Non-Western Educational Traditions: Indigenous Approaches to Educational Thought and Practice

By Timothy Reagan | Go to book overview

4
Training “Face and Heart”:
The Mesoamerican Educational Experience

Today, the search for the Aztecs goes far beyond national interests. The story of this remarkable people forms one of the most extraordinary chapters of cultural evolution in the Americas. Fearless warriors and pragmatic builders, the Aztecs ruthlessly created an empire… that was surpassed in size only by that of the Incas in Peru. The sacrificial aspect of their religion, with its seeming indifference to human life, appalled and repelled the Spaniards. But… beyond the ritual violence there were more easily appreciated achievements: the formation of a highly specialized and stratified society and an imperial administration; the expansion of a trading network as well as a tribute system; the development and maintenance of a sophisticated agricultural economy, carefully adjusted to the land; and the development of an intellectual and religious outlook that was in intimate contact with the earth, the sky, and the seasons.

—Townsend (1992, p. 11)

Mesoamerica has been the home of a number of distinct, but related, civilizations since human beings first began settling in the area millennia ago. Although there is evidence of human habitation in Mesoamerica at least as far back as 25,000 years ago, it is possible that people were living in the area as early as 40,000 years ago. 1 By 1500 B. C. E., we know that the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica had undergone the transition from hunter and gathering societies to settled agricultural village societies, 2 and it is with this development that Mesoamerican history (rather than prehistory) can be said to have begun. The history of Mesoamerica can, in turn, be divided into four very broad stages: the Formative Period (1500 B. C. E. to 150 C. E.), the Classic Period (from around 150 C. E. to around 900 C. E.), the Early Post-Classic Period (from around 900 C. E. to 1250 C. E.), and the Late Post-Classic Period (from 1250 C. E. to 1519 C. E.). 3 It was during the Formative Period that the

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