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EDGAR LANDGRAF The Education of Humankind: Perfectibility and Discipline in Kant's Lectures Über Pädagogik Der Mensch kann nur Mensch werden durch Erziehung. Er ist nichts, als was Erziehung aus ihm macht. Immanuel Kant, Über Pädagogik Kant's famous dictum1 marks an epochal shift in the field of education. Kant expands the function of education far beyond the mere acquisition of practical and social skills into the realm of man-making, putting a tremendous stake on education—and indeed, the Enlightenment itself is at stake when it comes to education. Following Kant, education becomes the tool for humanity to fashion itself. Or more precisely, humanity only exists in as much as it is formed by education. Kant's proclamation is based on an anthropological assertion that both enables and legitimizes the increased emphasis put on education. It presupposes two stages in a person's life: a first, preadulthood ,2 in which a person cannot yet be considered fully human, and a second, adulthood, in which education has fashioned the person into a human being.The emphasis Kant puts on education hinges on the distinction between pre-adulthood and adulthood. Only if pre-adulthood is indeed clearly differentiated from adulthood can the former be thought to determine the latter, can a causal relationship between the two be established. Only if both are truly distinct from each other can pre-adulthood be understood as a developmental period in which the character and identity of the later adult are formed by education.3 Both axioms, that of educative man-making and that of the differentiation between pre-adulthood and adulthood, inform and structure Kant's lectures on pedagogy and their implicit anthropology. Both build the foundation for Kant's concern for individual education as well as for the education of humanity as a whole. The belief in the distinctiveness of pre-adulthood and adulthood rejects a long-standing tradition that understood childhood as modeled after adulthood , as an age of incompleteness that was different from one's adult being not in essence but merely in degree. Up to the eighteenth century, education in Europe could only unfold what was inherently already given.4 As James Schultz has shown in his comprehensive study of middle-high German texts, the Middle Ages considered childhood as derivative of adulthood. No clear Goethe Yearbook XlV (2007) 40 Edgar Landgraf boundary between childhood and adulthood was established. Childhood was seen as a state of deficiency that will be "replaced by the plentitude of adulthood . Education has some role to play in these changes . . . but to a large extent they are regarded as inevitable."5 The relative insignificance of education must be understood in terms of the anthropological assumptions that underlie pre-Enlightenment thought. In the Middle Ages, the identity and character of a person were believed to be determined neither by one's upbringing nor by one's education but rather by one's "inherent nature" (Schultz 44). A person's inherent nature was thought to derive from a number of elements, most importantly from the "nature of one's lineage." Apparently, "nature" here is little more than a reflection of the child's social standing. Schultz concludes accordingly that assuming an unchanging nature served a specific social function: it sustained "the hereditary nobility in its claims of legitimacy" (Schultz 104). It is tempting to argue that the modern separation between childhood and adulthood and the modern emphasis on education serve a similar function : that they too sustain the legitimacy and the social prerogatives of a particular group of people. What complicates the matter, however, is that this group of people files its claims in the name of humankind as a whole. It does so by introducing "education" as the primary mechanism for the reclamation of everybody's social prerogatives.6 Since the proponents of Enlightenment ideology also came from all social strata, one should not identify too quickly the group emphasizing education with the bourgeoisie. The modern recognition of childhood as a separate state in a person's life signals much more than a reversal in political fortunes of one particular social stratum.To better account for the epochal shift in the field of education...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-9087
Print ISSN
0734-3329
Pages
pp. 39-60
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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