Education during the Age of Empire

Positivist pedagogy consolidated Bourgeoisie´s conception of education. In the context of
the Enlightenment and the Bourgeois society, two antagonist forces had their origin in the late 18th
C: the socialist and popular movement and the elitist Bourgeoisie. In the 19th C these were to be
known as Marxism and Positivism. Their major exponents were Karl Marx (1818-1883) and
Augusto Comte (1798-1857).
In his Course on Positive Philosophy, Comte explains that in its development, humanity
passes through three successive stages: the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive. The
first is the necessary starting point for the human mind; the last, its normal state; the second is but
a transitory stage that makes possible the passage from the first to the last. In the theological
stage, the human mind, in its search for the primary and final causes of phenomena, explains the
apparent anomalies in the universe as interventions of supernatural agents. In the second stage
the questions remain the same, but in the answers supernatural agents are replaced by abstract
entities. In the positive state, the mind stops looking for causes of phenomena, and limits itself
strictly to scientific laws governing them.
From this theory of the three states, Comte explained the educational system. He claimed that
every man would reproduce the phases of humanity.
In the first phase which is infancy´s period, learning is not formal. Learning would gradually
transform the natural fetishism into an abstract conception of the world. In the second phase
which comprises adolescence and youth, man would start studying science systematically.
Eventually, as man matures, he would achieve the positive state. That is, he would overcome the
metaphysical state. He would no longer follow a religion based on an abstract God. He would
profess the religion of the Great Being which is Humanity. Therefore, education would bring about
human solidarity.
Following Comte, Herbert Spencer (1820- 1903) disregarded the religious conception of the
teacher and valued the principle of the scientific instruction in education. He focused on what
should be taught so that the individuals could develop as human beings. He said that what was
taught at school should allow the learners to lead a better life in relation to health, work, family
and society in general.
The scientific tendency of education continued the sensory movement of the previous two
hundred years. However, in practice, the introduction of sciences in the curriculum was gradual.
This introduction resisted the domination of philosophy, theology and classical languages. This
tendency became even more influential in education because of the development of sociology and
educational sociology. Positivism denied the specific methodology of social sciences in relation to
natural sciences.
One of the major exponents of positivist educational sociology was Emile Durkheim (18581917). He thought that education reflected society. He said that education was a social fact. Thus,

A vital task of all societies is the welding of a mass of individuals into a united whole. education perpetuates and reinforces this homogeneity by fixing in the child from the beginning the essential similarities which collective life demands. and just society through education. desires and of mental activities adjusting . On the contrary.pedagogy would be a theory of social practice. which dominates the person and to which he also owns the best part of himself. ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized. alive and powerful. Whitehead insists that the child should be taught few but important ideas. If the history of their society is brought to life to children. Emile Durkheim saw the major function of education as the transmission of society's norms and values. Durkheim argued that to become attached to society. Those natural privileges represent a normal phenomenon. Therefore. feelings. and the specific environment to who it is addressed. that is to say. and a feeling that the social unit is more important than the individual. provides this link between the individual and society. the child must feel in it something that is real. a child should experience the joy of discovery. He claimed that social facts could be considered as things. Those social and pedagogical ideas reflect the conservative and reactionary character of positivist education. Some organs have more privileges than others. Positivist leaders believed that social and political liberation depended on the development of science and technology whose control was in the hands of the elites. One of the thinkers who represent pragmatism is Alfred N. In relation to pedagogy. and in particular the teaching of history. Utilizing an idea means relating it to the compounded of sense perceptions. This involves a commitment to society. Whitehead (1861-1947). although positivism was a philosophy because it questioned about what was real and the existing order. He also stated that society could be compared to an animal: society possesses a system of different organs in which these have a specific role. the creation of social solidarity. What he should discover is that general ideas help him understand the course of event throughout his life. He claimed that society can survive only if there exists amongst its members a sufficient degree of homogeneity. From the beginning. Therefore. Education. Durkheim´s theory opposes Rousseau´s. Its purpose is to challenge and develop in the child a number of physical. in other words. according to Durkheim education is the action exercised towards those that are not ready yet for social life. Durkheim considered that the man was born selfish. they will come to see that they are part of something larger than themselves: they will develop a sense of commitment to the social group. Rousseau believed that man was born innately good but that it was society that corrupted man. Whitehead considers that the educator must avoid at all costs education with inert ideas. It also occurs in nature when only the fittest organisms survive. then positivism became an ideology since it tried to answer social issues. in such a way that he can make them his own and utilize them in all circumstances of his real life. positivist ideas are closely related to pragmatism that valued what could be used in the present moment. hopes. could make him a good person. intellectual and moral reaction that are demanded both by the political society in general. a sense of belonging.

which forms his life. In brief. Whitehead considers that theoretical ideas should always find important applications within the curriculum. . The central issue of education is to keep knowledge alive.thought to thought.