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New Left Review I/32, July-August 1965

Antonio Gramsci

In Search of the Educational Principle

In the elementary school, there used to be two elements in the educational formation of the children. They were taught the rudiments of natural science, and the idea of civic rights and duties. Science was intended to introduce the child to the societas rerum, the world of things, while lessons in rights and duties were intended to introduce him to the state and civil society. The scientific ideas the children learnt conflicted with the magical conception of the world and nature which they absorbed from an environment steeped in folklore; while the idea of civic rights and duties conflicted with tendencies towards individualistic and localistic barbarism—another dimension of folklore. The school combated folklore, indeed every residue of a traditional vision of the world. It taught a more modern outlook, based essentially on an awareness of the simple and fundamental fact that there exist objective, intractable natural laws to which man must adapt himself if he is to master them in his turn—and that there exist social and state laws which are the product of human activity, which are established by men and can be altered by men in the interests of their collective development. These laws of the state and of society create that human order which historically best enables men to dominate the laws of nature, that is to say which most facilitates their work. For work is the specific mode by which man actively participates in natural life, in order to transform and socialize it more and more deeply and extensively.

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Antonio Gramsci, ‘In Search of an Educational Principle’, NLR I/32: £3

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