Chapter 2 - The subtlety of things  pp. 45-111

The subtlety of things

By Robert Alun Jones

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In 1902, after a lengthy parliamentary inquiry into secondary education led by Louis Liard, a course in educational theory was created and immediately required of all candidates for the agrégation at the university of Paris. Not without difficulty, Liard persuaded Durkheim to take on the responsibility, and the course – later published as L'Evolution pédagogique en France (1938) – was taught at the Ecole Normale Supérieure each year from 1904 to 1913 (Lukes 1972: 379). But there can be little doubt of Durkheim's commitment to the project, which reflected his opinion of the reforms we have just described: “Everybody feels that [secondary education] cannot remain as it is,” he observed, “without having any clear idea about what it needs to become.” So here we see Durkheim's skeptical, even cynical assessment of merely political reforms, in so far as they lacked a moral infrastructure. For Durkheim, the regulations and decrees of the previous twenty years “cannot have any real authority unless they have been proposed, planned, publicized, and in some way pleaded for by informed opinion, unless they express it in a thoughtful, clear, and co-ordinated way, instead of trying to create and control it through the medium of officialdom.”