The goal of this study is to sketch three main philosophical tenets or metanarratives of the so-called period of modernity in order to show their implications for the educational leading of a child in the western world (primarily in Central Europe).
Each subchapter will outline one metanarrative or tenet of modernity and show its implication for pedagogy. The tenets are as follows: first, the naturalistic metanarrative which promoted the hegemony of science and offered technological control of the physical world; second, the romantic metanarrative of moral, aesthetic, and spiritual sensibility that gives life subjective meaning and purpose, regardless of objective reality, and third, the liberal metanarrative of freedom and tolerance through which cultural diversity is governed and policed. We will see that the naturalistic and romantic notions of the search for secure knowledge brought about tensions calling for resolution. The liberal imperative offered an effective solution. It established a philosophical framework within which the two could live together in relative harmony despite the significant differences between them.
The analysis of the three metanarratives will enable the reader: 1. to see how schools have played an essential role in implementing the agenda of modernity; 2. to understand the specific challenge contemporary pedagogy faces as a result of the crisis of the modern paradigm that the Western world has encountered for several decades. The postmodern school ‘clientele’ – the child or student – does not share the modern metanarrative. In fact, the postmodern person does not believe in any metanarrative any more.
The key question this study intends to raise is – and not just for theorists of education – whether
it is possible (in the long term) to maintain any school or society composed of individuals who do not share any unifying metanarrative. By raising this question the study suggests that one of the key tasks of contemporary pedagogy is to seek a metanarrative framework that would be admissible both to educators and to contemporary postmodern children or students, and thus make education legitimate and meaningful.