Humanistic education as such is a concept of the mid-sixties and early seventies when many teachers and educationists thought of it as a spontaneous process. So they coined some attractive phrases such as “open classrooms”, “student directed learning”, “psychological education”, “alternative schools”, “mental imagery”, and “confluent education,” etc. This kind of education puts emphasis on the social, psychological and intellectual development of an individual. According to the American Educator’s Encyclopedia, it emphasises “self-actualization, feelings, acceptance, concern and respect for others, valuing, social action, interpersonal and human relations, and similar aspects of the human experience.”
In the context of American education, never before in history has education been the subject of so much discussion as today. “Americans have had good reasons to be proud of their schools…. The tension between pride and criticism has been a central feature of American education in the Twentieth Century. It reflects the desire to make schools important to everyone”.
In the entire Western educational tradition from Socrates and Plato to Goethe and Emerson the aim of education remained self-knowledge and self-realization. Though a number of educationists gave their theories and concept of humanistic education, nobody wrote in the early days of America as R. W. Emerson did. His essay, “The American Scholar” is no doubt one of the early American documents of humanistic education. Norman “Forester says: “For Americans, perhaps the most suggestive expression of the humanistic spirits in relation to education is Emerson’s address, ‘The American Scholar’, happily remote from the heated debates of our own day. The marks of a changing world are in it: passages in which the humanistic spirit is given a romantic accent. But Emerson speaks mainly of and from the unchanging world of principles sound at all times”.
The situation of the present generation is not so conducive as it was in the time of Emerson. There lies a gap between the older and the younger generation, which gives birth to alienation or “that state of mind which produces either an active rejection of or indifference towards involvement with the world in any productive and creative way.”