The Principles of the Ideal School

Education is a fundamental part of every individual; while being a life-long process, it is nonetheless the most intensive in the early stages, when children are uncontrollably drawn to knowledge out of sincere curiosity. This early life stage is crucial in determining the individual’s future life experience. That is why people emphasize early education; that is why the weight of responsibility that educators bear is so great, whether they are individuals or institutions. A school is a perfect example of an institution that provides education. Many adults feel nostalgic for their school days, sometimes calling them the best in life. However, in his article, Dewey (1897) argues that the current approach to school education is incorrect. He discusses the term “education,” highlighting the features most impact learning. He then applies his theory to the current education in schools, showing the distance between what has to be done and what is being done (Dewey, 1897). The current approach to education does not adhere to its core aspects, and current principles are not the ones that an ideal school should have.

At its core, education is a never-ending process of an individual’s interactions with society. As people grow and develop, they project their inner selves on the external community and see the reflections of their actions. Thus, education can be divided into two parts – individual and social; according to Dewey (1897), these parts are called psychological and sociological, respectively. The psychological side of education consists of a child’s interests and initiatives. They formulate the basis for any future education and possible directions that are of great interest to the child; they also represent the child’s true power and abilities. In the meantime, the sociological side provides the means to measure a child’s strengths and skills. Without the interpretation, his internal tendencies and incentives will remain undiscovered and misunderstood, which is a significant loss since they also serve well as predictors of possible outcomes.

The psychological and sociological sides of education go hand to hand and are inseparable. Thus, it is essential to maintain the balance between the two to avoid undesired consequences. Suppose too much emphasis is put on the psychological side. In that case, the child will receive a theoretical understanding of his abilities, although he would not be able to apply them in real situations. On the contrary, if too much attention is put on education as a socialization tool, it would turn education into an external process forced upon the child and remove his freedom. In other words, education should not be considered a preparation process for future life but rather something natural as life itself. That is the root of the main issue Dewey (1897) sees in the current school education. The school is viewed as a staging ground, a preparation point that gives children various information on numerous subjects with few to no connections to tangible personal experience. Consequently, the school is separated from the process of life – social life – and thus from the education process.

Therefore, the essential feature of an ideal school is its ability to become an extension of children’s social life, not its substitution or replacement. Schools should provide children with an accordingly simplified version of social life so they can assess the experience acquired at home and understand how to implement it in society. The second feature lies not in providing the general information on different subjects but in respecting individuality and fostering the children’s current interests. This approach would allow capitalizing on repeatedly consolidating already acquired experiences, helping the children see where to apply their interests to serve the best from society’s perspective. The last feature resides in the change of the view on education as a journey to an end goal. Formalizing the education process and tying it to anything outside of it means depriving education of its natural, never-ending meaning – the process and the purpose of education are utterly the same.

A thorough inspection of education showed numerous inconsistencies between the vision of an ideal school and its tangible counterpart. Structurally, education can be explained from two perspectives – psychological and sociological. The psychological side represents a chosen individual’s personal interests, capabilities, and potential. In the meantime, the sociological side provides direct projections of an individual on society and retrospective projections of society on an individual’s actions. If not properly balanced, the education process can either become theorized to the extent of inapplicability or formalized to the point of a complete lack of freedom. Thus, to keep the balance, schools should undertake several fundamental changes. Firstly, they should not be viewed as milestones but become an extensions of children’s social life. Secondly, they should emphasize the already acquired experience and its consolidation rather than the formal presentation of what the world and society have to offer. Lastly, schools should not put constraints on the education process and set the end marks since this attitude does not respect education’s naturalness.


Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. School Journal, 54,77-80.

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ChalkyPapers. "The Principles of the Ideal School." April 17, 2023.