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Knowledge Is Strength: Social Darwinism In Pre-Colonial Education

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Chapter Summary

As in most cases of 'catch-up' modernization projects, the Japanese Meiji state elite considered the accelerated development of institutional education, both on the mass and elite levels, a key to success in the acquisition of 'wealth and power. This chapter attempts to show how the 'new education' in Korea, largely based on Meiji models, was simultaneously conceptualized as the way to the nation's salvation from Japanese and other imperialist designs. It emphasizes both the discourse on obligatory education as the guarantee of 'national survival,' and the Social Darwinist motifs in the contents of early modern Korean textbooks, which aimed at teaching the next generation the art of becoming 'the fittest'. While connecting the worship of heroic individuals to the Social Darwinist underpinnings of the modern educational discourse, the author also argues that 'survival' was conceived of as primarily a collective (national), and not an individual task.

Keywords: Japanese Meiji; Korea; Meiji models; Social Darwinist



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