American Pedagogical Tradition

The term American Civilization refers to the civiliazitons of the so-called Ancient America or Pre-Columbian America. Many of them established permanent or urban settlements, agriculture, and complex societal hierarchies. Their cultural trademarks existed for more than 2,000 years across ancient cultures from the Olmec (c. 1200–400 B.C.E.) to the Inca and the Aztec. Educational traditions of the Inca and Aztec are the best studied so far.

Read on for a glimpse of what's in my upcoming book!


Educational philosophy in the Inca state
The Inca ruled between the 13th and 16th centuries across a vast sprawling empire of over 200 ethnic groups, which required a high degree of organization.

Although their rulers considered education a right for all people, the public education was not formal and many of the children did not go to school. In fact, one of the great rulers, Inca Roca, is known to have said:
"It is inadvisable that the children of ordinary people learn the sciences that belong only to the nobles, so that they do not become haughty and endanger the state. Let them learn the work of their fathers; that's enough for them."

Have you heard of similar ideas in modern times?


Sketch of an Inca from "The First New Chronicle and Good Government)", image: wikimedia

Aztec two-class education system

As was typical of empires, Aztecs were primarily interested in efficient and obedient citizens.  The purpose of education and training was to teach a child what the state considers necessary, taking into account their social background and their probable future.
They had an interesting two-class system where the elite schools completely differed from the schools for the regular folk.
Aztec schools were public and were divided into two types: house of youth (telpochcalli) and school for the noble (kalmekak). The first trained children from 15 years of age, belonging to the citizens, craftsmen and farmers. Accordingly, the subjects that they studied would have been in advanced practical mastery of the skills that were needed for the economy class. A special place was given for military training, in the case of civil war. Teachers (pipiltin - retired soldiers) provided training in military skills, tactics, maneuvers, etc.
Schools for the children of the privileged offered great opportunities for their students. They learned mathematics, astronomy, writing, politics, religion, literature and history. The teachers were the learned (tlamatinime), priests, dignitaries, and military leaders.​​
The schools differed a lot in their pedagogy and approach to character education. They were so different that in some ways they seemed to be opposite and antagonistic. Interestingly, the elite schools (kalmekak) were much stricter.
Where in other pedagogical tradition we can find similar division?

Aztec Stone of the Sun displayed in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City in Mexico
image: wikimedia