The profession of teaching has long been characterised by certain habitual convictions, which
Spencer undertook to shake rudely, and even to deride. The first of these convictions is that
all education, physical, intellectual, and moral, must be authoritative, and need take no
account of the natural wishes, tendencies, and motives of the ignorant and undeveloped child.
The second dominating conviction is that to teach means to tell, or show, children what they
ought to see, believe, and utter. Expositions by the teacher and books are therefore the true
means of education. The third and supreme conviction is that the method of education which
produced the teacher himself and the contemporary or earlier scholars, authors, and publicists,
must be the righteous and sufficient method. Its fruits demonstrate its soundness, and make it
sacred. Herbert Spencer, in the essays included in the present volume, assaulted all three of
these firm convictions. Accordingly, the ideas on education which he put forth more than fifty
years ago have penetrated educational practice very slowly—particularly in England; but they
are now coming to prevail in most civilised countries, and they will prevail more and more.
Through him, the thoughts on education of Comenius, Montaigne, Locke, Milton, Rousseau,
Pestalozzi, and other noted writers on this neglected subject are at last winning their way into
practice, with the modifications or adaptations which the immense gains of the human race in
knowledge and power since the nineteenth century opened have shown to be wise.
Charles W. Eliot.