving force of moral and religious education. Accordingly, he advocated that these three types of education can be harmoniously united, centering on moral and religious education.

The image of the ideal person advocated by Pestalozzi was that of a person in whom the three fundamental powers are harmoniously developed―namely, a “whole man.” He advocated the education of the “whole man” centered on love and faith. The purpose of education was to cultivate human nature and build a moral and religious nation and society.

Froebel’s View of Education

Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) followed Pestalozzi and further systematized Pestalozzi’s view of education. According to Froebel, nature and human beings are unified by God and move according to God’s law. Divine nature constitutes the essence of all things, and the mission of all things is to express, reveal, and develop such a nature. Therefore, people should manifest in their lives the divine nature inherent within them, and education should guide people in that direction. He wrote, “The free and spontaneous representation of the divine in man … is the ultimate aim and object of all education, as well as the ultimate destiny of man.”

Froebel especially emphasized the importance of the education of children and family education. Froebel’s basic position concerning education was that the place to develop children in a natural way is at home, where the parents are the teachers. Like Pestalozzi, he emphasized the role of the mother. He asserted that kindergarten is necessary as a supplement to family education and became the founder of the kindergarten.

The “natural man” with good nature, advocated by Rousseau was, for Pestalozzi, a “whole man” with noble human nature, and, for Froebel, the image of the ideal person was that of a “whole man with a divine nature.”

Herbart’s View of Education

Johann F. Herbart (1775-1841) attempted to systematize pedagogy as a science. In doing so, he incorporated ethics and psychology into pedagogy, as its basis, whereby he established ethics as the aim of education, and psychology as the means of education.

First, following Kant, Herbart considered a “good man” to be the image of an ideal person; and the “cultivation of a moral character” as the goal of education. Next, he outlined the method of education, proposing that what forms the foundation of human spiritual life are the presentations in one’s mind; therefore, by cultivating one’s circle of thought, or one’s collection of presentations, a person’s moral character can be cultivated. In other words, he advocated building moral character through teaching knowledge.

Herbart pointed out the importance of instruction in the formation of representations, and explained the process of instruction. According to the Herbartian school, which later revised Herbart’s theory, the process of instruction consists of five stages: (1) prepare the students to be ready for the new lesson, (2) present the new lesson, (3) associate the new lesson with what was studied earlier, (4) use examples to illustrate the lesson’s major points, and (5) test students to ensure they had learned the new lesson.

Dewey’s View of Education

In the late nineteenth century, a pragmatic view of life, which placed behavior at the center of human life, was born in the United States. John Dewey (1859-1952) advocated instrumentalism, asserting that intellect is a tool useful for behavior and that thinking develops in the process of human efforts to control the environment.

Stating that “education is all one with growing; it has no end beyond itself,” Dewey argued that no sense of purpose should be fixed in advance for education, but that instead, education should be regarded as growth. According to him, “education consists primarily in transmission through communication,” and “education is a constant reorganizing or reconstructing of experience.” This transmission should be achieved through the medium of the environment rather than directly from adults (teachers) to children. Through such an education, society develops. What Dewey intended to achieve was a kind of practical, technical education aimed at the reconstruction of society. The image of the ideal person in Dewey’s view of education was that of an “active man.”

Communist View of Education

Marx and Lenin sharply criticized the kind of education conducted in capitalist society. According to Marx, in capitalist society educational policies are intended to keep people in ignorance. Teachers are productive laborers who belabor children’s heads and work to enrich the school proprietor. According to Lenin, capitalist education is an “instrument of the class rule of the bourgeoisie,” the goal of which is to raise “docile and efficient servants of the bourgeoisie” and “slaves and tools of capital.”

In contrast to the education in a capitalist society, in socialist society, Lenin asserted, “The schools must become an instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” He also said that teachers must become the soldiers who instill the spirit of Communism into the masses of workers.

The purpose of a Communist education was stated in the preamble of the “Fundamentals of National Education Act” (1973) of the Soviet Union: “The objective of national education in the U.S.S.R. is to raise a highly-cultivated, all-round, fully developed, and active architect of Communist society who has been raised under Marxist-Leninist thought, with respect for Soviet law and the socialist order, and with Communistic attitude toward labor.” In other words, the purpose of Communist education is to raise people dedicated to the construction of a Communist society. The image of the ideal person is the “all-round, fully developed human being.”

Then, what are the contents of a Communist education? First, it attaches importance to general technical education (or “polytechnism”), as opposed to individual technical education. It then asserts that general technical education should be carried out in connection with labor. Furthermore, it asserts that, in a socialist society, there are no conflicts of interest between individuals and groups, and that there is no individual apart from a group, calling for the necessity of collective education. The general technical education was systematized by N. K. Krupskaya (1869-1939), and collective education was systematized by A. S. Makarenko (1888-1939).

Democratic View of Education

The idea of education in democracy is based on democratic thought. Dewey’s view of education played a major role throughout the first half of the twentieth century. I will quote here from the “Report of the United States Education Mission to Japan” as to what represents the democratic idea for education after World War II. The report begins with the following definition of democracy:

Democracy is not a cult, but a convenient means through which the emancipated energies of men may be allowed to display themselves in utmost variety. Democracy is best conceived not as a remote goal, however radiant, but as the pervasive spirit of every present freedom. Responsibility is of the essence of this freedom. Duties keep rights from canceling each other out. The test of equal treatment is the taproot of democracy, whether it be of rights to be shared or of duties to be shouldered.

The report then describes the nature of democratic education, as follows:

A system of education for life in a democracy will rest upon the recognition of the worth and dignity of the individual. It will be so organized as to provide educational opportunity in accordance with the abilities and aptitudes of each person. Through content and methods of instruction it will foster freedom of inquiry, and training in the ability to analyze critically. It will encourage a wide discussion of factual information within the competence of students at different stages of their development. These ends can not be promoted if the work of the school is limited to prescribed courses of study and to a single approved textbook in each subject. The success of education in a democracy can not be measured in terms of uniformity and standardization. Education should prepare the individual to become a responsi-ble and cooperating member of society.

The ideal of democratic education is to nurture democratic citizens, who, while observing the principles of democracy, such as the sovereignty of the people, majority rule, and equality of rights, will respect the rights of others and will fulfill their own responsibility, and upon that basis will claim their own rights and will make effort to perfect their own personality.

The purpose of democratic education, therefore, is the perfection of character and the nurturing of responsible members of society. Its image of the ideal person is that of a “person of respectable individuality.”