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From the Homestead to the City: Two Fundamental Concepts of Education

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The metaphor of progress as it applies to education refers to the steps taken (Latin gredi) by students on a road leading from one way of understanding or misunderstanding in the direction (Latin pro) of another, better understanding. This process of acculturation, understood in the light of the metaphor of progress, is thought here as connecting two commensurate realms. This metaphoric mode evokes a technical, natural, scientific way of understanding education. The cultural metaphor of a rite of passage as it is used by preliterate societies presents acculturation as a transcending movement between incommensurate realms. The root metaphor for the rite of passage is that of dying to one way of life and being reborn to another. The metaphor of progress, like that of homo faber, leads to an understanding of acculturation in terms of becoming literate. The metaphor of the rite of passage and of transcendence leads to an understanding of acculturation as essentially a process of becoming inscribed. The rite of passage places human learning and understanding within the context of human suffering and mortality; modern progressive theories place our thirst for knowledge within the context of everyday usefulness and the practical desire to improve our life. It is possible to think of the young child's passage from the home environment to the grade-school environment in terms of progress; the world of the home and that of the school are then thought of as commensurate realms, as together forming one unproblematic whole. The child's problem in moving from the one environment to the other is then seen as a problem of adjustment. If we look at this transition in terms of a rite of passage, it can then be thought of as a radical personal and individual transformation or conversion that cannot be accomplished by purely technical means. This mode of understanding casts in high relief the essential differences that mark the incommensurate realms of the home and the school. An investigation concerning the essential differences between the incommensurate realms of home and school brings to the fore the more fundamental differences between the incommensurate spheres of the private and the public, each of which has its own specific structural and ontological characteristics that determine the characteristic manner in which these realms are inhabited.

Affiliations: 1: Sonoma State University


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