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Social Education within the Tradition of Russian


T.A. Romm

To cite this article: T.A. Romm (2015) Social Education within the Tradition of Russian Pedagogy,
Russian Education & Society, 57:12, 1070-1083, DOI: 10.1080/10609393.2015.1200365

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Published online: 14 Sep 2016.

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Russian Education & Society, vol. 57, no. 12, December 2015, pp. 10701083.
q 2015 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 10609393 (print)/ISSN 15580423 (online)
DOI: 10.1080/10609393.2015.1200365

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Social Education within the Tradition of

Russian Pedagogy

The article presents the cultural foundations informing the pedagogical

theorization of social education in Russian pedagogy. It demonstrates
the trends within the theory of social education while taking into
account changes in sociocultural conditions in the XX century.

The increasing social complexity of the modern world, which can

be characterized as unstable, variable, and in flux, has given rise to
contradictory trends within human development. The devalua-
tion of social reality (Z. Bauman) is accompanied by the constant
testing of human powers to withstand adversity. It creates
situations that make it impossible for people to continue living.
Social trauma (P. Sztompka), culture shock (K. Oberg), lost
generations, kidults (infantilism) number among the features
of modern social life that are not just associated with a sense of

English translation q 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, from the Russian text
q 2013 Vestnik Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Kulturologiia i
iskusstvovedenie. Sotsialnoe vospitanie v traditsii otechestvennoi
pedagogiki, Vestnik Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Kulturologiia
i iskusstvovedenie, 2013, no. 4, pp. 40 51.
Tatyana Aleksandrovna Romm, Doctor of Pedagogical Science, is a professor
at the Institute of history, humanitarian and social education, Novosibirsk State
Pedagogical University.
Translated by Kenneth Cargill.

DECEMBER 2015 1071

loss (of friends, statuses), rejection, astonishment, and discomfort

at the discovery of cultural differences. They are also accompanied
by confusion in value orientations, which contribute to the
processes of the formation of social adaptations, social identity,
and peoples social self-esteem.
These are particularly significant factors for rising generations.
The gap between individual values and social values is retarding
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social development processes. In other words, the absence of a

fixed and accepted social value system is increasing the degree of
spontaneity in peoples value orientations and the likelihood that
people will develop antisocial behavior. Researchers (e.g., D.V.
Grigoryev, Val. A. Lukin, I.A. Kolesnikova, E.N. Sorochinskaya,
D.I. Feldstein) have noted the following negative phenomena
that are present among children and young people: childrens
alcoholism, boost in suicidal tendencies, decreases in the level of
personal mental and physical health, and the prevalence of
aggressive behaviors, extremism, and intolerance. However,
it is becoming increasingly clear that the reason for negative
socialization is not only the antisocial impact of various types of
countercultural organizations (criminal, totalitarian, and quasicult
tendencies, according to A.V. Mudrik). Rather, the processes
of desocialization [desotsializatsiya] (A.V. Mudrik) and
dissocialization [dissotsializatsiya] (I.A. Kolesnikova) them-
selves that are present in the modern world are becoming an
integral part of social formation processes: we can talk about
how people become susceptible to various non- and antisocial
manifestations at different life stages (Kolesnikova, 2010,
p. 124). All this leads persons into a state of objective crisis (or
victimization in the words of A.V. Mudrik). In order to overcome
this crisis, it is especially important for individuals to utilize all of
their personal resources to establish personal sense and meaning
of a particular situation while relying as little as possible on social
predetermination. The sources of these personal resources are in a
state of contradiction between social norms and peoples personal
awareness of these norms and adherence to them; between needs
and ways of satisfying them; between real external influences
(that are exerted by society and the state) on human development

and the limitations imposed by related internal mindsets. These

conflicts can be solved spontaneously (within a family or
religious community) and through the educational process.
Traditionally, the set of issues associated with fostering the social
development of the rising generation has been considered in the
overall context of the theory and practice of education in terms of
personality formation, social maturation, the social character
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(or direction) of education, etc. Since the 1990s more and more
attention has been paid to the term social education, which we
understand, following Mudrik, as a form of education that is aimed at
solving issues in the socialization of the individual. It seeks to involve
individuals in the system of sociocultural relations that currently
exists in society through the mastery and reproduction of cultural
norms and allowing these individuals to both develop and to adapt
themselves within this process (Mudrik, 2009). This conception of
social education follows the Russian educational tradition, which can
be comprehended through the lens of cultural identity (e.g., A.S.
Akhiezer, M.A. Barg, M.V. Boguslavsky, I.E. Vidt, L.N. Gumilev,
A.Ya. Gurevich, B.G. Kornetov, Lid. I. Novikova).
First of all, this system is shaped by the dominance of the
Christian value outlook of the Russian people. According to P.A.
Sorokin, the ideological, behavioral, and material embodiments
of the Orthodox Christian mindset formed the main features of
the Russian consciousness and all components of Russian culture
and social organization between the late X and XVIII centuries.
Similarly, Arnold J. Toynbee classified Russian civilization as
Orthodox Christian. Having secured itself as the foundation of
a cultural mindset, Orthodoxy subsequently determined the
sociocultural development of the country. In the words of S.S.
Averintsev, Christianity is by nature didactic. For the Christian
believer, God is both Father and Teacher, and Christ is the role
model who is perceived as mentor and teacher. According to
P.F. Kapterev, the antiquated didactic ideal associated with the
unconditional submission to the will of parents and caregivers
corresponded to the reality of ancient Russian society and the
religious spirit of Orthodox Christianity. Given that Orthodoxy
played a dominant ethnocultural role, education in medieval
DECEMBER 2015 1073

Russia was understood as a spiritual construction (O.E.

Kosheleva): rational, external knowledge was here opposed to
the inner, true, and spiritual reality. Its purpose was to help
students master the Christian worldview and its virtues and to
act morally. This was in contrast to the Western pedagogical
tradition, which placed primary emphasis on the rationalization of
religious knowledge and recognized the importance of pro-
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fessional training (especially starting in the XV to XVII centuries)

(L.V. Moshkova).
Second, the Russian pedagogical tradition took shape under the
dominance of community life and paid deference to the Christian
position in solving social issues (M.A. Demkov, P.F. Kapterev,
V.O. Klyuchevsky, A.P. Medvedkov, A.S. Khomyakov, et al.).
The appeal of traditional Orthodoxy to compassion for the group,
to the idea of a collective movement towards a better future, and
social justice is most closely connected with the communal way
of life. The community was not only an economic union, but it
was also the grounding principle of social and moral relations
in Russia. K.D. Kavelin has noted: The community is a living
phenomenon, and for that reason it is very complex. It is
organically linked to all aspects of national life. Each influences
the other (Kavelin, 1989, p. 59). Educational activities were also
practiced under these living conditions.
Third, the spiritual value orientations that were determined
through philosophical reflection reject the elevation of the
mind, which is equated with pragmatic reasoning by this way of
thinking. By contrast, it fosters a mindset that seeks to frame
reality in its entirety without breaking it into parts. This is
reflected in a value preference for an intuitive approach to a
nonanalytical understanding of the world in its entirety; for the
widespread use of emotionally saturated images, illusions,
allegories, symbols for logical concepts and categories; and for
reliance on intuition rather than on detailed, logically assembled
proofs. Hostility to analytical methods was transformed in
Russian philosophical thought into an apology for synthesis as the
basis for the gathering of the Cosmos, society, and man under
the sign of higher values. The religious tradition, which

introduced elements of mysticism and irrationalism into

philosophy (e.g., V.V. Rozanov, I.A. Ilyin, G.V. Florovsky,
G.P. Fedotov, N.O. Lossky, A.V. Elchaninov), influenced the
spiritual and value orientation of pedagogical ideas. In addition,
issues in spirituality were developed in the context of worldly life.
However, even here special attention was paid to moral values as
the ideal basic means of supporting society (e.g., N.A. Berdyaev,
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S.N. Bulgakov, S.L. Frank, K.N. Leontyev) The trinity of Truth,

Goodness, and Beauty in Russian philosophical thought was also
seen as the value basis for pedagogical concepts.
Fourth, we should consider the traditional social character of
popular education. The activities of the communal schools
[bratskie shkoly] of the XV through XVI centuries, the Old
Believer schools that were present in the economic and cultural
centers of the Old Believer communities, and home literacy
schools exemplified teaching models that developed in direct
contact with the lives of people. The basic principles that
informed these approaches to teaching included equality,
maintaining communication with the family, establishing shared
responsibility between school and family, and partial self-
management. N.A. Korf and V.Ya. Stoyunin noted the need to
organize such a school, which should perform a unifying role in
society. It should graduate young people who are trained in the
spirit of public morality, without which no society can be strong.
According to Stoyunin, the moral significance of the Russian
school can only be determined in close relationship with the
community (Stoyunin, 1991).
Fifth, society participated in education and training. P.F.
Kapterev defines this participation as a fundamental feature
characterizing the development of Russian pedagogy during the
prerevolutionary period. Depending on who is the body that
spreads pedagogical awareness, it establishes pedagogical ideals
and schools that are directly responsible for arranging public
education. The content of education depended on whether the
people in the form of small family units and rural communities
or in larger conglomerations, or social estates that were farther
removed, better educated and possessed economic and political
DECEMBER 2015 1075

privileges, or, finally, the government as the body that oversaw

public life was in control (Kapterev, 1915, p. 8).
Thus, historically, the issue of the development and formation
of the personality in Russia was solved using socioeducational
mechanisms: through relationships and reliance on the outside
world and environment. As the problems of society and
socializing individuals become more complex, the available
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(philosophical, socio-political, sociological, and other) theoretical

conceptions of how people develop social adaptations for living in
the world (V.V. Zenkovsky, A.S. Khomyakov), which form part of
the individuals social development mechanisms (A.V. Luna-
charsky) and the tools for solving the states social and political
problems (H.K. Krupskaya, P.I. Novgorodtsev), become more
numerous. These ideas have helped define the characteristics of
the social dimensions of education, which became the basis for the
development of sociopedagogical advances at the turn of the XX
century, when the term social education became a pedagogical
category (for more about this development, see Romm, 2011).
But during this period the term public education was still
widespread (e.g., P.F. Kapterev, M.M. Rubinshtein, K.D.
Ushinsky), which reflected the tradition within Russian pedagogy
that recognized the multiplicity and diversity of environmental
factors that have different implications for how teachers choose to
socialize their students through education. Various thinkers have
proposed understanding the environment through: the type of
social organization (N.G. Chernyshevsky, N.V. Shelgunov),
religious practice (V.V. Zenkovsky), lifestyle (V.P. Vakhterov, S.
T. Shatsky), social relations (P.F. Lesgaft), culture (S.I. Gessen, P.
F. Kapterev) educational space of the institution (K.N. Ventsel),
extracurricular educational organizations (E.N. Medinsky),
nongovernmental organizations, including political ones (N.K.
Krupskaya), family (M.M. Rubenstein), education and training
institutions (K.N. Rukavishnikov), the nature of the locality (V.Ia.
Stoyunin, L.N. Tolstoy), and so on. Childrens communities began
to be understood as constituting specific elements of the
environment at the turn of the XX century (K.N. Ventsel, P.F.
Kapterev, S.T. Shatsky, et al.).

Due to this, social education was conceptualized in

pedagogical concepts in connection with the objective of
cultivating feelings in a person or a sense of debt to society by
allowing individuals to accumulate social experiences in the form
of embedded sensations, feelings, ways of interaction, knowledge
and skills, internalized value orientations and attitudes (e.g.,
K.N. Rukavishnikov, S.T. Shatsky, D. Dril, K.N. Ventsel, L.N.
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Tolstoy, V.P. Vakhterov). It is important to understand the fact

that such problems can be solved through creation of an
institution that establishes special conditions that ensure the
accountability of teachers and other adults who work at
educational organizations (schools, shelters, or playgrounds).
This term (educational organization) received very wide
currency in the pedagogical literature of the 1920s in Soviet
Russia. The categorization of social education proposed by
N.N. Iordansky is widely known. The context of social education
varied in the practice of Russian pedagogy at this time:

It was proposed that people in the new society would be

educated in sociopolitical, labor, and civic terms (A.V.
Lunacharsky, N.K. Krupskaya, S.T. Shatsky, et al.);
Social education was interpreted as individual self-
development in an environment of universal values and
where the person was expected to join a common culture (V.P.
Vakhterov, S.I. Grevs, P.F. Kapterev, L.S. Vygotsky);
Social education was understood as a holistic process of
identity formation that was subject to various external
influences (M.V. Krupenina, S.M. Rives, V.N. Shulgin).

However, the concept of social education was very closely

associated with the assertion of the social nature of human origin,
where the broader social environment and the social system
exerted a determining influence on the individual.
Unfortunately, ideological content gradually assumed primary
importance: social education utilized various kinds of teaching
methods in order to form children into physically healthy actors
with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to struggle
DECEMBER 2015 1077

for the realization of the socialist society. The concept was

transferred from a purely educational context to a political,
socioprotectionist, cultural, and educational one (social edu-
cation [sotsvos] in the life of Soviet Russia meant the
departments of social education at all levels of government,
which were tasked with solving a variety of related social
problems: homeless children, illiteracy, and the provision of
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support for children).

Criticism of pedology as a pseudoscientific anti-Marxist
discipline that explained the fate of children through biological
and social factors (in the words of the decision of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of 1936
On pedological distortions in the system of the Peoples
Commissariat of Education) led to a situation where instead of
trying to ground the whole process of childhood development on
a scientific foundation the primacy of the practice of socialist
construction was proclaimed, which has successfully reeducated
people in the spirit of socialism and liquidated the remnants of
capitalism in the economy and peoples consciousness.
Successes in solving the most pressing social problems (home-
lessness, illiteracy) in the Soviet Union by the mid 1930s and the
conviction that there were no contradictions in socialist society
between the individual and the state such as typified bourgeois
societies (A.V. Lunacharsky) all contributed to the removal of the
term and concept of social education from discussions about
pedagogy. The content of education in Soviet society became
increasingly prescriptive and ideologically oriented. Gradually,
Russian pedagogy enshrined an interpretation of the concept of
education in both the broad and narrow sense of the term. In the
former sense, education included all education and training and
encompassed the work of all social educational institutions
(which in fact closely coincided with the interpretation of the
socialization of individuals). In the latter sense, education was
assigned the role of teaching children ideology, moral character,
and ensuring the comprehensive and harmonious development of
the individual (communist education).

Appeals to the term social education were made between

the 1970s and 1990s in connection with the development
of ideas surrounding pedagogy for micro-communities (M.M.
Plotkin, V.G. Bocharova), the discussion of the problems of
the socialization of teenagers (I.S. Kon), the development of the
theory of educational systems (L.I. Novikova) as related to the
study of the educational influences of the social environment
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on the development and formation of the personality as well

as with the establishment of the Institute of Social Pedagogy
(A.V. Mudrik, V.G. Bocharova, M.A. Galaguzova).
Modern theories of social education should take into account
multipronged heuristics that are used to understand the social,
individuals and education, which are based on current advances in
philosophy, sociology, and psychological knowledge. Thus, the
heuristic capabilities of the analysis of social education that are
exposed by normative, interpretative, and normative-interpretive
general scientific approaches allow us to minimize one-sided
interpretations of pedagogical phenomena and to complement
the normative, structural-functional (traditional) understanding
of education as a social phenomenon with interpretative
approaches that capture the cultural and axiological, social,
psychological and anthropocentric dimensions of these phenom-
ena (Romm, 2006). V.P. Vakhterov, P.F. Kapterev, K.D.
Ushinsky, and S.T. Shatsky completed pioneering work in this
area, and I.D. Demakova, B.Z. Vulfov, I.A. Kolesnikova, Kh.Ya.
Liymets, A.V. Mudrik, L.I. Novikova, S.D. Polyakov, N.L.
Selivanova, and V.A. Sukhomlinsky were either active in this
area during the second half of the XX century or are still active
now in the early XXI century.
At the heart of the normative-interpretive representation of
social education lies the recognition of the ambiguity of the
influence of the social environment, the subdivision of the
subjective plan for human socialization, a focus on the values of
the interests and needs of the individual in the group, the
subjective perception of social processes, and the recognition of
the importance of relationships for the development of human
DECEMBER 2015 1079

The objective and focus of the normative-interpretive approach

to social education is to recognize that social and personal
development complement each other: the child becomes ready to
actively participate in society through the development of a sense
of social belonging, participation in social activities, and the
development of relationships. Thus, studies of the problems of
childrens groups in the 1920s (e.g., E.A. Arkin, A.S. Zaluzhny,
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O.S. Lozinsky, G.V. Murashev, A.A. Fortunatov), which focused

on the issues of the spontaneous and informal formation of groups
centering around a leader, interpersonal relations within groups,
the roles of natural groupings in shaping the personalities of
children (Gordin and Novikova, 1973), led researchers to
articulate ideas about how teachers could intervene to manage
the activities of such groups in order to encourage members to
assimilate socially important values and roles. During the first
decades of Soviet rule it was also articulated that education
should solve the problem of the reeducation of difficult children
and adolescents that V.D. Semenov and other researchers wrote
about. The works of S.M. Rives, N.M. Shulman, V.I. Kufaev and
others discuss the general experience of the rehabilitation of
criminals, which focuses on the cultivation of self-reliance,
initiative, friendly relationships, and a sense of the fullness of life.
The validity of this conception of social education was supported
by psychological research that sought to classify the personality
traits of difficult children and adolescents (e.g., P.G. Belsky, G.S.
Ivanter, V.P. Kashchenko) and characterize intragroup relation-
ships (e.g., M.F. Belyaev, A.S. Zaluzhny, A.A. Fortunatov).
Research into the problems of groups of students that was
initiated by L.I. Novikova and A.T. Kurakin (e.g., L.P. Buyeva,
B.Z. Vulfov, A.T. Kurakin, L.Ya. Liymets, V.I. Maksakova, A.V.
Mudrik, S.D. Polyakov, N.L. Selivanova, V.D. Semenov) was
particularly important for the articulation of the normative and
interpretive aims of social education. Group (collective)
education, which constituted the focus of L.I. Novikovas
scientific approach, was identified with social education to a
certain extent, because it aimed at facilitating the acquisition of
the type of social experience that people would need in their

future lives. The childrens group represents a kind of model of

society. Society needs it as an educational tool that can be used
to insert the state into the child. This is the very state that is
governed by certain principles, rules, and social norms and that
teachers prepare their pupils to enter (Novikova, 1974). Relying
on special studies of group education, L.I. Novikova identifies the
conditions that are needed to implement it. Here she devotes
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signal attention to the fostering of the interpersonal relations that

unite children as members of a sociopsychological community.
Relationships begin to acquire significance as components of
the structure of the childs personality (e.g., L.P. Buyeva, Ya.L.
Kolominsky, A.V. Petrovsky). In A.V. Mudriks (1983)
interpretation of personality, it is defined as a developing system
of the schoolchilds relationships to and with the world, on the
one hand, and with others and himself, on the other (Mudrik,
2006, p. 5). The relationship is presented as a significant
condition that determines the extent and nature of the
environments impact on the person (B.Z. Vulfov). The value
assigned to the formal and informal structures of the group and
the combination of the rational organization of childrens
activities and their communities is revised in light of this
This combination makes it possible to expand the range of
social educational tools, which include not only the formal
childrens group, self-management skills, and joint actions
taken by subjects to address socially important problems, but also
the structure of formal and informal relationships, emotional-
semantic and value orientations, the microcommunity, and
interpersonal interaction and communication. Thus, the huma-
nistic foundation of V.A. Sukhomlinskys approach allowed him
to formulate the idea of public education as the assimilation of a
lifestyle that the child conducts together with his or her family
and peers. The success of this process depends largely on whether
the childrens group provides a fully featured emotional life.
I.P. Ivanovas research is focused on the pedagogical problem of
the mutual relationships between children and adults. He analyzes
and interprets the positive educational experience of these
DECEMBER 2015 1081

relationships on the basis of the example of friendships between

representatives of different generations. K.D. Radinas research
focuses on the importance of the emotional sphere for the
development of the adolescents personality and emotionality as
a necessary condition for the development of the schoolchilds
social position. A.N. Lutoshkina, L.I. Umansky, and other
representatives of the Kursk-Kostroma Scientific School have
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studied subjectively significant components that are responsible

for group formation (intellectual, emotional, and volitional
communication; social and psychological maturity of the group;
psychological structure of the group; etc.), which today can be
seen as factors that are responsible for the development of
the psychological foundations of social education (e.g., A.G.
Kirpichnik, I.S. Polonsky, A.S. Chernyshev). The result of social
education within a normative-interpretive framework is sociali-
zation as a combination of certain personal and psychological
characteristics that enable the individual to carry out a
subjectively perceived public duty and to act independently and
The modern understanding of social education carries on the
historical tradition in which Russian teachers have paid undivided
attention to the problem of the social/group in an anthroposocial
context while recognizing the importance of emotional and
personal context of solving the problems of social evolvement of
the preson in terms of moral, religious, and collective experience
of social challenges. Social education was taken not so much in
connection with the problems of social policy and the need to
improve society, but in relation to the issues of human social
development; the cultivation of a sense of solidarity, morality,
citizenship, and interpersonal relationships; and the championing
of the interests and needs of the individual within the group where
social processes are subjectively perceived.
The study of the historical continuity of social and educational
ideas (e.g., I.N. Andreyeva, T.S. Prosvetova, S.A. Raschetina, D.V.
Potepalov, T.A. Romm) as a way to answer interrelated questions
about the process of acculturating students to social life helps us
identify the interrelationships and interdependencies that are

inherent in the phenomenon of social education. Thanks to

the pedagogical analysis of the concepts of socialization (Yu.I.
Krivov, I.S. Kon, and A.V. Mudrik) and the contributions of the
results of this analysis to the theory of education, it has become
possible to describe the relationship and interdependency between
the process/result of socialization and the character of social
education. Over the past 15 years a number of full-fledged studies
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have been conducted that proposed generalizations from discovered

facts and regular relations that explain the phenomena and processes
that take place in individual areas of social education (e.g.,
V.M. Basova, G.P. Bobylev, A.V. Volokhov, M.V. Voropaev,
B.V. Kupriyanov, M.V. Nikitsky, V.I. Petrishchev, M.M.
Plotkin, N.E. Romanyuta, M.I. Rozhkov, T.V. Sklyarova, M.V.
Shakurova, T.T. Shchelina, V.R. Yasnitskaya, O.L. Yanushkya-
vichene). Modern pedagogy has developed various theoretical
concepts (images), which reflect the results of the subjective
interpretation and construction of theoretical ideas about social
phenomena in education (e.g., V.G. Bocharova, M.A. Galaguzova,
M.P. Guryanova, L.V. Mardakhayev, A.V. Mudrik, V.A. Nikitin,
M.M. Plotkin, S.A. Raschetina, M.I. Rozhkov, V.D. Semenov, L.K.
Sintsova, V.A. Fokin).
Social aspects of the problem of education that were identified
in the early XXI century by N.L. Selivanova (Selivanova, 2014)
are closely related to the need to address all aspects of the
complete individual, including personal, spiritual, and subjective
facets. This approach allows the modern theory of social
education to take account of the achievements and findings of the
humanities in providing solutions to issues of socialization and
the individuals social development. But, just as importantly, this
conception makes it possible to revise the theoretical under-
standing of the social dimension of education that has been passed
down through the history of Russian pedagogy. Social education
is viewed not so much in connection with the problems of social
policy and the improvement of society, but in relation to the
issues of human social development; the cultivation of a sense of
solidarity, morality, citizenship, and interpersonal relationships;
DECEMBER 2015 1083

and fostering the interests and needs of the individual who

subjectively perceives social processes within the group.


This article was made possible by support from the Russian Humanities
Scientific Fund (RHSF) Project No. RHSF 13-06-00162a.
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pedagogicheskoi mysli. Moscow: Pedagogika, 1973.
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