Summary and Keywords
“Progressivism” is a collective term used in historiography to characterize historical phases in which particular ways to think about progress are detectable. Hence, “progressivism” is more a historiographical label used by historians than a term used by those thinkers identified as being part of a progressive phase in history. Even though important scholars have argued that the idea of progress can be traced back to antiquity, others have argued that ideas of progress—as a more or less linear alternative to a cyclical way of thinking—are found for the first time in the transition from the early modern period to modernity (ca. 1700). These ideas of progress can be linked to the advancement of knowledge, to the perfecting of the soul or then of the social order, and they link the notion of “progress” with notions like “perfection” and “development.” As a rule, “progress” did not include notions of future chaos or imponderability but rather was understood as an ordered proceeding to the future that was interpreted either as the redemption or materializing of a more or less predetermined road (individually and/or socially), as a contribution to adjustment of social development understood as dangerous or wrong, or as resulting from a forecast and planned future. All of these attempts over the last three and a half centuries to conceptualize progress in one way or another were connected to research, and they affected ideas on education; most of them were even closely related to educational aspirations, methods, programs, and/or policy.
The two great and independent motives of “progress” can be identified first around 1700 in France and England with regard to advancement in knowledge and the sciences (1), and in Germany with regard to the perfection of the soul. The idea of human perfection and the advancement of the knowledge based on modern sciences were merged in the Enlightenment prior to the French Revolution and its philosophical legitimation (2), leading in the German realm to a philosophy of history that subordinated all of human and natural history to a great narrative from the past to the future (3). The emergence of sociology gave the narrative a national frame that was supported by the erection of modern schooling, but by the end of the 19th century, the modern conditions of social and political life as actual expressions of progress were perceived as not redeeming the promises of the Enlightenment and the philosophy of history, which led to a schism in the interpretation of “true” progress. These critical perceptions triggered a reaction labeled the Progressive Era, which aimed to readjust the modern conditions of life to particular, often religious ideals of social order in which progress was more tightly connected to (idealized) visions of the past (4). The educational ideas and ideals of this Progressive Era proved to be sustainable, but they were attacked during the Cold War period, which saw an emphasis on technocratic aspects of governance and specific ideas of economic and social development. The ramifications of this focus, which called for planning the future and adjusting education to these plans, can be seen in the case of the OECD (5).
Keywords: modern sciences, perfectibility, enlightenment, philosophy of history, sociology, nation building, Progressive Era, progressive education, Cold War, development, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
“Progressivism” is understood as a collective term used in historiography to characterize historical phases in which particular ways to think about progress are detectable, and as a rule, these particular ways were less descriptive or explanative than we would find in antiquity and the Middle Ages;1 they were more programmatic, future-oriented, and as a rule optimistic. The idea of progress is, as John B. Bury wrote in his seminal book of 1920, characterized as a “synthesis of the past” with “a prophecy of the future,”2 focusing less on interpretation of the advancement of the past to the present and more on its “bearings on the future.”3
Against that background it is not surprising that progressivism discourses (often) represent narrations of salvation, less of providence but more of redemption. Accordingly, progressivism belongs to a Protestant grid of thinking rather than to a Catholic. It is no coincidence that in 1864 Pope Pius IX declared in his Syllabus of Errors that “progress, liberalism and modern civilization” did not correspond to the Catholic Church;4 and vice versa, it is also not a coincidence that early manifestos on progress, John Milton’s Paradise Regained of 16715 or John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress of 1678,6 were written by two Protestant authors, who aimed at redemption on earth or building the city upon the hill.
In this sense, styles of thought that can bear the historiographical label “progressivism” are as a rule, at least in the broadest sense, religious, and thereby normally Protestant or at least sharply distanced from the Catholic Church. They aim at social, political, and/or economic reform in the direction of visions of redemption or ideals of social coexistence. Relying on the active participation of humans, eras of progressivism are at least latently educational, and it is therefore no coincidence that parallel to the emergence of progressivism in the last third of the 17th century, a cultural process called the educationalization of social problems arose in the same intellectual circles, which led to a thorough educationalization of the world and the modern self.7 In this respect, progressivism was almost always connected to (new) conceptions of research, knowledge, and learning, and to the way that research, knowledge, and learning were and are related to ideas of education as a cultural technology to make the desired future citizen(s) of an envisioned and sought-after future.
Modern Sciences and “Useful” Knowledge: England and France in the 17th Century
Evidence of expressed optimism regarding the future can be detected in the last third of the 17th century in England and in France, and in both cases the self-perception of being part of a progressive momentum was derived from advancements in generating new, scientific knowledge. Even though some 20 years ago Steven Shapin, by pointing at long path dependencies, clarified that something like the “scientific revolution” has never occurred,8 it nevertheless is true that during the 17th century there was a growing awareness of being able to generate a basis for progressing toward a (better) future, without (yet) actually implying questions of social reform. The modern sciences in the 17th century were restricted to nature and its allegedly eternal laws that, once discovered, could and should be “useful.” Hence, knowledge derived from the study of nature could be astonishing, pleasing, and even useful with regard to early technology and industry in everyday life. Three quite interdependent events in England and France illustrate the visions of progress in that time period: scientific progress in the context of the Royal Society in London, the reform of higher education based on this progress, and a heated debate on the question as to whether the “moderns” were indeed more advanced than the “ancients.”
“Real” and “Useful” Knowledge in the Service of Progress
The year 1667 saw the publication of Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society of London, For the Improving of Natural Knowledge.9 The Royal Society, which was devoted to the experimental or scientific study of nature, was barely seven years old at the time. Evidently, Sprat’s purpose behind the historiography was not so much exact reconstruction of the seven-year history of the Royal Society but rather the construction of a new age with regard to power and knowledge. According to Sprat, the Royal Society was devoted to serve the “Advancement of Experimental Philosophy,”10 contributing to “the Benefit of humane life, by the Advancement of Real Knowledge.”11 By the time of the foundation of the Royal Society in 1660, the hero of this account had long been dead: Francis Bacon, who had died in 1626. Sprat characterizes Bacon as a “new Philosopher,” who has “not onely disagreed from the Antients, but ha[s] also propos’d to themselves the right course of slow, and sure Experimenting”; in Bacon’s books “there are every where scattered the best arguments, that can be produc’d to the defense of Experimental Philosophy; and the best directions, that are needful to promote it.”12
Bacon would have been pleased by Sprat’s narrative, for both the title and the frontispiece of his major work, the Novum Organum Scientiarum,13 published in 1620, indicated in a programmatic way something new to come. The title is a reference to the up-to-then more or less unquestioned authority of Aristotle’s work Organon, a treatise in which logic and syllogism were defined as the foundations of science. Bacon’s emphasis on the new indicates his intention to define new (and better) grounds of scientific research, based on experiments (and not on syllogisms). The same purpose is also expressed in the frontispiece of the book, in which two “pillars” on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, known as Pillars of Hercules, are depicted. These pillars had previously been symbolized by the motto Non plus ultra (no way beyond that point), but on the frontispiece of the Novum Organum, two ships are sailing through them toward the West, and below stands the motto Many will pass through and knowledge will be the greater. How important this symbol of the Non plus ultra was can be seen a year after Sprat’s History of the Royal Society, in 1668, when the Puritan Joseph Glanvill published a book dedicated to the Royal Society that ostentatiously deleted the “non” from the non plus ultra in the title: Plus Ultra, or The Progress and Advancement of Knowledge Since the Days of Aristotle.14
New Knowledge and Curriculum Reform in Higher Education in England
The extent to which Bacon expected progression through his method generating new knowledge may be disputed, but to some of his successors, most often in Puritan circles, it was clear that new knowledge had to be “useful knowledge,” as John Webster, a Protestant clergymen and supporter of the Commonwealth, claimed in 1654.15 To this end, Webster argued, the “Herculean pillars” (p. 8) had to be trespassed, and accordingly, the institutions of higher education, devoted so far to the “Scholastick learning,”16 had to be completely changed; to Webster, “speculative” disciplines were simply a crime if they were “of no use or benefit to mankind.”17 Correspondingly, the teaching of classical languages should be abandoned, for, as Webster argued against the background of his Puritanism, the emphasis on language and grammars diverted men from the essentiality in reading the Bible, to experience the Holy Spirit, “for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”18 Furthermore, the Aristotelian logic, the syllogism, was labeled “civil war of words,” “fruitless and vain”;19 it had to be abandoned and the reluctance of higher education with regard to arithmetic, geometry, and “Optical Art” had to be overcome.20 But it was not only the whole curriculum of higher education that needed to be changed in order to generate useful knowledge for progress, but also the scholarly customs, for, as Weber complains, the students “never go out by industrious searches, and observant experiments, to find out the mysteries contained in nature.”21 Aristotle, as taught in schools, was often “superfluous, Tautological, frivolous, and needless.”22
Aristotle and the dissemination of knowledge based on his philosophy were seen not only as old-fashioned but even as hindering true progress, as Glanvill, mentioned above, demonstrated in his 1668 Plus Ultra, or The Progress and Advancement of Knowledge Since the Days of Aristotle.23 In Plus Ultra, Glanville aims at demonstrating the usefulness of new knowledge based on the scientific method and at the same time at “detecting the immorality, weakness, and vanity of the Spirit that opposeth it.”24 Philosophy “must not be the work of the Mind turned in upon it self, and only conversing with its own Idaeas,” but must “be raised from the Observations and Applications of Sense, and take its Accounts from Things as they are in the sensible World.” Glanvill adds that it had been Bacon who had put an end to the “unprofitableness of the former Methods of knowledge.”25 As opposed to the logics of Aristotle, we “must seek and gather, observe and examine, and lay up in Bank for the Ages that come after. This is the business of the Experimental Philosophers; and in these Designs a progress hath been made sufficient to satisfie sober expectations.”26
Glanvill’s demonstration of the superiority of his current time over the ancient Greeks and his certainty about building a scientific basis for the future (“for the Ages that come after”) had a successor that became much more famous, maybe because it was a real, contested debate that was triggered at the most impressive court of the time, Versailles, the center of political power in France since 1682, when Louis XIV had moved there from Paris. It became famous as the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.
The Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns
By the end of the 17th century, the intellectual centers of Europe were in London and in Paris, and despite some rivalries and even wars, the exchange across the Channel was intense. For instance, John Glanvill, mentioned above, translated in 1687 a book27 by the outstanding French Cartesian Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes,28 that had been published a year earlier. In this book, Fontenelle explained to the public in easy-to-read French (and not in Latin) why, based on Copernicus’s insights, the heliocentric model of the universe was right, and why the geocentric model was wrong, no matter what the official position of the Catholic Church was on this topic.
Precisely at this time, Fontenelle became part of a heated debate at the French court in Versailles known as the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns. It had been triggered by the Frenchman Charles Perrault, who, on occasion of Louis XIV’s recovery from an operation in 1687, presented a poem titled Le siècle de Louis le Grand (The century of Louis the Great) to the Académie française.29 In the poem, Perrault praised the accomplishments of Louis XIV’s times and challenged the authority of antiquity that up to then had remained (almost) unquestioned.30 Precisely because of the advancement of the modern sciences, promoted by Louis XIV, the moderns were much more sophisticated (perfectionné) than the ancients.
The French intelligentsia accepted Perrault’s praise of the French king, but some challenged the pretention concerning the ancient authorities; one of the prominent opponents was the poet Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (usually called Boilau). On the other side, Fontenelle, among others, published Digression sur les anciens et les modernes (Digression about the ancients and the moderns), in which he argued that the (natural) sciences were ruled by a regularity other than immutable nature itself, and that therefore progress was indeed possible.31 Hence, whereas Fontenelle did not challenge the perception of a circular system of nature, he identified the sciences such as physics, medicine, and also mathematics as progressing extremely slowly but continually toward perfectibility (“qui se perfectionne avec une extrême lenteur, et se perfectionne toujours”).32 The human mind and its faculty to generate knowledge were, in contrast to nature, progressing toward perfectibility. But what about the social and political realm of life?
At the end of the 17th century, leading scientific circles in Paris and London were in no doubt that they were in a first phase of eminent progression based on modern scientific methods. Even though they hardly would have doubted that the new knowledge had impacts on life and that the progress was on a road to perfection, it was not believed that their discovered natural laws would have much impact on (reforming) the social and political life; there were simply no social theories in existence and thus none that would need to be adjusted to the new scientific epistemology. Even though there was something “democratic” in the learning conception of the moderns, there were no democratic inclinations in their visions. The extension of their conception of progress to the social and political realm was to depend on a theory of natural rights of men that, ironically or not, originated in the German Protestant theory of natural law that was designed with no inclination toward either the modern sciences or the political or social side of life.
Natural Rights of Men, Progress, and Perfectibility, and the French Revolution
Connecting modern knowledge and progress to social or political reforms is an idea of the 18th century, and as a rule it is connected to broader educational aspirations. First and rather unsystematic thoughts were developed by the author of the famous Projet pour rendre la paix perpétuelle en Europe (Project for perpetual peace in Europe), Abbé de Saint-Pierre,33 in his 1718 publication Discours sur la polysynodie,34 where he advocated the political restriction of absolute monarchy and the importance of more republican forms of government. Saint-Pierre expressed his faith in the ability of men to perfect themselves, depending on the political and social conditions and accordingly on institutions, not least educational institutions, as he propagated the same year (1718) in his Projet pour perfectionner l’éducation (Project to improve/perfect education).35 As a matter of fact, the concept of “perfection” was expanded from the realm of knowledge and cognition to the human as person and to the social realm through Protestant natural law theories, which in turn laid the basis, at the end of the century, of legitimating the French Revolution.
Natural Law Theories
The explosive French discussion on natural rights of men had its roots in the early German Enlightenment, borne by Lutheran theologians, who rejected (though for other reasons) Aristotle’s philosophy: Christian and foremost Protestant philosophers could not follow the antique belief that some people are slaves by nature.36 In particular, in the Protestant system of thought, according to which every individual’s soul is directly connected to God, each individual has to be esteemed as equal and dignified in principle. The Lutheran theologian, philosopher, and lawyer Samuel von Pufendorf explained in his seminal work on natural law in 1672 the connection between the fact of the human soul, human reason, and human dignity: “Man is of the highest dignity, because he has a soul, which is distinguished by the light of reason, by the ability to judge things and to decide freely and that is familiar with many arts.”37 In this Protestant way of defining the dignity of man it is precisely the individual’s soul that is the pivotal point—and not the holy mother church, as it would have been in Catholicism. In Protestantism it is the reasonableness of man’s nature (that is, the nobler part of his soul) that creates the essential equality of all men that is rooted in the universality of the mind or reason and the immortality of the soul.38
This idea was further developed by later scholars of the natural law theory, foremost by another Lutheran theologian, philosopher, and lawyer, Christian Wolff. In his fundamental work Jus naturae methodo scientifica per tractatum,39 based on the scientific method (methodo scientifica), Wolff confirmed man’s equality and dignity by the fact that all men have been created by (of course the same) God and thus have a natural disposition of perfectibility—distinguishing them from all other beings on earth.40 According to Wolff, perfectibility is an anthropological potential but independent of the degree to which a particular person actually realizes it in his or her life. Wolff therefore distinguishes between the essential perfectibility (perfectio essentialis) of man and an accidental state of the effective realization of perfectibility (perfectio accidentalis) that individuals may or may not attain in their respective conditions of life.41
Within the somewhat apolitical realm of Lutheranism this doctrine of human equality and perfectibility did not cause any major problems, and toward the end of the 18th century it was translated into the theory of Bildung, as total inward perfection of mankind, to which, as Humboldt said, every single man is called.42 In the French and the American contexts, however, with their very distinct social and political systems of thought, which imagined the citizen less as an inward entity and more as an empirical social and thus interacting being, the natural law theory, with its claim of men’s sameness, dignity, and natural disposition of perfectibility, had explosive power. It culminated in what was called the inalienable human rights of every single man in every imaginable situation on earth.
Perfectibility as Ultimate Expression of Progress
The transfer of the Lutheran idea of natural law into the French discussion as a natural right was in need of a linguistic and nolens volens ideological translation.43 The translators in both senses were two Protestant (Calvinist) French-Swiss philosophers and lawyers, Jean Barbeyrac and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui.44 Barbeyrac published Pufendorf’s natural law theory in 1706 in Le droit de la nature et des gens, ou Système général des principes les plus importans de la morale, de la jurisprudence, et de la politique,45 and Burlamaqui interpreted this system of thought in 1747 in his Principes du droit naturel.46 This Calvinist translation of the German idea of natural law joined existing critical discussions of French society, for instance led by Abbé Saint-Pierre or the young Montesquieu, discussions that were much less secular than the self-perception of the French philosophers would have allowed them to recognize,47 and they contributed to what Dale K. Van Kley has identified as the ultimately Calvinist influence on the revolutionary thought in France.48 In a similar way, the American historian Carl L. Becker emphasized that the French thinking of the Enlightenment and in particular the topos of perfectibility—beyond all criticism of theology and theocracy in the 18th century—was much more strongly connected to Christian ideas than it itself wished to acknowledge. “The picture of salvation in the Heavenly City they toned down to a vague impressionistic age of a ‘future state,’ ‘immorality of the soul,’ or a more generalized earthly and social félicité or perfectibilité du genre humain.”49
The most prominent philosopher to advocate an “extension” of the idea of progress and perfection to humanity was the French economist and statesman Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, who introduced an almost all-encompassing idea of progress in his 1750 presentation to the French Academy, Tableau philosophique des progrés successifs de l’ésprit humain (A philosophical review of the successive advances/progress of the human mind).50 According to Condorcet, biographer of Turgot, it was Turgot who, in this context in 1750, had first used the notion of “perfectibility” (in contrast to the verb perfectionner and the adjective perfectionné) of the human race and had devoted his academic life to it.51 Accordingly, in what is known as his “Second Discourse” of 1755, Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality of Mankind, Jean-Jacques Rousseau identified the two major human anthropological characteristics, freedom (to resist or to acquiesce to impulses) and perfectibility (la faculté de se perfectionner).52 Given that Rousseau speaks at the end of the second book of his educational novel Émile, ou De l’éducation of the “maturity of childhood” and that Emile has “not purchased his perfection at the expense of his happiness,”53 it may be concluded that the Genevan was one of the first to relate education, progress, and ideas of perfectibility.
Obviously, by the middle of the 18th century, the progression of knowledge was now not only meant to be astonishing or, ultimately, “useful,” but was also meant to serve the infallible progress of mankind. The most significant symbol of this faith in progress-by-knowledge was Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, as a systematic analysis of the order and interrelations of human knowledge and their utility with regard to progress. The first of the 32 volumes of the Encyclopédie with more than 70,000 articles was published in 1751, the last in 1777. The purpose of the Encyclopédie, as Diderot wrote in an article of the same name, was “to collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to the men with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us,” in order to help “our offspring, becoming better instructed,” and “at the same time become more virtuous and happy.”54 Accordingly, the encyclopedia entry “Perfection” states: “Any perfection has a general reason, making understandable why the topic residing in perfection is disposed in this way and not in another. You can call it the determining reason of perfection.”55
The Legitimation of the French Revolution and the Idea of Public Education
When Turgot became minister of the navy in July 1774 under Louis XVI, the philosophes interpreted it as a step toward further social, economic, and political progress. One month later, Turgot was appointed controller-general and tasked with controlling the government’s expenditures. He adopted rigid economy measures and a large liberalization of economy and trade, which caused his downfall in 1776. In his role as controller-general, Turgot appointed the young mathematician Condorcet Inspector General of Coins and Medals. After Turgot’s death in 1781, Condorcet wrote the apologetic Turgot biography, and he was more than receptive to the ongoing events in the foundation process of the United States.
As a matter of fact, in the 1780s, the French had been in a political state such that their reception of the Virginia Declarations of Rights (1776) was even more revolutionary than the Americans’.56 As early as in 1786, Condorcet wrote The Influence of the American Revolution on Europe,57 in which he defined public happiness as the ultimate measure of any government’s legitimacy.58 To Condorcet this happiness depended on the “rights [that] are everywhere the same,” that is, on the rational (immutable laws of) legitimacy of justice.59 He dedicated this essay to the Frenchman the Marquis de Lafayette, who fought for the United States in the American Revolutionary War between 1777 and 1779, and became a close friend of both Washington and Jefferson, the latter serving the Confederation Congress as Minister to France from 1784 to 1789. It was Lafayette who, back in Paris and with the help of Jefferson, drafted the French bill of human rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was passed by the National Assembly in August 1789, legitimizing the French Revolution. Through the French reception (and radicalization) of the Bill of Rights, the theory of natural rights of men had become an universal claim that was publicly binding for social action and political dominance, for the theory explicitly connected the universal rights of (natural) men to those of the citizens: In the Declaration, the rights included freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, and freedom of religion as conditions of progress.
This vision did not come free of charge, of course. Condorcet’s system of reasoning included a theory of schooling. The lowest, free-of-charge level of schooling―the four-year primary school―foresaw relatively traditionally the teaching of the three Rs, geometry, basic agronomy, moral ideas, rules of behavior, and principles of the (new) social order;60 the “revolutionary” aspect was restricted to the omission of religion. In contrast, the secondary schools—designed for parents who could afford to have their talented child not helping out at home by working—focused on mathematics, natural history, chemistry, principles of morality, social science, and trade.61 But only in the third level of schooling—postsecondary, dedicated to the education of the professions—was the curriculum designed “according to the development of the human spirit, and we do not claim for ourselves to use another path in the realm of instruction.”62 Here, mathematics and the sciences had “some preferences,” precisely because the humanities indeed used the mind, but they did not develop it—true intellectual development was based on the use of mathematical principles.63 Whereas the fourth level of schooling was dedicated to scholarship in all of the sciences,64 the fifth level, the “patriotic society of the sciences and arts,” was dedicated to extending true knowledge.65 With regard to control, it was foreseen that the teachers at upper levels controlled schooling at a lower level of schooling; the education system was therefore to be self-controlled by rational people (and free of the control of both the church and the state).
Making Sense of the World History in Its Progress: Philosophy of History
The multilayered events within one century that could be interpreted in different ways as progress obviously triggered an intellectual climate that asked for a philosophical interpretation of progress with regard to mankind.
Condorcet’s plan for schooling was based on a philosophical interpretation of human progress that encompassed the whole of human history. He was not the first person to write a particular philosophy of history, but he was the one that assigned the French Revolution a very specific place in world history as progressing toward a future characterized as rational deliberation by cosmopolitan citizens who were educated, foremost in the modern sciences. In 1794, five years after the outbreak of the French Revolution (and in the year he died), Condorcet constructed this global human history following the principles of progress toward perfection, writing Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Spirit,66 which was published posthumously in 1795.
In Condorcet’s account three points are essential: First, there is one intellectual history of mankind, based on the anthropological ability to verbally express experienced sensations, which allows human beings to have social relations with another. These abilities and their developments follow constant laws, and the purpose of the Sketch for a Historical Picture was to examine the results of this development throughout history, revealing a “picture of the progress of the human mind.”67 In this system of reasoning, cultural differences are not essential but gradual, in the sense of more or less. This observable progress of mankind, and that is the second noteworthy point, follows the same “general law” that affects “the development of the faculties of the individual,” and vice versa, the progress of the human mind is “no more than the sum of that development realized in a large number of individuals joined together in society.”68 Accordingly, and this is the third point, this “doctrine of indefinite perfectibility of the human race”69 did not remain restricted to knowledge or customs but was expanded to the political organization of human life; it was intellectual and moral. In the reading of this system of reasoning, the French Revolution of 1789 was almost a “natural” event in the history of mankind, with the imperfect precursor of the American Revolution:70 “We shall show in what ways the principles from which the constitution and laws of France were derived were purer, more precise, and more profound than those that guided the Americans.”71 It is from here, in the new political conditions of revolutionary France resulting from and enabling furthermore enlightened reasoning based on science, that the world was progressing to the final step in its triumphal procession toward a fully rational future.
Condorcet harks back to the scientific advancements of the 17th century and applies expressis verbis their idea of progress to the moral world. “The sole foundation for belief in the natural sciences is this idea, that the general laws directing the phenomena of the universe, known or unknown, are necessary and constant,” and he asks: “Why should this principle be any less true for the development of the intellectual and moral faculties of man than for the other operations of nature?”72 The French Revolution had been the starting point of this progress to perfectibility that depended on three conditions: the “abolition of inequality between nations, the progress of equality within each nation, and the true perfection of mankind.”73 Given these three conditions the world would progress by means of the sciences, which, in turn, depend on progress in education of the people: “The progress of the sciences ensures the progress of the art of education which in turn advances that of the sciences.”74
Condorcet’s attempt to interpret the French Revolution as an event in the long progressive history of human intellect that opened the door to its tenth and final phase was not the first philosophy of history. Thirty years before Condorcet, the Swiss intellectual Isaak Iselin had published a two-volume book, Über die Geschichte der Menschheit (On the history of mankind), in 1764.75 It summed up, for the first time, three relevant elements of the new system of reasoning: the endless progressing order of nature, the logic of analogical reasoning, and the idea of perfectibility. It thereby actually created the philosophical subdiscipline “philosophy of history” by accentuating an optimistic parallel between the development of mankind and the individual. The history of mankind, Iselin argued, is the sum of the histories of individuals and peoples.76 The philosophical deliberation of these histories had to “naturally lead to great principles according to which in better times, happier peoples can expect more perfect affluence.”77
To find these “great principles” was the task of his philosophy of history. Iselin suggested three stages in the development of human reason. First, he identified the “simplicity and the sensuality” of the Orientals, then the “imagination and enthusiastic love of the praiseworthy, the beauty, and the great” with which the Greeks and Romans had done “admirable deeds,” and last—in clear progression—the increased “enlightenment and reason” as the basis of an “enduring and sublime eudemonia,” that is, happiness.78 Subsequently, Iselin depicted the three attributes—sensuality, imagination, and reason—ontogenetically as consecutive stages in the development of an individual. As a child, a human being enjoys manifold pleasures in an innocent way. Growing older, his passion arises and with it his imagination, heating up his sensuality of the first stage. Before “the human being becomes a human being he has to go through the stage of childhood,” which is the state of “wildness.”79 In this stage of danger, there is the third stage, the one of reason, which leads him to happiness: “Shouldn’t this happiness, which is sometimes granted to some individuals, be part of all the peoples?” Iselin asked.80
In the two volumes of On the History of Mankind, Iselin explained how and why a state of reason would come soon. According to him, Europe in 1764 was in the stage of “high-spirited adolescence,”81 in which reason would dominate soon; Iselin is skeptical toward the future of the European monarchies. However, reason was tightly connected to constitutional freedom and sublime love of fatherland. A true republic is a constitutionally free state; it defends the system of equality among its citizens and depends on their “love, the only good driving wheel of any constitution, triumphantly pouring out its blissful influences over all the professions.”82 To implement this last state of development toward happiness is what Iselin called the “blissful revolution.”83 The ultimate goal of progress was not global cosmopolitanism based on the sciences, as in the case of Condorcet, nor inward totality expressed as Bildung in the German-Lutheran realm of thinking, but civic happiness in a just republic. It is in this realm of republicanism that Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi defined the fundamental political duty of a just government as educational, namely, to seek the “perfectibility of the individual potentials of self-preservation”84 in order to allow citizens a virtuous life.85 According to Pestalozzi, this overarching ideal was also binding for the sciences, as he claimed 1806: “The ultimate aim of all the sciences is essentially to contribute to the perfection of the human nature.… Not the cultivation of the sciences, but the cultivation of the human nature through the sciences is their sacred purpose.”86
In the strictly monarchic and dualistic thinking of the German intelligentsia an idea of a happy and just republic was inconceivable, just as was the vision of progress based on the natural sciences. The idea of (inward) progress to perfection, formulated by Wolff (see above) led to the theory of Bildung, which not surprisingly did rely on antiquity and its aesthetic ideals:87 “Nothing modern can ever be alongside of the Ancients,” Humboldt wrote, because the spirit of the Greeks was purer, fuller, and more spiritual than the spirit of contemporaries. To be engaged with the Greeks was a process of contemplation in which the unity of all the ideas was experienced. The Greeks were the aesthetic ideal, balance, and perfect proportions, and they integrated in their masterpieces only the most noble and the most sublime where it met the ideal of the whole.88 To be gebildet meant to have contemplated ancient masterpieces, and accordingly, Greek and Latin—and not the “solely useful” subjects like mathematics, sciences, or modern languages—were to be essential parts of the curriculum of higher education, with the aim of truly educating human beings (allgemeine Menschenbildung).89 Humboldt therefore offered a theory of Bildung that rejected any of the fundamental progresses in France and England that had allowed foremost the French to interpret their role as momentum in the progress of mankind toward an equal, just, and rational global society based on the modern sciences. Humboldt has remained attractive up to today as an alternative to systems of thoughts that go along with international large-scale measurement and an educational policy related to it.90
However, Humboldt did not offer an alternative to Condorcet’s philosophy of history. It was Hegel who would take on this task. In order to integrate the modern sciences into an encompassing philosophy of history that respected the uncontestable primacy of the mind (Geist), Hegel superseded the traditional dualistic thinking by arguing that essentially only the substance of the mind (Geist) existed. The extended world, nature, or the human body, had been created, according to Hegel, by God, by the absolute mind (Geist), in a moment of unreflected inattention, created thus by accident, which made God angry. History, then, is nothing other than the process to bring this absolute spirit back to itself, and it thereby actually eliminates the accidentally created nature and the visible world. Accordingly, the history of mankind is essentially a spiritual process, borne by human minds, which are able to understand the historical mission of the absolute.91
For Hegel, nature is only “the Idea in the form of the otherness,”92 and therefore “estranged from the Idea,” that is, “Nature is only the corpse of the Understanding.”93 According to this, “Nature is Spirit estranged from itself,”94 and its study in terms of the natural sciences is rather worthless for trying to understand progress as universal history. Relevant progression occurs in the spiritual realm: “This phenomenon in spirit brought to the fore an entirely different purpose in man than in merely natural things …; namely, a real capacity of change, and that for the better—an inclination of perfectibility.”95 Hegel’s idea of Bildung, then, is defined as the spiritual purpose of a person; it enables the person’s subjective spirit to understand its potential to contribute to history, defined as a pathway towards uniting the absolute spirit with itself. This spiritual pathway is called “objective spirit.” The result of Bildung is then the transformation of the subjective spirit such that it comes to understand the objective spirit as a historical process, which will ultimately result as the end of history when the absolute spirit is united with itself: “Bildung, in its absolute determination, is therefore liberation and work toward higher liberation; Bildung is the absolute transition to the infinitely subjective substantiality of ethical life, which is no longer immediate and natural, but spiritual and at the same time raised to the shape of universality.”96
Nation Building, Sociology, Social Sciences, and Social Reform
With the political revolutions overseas and in France, and the Napoleonic rule over Europe, a fundamental shift had occurred in the political orders. The political entities, the states, were clearly defined and mutually recognized by borders that were, in emergency situations, to be defended by an army. For the states, a central challenge domestically was to “convince” the inhabitants provided with natural rights that they in fact shared commonalities with the others living in the same state and that they differed from others in other states. This “tie that binds” was found in what philosophers, artists, and poets called the “nation”:97 The modern states were nation-states, and they were in their own self-perception always exceptional, true representatives of a global progress to happiness. The collective existence of the national inhabitants became to be called “society,” and its study, “sociology,” became the scientific tool for analyzing and propagating national progress, whereby the nation-states were to become, over the course of the century, quasi-sacred entities. One of the major institutions contributing to this national sacralization was the school and its curriculum, which was designed to create the future citizens of the respective nation-states. However, despite all of the promises and progress made, by the middle of the 19th century, and based on particular, Protestant convictions, questions arose as to whether the dominant interpretations of progress “really” meant progress in a moral and social sense. This doubt triggered a schism, a power struggle concerning the sovereignty of the definition of “progress,” and a broad movement, called today the “Progressive Era,” tried, with the help of “social sciences,” to readjust progress, not least by reforming education.
The National Society, Sociology, and Progress
An elaborated distinction between the state and the society can be detected in the context of the French Revolution, when the masses―or the masses lead by the bourgeoisie―revolted against the state and its sovereign representative, the French monarchy. This movement and the beheading of Louis XVI in 1793 indicated the forming of a new concept, the one of society and the social sphere, which were seen as a distinct from the political unity (the state), and which was defined as the “nation.” Whereas the inhabitants of the United States in their constitution created themselves as a people (“We the People of the United States, …”), the French Constitution of 1791 presupposed the existence of a (French) nation that now, in 1791, received a constitutional frame.
The awareness of an ever-existing nation having finally received its legitimate political form nourished the national enthusiasm with regard to progress. This climate was the fertile ground on which to create the collective existence of the French people as societé (society). After the Congress of Vienna, in restoration France, the question was not if “society” was a legitimate concept but how society could be organized in a way that served the idea of progress as it had been developed by Turgot or Condorcet. The first to combine the idea of progress with the notion of society was August Comte, in his the seminal Plan de travaux scientifiques nécessaires pour réorganiser la société (Plan of scientific studies necessary for the reorganization of society), published in 1822.98 Comte’s proximity to the modern sciences becomes evident, as he had first called his endeavor to establish the one great science of man “social physics”99 before he coined the term “sociology,” which would research scientifically the whole social or human—today we would call it cultural—sphere, that was thought to exist in parallel to the (natural) sciences dealing with their sphere.
In accordance with the French philosophes, Comte shared the view that “the ancients used to suppose Order and Progress to be irreconcilable,” which in his eyes had led to insurmountable political challenges. Comte was convinced, too, that “no real order can be established, and still less can it last, if it is not fully compatible with progress: and no great progress can be accomplished if it does not tend to the consolidation of order.”100 The idea of progress is expressed in Comte’s three-stage philosophy of history, according to which the human mind progresses individually and collectively from a theological interpretation of life to a metaphysical, and from there to a scientific or positive one: “By the very nature of the human mind each branch of our knowledge is necessarily in its development subjected to pass step-by-step three theoretically different stages: the theological or fictitious stage, the metaphysical or abstract stage, and finally the scientific or positive stage.”101
To Comte, the purpose of his positive philosophy was “to discover the laws which govern this continuity, and the aggregate of which determines the course of human development.” This task is divided into two branches: in “social dynamics,” focusing on “the laws of succession,” and on “social statistics,” focusing on “coexistence”; here, the first furnishes “the true theory of progress to political order; while the second performs the same service in regard to order.” Modern societies, as they progress (in order), were in need of both, as Comte stated.102 Progress, henceforth, oscillated between the vision of a fundamental human development and the actual ordered implementation in the nation-states, it depended on scientific research and sociology, and it developed a stronger sense of education that in the same way oscillated between cosmopolitan aspirations and the national citizen.
National Progress, Mass Schooling, and the Beginning of the Educational Sciences
Even though educational ideas relying on development or growth shared the idea of commonality between all human beings, the organization of mass schooling clearly served the idea of the nation as the site of at least progress, if not salvation. The national citizens were not born, but had to be made, and the making of the future citizens was one of the strongest means of the stakeholders both to strengthen the nation’s inner cohesion and through that to contribute to the (national) progress. By 1900, the idea of a close interrelation between Education and National Progress103 had become taken for granted, and comparative education as a subdiscipline emerged, carefully (and mistrustfully) looking across the national borders, determining the national differences. One of the first comparatists in education, the British historian Michael Sadler, wrote: “A national system of education is a living thing, the outcome of forgotten struggles and difficulties and ‘of battles long ago’. It has in it some of the secret workings of national life.”104
As a matter of fact, the erection of mass schooling in the 19th century may not have been possible without the erection of the nation-states, which claimed that their respective inhabitants were indeed sharing commonalities that made them different from others. It is no coincidence that in Europe literally each time a nation-state passed a new constitution it shortly afterward passed a new school law with a new curriculum, designed to implement educationally the social ideals embodied in the constitutions,105 and progress in the institutionalization of the mass schools was interpreted as national progress, as became visible, for instance, during the World Fairs.106 And indeed, when Robert E. Hughes in his book The Making of Citizens: A Study in Comparative Education, published in 1902, compared schooling and curriculum in France, England, the United States, and Germany, he recalled that “the school is a political institution maintained by the State for the cultivation and propagation of national ideals,” and that therefore “every school is a machine deliberately contrived for the manufactures of citizens.”107 Hughes stressed that “each nation has … the system best suited to its idiosyncrasies,”108 and can therefore “only be understood when seen in its own setting,” since it expresses “its nation’s genius; it is characteristic of its people”; it is an “indigenous product,”109 serving the “progress of the State.”110
Mass schooling in the service of national unity and progress, often interpreted as progress toward salvation, was evidently in need of people to implement these ideals in the daily interaction of the school: teachers. Over the course of the 19th century, teacher training became the site on which the redemption of the national progress was prepared. To bring teachers in line with the master narratives of national salvation, the genre history of education was promoted, through which the teachers were expected to incorporate the exemplary devotion of the heroes of education of past times and at the same time a national spirit. Hence, the textbooks published for use in teacher training appealed to the moral sentiment of the soon-to-be teachers, but they did so in nationally very distinct ways.111
The Progressive Era in the United States
Apart from some internationalist visions during the 19th century, the idea of progress and the idea of the nation went hand in hand. However, by the middle of the century questions were raised as to what degree the undeniable progress was indeed benefiting the people’s existence, maybe apart from the economic or material side of life. Only two years after the first World’s Fair in London 1851, which expressed national competition in the leadership of progress, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, in its “Editor’s Table,” published a reflection on the question “Are We Progressing?”112 Even if the answer to the question was a hearty “yes,” the article itself summarized and rejected critiques raised based on statistical evidence of increased “individual crime,”113 the disappearance of “public virtues,”114 and the fact of thorough “political corruption.”115
Often, criticisms like these were raised in religious, mostly Protestant contexts, in particular in the context of the Second Great Awakening, which was profiting from the rapid and vast social changes that came along with developments usually called progress.116 In this context many reform movements were triggered that were designed to remedy the evils of society before the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ.117 Concerns like these became more publicly dominant after the end of the Civil War and triggered a movement now called the Progressive Era, which in fact might also have been called the Conservative Era, as the so-called progressivists criticized phenomena associated with (technological and economic) progress and as they advocated new forms of old social ideals, such as the Protestant congregation defined as the ideal community. Dewey’s idea of the Great Community as a true alternative to the (perils of the) Great Society coined by capitalist economy did indeed build on the (romanticized) vision of the communities of the 17th and 18th centuries.118
American pragmatism was an academic response to the perils of modernity119 and was embedded in a cultural crisis that was borne by the Protestant middle class, which formed the Social Gospel movement by interpreting actual urban living conditions in the light of the social ideals of the Protestant congregation.120 The question raised by the son of a Congregational minister, William T. Stead, asking what would happen If Christ came to Chicago,121 could not but advocate community in a Christian way, that is, solidarity of the happy with the poor, and precisely because of the evident lack of this solidarity, the conclusion was that America was in fact neither Christian nor democratic. George Davis Herron, a Congregational minister, accordingly complained in 1895: “We Americans are not a democratic people. We do not select the representatives we elect; we do not make our own laws; we do not govern ourselves. Our political parties are controlled by private, close political corporations that exist as parasites upon the body politic, giving us the most corrupting and humiliating despotisms in political history, and tending to destroy all political faith in righteousness.”122
The Social Gospel movement was part of the Progressive Era in which the (Protestant) middle class challenged the sovereignty of definition by the wealthy of what “progress” meant, so that by the turn of the century there was a schism with regard to progressivism. In the eyes of the critics, the vision of progression championed by the wealthy went in the wrong direction ethically and was in need of a moral readjustment. The social sciences at the newly erected research universities were designed to help to readjust progression and to tame the perils of modernity.123 The way that “civilization advances” creates an ever-growing gap between the young and the world of the adults,124 whereby the new technologies of communication and transportation could potentially have helped to facilitate more communication and exchange between the participants of society.125 Hence, education was defined as ongoing practice of mutual interaction and cooperative problem-solving, building on communal face-to-face relations126 in a democracy that was not primarily understood as an organizational principle to deal with differences in opinion and interest, but as “primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience”;127 an appropriate way of education was understood as “conjoint communicated experience” in order to “push to social progress,”128 whereby the teacher was defined as “usherer in of the true Kingdom of God” on earth.129
The Struggle for Progressivism and the Cult of Development
The period called the Progressive Era was an oppositional movement that rejected the major driving forces behind the visible progress, that is, modernity, by means of the sciences, technology, and capitalism, which in the eyes of the movement alienated the people in the communities and through that endangered democracy. Embedded in the all-encompassing shift that educationalized the interpretation of the modern self, its world, and its future, the critics believed that education, progressive education, would contribute to a better, more democratic society. For at least a half a century, this ideology of progressive education dominated the American “pedagogical progressives” in an American Romance,130 whereby they were soon joined and challenged by a professional group that likewise acted in the name of progress, the so-called administrative progressives,131 who criticized too much democracy in education and, in a managerial style, promoted accountability and progress based on evidence derived from assessments based on systematic testing. The tension between these two professional groups claiming progress, the two sides of the schism, lasted for over a half a century, more or less until Sputnik in 1957 led to an educationalization of the Cold War. This resulted in military-economy-political support for the administrative progressives, who would eventually make accountability the paramount means of education, means that were intended to be exported at least to Europe via the OECD.
Mass Immigration, the Challenge for Democracy, and Curriculum Reform
The political culture of the educationalized American middle class became evident when it faced massive immigration from countries with a culture very foreign to the dominant culture of the United States. Patriotic movements were formed with the aim of making the immigrants, foremost their children, more democratic via particular curriculum reform. Concerned citizens developed Methods of Teaching Patriotism in the Public School.132 Teaching patriotism or civic virtues became a constitutive part of the Progressive Era, and it relied on the social sciences in facing these societal challenges brought about by immigration and by the unmatched growth of the big cities. In close accordance with the educational theory of pragmatism, the social sciences departments developed programs in Education for Citizenship in a Democracy,133 and published books like The American Citizen in response to the “growing demand for the more adequate teaching of morals in the schools, especially with reference to the making of good citizens.”134 Accordingly, the schools started to implement “social studies” in their curricula to reinforce civics and social responsibility as democratic desiderata.135
However, pragmatism had not been the only educational theory. Developed within the reformed Protestant, that is, liberal, Congregational and Baptist styles of thought, it was soon challenged in its scope by an educational theory that was developed in Methodist or Presbyterian circles.136 A groundbreaking actor here was the son of a Presbyterian minister, James McKeen Cattell, professor of psychology at Columbia College. Under Cattell’s leadership the reputation of the psychology department at Columbia grew remarkably. In 1898, a son of a Methodist minister, Edward Lee Thorndike, completed his doctorate under Cattell with a treatise on animal intelligence.137 With his later works, Educational Psychology and An Introduction to the Theory of Mental and Social Measurements,138 Thorndike helped to popularize empirical research methods in the educational field, whereby he tied education closely to empirical psychology and separated it completely from philosophy.
Thorndike could not make anything of the liberal Congregational and Baptist ideal of an interactive community as an expression of democracy; and even though he was jointly responsible for Dewey’s move from the University of Chicago to the department of philosophy at Columbia University, he found Dewey’s ideas incomprehensible,139 and in his books Principles of Teaching Based on Psychology140 and Educational Psychology,141 the notion of democracy is simply inexistent. In the world of Thorndike, stimuli existed, and differently gifted people dealt with these stimuli, so reactions are different. Like Dewey and most others of the time, Thorndike belonged to an educationalized culture, and he envisaged a progressive future, too, but in a completely different way. To Thorndike, questions of education had more to do with (physiological) psychology than with any kind of philosophy, and his favored sciences were, as in the 18th century, the natural sciences; the teacher studies and learns to apply psychology to teaching for the same reason that the progressive farmer studies and learns to apply botany; the architect, mechanics; or the physician, physiology and pathology.142
Cattell and Thorndike were the leading academic pioneers for the elitist movement called the administrative progressives, who challenged “pedagogical progressives” and advocated the idea of “social efficiency,” which was vehemently propagated by David Snedden, a former student of Thorndike’s at Columbia, in the first school administration textbook to be published, co-authored with Samuel T. Dutton, The Administration of Public Education in the United States.143 Even though the educational theory of pragmatism remained very powerful in the realm of teacher education, in the end it was Snedden and the administrative progressives that “won”144 and helped to overcome the schism in (the interpretation of) progressivism.
Sputnik, the Educationalization of the Cold War, and the Foundation of the OECD
The schism in the interpretation of progressivism in the United States lasted more than a half a century until, in the Cold War, the federal government of the United States found itself constrained to intervene in public education from which it was, constitutionally, excluded. In a joint effort by military and political stakeholders, the pedagogical progressives that advocated “life adjustment” education were attacked and the administrative progressives supported. Right after the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957, the pedagogical progressives came under attack by being made liable for the Sputnik disaster. In December 1957 Vice-Admiral Hyman G. Rickover said that if “the local school continued to teach such pleasant subjects as ‘Life Adjustment’ and ‘How to know when you are really in love,’ instead of French and physics, its diploma would be, for all the world to see, inferior.”145 Accordingly, Rickover challenged the decentralized local democratic structure of American schooling and made a plea to “introduce uniform standards into American education.” This would best be the task of a “private agency, a Council of Scholars.… This council would set a national standard for the high school diploma, as well as for the scholastic competence of teachers.”146
Shortly afterwards in January 1958, in a Special Message to the Congress from President Eisenhower on Education, President Eisenhower argued that “national security” requires that “the Federal Government must . . . play an emergency role” in education policy. If the United States were to maintain global leadership, representing the top level of human progress, “we must see to it that today’s young people are prepared to contribute the maximum to our future progress.”147 Philip H. Coombs, the head of the education program of the Ford Foundation said before the same United States Congress that thorough educational reform “is vital because a major key to our Nation’s future development and progress, whether in relation to peace or to defense, is our supply of well-educated manpower.”148
Based on these assessments the Congress passed the National Defense Education Act in 1958, stating that “the security of the Nation requires the fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills of its young men and women. The present emergency demands that additional and more adequate educational opportunities be made available,” for the nation depends “mastery of modern techniques developed from complex scientific principles” as well “upon the discovery and development of new principles, new techniques, and new knowledge.”149
In the 17th and 18th centuries, progress in the sciences had led to the idea and perception of progress; now, it was the commitment to progress that led to a perceived need for more science, to be promoted in the schools, financed by Washington. However, the doubtful success of the money spent after 1958 led the federal authorities to develop a centralized system of output control, institutionalized by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 1964, which developed tools for comparative testing (that were used at a global level in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 35 years later) and supported by the Journal of Educational Measurement in 1964,150 both representing a continuation of the visions that Thorndike had developed some 60 years before.
The idea of global leadership with regard to progress led to adjustments in the international platforms, first in the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC): “If countries are to reap the benefits of technical progress, there must be general appreciation of the influence of science in modern life, and an adequate supply of trained people fully employed to support rapid progress.”151 Only three years later, in 1961, the OEEC was replaced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with emphasis on the notion of “D,” “development.” Development had become the ordering idea behind progress and was understood as proceeding in stages: “Those who used this concept were assuming that the separate units—‘national societies’—all developed in the same fundamental way . . . but at distinct paces.”152
The OECD after the Cold War and PISA
During the Cold War, “progress” had been conceptualized in a vocabulary that focused on the notion of “development.” The advantage of this vocabulary was that it was not only able to express the idea of a path (ordered and by virtue of the leader, the United States, already given) but it was also to be understood, ultimately, as a task, as a moral obligation. Hence, the United States was both unique and a model for others; to create a harmonized globe it had something to offer the world by its very example.153 Accordingly, the world on its progress to a harmonious unity was to be categorized with regard to its state of development. Instead of the traditional five continents, the world was divided into four categories of development: first, the developed countries, thus the United States and to a lesser degree western Europe; then the developing countries, southern and southeastern Europe and to a lesser degree South America and parts of Asia; undeveloped countries, such as most of the African countries; and wrongly developed countries such as the Eastern bloc. Development was no innocent notion but rather the keyword of a specific ideology that assessed itself, since 1960, as ideology free,154 and that, with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, believed that it had reached the end of ideological conflicts, called the “end of history,” opening the future in which science and rational deliberation would ensure progress,155 following a predefined plan that eventually nourished the technocratic aspirations that science could and actually should govern and accelerate this process.156
This mapping had consequences, for it benchmarked development by defined indicators to measure the stage of development, free of any cultural context.157 Whereas in 1961 it still had been said that the OECD is “deeply convinced that science and technology, and the advanced education on which they must be based, are the pillars on which future social and economic progress must be built” (OECD Archives, C(61)70, 1), and while for this purpose educational planning with regard to defined (quantitative) “benchmarks” was advocated, the picture changed in the last third of the 20th century. Based on a thorough transformation of a mechanical epistemology in the service of political programs to a medicalized epistemology defining normative standards that had to be implemented by politics,158 the vision of “social engineering” based upon defined indicators and continuously monitored by statistical evidences was implemented. There is a “need [for] governments to draw policy lessons,” PISA states, and the regularity of its assessments will “enable countries to monitor their progress in meeting key learning objectives” that are not defined by the national curricula but by PISA.159
The basic idea of the 19th-century school was to make the desired future citizen of a political entity, of a constitutional nation-state in its commitment to progress; now, the idea is to produce the “right kind of people”160 that fit into a globally developing world designed and monitored by social engineering and to be implemented by politics and policies. Whereas the curious “philosophers” of the 17th century believed in the progress of (useful) knowledge, now the dominant scientific castes define what progress is and how politics should act in order to make the “desired people.” Science should not only interpret or foster progress but should also actually define progress and convince politics to implement the provided measures. This state of the art is not, as a British philosopher of education once thought, a logical consequence of the philosophers of the 17th century161 but is more a shadow of Hegel’s megalomania, with its innate distance from democracy. But perhaps today’s “expertocrats” are right and democracy is indeed an outdated shelf warmer, an obstacle to “true” progress, progress defined in their medicalized language. Yet history tells us that there are alternative ideas of progress, and progressivism could, in its ambitions, become a healed victim of what has been labeled postmodernism, the end of salvation narratives that govern the minds of the modern self.
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(6.) J. Bunyan (1678), The pilgrim’s progress from this world to that which is to come (London: Nath. Ponder).
(7.) D. Tröhler (2016), “Educationalization of social problems and the educationalization of the modern world,” in M. A. Peters (Ed.), Encyclopedia of educational philosophy and theory (pp. 1–6) (Rotterdam: Springer).
(8.) S. Shapin (1996), The scientific revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
(9.) T. Sprat (1667), The history of the Royal-Society of London, for the improving of natural knowledge (London: Printed by T. R. for J. Martyn).
(13.) F. Bacon (1620/1650), Novum organum scientiarum (Leiden: Adriani Wyngaerden).
(14.) J. Glanville (1668), Plus ultra, or, The progress and advancement of knowledge since the days of Aristotle (London: James Collins).
(15.) J. Webster (1654), Academiarum examen, or the examination of academies (London: Giles Calvert), 3.
(27.) B. Fontenelle (1686/1687), Conversations on the plurality of worlds (J. Glanvill, Trans.) (London: A. Bettesworth).
(28.) B. Fontenelle (1686), Entretiens sur la pluralite des mondes (Paris: Blageart).
(29.) The next paragraphs follow D. Tröhler (2014), Self-reflection, or the intellectual’s virtues: The culture-epoch theory as a system of reasoning, in M. Pereyra & B. Franklin (Eds.), Systems of reason and the politics of schooling: School reform and sciences of education in the tradition of Thomas S. Popkewitz (pp. 299–318) (New York: Routledge).
(30.) J. DeJean (1997), Ancients against moderns: Culture wars and the making of a fin de siècle (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
(31.) B. Fontenelle (1688), Digression sur les anciens & les modernes, in Oeuvres diverses (vol. 3, pp. 133–153) (The Hague: Gosse & Neaulme).
(33.) Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1713), Projet pour rendre la paix perpetuelle en Europe (Utrecht: Chéz Antoine Schouten).
(34.) Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1718a), Discours sur la polysynodie: Que la polysynodie, ou la pluralite des conselis, est la forme de ministere la plus avandageuse pour und roy, & pour und royaume (London: Jacob Tonsson).
(35.) Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1718b), Projet pour perfectionner l’education: Avec un discours sur la Grandeur & la Sainteté des Hommes (Paris: Briasson).
(36.) Aristotle, for instance, in his Politics assumes that one can “by nature … be a slave,” and that slavery is thus not necessarily “a violation to nature”; see Aristotle (1996), The Politics and the Constitution of Athens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1254b 16–21, at 16.
(37.) “Maxima inde homini dignatio, quod animam obtinet immortalem, lumine intellectus, facultate res dijudicandi & eligendi praeditam, & in plurimas artes solertissimam” (S. von Pufendorf , De jure naturae et gentium, libri octo [Frankfurt: Knoch], 145).
(38.) A. G. Wildfeuer (2002), Menschenwürde – Leerformel oder unverzichtbarer Glaube? in M. Nicht & A. G. Wildfeuer (Eds.), Person—Menschenwürde—Menschenrechte im Disput (pp. 19–116) (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2002).
(39.) “Natural law, treated according to the scientific method.”
(40.) “Datur enim perfectio naturalis hominis, qua is distinguitur a rebus omibus aliis” (C. Wolff , Theologia naturalis, methodo scientifica pertractata. Pars sexta [Frankfurt: Libraria Rengeriana]), § 759, 592.
(41.) Wolff, 1740, Pars Prior, 1740, part I, Cap, III, § 579, p. 530
(43.) S. Zurbuchen (1993), Naturrecht und natürliche Religion. Zur Geschichte des Toleranzbegriffs von Samuel Pufendorf bis Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann), 88f.
(44.) The latter is essential not least to Thomas Jefferson in formulating the Declaration of Independence in 1776, including the basic human rights that had already been formulated in June 1776 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The first of the 16 sections reads: “That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights,” that are never to be affected: “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
(45.) J. Barbeyrac (1706), Le droit de la nature et des gens, ou systeme general des principes les plus importans de la morale, de la jurisprudence et de la politique (Amsterdam: Henri Schelte).
(46.) J.-J. Burlamaqui (1747), Principes du droit naturel (Geneva: Barrillot & Fils).
(47.) C. L. Becker (1932/2003), The heavenly city of the eighteenth-century philosophers (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
(48.) D. K. Van Kley (1996), The religious origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the civil constitution, 1560–1791 (New Haven; CT: Yale University Press).
(50.) A. R. J. Turgot (1750/1973), Turgot on progress, sociology, and economics: A philosophical review of the successive advances of the human mind, on universal history, reflections on the formation and the distribution of wealth (R. L. Meek, Trans. and Ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). The next paragraphs follow Tröhler (2014).
(51.) J. A. N. de C., Marquis de Condorcet (1786/1997), La vie de Monsieur Turgot (Paris: Association pour la diffusion de l’économie politique), 183.
(52.) J.-J. Rousseau (1755/2002), Discourse on the origin and foundations of inequality of mankind, in S. Dunn (Ed.), Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract and the First and the Second Discourses (pp. 69–148) (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
(53.) J.-J. Rousseau (1762/1979), Emile, or On education (A. Bloom, Trans.) (New York: Basic Books), 162.
(54.) D. Diderot (1755), Encyclopédie, in D. Diderot & J. d’Alembert (Eds.), Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (vol. 5, pp. 635–648A) (Paris); translated here following Philip Stewart’s translation at D. Diderot (2002), “Encyclopedia,” The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project (P. Stewart, Trans.) (Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library).
(55.) “Perfection,” in D. Diderot & J. d’Alembert (Eds.), Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (vol. 12, pp. 351–352) (Neufchastel, Prussia: Samuel Faulche, 1765), 351.
(56.) J. Sandweg (1972), Rationales Naturrecht als revolutionäre Praxis: Untersuchungen zur “Erklärung der Menschen- und Bürgerrechte” von 1789 (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot), 27. In parallel, Condorcet declared in 1789 in an article “On Despotism”: “The first declaration of rights really worthy of the name is the Virginia declaration, signed on 1 June 1776, and the author of that declaration deserves the eternal gratitude of the human race. Six other states in America have followed Virginia’s example,” whereby none of them “can be seen as being complete”; J. A. N. de C., Marquis de Condorcet (1789), On despotism, in G. Ansart (Ed.), (2012), Condorcet: Writings on the United States (pp. 163–180) (University Park: Penn State University Press), 176ff.
(60.) J. A. N. de C., Marquis de Condorcet (1792/1949), Bericht über die allgemeine Organisation des öffentlichen Unterrichtswesens, in R. Alt (Ed.), (1949), Erziehungsprogramme der Französischen Revolution (pp. 61–117) (Berlin: Volk und Wissen Verlag), 66. Work originally published in French.
(75.) I. Iselin (1764/1786), Über die Geschichte der Menschheit (Vols. 1 and 2) (Basel, Switzerland: Schweighauser).
(84.) J. H. Pestalozzi (1799/1932), Die Sprache als Fundament der Kultur, in Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Sämtliche Werke (Vol. 13, pp. 33–54) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter), 38.
(85.) D. Tröhler (2013), Pestalozzi and the educationalization of the world (New York: Palgrave Pivot), 33ff.
(86.) J. H. Pestalozzi (1806/1943), Gutachten über ein Seminar im Kantons Waadt, in Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Sämtliche Werke (Vol. 18, pp. 81–133) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter), 114.
(87.) W. von Humboldt (1807/1969), Über den Charakter der Griechen, die idealische und historische Ansicht desselben, in Wilhelm von Humboldt: Werke in fünf Bänden (Vol. 2, pp. 65–72) (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1969), 65.
(89.) W. von Humboldt (1809/1964), Der Königsberger und der Litauische Schulplan, in Wilhelm von Humboldt: Werke in fünf Bänden (Vol. 4, pp. 168–195) (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft), 188f.
(90.) D. Tröhler (2011), Concepts, cultures and comparisons: PISA and the double German discontentment, in M. A. Pereyra, H.-G. Kotthoff, & R. Cowen (Eds.), PISA under Examination: Changing Knowledge, Changing Tests and Changing Schools (pp. 245–257) (Rotterdam: Sense).
(91.) G. W. F. Hegel (1803–1806/1970), Aphorismen aus Hegels Wastebook, in Hegel. Werke in zwanzig Bänden: Vol. 2, Jenaer Schriften, 1801–1807 (pp. 540–567) (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970), 552.
(92.) G. W. F. Hegel (1830/1970), Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature: Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (A. V. Miller, Trans.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), § 247, 15.
(96.) G. W. F. Hegel (1820/1991), Elements of the Philosophy of Right (H. B. Nisbet, Trans.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), §187, 225.
(97.) S. Berger, L. Eriksonas, & A. Mycock (Eds.) (2008), Narrating the nation: Representations in history, media, and the arts (New York: Berghan).
(98.) A. Comte (1822/1970), Plan des travaux scientifiques nécessaires pour réorganiser la societé (Paris: Éditions Aubier-Montaigne).
(99.) A. Comte (1824/2009), The positive philosophy of August Comte, Vol. 2 (New York: Cosimo Classics), 399ff. et passim.
(103.) J. N. Lockeyer (1906), Education and national progress (London: Macmillan).
(104.) M. E. Sadler (1900), How can we learn anything of practical value from the study of foreign systems of education? Surrey Advertiser [Guildford, UK], 11.
(105.) D. Tröhler (2016), Curriculum history or the educational construction of europe in the long nineteenth century, European Educational Research Journal, 15(3), 279–297.
(106.) R. W. Rydell (1993), World of fairs. The century-of-progress expositions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press); and M. Lawn (Ed.), (2009), Modelling the future: Exhibitions and the materiality of education (London: Symposium).
(107.) R. E. Hughes (1902), The making of citizens: A study in comparative education (London: Walter Scott), 4.
(111.) D. Tröhler (2006), The formation and function of histories of education in continental teacher education curricula, Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies, 2.
(112.) “Editor’s Table” (1853), Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 7, 552–556.
(113.) “Editors Table,” 553.
(114.) “Editors Table,” 553f.
(115.) “Editors Table,” 554f.
(116.) P. E. Johnson (1978/2004), A shopkeeper’s millennium: Society and revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815–1837 (New York: Hill and Wang).
(117.) T. L. Smith (1957), Revivalism and social reform: American Protestantism on the eve of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row).
(118.) J. Dewey (1927), The public and its problems (New York: Henry Holt).
(119.) D. Tröhler (2010), The technological sublime and social diversity: Chicago pragmatism as response to a cultural construction of modernity, in Tröhler, Schlag, & Osterwalder (Eds.) (pp. 25–44); D. Tröhler (2010), The pragmatist response to the perils of metropolis and modernity in the late nineteenth century, in R. Bruno-Jofré, J. S. Johnston, J. Gonzalo, & D. Tröhler (Eds.), Democracy and the intersection of religion and traditions: The reading of John Dewey’s understanding of democracy and education (pp. 17–43) (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press).
(120.) P. Boyer (1978), Urban masses and moral order in America, 1820–1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
(121.) W. T. Stead (1894), If Christ came to Chicago! A plea for the union of all who love in the service of all who suffer (London: Review of Reviews).
(122.) G. D. Herron (1895), The Christian state: The social realization of democracy, in The Christian state: A political vision of Christ (pp. 73–118) (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell).
(123.) T. S. Popkewitz (2008), Cosmopolitanism and the age of school reform: Science, education and making society by making the child (New York: Routledge); T. S. Popkewitz (2010), The university as prophet, science as its messenger, and democracy as its revelation: John Dewey, University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper, and Colonel Francis Parker, in Tröhler, Schlag, & Osterwalder (Eds.) (pp. 99–121).
(124.) J. Dewey (1916), Democracy and education (New York: Macmillan), 8f.
(127.) Dewey (1926, p. 87).
(128.) Dewey (1926, p. 46).
(129.) D. Tröhler (2006), The ‘Kingdom of God on Earth’ and Early Chicago pragmatism, Educational Theory, 56(1), 89–105.
(130.) D. Labaree, Progressivism, schools and schools of education: An American romance, Paedagogica Historica, 41(1–2), 275–288.
(131.) D. Tyack (1974), The one best syste:. A history of American urban education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 126ff.
(132.) G. T. Balch (1890), Methods of teaching patriotism in the public schools (New York: Van Nostrand).
(133.) F. P. Woellner, Education for citizenship in a democracy: A text-book for teachers in the elementary schools (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923).
(134.) C. F. Dole (1892), The American citizen (Boston, MA: D. C. Heath), v.
(135.) M. Lybarger (1983), Origins of the modern social studies: 1900–1916, History of Education Quarterly, 23(4), 455–468.
(136.) D. Tröhler, The becoming of an educational science: The protestant souls and psychologies, in Tröhler (Ed.), (2011, pp. 131–147).
(137.) E. L. Thorndike, Animal Intelligence: An Experimental Study of the Associative Processes in Animals, in Psychological Review, Monograph Supplement, 2(4) (1898).
(138.) E. L. Thorndike (1903), Educational psychology (New York: Lemcke & Buechner); and E. L. Thorndike (1904), An introduction to the theory of mental and social measurements (New York: Science Press).
(139.) Ellen C. Lagemann (2000), An elusive science: The troubling history of education research (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 57.
(140.) E. L. Thorndike (1906), Principles of teaching based on psychology (New York: A. G. Seiler).
(141.) E. L. Thorndike (1914), Educational psychology: Briefer course (New York: Teachers College Press).
(143.) S. T. Dutton and D. Snedden (1908), The administration of public education in the United States (New York: Macmillan).
(144.) D. Labaree (2010), How Dewey lost: The victory of David Snedden and social efficiency in the reform of American education, in Tröhler, Schlag, & Osterwalder (Eds.) (pp. 163–188).
(145.) “Education: What price life adjustment?” (December 1957), Time Magazine, 70(23).
(146.) “Education” (1957).
(147.) Dwight D. Eisenhower (1958), Recommendations relative to our educational system, Science Education, 42(2), 103–106.
(148.) As cited in D. C. Buss (1980), The Ford Foundation in public education: Emergent patterns, in R. F. Arnove (Ed.), Philanthropy and cultural imperialism: The foundations at home and abroad (pp. 331–361) (Boston, MA: G. K. Hall), 339.
(149.) National Defense Education Act, 1958.
(150.) See, for more details, D. Tröhler (2011), The global language on education policy and prospects of education research, in D. Tröhler & R. Barbu (Eds.), The future of education research: Education systems in historical, cultural, and sociological perspectives (pp. 55–73) (Rotterdam: Sense); and D. Tröhler (2014), Change management in the governance of schooling: The rise of experts, planners, and statistics in the early OECD, Teachers College Record, 116(9), 13–26.
(151.) OECD Archive, Paris: OECD Council (C) C(58)52, p. 12.
(152.) I. Wallerstein (2004), World-systems analysis: An introduction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), 10.
(153.) D. Tröhler (2010), Harmonizing the educational globe: World polity, cultural features, and the challenges to educational research, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29(1), 7–29.
(154.) D. Bell (1960), The end of ideology: On the exhaustion of political ideas in the fifties (Glencoe, IL: Free Press).
(155.) F. Fukuyama (summer 1989), The end of history? National Interest, 16, 3–18.
(156.) H. Heyck (2011), Die Moderne in der amerikanischen Sozialwissenschaft, in B. Greiner, T. B. Müller, & C. Weber (Eds.), Macht und Geist im Kalten Krieg (pp. 159–179) (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition HIS), 167.
(157.) R. Bürgi and D. Tröhler (forthcoming), Producing the ‘Right kind of people’: The OECD education indicators in the 1960s, in S. Lindblad, D. Pettersson, & T. S. Popkewitz (Eds.), Numbers, education and the making of society: International assessments and its expertise (New York: Routledge).
(158.) D. Tröhler (2015), The medicalization of current educational research and its effects on education policy and school reforms, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(5), 749–764.
(159.) OECD (undated [ca. 2008]). PISA—The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (Paris: OECD publications). Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/37474503.pdf
(160.) The notion was mentioned in 1976 in the context of CERI, the subdivision of the OECD in charge of PISA; Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), Sleepy Hollow (New York), Nr. 2537, 1976, p. 14. I thank Regula Bürgi for this quote.
(161.) R. Smith (2006), As if by machinery: The levelling of educational research, in D. Bridges & R. Smith (Eds.), Philosophy and educational research [Special issue], Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(2), 157–168.