The history of educational theory is marked by opposition between the idea that education is development from within and that it is formation from without; that it is based upon natural endowments and that education is a process of overcoming natural inclination and substituting in its place habits acquired under external pressure. (Source)

Thanks to user TRomano's counsel, I tried a more detailed dictionary yet how do you determine/deduce the right definition? I guess that the passage wants to differentiate 'from within' vs 'from without', so formation can't mean definitions 1 ( development) and 2 (something that is formed), or else the passage is just repeating the same word twice.

2. Please advise if this should be asked separately, but I suspect that it's related to my confusion above. What does opposition between mean? I've only encountered opposition against, of, from, to?

1 Answer 1


Opposition between two ideas means that the ideas are opposed to each other. They take mutually exclusive positions.

How to tell what is meant by "formation" in a passage that discusses education (of the young)?

The passage describes, on the other hand, an understanding of education that is based on the idea of BRINGING OUT the innate potential of the student, and on the other hand, an understanding based on idea that the student is an unformed creature with instincts and inclinations UPON WHICH the teacher must impose discipline and order.

So two ideas (a) bringing out a student's innate potential ("natural endowments") or (b) imposing discipline upon the student ("habits acquired under external pressure")

Which one of these ideas matches one of the definitions of formation in the M-W dictionary? Note that at the top of the definition M-W mentions a related verb, to form.


  • P.S. M-W is better than some other pocket dictionaries on the web, but it is still not as good as one could do.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 14:55

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