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Democracy and Educationóbut Clear

by William Gellermann - 1940

No one can read this book thoughtfully and agree with every part of it. It is contradictory at many points. It was so intended. It is a challenging symposium. It is an invitation to think about the basic problems faced by American education today. But it is more than an invitation to think; one who reads doe book is compelled to think. Seldom have issues of such importance been stated in the unambiguous American idiom here employed. In fact, this book is a model of that type of forthright communication which the authors recommend as an instrument toward greater democracy.

LESTER F. WARD, THE AMERICAN ARISTOTLE: A SUMMARY AND INTERPRETATION OF HIS SOCIOLOGY, by Samuel Chugerman. Duke University Press, Durham, N. C., 1939. 591 pages, $5.00.

THIS BOOK DELINEATES AND INTERPRETS the teachings of Lester F. Ward, first important American sociologist.  The breadth of Ward's scientific comprehension well earns for him the title of "American Aristotle" which Mr. Chugerman bestows.  Ward rose to this height from a youth of pioneering frontier life.  That background developed in him a love of nature, a democratic spirit and zeal for learning.  These qualities were all decidedly reflected in his life occupations and writing.

The central theme of Ward's system was the evolutionary conception of development which came forward in the last half of the nineteenth century.  He took strong issue, however, with the evolutionary position of his English contemporary, Herbert Spencer.  The latter held that social progress was inevitable and only benefited by not interfering with the natural processes.  In opposition to this, Ward showed that human progress is attainable only through men's active operation upon the forces of nature and society.  The main social forces are, according to Ward, psychological.  The feelings furnish the drive or motive force of human action; intellect functions as the guide.  From this point Ward built his emphasis upon the importance of reason in life and the superiority of science as the supreme guide to social adjustment and happiness.  Sociology was to furnish the knowledge by which scientific organization and control of society would be made possible.

Ward's early deprivations with respect to his zeal for knowledge, plus the above reasoning as to the role of intellect, led him to regard education as the great panacea for human ills.  He severely criticized the eugenicist’s argument for breeding a biologically superior 4lite.  Ward held that there was infinitely more native ability present in the human race than had ever been utilized. What was needed, he said, was to discover and nourish genius and to provide the proper environmental opportunity, through education, for the great bulk of mankind.  Such a program would foster the growth of human achievement or civilization and make possible intelligent social control toward the end of human happiness.  In general, Ward excelled as an outstanding exponent of early American democracy and as a foreseer and advocate of contemporary social planning.  In the former respect, he was a scholarly counterpart of the political leadership of Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Chugerman's book on Ward is more than a mere exposition of the latter's ideas.  It is a sympathetic portrayal of many sound and contemporarily useful sociological conceptions which Ward originated.  This makes the book one of general interest to the lay public concerned with the problems of the modern world.  It is interesting to note that the author mentions, yet follows Ward in avoiding, social theories of the left.  At the same rime he definitely condemns and rejects those interpretations of society like Spengler's and Pareto's which give support to fascist ideology.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 6 Number 54, 1940, p. 250-251
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14107, Date Accessed: 5/27/2022 1:31:59 AM

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