In 1983, I began a two-year appointment at the Institute for “Pädagogik” at the University of Würzburg in the Federal Republic of Germany with Professor Dr. dr. hc. Winfried Böhm. It did not take very long for me to discover that American educators are separated from their international colleagues by much more than an ocean and a language. Sometimes the very concepts which we use in common represent very different phenomena.

In nearly every developed culture, for example, a distinction is made between the processes of education and the theories (or thinking) about education. The Germans distinguish between “Erziehung” and “Pädagogik,” the Italians between “educazione” and “pedagogia,” the French between “education” and “pedagogie”; in Spanish, it is between “educación” and “pedagogía,” in Dutch, it is “opvoeding” and “opvoedingskunde.” While it is true that in the United States we have the words “education” and “pedagogy,” our distinction is not so plain.

Let me illustrate. Before leaving for Germany, I informed the professor with whom I was studying German that I had been offered this guest position to teach educational philosophy in Germany at the Institüt für Pädagogik. He explained to me that one of his colleagues in the German department was an expert on German “pedagogy” and that I should arrange to meet with him as soon as possible. I was excited to meet someone who, I supposed, could give me further insights into the thought of the great founders of German educational thought (Fröbel, Pestalozzi, Herbart, etc.) or who could, perhaps, give me some idea of the contemporary discussion of educational philosophy in Germany. To my surprise, however, the “expert in German pedagogy” knew almost nothing about German “Pädagogik.” His expertise was not in educational thought at all; rather, he was an expert in the most efficient techniques and methods for teaching the German language. Because I would soon be facing students at a German university, I was not terribly disappointed by this surprise, but I was left with the question of why “pedagogy” in the United States carries such a different meaning than “Pädagogik” does in Germany.

This question was to gain even greater strength after I arrived in Germany and became acquainted with some of the German educational literature. In the past, I had often been disappointed by the extreme emphasis North American educators had placed on empirical methods of research, almost to the complete exclusion of more critical and philosophical discussions. I was therefore very curious when I noticed a journal that translated in my mind meant, “The Quarterly Journal for Scientific Pedagogy,” (Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Pädagogik). I thought it might be interesting to compare the types of research studies conducted by German empiricists with those with which I was only too familiar. But to my complete shock (and delight, I might add), as I skimmed through two years of articles in this journal, I could not find one single statistical table. In explaining this experience to one of my American colleagues later, he replied, “Well, what do they do then?” As if to ask: “If they don’t conduct empirical studies for this journal, how dare they claim it to be scientific?”

On the other side of this issue, I was once trying to help a German colleague better understand graduate work in the United States. He was totally shocked and abhorred to discover that it could be possible for a candidate to receive a Ph.D. in education without ever reading Rousseau’s Emile, Locke’s Thoughts of Education, Fröbel’s Menschenerziehung, or even Dewey’s Democracy and Education. (I didn’t have the courage to suggest to him that those who read these classic works in educational thought were the exception rather than the rule.) He too asked: “Well, what do they do then?” As if to say: “If they don’t read the fundamental philosophical works of education, how dare they call it a doctor of philosophy?” (To tell him that they take more credit hours of computer science and statistics than those receiving the doctorate of education would do little to help him understand.)

These experiences support the need for some kind of forum where the basic educational concepts used in various cultures can be more carefully examined. Educational concepts make presuppositions about the nature of reality and that which constitutes legitimate academic study. To understand these educational concepts across different cultures requires more than a dictionary of educational terms. There needs to be a reaching out to participate in the international dialogue. By examining the differences in our basic concepts we can begin to ask what might be missing in our own perspective. This volume of Professor Böhm’s work will contribute to this kind of reaching. He examines the history of the terms “theory” and “practice,” and explores why these terms have developed such different meanings from the life-philosophies they once represented.

Though this work was not originally written for an American audience, his criticism may apply more powerfully here than in Germany. In many ways, he is raising a voice of warning to help them avoid what has happened here. In developing a “science of education” we have tended to adopt a technological paradigm. In doing this, we have lost the moral foundation which once guided all educational theory and practice. The death of the meaning of “pedagogy” in the United States illustrates the very paradigm shift which Professor Böhm describes.

In the United States, “pedagogy” has a very narrow meaning. If it is used at all, it usually refers to the techniques or methods of teaching which are applied in formal educational institutions. Graduate students enroll in education courses, rather than courses in pedagogy. Educational philosophy is seen as something far removed from pedagogy, and typically far removed from the actual day-to-day requirements of teaching and, therefore, of proper teacher preparation. But “pedagogy” in the United States did not always represent this narrow concept. Once, it referred to the academic discipline which examines the purposes, goals, perspectives, techniques, and practices of education within their philosophical and historical contexts. Many universities even offered the degree: Doctor of Pedagogy. Then, it represented a concept much closer to its use in other cultures. Shouldn’t we ask why it has changed and what else in our culture has been lost because of the process which robbed it of much of its meaning?

The German word “Pädagogik” means both educational theory (including the science of education and its metatheory) as well as educational practice (including its working values, aims, techniques; its historical foundations, and its institutional structure.) As an academic major at the university, one studies educational theory in its philosophical, historical, political, and theological context. If anything, German students of Pädagogik tend to be quite short on practical experience. If one desires training to become a teacher in the elementary or non-university track secondary schools of Germany, he/she doesn’t study at the university at all, but at special “pädagogische Hochschulen.” Pedagogy, then, in Germany remains primarily an academic study.

The European idea of pedagogy invites its students to engage in the great discussion of education’s purposes, goals, assumptions, and values. Students contrast the ideas of such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, Augustine, Rousseau, Marx, Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Nietzsche, Pestalozzi, Fröbel, Dewey, and Gentile. (Most of our students would be lucky to recognize the names—to expect them also to know their educational theories would be to expect far too much from them. I recently asked a group of education majors who were in their senior year to tell me who John Dewey was. No one knew. The most intelligent guess I received was, “wasn’t he a librarian?”) Upon graduation, many European students of pedagogy wish they had had more practical experience in the classroom, but they assume that such experience comes in the classroom and not at the university. They assume that to participate in European conferences of education, they first need a common background in the classical arguments of education.

When asked about the future of educational thought in Germany, one respected professor warned educators against forgetting the distinction between “Pädagogik” and “Erziehungswissenschaft” (pedagogy and educational science). For him “pedagogy” grows from deduction and prescription, educational science from induction and description—the one from theology and philosophy, the other from the empirical research of psychology and sociology. His biggest concern was that he saw elements in Germany which would replace pedagogy with a science education. But pedagogy was that which unified all educational efforts. For most American educators, this argument is difficult to understand, precisely because this notion of pedagogy has already been surrendered.

If this European concept of pedagogy was once shared also by American educators, why did it change? If the American definition of pedagogy has been restricted to mere didactics, we may ask whether this was a conscious restriction. Was it a prudent decision? My fear is that it was no decision at all, but merely the unconscious result of adopting a technological mind set, which interprets all phenomena as matter controlled by manipulatable laws. If we manipulate the laws, we can produce the desired results. Such technological thinking has brought us great power as a nation. It has affected nearly every aspect of modern life. In the United States, we have even tended to define ourselves as the promised land of technological progress. Indeed, to question technology is often viewed as a type of modern heresy. But more recently we have begun to ask where technology cannot safely lead us. Continental thought has been slow to reach the United States, but through post-modern criticisms is beginning to have an impact. It is obvious that technology grows out of the technically possible, not out of the morally good, but it is less obvious what this should mean to educational research and reflection.

This book examines both the process by which such a (“making”) mind set developed and presents alternative ways of examining education within its moral context. It does not deal with the American debates concerning mixing of church and state. It does not try to solve the problems of ethnic or gender bias in represented curricular materials. But it does suggest why educational research has been so poor at responding to the moral crisis developing in our schools. It even suggests that the answer may not lie in merely bridging the ivory tower of academia with more concrete practice in life at the public school. Rather, it suggests that such thinking is based upon a false dichotomy supported by a technological paradigm. It suggests that what is most needed is neither more concrete experience in the real world of schooling nor further empirical research into more efficient learning methods, but rather a re-introduction of the Greek science of “praxis.”

It is hardly unusual to find a book with the phrase “theory and practice” in its title, but in this book, Professor Böhm demonstrates that the modern notion of “practice” (which claims to be derived from “praxis”) has suffered a fatal amputation. Most theoretical works in American educational thought seem to be almost compelled to prove their relevance by demonstrating the useful applications which flow from them or the productive “know-how” which they will provide the reader. This is the result of a larger transformation in paradigms. In education, the consequences of this transformation are severe.

In philosophy, the question of theory and practice, like that of the mind/body problem, is complex and interesting. In education, it is absolutely critical. Education loses meaning if it is reduced either to mere training for a specific social role or the natural development of the maturing individual. It becomes isolated if it is reduced to mere contemplation of the logically necessary. Education must be an education of the person, growing and developing within social expectations and norms, but becoming responsible in the context of moral choices and in responding to others.

Professor Böhm comes to this topic with a superb background. As the author of dozens of books and hundreds of scholarly articles, few have written more about educational issues pertinent to an international discussion. He holds an appointment at the University of Würzburg and at the University of Rome. He has lectured all over the world and has been a regular guest professor at such universities as Lagos in Nigeria, Cordoba in Argentina (where he received an honorary doctorate in 1984), Brigham Young University in the United States, and Padua in Italy.

This book, already published in German and Spanish, grew out of his concern to help a broad spectrum of educators to appreciate more fully the importance of philosophical reflection. It is written as a brief historical argument. Extensive references are made to encourage the reader to more intense study of the ideas. Please, do not give up on the argument before you have heard it through.

Translators are always faced with a terrible challenge: Is it better to stress the precision of the original text and phrasing, or is it better to stress the flow of the style and to rewrite it in the particular context of those most likely to read it? Fortunately, for me, I have had the privilege of working with the author for an extended time, during which I became quite immersed in his ideas. He desires that this be a translation of the ideas and style in the most readable manner possible for an English-speaking audience. The specific words selected are far less important. Indeed, one of the messages of this text is that given different paradigms of understanding even the same words have different meanings.

It may be true that if men were fishes the last thing we would discover is water. However, by carefully examining works like this one, we can more consciously begin to choose the water in which we are swimming. Robert Ulich left Germany in 1938 because he could see some of the directions in which his country was headed. He came to America looking for refuge and was offered a position at Harvard University. Here, he constantly raised the warning to American educators that they were not seriously asking themselves the philosophical questions of education. In neglecting this great responsibility they have too often allowed education to be “the handmaid of power rather than the conscience of humanity.” Oh, that we would hear and respond!

Alden LeGrand Richards