Prevention of Corruption and Depravity

The old European educational theory had seen the problem in the prevention of corruption and depravity, to which the Child, striving for perfection by nature, was exposed especially at a tender age.

Therefore, Education was to be provided under the protection of the home, especially under the responsibility and care of the father. There were both religious and secular noble versions of this, which were based on the salvation of the soul and a capable way of life. They were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

In the 18th century, however, it gradually became clear that a child was to be educated without being predetermined by its (class) origin. Any child can now become anything, and the question becomes acute how to regain order in this realm of open Possibilities. The pedagogy changes from origin to Future, but loses the clues that had been in the origin for the future. Modern educational teachings are based on the idea that adolescents must be equipped for life in society with knowledge and skills that they cannot acquire on their own and not in the family, but only in schools.

These teachings culminate in the idea of Education, which states that this possibility of participation in society, indeed in the world, must be imparted to the individual as an individual and that the individuality of the individual must be developed in such a way that he can freely dispose of it and realize participation as his own.

Both versions, the old European and the new European, translate a problem for adults into a problem for children.


See Klaus Prange: Bildung in dürftiger Zeit: Epochale Aspekte der pädagogischen Reflexion. In: Zeitschrift für internationale erziehungs- und sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung 5 (1988), p. 1-18.


The world is not as it should be, so one must educate.

Both versions overlook a deeper problem. If one starts from a theory of self-referential autopoietic systems, then both mental and social systems appear as operatively-closed units which can use their own operations only for the self-reproduction of the system, i.e. only internally, but not for reaching out into the environment. No system, after all, can operate outside its own Boundaries, even partially. Every system can activate, specify, recall or forget its own structures only with its own operations. Every system can produce and reproduce its own operations only in recursive networking with its own operations. This is equally true for social systems (communication systems) and mental systems (consciousness systems).

Therefore, there can be no operational overlaps between these systems. Conscious-actual attention is something completely different from communication, although every observer can state that communication cannot proceed without participating consciousness and consciousness could not gain its present form and complexity capacity without participation in communication. Undisputedly, there is a permanent structural coupling of consciousness systems and communication systems, which continuously causes mutual irritations (Plaget would say: leads to assimilation and accommodation), but nevertheless no common operation and also no overarching system.

A consciousness system can specify itself only through consciousness, a communication system only through communication; and the recursive networks through which this happens and whose activation differentiates the system against its environment remain completely distinct. This and nothing else is meant when the newer systems theory speaks of closedness, of autopoiesis, of structurally determined systems.

If these assumptions are taken as a basis (and another theory would of course lead to completely different assumptions of reality and consequences), the basic problem of education appears in a new light. The theory of operatively-closed systems excludes the assumption that one can specify operations of consciousness (-structures, -states, etc.) by communication. What the educator assumes is impossible. But how can educational communication be set in motion and continue its own autopoiesis? And: is there a medium for this?


This question also requires a conceptual clarification. It, too, comes under the heightened demands for precision that arise when systems are thought of as operationally closed, self-producing units.