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EDUCATIONAL REVIEW 344
Published Monthly Except July and August
THE CATHOLIC EDUCATION PRESS
Under the Direction of the
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The Catholic Educational Review
THE EDUCATIONAL FUNCTION OF THE HOME
Education, we are told, is a process of adjustment. Under whatever aspect we consider it, this idea of adjustment to environment strikes us as the determining and dominant idea in education. Spencer's definition of the process as preparation for complete living is but another way of stating the same fact. Now there are, as we know, various agencies by which this adjustment is brought about. Some of these act without conscious direction and exercise their influence upon the human individual in much the same way as environment modifies the lower forms of life, both plant and animal. The adjustment thus attained is known as informal education; and in this sense man is educated "by all the sights and sounds, the joys and sorrows, which he encounters, by the character and behavior of his friends, the nature of his surroundings, the books he reads” (Fitch); in short, “by all the agents and powers of whatever kind that act on him from the cradle to the grave" (Payne).
Ordinarily the term education is restricted to the conscious process and connotes "whatever we do for ourselves and whatever is done for us by others for the express purpose of bringing us nearer to the perfection of our nature” (Mill). This, especially the latter phase-whatever is done for us by others
-is what we understand by formal education, not forgetting the fact that the process is an active one largely dependent upon the personal effort of the individual to be educated. Now the agencies by which education in this sense of the term is controlled are five in number, viz., the home, the school,
industry or the vocation, the state, and the Church. Each and every one of these has a part to play in the task of bringing human nature to its perfection, each is a recognized factor in the process of adjustment, and the problem of education is to determine how each of these several agencies can best accomplish its duty in the sublime work of the education of man.
THE PLACE OF THE HOME Among these agencies of formal education the home is first in the order of time and must always remain first in the order of importance. As far back in the annals of the human race as history carries us the home or family appears as the basic factor in the work of education. Among savage peoples, and long after the dawn of civilization, the home was the sole agency of formal education. The school was a much later development and was in reality an outgrowth of the home. In the bosom of the family the child was taught the rude elements of agriculture and industry, the traditions of his tribe and such ideas of religion and morality as his race had attained to. Among savage tribes the initiatory ceremonies assumed, to a certain extent, the functions of a formal educative agency; and in the case of civilized peoples, industry, in the form of guilds first and later the school, took up the work, but the home remained always, as it does today, the fundamental agency of formal education. “At all stages of educational history the family is the chief agency in the education of the young, and as such it ought never to be superseded” (Laurie).
This is according to the nature of things. The family by natural law is the basic unit of civilization. The state is, after all, but an organization of family groups; and, while it exists undoubtedly for the welfare of the individual, it exerts its influence upon him not directly but indirectly through the family. The Church likewise, as a society, is built upon the home. The Divine Founder of Christianity confirmed and reestablished, so to speak, the primitive organization of the family by restoring it to its pristine character of monogamy and raising the natural contract of marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, thereby giving grace to the married couple
that they may the more effectively cooperate with God in the procreation and training of children who are destined to be the adopted children of God. Industry and the school both, as we have said, are mere outgrowths of the home, and hence it is evident that among all the agencies of formal education the home is fundamental. Since this is true, and it does not seem open to question, we can readily see the error of those “who do not recognize family nurture as an essential educative influence but demand that children be removed from their parents at an early age and brought up in institutions provided for the care and training of infants" (Rosenkranz).
It is not our purpose here to discuss the relations which should exist between the home and the state; much less do we intend to argue about the inherent evils of the socialistic system that would destroy the essence of the family. Suffice it to say that the modern sociologist knows the limitations of the orphanage and the infant asylum, realizes the danger that the orphan is in of being “institutionalized,” and endeavors to place him as soon as possible in a real home where foster parents will supply, as far as may be, the love and affection that he has been deprived of. Neither can we here do more than call attention to the dangers that threaten our modern home, and together with it our modern civilization, by reason of the spreading evil of divorce. These are all interesting topics, intimately related to the question of education, but the treatment of them belongs rather to the sociologist than to the educator. We shall instead take for granted the place of the home as defined by Christian moralists and educators alike and ask ourselves: What precisely is the function of the home in the process of adjusting the child to his environment which constitutes his education? In other words, What is the educational function of the home?
To answer this question it is only necessary to understand the bond that exists between the child and the home. The primary purpose of the family in the Divine Economy is the procreation and training of children; the parents are bound by the laws of nature and the law of God to sustain and educate the children born to them. “The right to be educated on the part of the children and the duty to educate on the part of