In this analysis of ‘generalist’ educational histories, one can easily find that the main approach used is the systematization and cataloguing of educational practices, ideas and ‘great’ educational philosophers and reformers according to strict chronological order. The writing is focused more on the presentation of facts than on interpretations and the meanings given to these facts. Of course, while allegedly broad, general and universal (as shown by their titles), these histories are mostly concerned with the educational history of the west. Non-western educational history is only sporadically reviewed in ‘the context of ancient civilizations’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2001), or, alternatively, in the context of ‘comparative education’. While some non-western educational histories, such as the history of medieval Muslim education, are given attention, this is most often because of their ‘impact upon western education’ (ibid.). But while exiled from generalist educational histories, non-western education histories do represent a corpus of their own, as accounts of Ancient Indian Education (Altekar 1957; Mookerji 1960) or histories of Japanese (Kaigo 1968), Chinese (Kuo 1972) or Muslim (Shalaby 1979) education attest. This corpus is, of course, much more limited, occasional and highly specialized. And, perhaps most importantly, very few non-western educational histories are available in English. The general knowledge production in the west privileges those that are located within it, which is not a problem limited to the west; Mandarin-speaking theorists living in China, for example, might equally be ‘privileged’ by companies that publish books in Mandarin. The problem, however, generally lies in the one-directional movement from west towards non-west. As argued by, for example, Altbach, there is ‘the gulf’ between:
the power and influence of the major central nations of the Western industrialized world which produce knowledge and the vast hinterland of consuming nations of the Third World, many of which are hardly part of the [international] system at all…
While Altbach’s analysis is here focused on the Third World, the general principle of uni-directional movement is true for the west and non-west. Within such a movement, it is western authors that almost always remain both generalized and localized experts. They are experts on ‘general’ education and, as well, authorities on, for example, ‘Chinese’ education. The writings of Chinese authors, on the other side, either remain unavailable in the current ‘global’ language or, alternatively, are translated many decades later. This perhaps helps explain why the above-mentioned non-western educational histories are all ‘dated’. And it explains why it is still Mookerji’s (though seminal) text (1960) that is used to study traditional Indian
education, almost 50 years after it was originally written. Finally, when non-western authors write on universal issues, their work is bracketed as the Chinese or Indian perspective. Western authors are rarely labelled by their tradition.