The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 3/Sociology and Pedagogy


Everything seeks to be other than what it is. The stone strives for the center of the earth, and the earth itself is ever seeking new positions. The river flows to the sea, and the sea ebbs and flows to lunar influences. At a glance out upon the world all things appear fixed, but a little reflection shows that we live in a seeking, searching, surging world. Nothing rests behind the limitations imposed upon it. A thing is what it is because it has in it a principle which tends to make that thing other than what it is. As the magnet so everything exists in and through polarity,—in a tension between the present manifestation of the thing and the potency which destroys the present for a new realization.

Man is the most intensified form of this polarity. He is a "restless, seething, stormy sea." It is utterly impossible for him to rest content in any condition of life. Carlyle says that all the ministers and confectioners and upholsterers of Europe cannot make one bootblack happy. Sure enough, for the bootblack is alive, and the law of life is that another condition of life be perpetually sought. The Prince of Abyssinia could not rest content in the Happy Valley, although the king supplied every wish of the heart as soon as it could be known. The Prince tunneled out into the boundless world without, as everyone must tunnel out of every present self into the infinite self which lies beyond.

But while the mountain strives upward, and the clod "feels a stir of might," and in the dragon fly an "inner impulse rends the veil of the old husk," we have so far only the blind urgency for better things. In man the infinite striving becomes a conscious process. He recognizes the duality in his nature, and projects his ideal, potential self as the guide, motive and law of life. With the immature there may be only a vague longing "for a good comprehended not," but man, as a rational being, may lay hold upon the other self, and further its interests by his own plan and purpose.

In its broadest aspect the tension between the ideal and the real is the fundamental fact of all subjects of study, especially those dealing with mind and life. Logic rests on the tension of life as manifested in the form of the judgment, which tension the syllogism is to release and satisfy. Language finds its explanation in the same fact. A verb is the expression of the tension between the real and ideal in the life of thought, and all other parts of speech have to do with the poles of the tension. Ethics has reference to that quality of the tension which gives victory to the ideal over the real; and æsthetics deals with such victory as achieved. History records progress in the achievement of ideals, and literature sets up the ideal in advance of achievement. Thus whether man thinks about the world or acts in it, his fundamental category of thought and life is the tension between the real and the ideal ; between the actual and the potential; between the fixed and the changing; between the finite and the infinite. However much the realist may insist on keeping the feet on the firm earth of facts, he betrays a consciousness of a deeper truth, namely, some ideal condition of things to be reached by his insistence; and however much the idealist may be inspired by bright visions of a better world, he must yet keep his standing ground in the present, real world. Neither the realist nor the idealist can think and plan and purpose except by the reaction of the ideal upon the real. Unattainable ideals may be the discouragement of life, yet none can live and act except under the law which they impose. There is no thought and life except in and through the tension between the ideal and the real. Sociology and pedagogy exhibit man in conscious tension with himself,—in conscious effort for self-realization. Self-realization, and not self-preservation, is the highest law of life; and sociology and pedagogy are both specific manifestations of that law. These two subjects, taken in their fullest sense, constitute the theory and art of self-control to the end of a more perfect life in the individual. All other subjects show man in action under this law of self-realization through self-activity, but these two subjects are based on a direct consciousness of the law, and are phases of man's direct and conscious effort to a higher life.

These subjects are alike, then, in that both deal with a conscious striving to the same end. Sociological and pedagogical ideals are the same, and it is alike the duty of both to reveal to man his ideal possibilities, and to stimulate to them as the goal of his ambition. And now let it be noted that these subjects are alike not only in the end set up, but in the fundamental conception of the means used. While man moves to self-realization under the sway of ideals, he does so by unity with the thought and spirit of the world objective to himself. Man is educated through his environment, for this environment is his other, his unrealized, self. While the tension of life is between the real and the ideal self, when interpreted it means the tension between the present self and the world lying beyond the present self, for the ideal self is the life and truth of the world not yet brought into the experience of the present self. The present self and the objective world are the two organic elements of the true self. The hand is not a hand except in and through vital unity with the body. There is no such thing as a hand in itself, and no such thing as this self without another self. All that is subjective in the individual he strives to make objective, and all that is objective he strives to make subjective. Both sociology and pedagogy are based on the distinct recognition of this organic unity of consciousness—on this form of the life tension. Both consider the individual in process of development through his environment. But in this we come upon a difference.

Pedagogy considers how man is developed through his total environment of man and nature, while sociology considers only the relation of the individual to his social environment. While pedagogy is based on the relation of the individual to his objective and universal self, sociology is based on the relation of the individual to the institutions of society as the projected realization of the self. Sociology has to consider the adjustment of the tension between man's social environment and his individual welfare. All the shiftings, surgings, and upheavals of society arise from the strained relations between the individual and the social organization through which the individual attempts to realize his life. Sociology seizes at once upon social organization as a means of personal development. The ultimate social standard is found in the individual; social organization must always be considered as a means of self-realization. Sociology thus furnishes a means which pedagogy must recognize, while pedagogy furnishes to sociology the laws of individual development by which sociology must regulate itself. It thus appears that pedagogy has the broader field, in that it considers man in relation to his whole environment, but on the other hand it must be observed that sociology takes into account all instrumentalities of education as a part and function of the social structure. Hence the distinction is not in the breadth of subject-matter, but in the point of emphasis. While pedagogy considers how the individual lives in and through the entire thought and life of his environment, sociology considers the best organization of social agencies to further the foregoing life process. On the one hand sociology seeks the best social structure through which pedagogic theories may realize themselves, and on the other it investigates one realm of the environment through which the individual is educated. In fact, as W. T. Harris has said, "The evolution of civilization is the key to education in all its varieties and phases, as found in family, civil society, state and church, as well as school."

The foregoing suggests a more immediate connection between the two subjects, in the fact that sociology deals with the subjective side of the individual as externalized in institutions—with the objective pyschology of the individual which is the substantial foundation to the subject of pedagogy. Man projects the many sides of his life into the form of institutions in order to a more varied and complete living. For instance, man has the desire and the capacity to protect himself from his fellow man, but in order to realize this end to himself more fully he deputizes such inherent function to a police force. He has the desire and the capacity to care for his body and preserve his health, but skill comes back to him multiplied many times through the form of medical institutions. Man has the desire and the capacity to preach to himself of divine things, but this function he exercises more effectively through the institution of the ministry. Man can teach himself, can be pupil to himself as teacher; if this were not so, he could not be pupil to another teacher. If the school were not already in the pupil as teacher and taught there could be no such external institution as the school. Through this form of the externalized self the individual receives more eflficient instruction than by direct self-instruction. Thus all institutions are but the externalized self of the individual,—his psychology made manifest and tangible. Through institutional life the individual can transmute his own specialized form of activity into the most skillful physician, lawyer, pilot, merchant, minister, etc. All sides of the life of the individual administer unto themselves by interchange of functions with others through the form of institutional life. Through institutions the individual is elevated into the life of the species. Now sociology deals with this infinitely manifold externalized form of the individual, as the true means of self-realization. Such is its contribution to pedagogy. The teacher must know the process of individual development,—must know the varied interests and many-sidedness of his life, and to this end he may find most efficient service in sociology.

Finally pedagogy has to do not only with the process of education in itself considered, but also with the school as an institution through which education is realized. The school has not only its sociological setting with other institutions, but its organization and management are controlled by the same laws as other institutions. Sociology in revealing univeral laws of social control makes a direct contribution to pedagogy on the side of school organization and management. In all cases the fundamental law requires that the pupil see the institution as his own true nature objectified—as himself externalized, and render obedience to it as to his own true self. Such is the ethics which all institutional life enforces. Without institutional life there would be little or no leverage for ethical training. Sociology must expound, and pedagogy must recognize, institutional life as requiring the highest exercise of the ethical faculty of the individual. School management must recognize that the school virtues are exactly the social virtues. The integrity of the school and the society depend upon precisely the same unifying virtues which, named in the order of development, are politeness, truth, fullness, order, industry, justice and altruism, all of which return to the individual as personal virtues culminating in the virtue of virtues,—rational freedom. Pedagogy must consider the school as an institution based in the foregoing virtues, and which, properly managed, cultivates the same as private virtues in the individual. To all of which sociology gives the universal ground and explanation.

As a pedagogical discipline, apart from any direct connection, the study of sociology is of the greatest value. In grasping the marvelously complex whole of society into organic unity one has training in a most valuable pedagogical conception, namely, that the world which forms the individual's environment, while infinitely varied, is a closely integrated unity. If the primary conception of pedagogy is that of unity of the individual with his environment, the secondary conception is that of unity of the environment. The individual unifies himself with his environment by grasping that environment as diversity in unity. The heart of all method in education is that movement of mind which universalizes the individual object and individualizes the universe of objects. To such a mode of thought no study is a better discipline than that of sociology. In this study the student feels sure that there is unity; he cannot assume otherwise, but his whole stress of thought must constantly be put on finding the unity in the bewildering complexity of social phenomena.

University of Illinois.

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.