American philosopher and educator Herman Harrell Horne (1874-1946) was a leading spokesman for philosophical idealism in educational theory and practice during the first half of the 20th century. He advocated a spiritual and religious approach to education.
Herman Harrell Horne was born on November 22, 1874, in Clayton, North Carolina. His father was Hardee Horne, a farmer, and his mother was Ida Caroline Harrell Horne. Horne was educated in the public schools of Clayton and also at the Davis Military Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina in the early 1890s, receiving both the B.A. and the M.A. degrees in 1895. Shortly thereafter he attended Harvard University, where he received a second M.A. degree in 1897 and the Ph.D. degree in 1899. He did post-graduate work at the University of Berlin in 1906-1907.
Horne began his teaching career as an instructor in French at the University of North Carolina in 1894, a post he relinquished when he entered Harvard. Following the completion of the doctorate in 1899, Horne took a position as instructor in philosophy at Dartmouth College and quickly rose to the rank of full professor. While at Dartmouth part of his teaching responsibility was in the area of philosophy of education, and some of his students later became prominent educational leaders, such as Harry Woodburn Chase, later chancellor of New York University; Edmund Ezra Day, later president of Cornell University; and Frank Porter Graham, later president of the University of North Carolina. Horne's interest in philosophy of education prompted him to leave academic philosophy at Dartmouth in 1909 for the position of professor of history and philosophy of education at New York University, a post he held until his retirement in 1942. In addition to his regular academic posts, he also lectured at numerous other leading colleges, universities, and seminaries.
Horne was an advocate of that philosophical school of thought known as idealism, a school that dominated American philosophy from the mid-19th century well into the 20th. Although idealism fell from favor in more recent times, it exercised a decided influence on American schools and the theory of education and it continues to have moderate influence in religious education. Basically, idealism, as articulated by Horne in Idealism in Education (1910), holds to the centrality of the freedom of will, but it also recognizes that the individual is not an isolated entity; rather, the individual is a part of a larger whole.
In The Philosophy of Education (1927), Horne stated that "The part implies the whole, and the meaning of the part is that it suggests the nature of the whole." The meaning of the individual being educated, then, lies within the whole. Although our knowledge of the whole is incomplete, the whole partially manifests itself through its parts. For example, we know many things about the human mind and how it works, how good mental health is maintained, and what happens when mental illness afflicts us; however, we do not know as much as we would like to know. What we do have, however, helps us to study the mind and learn even more about health and illness. So it is with education: we may not know in every respect precisely how we can produce better people through education, but we have some partial knowledge, and we should put that knowledge to use. The ideal is spiritual and eternal, while human beings are caught up in a natural world of space and time; hence, the role of idealistic philosophy of education is to show how through education man may find himself as a part of eternal spiritual reality.
Horne argued that there were three main concepts to consider. First, the origin of man is God, the Ultimate Mind, and the distinguishing factor about the creation called man is the human mind. It is through the education of the mind by disciplined study that man perceives and orders the world about him and is able to contemplate God. Second, the nature of man is freedom, for man can choose and decide, although he may do this imperfectly or even badly. Thus, man can choose to be educated, to grow and develop in understanding and comprehension. However, he can also choose not to think. But if man does seek education and the full development of his mind, he becomes what he was intended to be—a thinking being who is capable of choosing and acting wisely. Third is man's destiny. Because no man is all he ever can be, but is in the process of developing, his education never ends. This continual seeking does not end with an individual's death, for it is passed from generation to generation. It extends beyond finite individual humans to the infinite human ideal for the whole human race. Man's destiny, then, is immortality, or to return to God and enter the realm that is spiritual and eternal.
As science, technology, and industrial development moved ahead, idealist philosophical explanations seemed to lose appeal as philosophies such as pragmatism offered more realistic and practical analyses. Horne rose to the challenge with one of his most popular books, The Democratic Philosophy of Education (1932, 1978), which was a critical appraisal of John Dewey's progressive educational ideas. Horne's book offered many cogent criticisms and refined analyses of Dewey's ideas and was a welcome addition to the literature of philosophy of education, but it did not stem the tide of philosophical change. Idealism continued to wane in both philosophy and the theory of education.
Horne's influence was, nonetheless, considerable. His popularity as a teacher and his many publications influenced several generations of classroom teachers and educational leaders in the nation's schools. During a teaching career in three different universities that spanned 48 years, Horne taught some 10, 000 students and sponsored more than 50 doctoral candidates. He wrote numerous articles and published 26 books, some of which were translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese. In recognition of his many contributions, he was awarded honorary LL.D. degrees from Wake Forest College, Muhlenberg College, the University of North Carolina, and New York University. Herman Harrell Horne died on August 17, 1946.
Short biographical sketches of Herman Harrell Horne may be found in such works as The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume 44 (1967), and the Biographical Dictionary of American Educators, Volume 2 (1978). The best brief statement of Horne's philosophy of education is his article "An Idealistic Philosophy of Education, " in The Forty-First Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part 1 (1942). Concise analyses of Horne's major publications are in John P. Wynne, Theories of Education (1963), and J. Donald Butler, Four Philosophies and Their Practice in Education and Religion (1957).