Education seems obviously to be a cause of the transmission—and sometimes, of the transformation—of culture. Understanding this causal interaction is difficult, in part because “education” and “culture” are notoriously difficult to characterize with precision; and in part because the causal interaction goes in both directions: Culture has a causal impact on education that is apparently as great as, or perhaps even greater than, the causal impact of education on culture. How can we best understand the nature of this complex causal interaction? In this article I try to do several things. First, I try to clarify the relevant objects of historical research in the field of education; in particular, I try to clarify cultural “transfer”, “transmission”, and “transformation” so as clarify the nature of the historical task to be undertaken. Second, I discuss the nature of historical “facts” and of historical research, in order to disabuse historians of both overly “empiricist” understandings of the historical record and overly “relativistic” understandings of historiography and the possibilities of genuine historical knowledge. Third, I address some key normative issues concerning the virtues and vices of both the educationally-caused transmission of culture and the educationally-caused transformation of it. Throughout the discussion, I try to illustrate the ways in which philosophical reflection can deepen our conception of the historical study of the relationship between education and culture.
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