Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/451

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

AUGUST, 1894.


 

THE CHAOS IN MORAL TRAINING.
By JOHN DEWEY,

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY.

IN teaching undergraduates in the subject of ethics, I have been impressed with the need of getting the discussion as near as possible to what is going on in the minds of students themselves. Although ethics is the most practical of the philosophic studies, none lends itself more readily to merely technical statement and formal discussion. It is easy to forget that we are discussing the actual behavior, motives, and conduct of men, and substitute for that a discussion of Kant's or Mill's or Spencer's theory of ethics. It seems to me especially advisable to get in some contact with the practical, and accordingly largely unconscious, theory of moral ends and motives which actually controls thinking upon moral subjects. One is, however, considerably embarrassed in attempting this. As any one knows who has much to do with the young, their conscious thoughts in these matters, or at least their statements, are not fresher, but more conventional, than those of their elders. They are apt to desire to say the edifying thing, and the thing which they feel is expected of them, rather than express their own inner feelings. Moreover, some points have been so much discussed that any direct questioning upon them is apt to bring forth remnants of controversies that have been heard or read, secondhand opinions, an argumentative taking of sides, rather than to evoke the spontaneous and native attitude. Among other devices for eliminating or at least reducing these disturbing factors the following method was hit upon: To ask each student to state some typical early moral experience of his own, relating, say, to obedience, honesty, and truthfulness, and the impression