A Historical Introduction to Continental Pedagogics from a North American Perspective

Anja Kraus, Rose Ylimaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article aims to serve as an introductory discussion of the European Continental tradition of pedagogics, specifically from a North American perspective. It begins with an overview of the Continental tradition and its main figures. Here, we find a philosophical and, thus, language-sensitive attitude toward the human, the child; and a specific pedagogical terminology, i.e., descriptions and interpretations about the reality of education, such as educational practices, goals, norms, and organizational forms of educational institutions. John Dewey's educational theories exemplify the North American perspective on Continental pedagogics and its study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. Dewey's writings diverge notably from this tradition, as he integrated into his work American pragmatism and an interest in the scientific method, an interest that plays a role in today's policy trends in the United States and elsewhere. Then again, Dewey took a critical stand toward instrumentalizing pedagogics for political aims. On this point, the German-born political philosopher Hannah Arendt agreed with him. As Arendt can be seen as an example of a Continental perspective on philosophy that includes a strong warning to separate politics and education, she relates to Dewey's argument against instrumentalization. Thus, this article also features some of her work. The overall intention is to contribute to a renewal of a language for pedagogics by delineating a historical-philosophical perspective on this specific field of professional practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-223
Number of pages23
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Continental theories on education
  • Hannah Arendt
  • John Dewey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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