Textbook as a Model of the World and Society

Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University
Philosophy of Human Being Institute
UNESCO Chair on Sciences of Education
Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences
Section of Methodology of Interdisciplinary Research of Human Being
All-Russian Museum of A.S. Pushkin
Memorial Museum-Lyceum
St Petersburg Center for History of Ideas

The International Online Conference

Textbook as a Model
of the World and Society

30-31 January 2021

Didactic books quite rarely get interest of historians of philosophy and culture. Usually just general educational ideas of an epoch, special documents that reflect decisions in this sphere get under consideration. Reproduction of culture, however, is intricately connected with the educational process both with its structure and substance.

A textbook is not an innovative work in the true sense of the word. It almost never includes the problematic, unsettled, and unproved information. Statements of any textbook express opinions of “overwhelming majority” and should not be doubted or discussed. The role of a textbook author is in a sense specific, for her/his aim lies not in discovery of any new knowledge, but in demonstration of old knowledge in the most clear and digestible form. It is a reason why historians of ideas delete textbooks from the list of sources that can help to reconstruct mental structures of the past considering them unoriginal and devoid of any traces of creative distinctness of authors and epochs. Such an opinion moves textbooks into a kind of texts interesting only as items in the history of the pedagogical thought, historical types of teaching methods, didactic possibilities, etc.

At the same time, textbook is a specific phenomenon with some functions to support, reproduce, and master intellectual culture. The textbook content, the informational didactic reflective field, in other words, «the text of a textbook» is the most adopted and learned part of the mental informational sphere. Moreover, because of its status of indisputability traditionally connected with indoctrinated knowledge it is a textbook that often creates axiomatic grounds for subsequent intellectual creative personal activity. Very often a textbook is one of the first events of written culture met by a child, thus it defines and directs one’s attitude to the written word and oral lessons. Textbooks are influential on a certain stage of human life when a person consciously tends to study and collect the information, so they have vast integrative potency and, in many respects, predefine mental homogeneity of society. All this presupposes that studying of textbooks allows to better understand the process of personal growth, mental habits of an epoch, the system of social values. It seems evident that a study of mental structures of different epochs via textbooks is realized better when uses textbooks in the humanities, i. e. in literature, philosophy, history, etc. Textbooks in the humanities, however, are too obvious instruments of ideology and are too often made according to the rules of ideology although with seemingly neutral materials from literature and arts. Such textbooks may be used more for evaluation of official points of view than for looking into the cultural variety of an epoch. In this sense, much more independent materials for research may be found in textbooks in disciplines like physics, chemistry, biology, math or foreign languages, which provide us with a lot of cases and examples, «slips of the tongue», conclusions, references to authorities, etc., helping us to define an epoch and to learn something new about it.

It is planned to discuss during the conference various aspects of culture mirrored in textbooks of different disciplines, countries, and times. Philosophers, historians, teachers, and other scholars and researchers are invited to participate.

Proposals for discussions:

What does a math textbook teach us?

Social realities in mathematical problems. The world of things and the world of humans in textbooks. Money as the universal equivalent of quantity. Where and why that cyclist moves. A basin with to tubes. What a mother bought at a shop and how much she paid for it. Fantastic creatures from a math textbook.

A picture in my ABC-book

First phrases. Primes of the world. Visual images. Nature. Grown-ups and children. Family. School. Country.

Images and facts of history

Truth and post-truth of history. What does history begin from? Textbooks in epochs of changes. History and politics. History and culture. History textbooks of different countries and different epochs. Milestones of history. Wars and revolutions. Victories and defeats.

Russian language – great and merciless

Russian language textbook as tool of national self-reflection. Discourses and meanings of textbook texts. Textbooks of national languages: metaphysics of living word. Philosophical and ideological foundations of grammatical and orthographical symbolism.

Geography as a strategic science

Images of the world in geography textbooks. Geographical Symbolism in Culture. Map and territory. Geography and ideology. Through the magic glass of geographical projection. Toponymics as history.

Literature as a school of life

School curriculum: what it includes (and what does not). Literary heroes as models of personalities. Heroes and heroines of our time. Virtues and vices through the magic crystal of literature. What is considered as classics? School curriculum and grand literature.

The list of topics for discussions is open for intellectual cooperation.

Send please the title of your presentation, a summary up to 200 words, the information about the author(s) before 10 December 2020 to

e-mail: textbook-model@mail.ru

Tatiana V. Artemyeva & Mikhail I. Mikeshin

The link to enter the conference will be sent attached to the invitation. Conference materials are planned to turn into an electronic collection of papers registered in the Russian Science Citation Index

Международная конференция