Moral traditions, critical reflection, and education in a liberal-democratic society

In Asger Sørensen & Peter Kemp (eds.), Politics in Education. Berlin: LIT Verlag. pp. 169-182 (2012)
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Abstract
I argue that, in the second half of the second Millennium, three parallel processes took place. First, normative ethics, or natural morality, that had been a distinct subject in the education of European elites from the Renaissance times to the end of the eighteenth century, disappeared as such, being partly allotted to the Churches via the teaching of religion in State School, and partly absorbed by the study of history and literature, assumed to be channels for imbibing younger generations with the shared values of the State, the Nation, or the People. Second, religion, or better the prevailing religion or, in most countries, the “State Religion,” became a compulsory subject in the State school. Both the State school and Religion as a discipline were indeed novelties. Third, a result of a tacit pact between two ruling groups was that the canon of European culture was transformed into something less consistent and less comprehensive than its previous post-Renaissance version had been. In more detail, the tradition to be transmitted to younger generations was construed around a fable, or better a lie, namely that the modern European is the ancient Greek’s grandson, and the ancient Hebrew had nothing to bequest to the Modern European. Besides, the canon was reduced to a bark without a kernel, in so far as literature and history took the place that used to belong to “philosophy” or to Studia Humanitatis.
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