Chapter XXIII: Vocational Aspects of Education - Summary

A vocation signifies any form of continuous activity which renders service to others and engages personal powers in behalf of the accomplishment of results. The question of the relation of vocation to education brings to a focus the various problems previously discussed regarding the connection of thought with bodily activity; of individual conscious development with associated life; of theoretical culture with practical behavior having definite results; of making a livelihood with the worthy enjoyment of leisure. In general, the opposition to recognition of the vocational phases of life in education (except for the utilitarian three R's in elementary schooling) accompanies the conservation of aristocratic ideals of the past. But, at the present juncture, there is a movement in behalf of something called vocational training which, if carried into effect, would harden these ideas into a form adapted to the existing industrial regime. This movement would continue the traditional liberal or cultural education for the few economically able to enjoy it, and would give to the masses a narrow technical trade education for specialized callings, carried on under the control of others. This scheme denotes, of course, simply a perpetuation of the older social division, with its counterpart intellectual and moral dualisms. But it means itscontinuation under conditions where it has much less justification for existence. For industrial life is now so dependent upon science and so intimately affects all forms of social intercourse, that there is an opportunity to utilize it for development of mind and character. Moreover, a right educational use of it would react upon intelligence and interest so as to modify, in connection with legislation and administration, the socially obnoxious features of the present industrial and commercial order. It would turn the increasing fund of social sympathy to constructive account, instead of leaving it a somewhat blind philanthropic sentiment. It would give those who engage in industrial callings desire and ability to share in social control, and ability to become masters of their industrial fate. It would enable them to saturate with meaning the technical and mechanical features which are so marked a feature of our machine system of production and distribution. So much for those who now have the poorer economic opportunities. With the representatives of the more privileged portion of the community, it would increase sympathy for labor, create a disposition of mind which can discover the culturing elements in useful activity, and increase a sense of social responsibility. The crucial position of the question of vocational education at present is due, in other words, to the fact that it concentrates in a specific issue two fundamental questions:—Whether intelligence is best exercised apart from or within activity which puts nature to human use, and whether individual culture is best secured under egoistic or social conditions. No discussion of details is undertaken in this chapter, because this conclusion but summarizes the discussion of the previous chapters, XV to XXII, inclusive.