In the period of transition'from the colonial era to independence, one of the men who contributed to the spiritual growth of a free Latin America was also Simón Rodríguez (1771 — 1854). He had been an atheist since his youth, had a through knowledge of the European Enlightenment, and concentrated on educational reforms, which were to improve the inadequate education system in his country. In his „Throughts on the State of Education in Venezuela“ he spoke up for coeducation, practical training for life, and removal of racial and social barriers among Venezuelans. He distinguished himself as a pedagogical innovator in the education of Simón Bolívar (1783—1830), who was to become leader of the national liberation armies. Towards the end of the 18th century Rodriguez was forced to emigrate because of his part in an anti-Spanish conspiracy, but during his long stay in European countries he devoted him self to scholarly work again, and especially to practical pedagogy. It was only after the patriots’ victory that he returned to South America, and he founded a polytechnical school of a new type in Bogotá. The Columbian President Bolivar put him in charge of education, mainly in the newly formed republic of Bolivia. But he failed to overcome the prejudices, backwardness and mental difference of the people, and so his most im pressive attempt at a comprehensive re-education of the South American people could not be brought to a successful conclusion. Later on, he worked as an educationist in several South American states, till he died in poverty and oblivion in the midst of a general economic and political chaos.
Simón Rodríguez was the founder of modern pedagogical theory and practice in Latin America. Although he was unable to attain his goal in the dramatic period of wars, he did lay the foundation of the subsequent democratization and allround modernization of lay schools in Latin America. What stands out as exceptionally progressive is his polytechnical conception of education, his practical e fforts to link up school with life and, of course, his early socialist view s on solving the social problem s of his times.