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Fenichel, O. (1945). The Means of Education. Psychoanal. St. Child, 1:281-292.

(1945). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1:281-292

IV. PROBLEMS OF EDUCATION

The Means of Education

Otto Fenichel, M.D.

In considering any educational influence, it is necessary to distinguish three factors:

1. that which is being influenced, i.e., the mental structure of the child;

2. the influencing stimuli, which converge upon this structure;

3. the influencing process, i.e., the alterations that occur in the child's mind in response to these stimuli.

The first of these factors is, in the final analysis, determined by human biology, the second by the cultural environment in which the child is reared. Hence, it is appropriate to assume that the first factor is a subject for study by biologists, the second for sociologists, whereas the third would be in the realm of psychoanalytic research. In a science of education all three disciplines would have to be employed.

Any such schematic division is, to be sure, only relatively valid. The mental structure, to begin with, is not identical with the hereditary biological constitution which can be investigated by biology; it is actually composed of both this constitution and all previous external influences. It is not possible to disregard these external influences in any single respect. Already in utero, environmental formative influences are at work, and even developmental tendencies, which are certainly innate, need precipitating external stimuli to materialize. Strangely enough, even in the realm of the biologic needs—which in their relative force and specific form are necessarily influenced by environment—the decisive contribution was not made by a biologist, but rather by psychoanalysts. Certain primitive needs, such as hunger and the need for warmth or for excretion have, of course, been studied thoroughly by biologists.

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