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Glinos, Dimitri (1882-1943)

Article by Marie Eliou

Dimitri GlinosDimitri Glinos was a key figure in the history of Greek education. A philosopher, educator and politician, he made several attempts to institute reform in a system of education that was sorely in need of it. The history of education in Greece in this century-and the present problems of the Greek education system-cannot be discussed without reference to the workof Glinos; but in order to understand his influence it is also necessary to try to understand the struggle for educational reform in Greece.

The implications of reform


At the time of Glinos’ birth, the Greek education system, the institutional basis of which had been laid in 1833-37, was highly centralized, formal and overwhelmingly given over to classical studies, to the detriment of science, mathematics and vocational training. From theviewpoint of the history of ideas, this system reflects the move away from the current of thinking that emerged from the Enlightenment, and whose proponents, even before the Greek State had been founded, had created exemplary educational institutions. Those institutions hadlong suffered the victorious onslaught of conservative forces, the Orthodox Church inparticular.

The language of instruction was the official language, katharevusa (‘pure’ or ‘noble’),a laborious construct, a sort of pedantic halfway-house between classical Greek and Neo-Hellenic Greek, the ‘demotic’ (colloquial) language. The choice of the language of instruction should be seen in the context of a long-standing debate (the celebrated ‘language question’)that was closely tied in with the direction in which various social and political forces aimed to steer the development of the country; this problem of Neo-Hellenism, with all its political,social, ideological and educational implications, was to find a solution only with thepromulgation of the 1975 Constitution.2

Education and the very definition of the national language have always been involved in a tug of war between the social and political forces in Greece; attempts at educational reform and counter-reform campaigns have regularly marked this eventful history.3

The attempts to reform a system whose major flaws had already been amply demonstrated began in the 1870s. Three times between 1877 and 1889, ministers of education prepared reform projects that were subsequently shelved, thus establishing a pattern that hasbeen repeated up to the present day. The demands for the modernization of the education system made in 1897-1900, 1909-11, 1913 and 1917-20 all came to nought. The 1929 reform, among other things, successfully modified the curricula that had been in use since 1836, and introduced the ‘six plus six’ (primary + secondary) structure, but very little remained of thatreform after the dictatorship was set up in 1936.

The educational reform bill drafted by the Provisional Committee of National Liberation and submitted in 1944, during the German occupation, to the National Council,meeting in a zone which had been freed by the Resistance, had not the remotest chance ofbeing implemented during the post-liberation and civil war periods.

The 1952 Constitution, in the same terms as the 1911 Constitution, re-establishedkatharevusa as the national language and language of instruction and again banned any actionprejudicial thereto.4

In the major political struggles leading to the victory of the Democratic Centre in 1963, constant reference was made to the problem of education. Following mass demonstrations, education was placed at the top of the list of anticipated reforms. The Democratic Centre government swiftly drew up an educational reform, reintroducing elements from earlier projects, which was passed by Parliament in 1964, in spite of violent reactionsfrom the opposition. One of its most important features was the introduction of the demoticlanguage into the classroom.

The campaign to destabilize the democratic regime did not spare the education system,which was already feeling its effects by 1965. The reform had thus been scuppered well before the 1967 coup; it only remained for the colonels to dismantle the rest, in particular by restoring katharevusa in schools.

With the return of democracy, educational reform once again became a priority, and it was the political party that had been so adamantly opposed to it in its 1964 form that was responsible for including parts of it in the 1976 Act (law 309/1976).5 Other, partial reforms,including reforms of higher education, were to follow, but the Greek education system todayremains anachronistic and continues to suffer from problems that have been obvious since the beginning of the century. True reform remains a thing of the future.


In the early days of this century, three young men who had all been influenced by the ideas circulating in the German universities at the time, found themselves, on their return to Greece, engaged in a battle for educational reform. These three personalities, who have left their markon Greek thinking, were the educationist, A. Delmouzos, the linguist, Manolis Triantaphyllidisand Dimitri Glinos, the scholar and reformer. Delmouzos (1880-1956) created the Volos pilot school (1908-11), where he put into practice the most advanced educational theories,particularly those of Kerschensteiner. The school was closed as the result of a campaignorchestrated by anti-reform forces, and its founder was brought to trial for ‘immorality’,‘atheism’ and ‘socialist propaganda’. Triantaphyllidis (1883-1959) studied the development ofthe Neo-Hellenic language and codified its grammar.

Glinos, Delmouzos and Triantaphyllidis, who collaborated with one another and became friends, worked hand in hand for many years to promote educational reform, particularly through the influential Association for Education which, as early as 1911, had brought together all of Greece’s reform-minded educationists. Later referred to as ‘the triumvirate of reform’, they were to have a profound effect on the history of Greek education,but, having drawn different lessons from the failure of their efforts, they went their separateways from the late 1920s onwards. Triantaphyllidis made a brilliant career as an academic andlinguistic researcher, who promoted and defended the demotic language. Delmouzos, after afew years of university teaching, was forced to give up his position and devoted the rest of hislife to chronicling and analyzing his achievements in the field of education.

Glinos carried his determination to live his life in accordance with his intellectual beliefs through to its logical conclusion. From his prison cell, he wrote to one of his followers:

‘From an early age, I wanted to build a palace/to match my dreams; a very real palace.’ I wrote these lines when I was 18. I toiled and struggled to blaze a trail, a path which led to truth and enlightenment. At 18, I hadbecome fluent in the demotic tongue; and by 25 I had opened my eyes to the social question, but it took twenty years of struggle before I could ‘tell’, reveal the truth within me regarding this question, and enter into ‘the light of reality’ (15 February 1937).6

During the period after the three friends separated and even later, after their deaths, educational reform never ceased to be a rallying call for social consciousness. On a less ambitious scale, some of the trio’s most brilliant fellow-workers attempted to continue theirefforts, but the times were not propitious for radical reform. Banished from the public school system, dispossessed of their testing ground for educational innovation, they, in turn, weresubjected to official harassment, imprisonment and detention.7 After Glinos, Evanghelos Papanoutsos (1900-82), another teacher, tenaciouslydefended the cause of global reform of education for many years. A liberal far removed from the radical positions of Glinos, he was relieved on five separate occasions of his duties as Secretary-General of the Ministry of Education, managing to carry out this function for only avery short period each time between 1944 and 1965, and was the last of these frustrated champions of educational reform.

Glinos’ life8


The eldest of twelve children of a family of modest means, Dimitri Glinos was born in Smyrna (Asia Minor), where he completed his studies up to secondary level. He graduated from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Athens, and taught in Greek schools in the Ottoman Empire (Lemnos, Asia Minor).

Having espoused the ideas of the movement for the use of the demotic language, he exercised his functions as teacher and headmaster with a keen awareness of the shortcomings of the Greek system of education. In his writings between 1904 and 1908, he had alreadyformulated a radical reform project, systematically challenging the various aspects of the system. Both in his studies and in his action-for he made a point of disseminating theresults of his research and reflections to other teachers and to the general public-the teachingof the Neo-Hellenic language enjoyed a prominent place. In one of his texts, addressed to theTeachers’ Association of Athens, after having noted ‘the reasons why Greek schoolchildren donot learn the Neo-Hellenic language properly’, at both primary and secondary levels, he proposed measures for reforming curricula and teaching methods and materials in order toremedy the situation, and concluded: ‘We must all work for the success of these reforms, confident that all prejudice can be overcome by those who are devoted to their duty, morallyfree9 and sincerely desirous of progress.10

Married in 1908, Glinos was able, with the support of his father-in-law, to continue hisstudies in philosophy, education and experimental psychology from 1908 to 1911 at theUniversities of Jena and Leipzig. His archives contain notes from the lectures he attended,including those given by W. Rein and W. Wundt, and a detailed-and admiring-description of the educational research carried out in the Landerziehungsheime of Hermann Lietz. The relaxed rapport between teachers and students, the non-authoritarian teaching methods, the promotion of initiative in the learners, the introduction of manual work in schools, all thosewere innovations that opened up exciting prospects to him. He planned to write a thesis on ‘Plato and the new social pedagogy’, but his move to Leipzig and contact with Wundt resulted in his working in the latter’s laboratory on a thesis in experimental psychology. It was at this time that he became familiar with the socialist ideas that he was gradually to adopt as his own,but concern with the need for educational reform remained uppermost in his mind. Writingfrom Leipzig to one of his colleagues, he said:

It is clear that if schools are won over by social or intellectual reform, everything has been won. Schools are always a mirror image of the society in which they exist. They are not the first but the last bastion to be takenby the reform, but they are, and should be, the first that can come under attack. Schools are instruments of the dominant ideology … The language is certainly not just a means and a method but a constituent part of theideology. Changing the language therefore means changing an essential part of Neo-Hellenic ideals. But that isnot all: if the educational reform succeeds only in this respect and leaves intact the rest of the Greek ideology-Greeks’ relationship to their past, mistaken ideas of life and Hellenocentrism, and the stagnation,the logic of stagnation, which is predominant in Greece today-if the reform leaves all of this intact, it will beimperfect and false, and will therefore not be the one we need.11


On his return to Greece, Glinos first taught in secondary schools in Athens and was soon thereafter appointed director of the advanced training institute for secondary school-teachers. Deeply concerned by the social and political developments in the country, he joined forces with the intellectuals backing Eleftherios Venizelos, who had become Prime Minister. In 1912, he submitted a report on the problems of the education system to the Ministry of Education,and was asked to draft the white paper and the educational reform project that was presented by the government in 1913.

This is an impressive set of texts, comprising on the one hand the white paper, containing an historical survey, a critical examination of the existing system of education and a presentation of proposed changes; and on the other hand, seven bills, each prefaced by a detailed introductory report, covering primary and secondary education, primary and secondary teacher training, the creation of a technical teacher training college, primary andsecondary school administration, and school buildings.

This was the one and only time in Greek history that such a comprehensive school reform project was put before Parliament, which, after dragging out the debate for several months, shelved it without reaching any conclusions. The violent reactions of the conservativeelements of Greek society overwhelmed the bill as a whole, but a few innovative measureswere nevertheless adopted and, most important, the project served as a catalyst for intellectualand political debate at the time.

Throughout this period, the ‘Association for Education’, in the persons of its leading figures, Glinos, Delmouzos and Triantaphyllidis in particular, played an extremely active role, both in the education debate and the political battles waged around it. In his writings and lectures, Glinos explained the meaning of the proposed reforms, as well as analyzing and assessing them. As a ministerial aide, he had to come to terms with what was possible at thetime, and did not see the project as representative of his entire vision. He stressed that aneducational reform must first and foremost entail changes in attitudes and mentalities, which cannot be achieved through legislation or institutional measures alone. ‘The organizational changes’, he declared, ‘open the way for a new spirit to move abroad … The bills pave the wayfor a renaissance in Greek education’. Among the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the proposedlegislation, he singled out, firstly, six-year compulsory education, asserting that this innovationresponded to ‘the demands of science, social development and living conditions in Greece’,while demanding ‘for the Greek people, the ploughman, the shepherd, the workman, the wage-earner, the craftsman … light, language, vision and conscience’. Secondly, with regardto ‘the intellectual liberation of women’, he wrote that:

Greek womanhood should no longer be stifled by ignorance, condemned to a living death by idleness and the wait for a husband … women as full human beings, conscious individuals taking an active part in society,independent enlightened women who work for social progress and are not passive bystanders … such women will come into being through education, and it is educational reform that will bring them forth.12

Changes of political fortune led to Dimitri Glinos being called back to important duties under Venizelos, who again became Prime Minister. A ‘Committee for Education’, comprising Glinos, Delmouzos and Triantaphyllidis, was set up in 1916, with a view to continuing, and providing a framework for, efforts for educational reform. Glinos was appointed chairman ofthe Education Council, and Secretary-General of the Ministry of Education (1917), a post hewas to occupy until 1920. This proved to be a productive time for draft measures and billsaimed at making far-reaching changes in the field of education, but not for projects only: the‘triumvirate’s’ time in office was marked by note worthy achievements, not the least of whichwas the introduction of new textbooks in the drafting of which famous writers were involvedand whose content contrasted strongly with that of previous texts.

The political pendulum swung inexorably back again and, following Venizelos’ electoral defeatin 1920, Glinos continued his campaign for educational reform far from the corridors ofpower, while the new administration withdrew the innovative text books, threatening at onepoint to burn them13. All the work that had been put into educational reform was thus suddenly called into question. One of Glinos’ most important works is the racy pamphlet ofaround 100 pages on the textbook issue that he published under the pseudonym ‘A. Gabriel,teacher’14.

The political landscape changed again as Venizelos was re-elected Prime Minister in1922, and Glinos became Secretary-General of the Ministry of Education once more. He wasappointed Director of the Secondary Teacher Training College, which, although founded in1920, did not open its doors until 1924, whilst Delmouzos was made Director of the Primary Teacher Training College. Hopes were rekindled, but the take-over by the dictator TheodorePangalos in 1925 once again put a damper on the country’s political and social developmentand, of course, on educational reform. Glinos was removed not only from the Ministry ofEducation but from the teachers’ college as well.


Having given up all hope that the necessary reforms could be promoted from the top down in a country with weak institutions and highly resistant to social change, Glinos began to turn increasingly to civil society and social struggle as alternative solutions. In a book significantlyentitled ‘Dead but not Buried’, which presented and analysed the attempted educationalreform of 1913, he had written: ‘Educational problems cannot be scientifically solved bytheory and reason alone; they are above all problems of society’.15

Glinos thereafter refused to serve in the important posts offered him by the Ministry of Education once political life had become stabilized, preferring instead to invest his energies inother projects. In 1926 he founded the socialist-leaning review ‘Renaissance’, which was toserve as a forum for left-wing intellectuals. The review featured an educational supplementaimed at teachers. During this period, Glinos gave a more radical start to the Association forEducation, and became its chairman. It was in this capacity that he was brought to trial, along with Nikos Kazantzakis, for having organized a lecture by the Romanian writer Panaït Istrati.

Through his commitment and his writings, Glinos emerged as a leading Marxist theorist in the 1930s. Deported for several months in 1935, elected as a Communist partydeputy in 1936, deported once again that same year following the take-over by the dictator Metaxas, imprisoned, deported yet again, he was finally placed under house arrest until 1941,when he immediately joined the Resistance, in which he was to be a key figure. Living underground from the beginning of the occupation, he was to have headed the governmentfounded by the Resistance fighters in the free zone in 1943, but died as he was preparing to join them there.

Some of his works from this latter period of his life were written during his deportation or in prison. Additional light is shed on Glinos the man by the letters sent to those who were close to him during these ordeals.

My life here has become increasingly difficult … our barrack-room is much more crowded. More than a hundred intellectuals: I live in the midst of a non-stop demonstration. How can one concentrate or sort one’sideas out? One can think only when the others are sleeping. Life is a river in which one must swim for oneself,and not make do with others’ descriptions of how they swam (25 June 1937)….

If I cannot live in truth, I prefer to live and die a prisoner. My life here is real; there are no lies. Lies cannot climb the three hundred steps of the Akronauplia16 (26 September 1937).

In prison or in deportation, Glinos continued not only to study and write but to teach as well. His comrades looked back on those days with great emotion. The poet Costas Varnalis, aprominent figure in Greek literature who shared the ideas and fate of Glinos, wrote a poem ona prisoner transfer during which they were shackled together: ‘they put irons on our hands/andrifles circled us on all sides […]/. You were lucky, that woeful night/ to be chained to Glinos the Teacher/. Black eyes gleaming. Upright/ and impassive, above Destiny/ he looked towards the better days that lay ahead’.17

Another of Glinos’ letters is revealing as regards his constant preoccupation with education:

In a few days, the thirtieth month of my deportation will begin … But let us leave behind the sad thoughts with which my solitude has encircled me … I am particularly pleased to hear that the circular on the teaching of the demotic language18 in schools has been issued and that the commission on grammar has been set up. This means that the most important thing I have ever accomplished, the introduction of the demotic language inschools, has not been entirely in vain. Who knows, then, who can say whether my present sacrifice will havebeen entirely wasted? (30 December 1938).19

Glinos’ achievement


A man of great erudition, Glinos could have made a career as a writer or philosopher. In his youth, he was a successful author of poetry and prose, and translated French poetry (Hugo,Sully-Prud homme, Louys and de Heredia) and texts from the ancient Greek (Aeschylus,Plato), and he published note worthy essays on Plato’s philosophy and humanist studies in Greece which to this day are standard reference works for specialists. He could not, however,conceive of his intellectual and scientific activity as being independent of the problems and fundamental debates that concerned both the present and the future of his country.

Integral to Glinos’ writings are a critical reflection and an intense commitment to mobilizing the minds and progressive forces of the country with a view to transformingstructures, institutions and outdated or retrograde mentalities. In his philosophical works, he scrutinized the relationship between the historical memory and ideology, and contrasted‘creative’ with ‘sterile’ historicism. He brought out something that was not obvious at the time-nor today, for that matter-i.e. that the awareness of a glorious past and a remarkable cultural heritage could be either a force for consciousness-raising, or, on the other hand, a dead weight serving to reinforce conservatism and inertia. ‘It is the germinating seed that isalive, and thus truthful. The sole criterion of truth is action’.20

From his philosophical viewpoint, form, defined as ‘an unstable and shifting balance of different forces’, is closely linked to substance, as being cannot be dissociated from becoming. In his essay on the humanities, Glinos developed a theory of ‘dynamic realism’ which stood incontrast to both ‘formalism’ and ‘static realism’, an approach in which we can discern theinfluence of Marxist thought.

The ‘War Trilogy’, written during his deportation to Santorin in 1938, is one of Glinos’ major works. The first part, entitled ‘The Golden Fleece: the War to Come’, is anessay on war.21The second, ‘After Chaos: Society and Social Structure’, is a carefullyconstructed reflection on sociological thought and ideologies. The third, unfinished part, ‘Peace on Earth’ developed a ‘philosophy of peace’, incorporating the social revolution intothe utopia of a peaceful future society.


Glinos emerges as an exceptional teacher, both through his students’ recollections and through teaching notes found in his personal archives, while in his writings on educational reform, which extend over some forty years, he clearly comes across as someone in touch with thegrassroots, a man with practical teaching experience.

Glinos was, however, above all else a visionary and proponent of educational reform. The reform project that he spent his entire life trying to promote envisaged a radical, globaland well-structured reform, each component of which had been thoroughly thought out. Glinos’ activities to win acceptance for it were many and various. He began by analyzing the education system as it then was, revealing its defects through extremely rigorous research. Hishighly detailed reform proposals had practical results in the form of draft legislation and hisorganizational activities at the Ministry of Education were supplemented and supported by histeaching work in the educational institutions that he led and inspired and where he encouragedthe testing of innovative ideas.

The detailed and incisive analysis given by Glinos on the state of the education systemat the time the reform scheme was submitted (1913), and, in his later writings, is extremely revealing. It pointed out, among other things, that purely book-based teaching ‘transformsschools into Procrustean beds for our children and a wasteland of meaningless words … fortheir minds’,22 and further stressed that ‘any real knowledge has been repressed by grammar’.23 He severely and repeatedly criticized the verbalism that was rife in schools and in other places. Among the major failings of educational trends at the time, were:

…the worship of form, appearance, words and noises, and not [getting closer to] reality and substance. Wemake do with words, we live, move and have our own being in words; an appalling verbalism rules our lives …This produces people who are inclined to verbalism and impossible dreams, who see this empty eloquence aseducation, who spurn reality, the earth, toil, who worship outward show, dubious glamour and sensationalism.It is words that drive science and action, observation and movement out of our schools. Creative abilities thusatrophy, and aversion towards manual work sets in, while mercantile and parasitic attitudes are encouraged.The entire system is designed to produce a single type of man: the functionary type, the unenterprisingbureaucrat, pettifogger and smooth talker. The postulates of the reform were born of these failings.24

The reform advocated by Glinos encompasses education in all of its facets:

The language of instruction. Introducing the demotic language involved changes in course content and orientation. Only the demotic language would make it possible to ‘connect the school with life outside’.

The structure of the school system would proceed from a lengthening of the period of primary schooling from four to six years (the ‘six plus six’ system), the autonomy of each level of schooling (in order that all students should benefit from it and not only those who went on to the next level), and vocational training for students not going on to higher education. First, our system of education is dominated, at all levels, by an élitist and retrograde attitude25 …Elitism is interested only in the minute proportion of students who will go on to obtain a university degree. Our concern and attention are directed towards them … Let the other 90 per cent be sacrificed for this select few, let the rest of the nation be intellectually stunted for the benefit of this élite. The élitist spirit has left the working class in darkness and the lower middle class in a state of semiignorance.26

Educational content. The reform would give education a new direction: greater emphasis would be placed on science, and language and literature classes would shed their formalist approach. Glinos studied primary and secondary curricula in depth and presented, on a number of occasions, detailed alternative proposals.

Educational methods. Educational materials would be diversified, textbooks updated, observation and experimentation introduced into science courses, and students would be encouraged to think for themselves and adopt a critical attitude. Rote learning, then the rule, would be abolished.

Teacher training. The emphasis that the reform placed on teacher training and the stringency of the proposals relating to it are something unique in the history of Greek education. Following an in-depth study, three bills were submitted simultaneously, covering the training of primary and technical schoolteachers, and general secondary teacher training. In his writings on the reform, Glinos made reference to other countries (particularly Germany, which he knew well) in order to set up an exemplary image ofteachers who have received a solid training and play an innovative role in the schools ystem. In these countries, the teacher ‘is the first to light his candle from that of the philosopher, sociologist and researcher … And schools are continually assimilatin ginnovations’.27

The education of girls required that the level of their instruction be raised to that provided inboys’ schools; that secondary schools be created for girls, and that they be enabled togo on to vocational studies and higher education.

The meaning of the reform scheme can be summed up by two major thrusts: democratization-schooling for all children; and modernization-schools finally catching upwith the times, and becoming receptive to the real world.

Glinos delved with particular interest into two important aspects of the education system: teacher training and textbooks. The founding of the secondary teacher training college that Glinos headed until his dismissal and of the primary teacher training college, the establishment of the ‘League of Secondary School Teachers’, the creation of the reviews ‘Education’ and ‘Educational practice’, both intended for teachers, as well as a large number of articles and other texts, are proof of the deep thought he had given to this question and of a strategy which assigned a central role to the teacher.

In his inaugural address to the secondary teacher-training college, Glinos held forth onthe role of the teacher as a social actor:

Education should be able to respond … to conditions that are constantly changing, creating new problems, new demands, and consequently requiring new skills … Education becomes useless and counter-productive when it does not adapt itself to this evolution … and when it does not contribute to it. And, as evolution and change inconditions are continuing processes, reform should be a constant accompaniment to education. Active and meaningful education is inseparable from reform, just as immobilism in educational structures and conditionsis inseparable from inert, ineffective and counter-productive education. When, over a very long period,education is unable to adapt to new conditions and to relate to needs …, the distance between education and lifebecomes greater and greater, and it is no longer a reform but a revolution that is needed in order to re-establishthis correlation. This is what has happened to Greek education … It is for this reason that a radical change, areal revolution, is increasingly necessary.28

Powerful leverage was to be supplied by the teacher.

Glinos took a deep and constant interest in textbooks (textbook reform was one of the projects that was at least temporarily put into effect, with the outcome we have already seen).He devoted a number of his writings and two important studies to their subject: the abovementionedpamphlet and a survey of Greek textbooks which appeared in a collection ofsurveys of post-war textbooks published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This in-depth study is based on an analysis of about eighty primary and secondary textbooks,and ten or so other works for children and young people.

Comprising an introduction and three chapters (‘The Spirit of Greek Education in the Nineteenth Century up to the Balkan Wars’; ‘Greek primary-level textbooks from 1914 to 1917′; and ‘Greek primary-level textbooks from 1917 to 1926′), the study endeavours toidentify the ‘ideological trends that developed in Greek education in consequence of thehistorical events of the past decades’. The analysis of textbook content is indeed constantlytied in with the historical and political evolution of Greece and the Balkans, and the changingrelationships between the Balkan countries resulting from these historical events. Evidence ofnationalism, stereotyping and ethnocentrism, as well as of patriotism and humanism, is pointedup in the textbooks. This analysis shows what a fundamental ideological difference there wasbetween the textbooks resulting from the reform to which Glinos was devoted for many years(a reform of which, as we have said, only a few parts were put into effect) and those theyreplaced. The study, published in 1926, concluded with a paragraph which is of disturbing relevance today:

If the thinking of philosophers, scientists and the intellectual élite of the Balkan peoples can pierce the storm clouds of political and ethnic tensions-tensions often cleverly nurtured by third parties-and if it is focused on current problems, without preconceptions but with a concern for humanity and its culture, it will contribute much more effectively to the resolution of those problems than if it places itself at the service of blind inclinations and passions that can only bring further misfortunes upon the long-suffering Balkan peoples.29


Action to change society was a thread running through the whole of Glinos’ work.

As a very young headmaster (Lemnos, 1904), he had already made the following remark in his end-of-year speech:

It is meaningless to make constant reference to pupil enrolment figures without making a comparison between the total number of children living on the island and those who attend school so as to ascertain how many children remain illiterate or fail to complete their schooling, in order that this wrong may be righted.30

Glinos’ plans for education were part of a broader vision he had for society. The reason he devoted many years of his life to promoting radical educational reform was that he felt it wasindispensable for his country’s progress and for social justice. A man of reflection as well asaction, a man of conviction but also a realist, he analysed the situation and prepared hisapproach with a view to efficiency. Thus, in his work on the reform, he combined background studies and practical proposals, backed up by alternative proposals or solutions, the organization of suitable forums for discussion, the grouping together of the social forces capable of participating in this debate and of playing an active role in events, and dissemination among the general public of information about the seriousness of the educational problem.

In the repressive atmosphere of the early 1920s, when conservative forces had comeback into power and the reform had been suspended, Glinos endeavoured to reactivate theAssociation for Education, thereby hoping to mobilize teachers and the general public to resistthe counter-reform. At the same time, he worked relentlessly to create structures andinstitutions capable of offsetting the influence of the University of Athens, a bastion ofconservatism and counter-reform. Thus, his project for a Free University of Athens, althoughit never saw the light of day, gave rise to two major institutions, the University of Salonika31,whose charter was drafted by Glinos, and the Women’s College, a free, university-level institution (1921).

Glinos was naturally drawn to social movements that demanded greater justice and democracy. Thus, associating himself with the feminist cause, he became a member of the Council of the League for Women’s Rights (1927), and published several articles, some of them written by himself, on the fundamental issue of women’s rights in the review ‘Renaissance’. In ‘Feminine Humanism’, he maintains that woman should ‘find the rightfulplace to which her value entitles her in the higher forms of social life’, and he describes ‘thegreat social movement known as women’s liberation or feminism that is rapidly spreadingfrom one country to the next, throughout the civilized world’. He saw this movement as oneamong other social movements, seeking its roots in ‘the great struggle which aims to change the shape of society’. He writes:

We have witnessed, lived through, and are still living amidst conflicts between nations, for we could not dootherwise, but how many other struggles there are within societies themselves just as bitter, if not as bloody-the class struggle, the struggle of the have-nots, women’s struggle for liberation and children’s struggle forhealth, happiness and initiative!32

In Glinos’ work, theory and action are mutually supportive. The commitment to intellectual and political movements that began in his youth placed him in the camp of social and political reform from the very start. It was a logical extension of this commitment that, in his lateryears, realizing he had reached a dead-end with his attempted reform of both education andthe anachronistic social structures, he sided with the revolutionary forces.

A politician, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party and a Resistance fighter, he wrote his last works while he was underground during the German occupation: anessay on ‘Current Problems of Hellenism’ and the Resistance manifesto ‘What the NationalLiberation Front Is and What It wants’.

The heritage of Dimitri Glinos

Glinos’ work is strikingly relevant to the present. It was not, for example, until very recently that Greek teachers and a wider public began to become aware, through popular works on the sociology of education, of the interactive relationship between education and society. Yet, asearly as 1915, Glinos had written: ‘The state of education at any given time-its structure and curricula, the quality of the teaching provided and the ideology governing it-is both the cause and the effect of the expansion or decline in the economy, social mores, the arts, sciences and the political regime’.33 In 1914, Glinos wrote: ‘Among the peoples of Europe, we spend proportionally the least on education’;34 the most recent international statistics show that thisis still the case.35

If we compare the current situation of education in Greece with the reform advocated by Glinos at the beginning of the century, we could sum up by saying that, while the democratization of access to education has been achieved, it no longer corresponds to its former objective in as much as access no longer has the same meaning as it then had, whilstthe need to ‘modernize’ education-and the economy and society as well-is more pressing than ever. The same social and institutional inertia persists, seriously jeopardizing thecountry’s development.

Taking various aspects of the education system, the following observations may be made: the question of the national language and language of instruction was, as we have said, resolved only in 1975.

The period of compulsory education was increased from six to nine years in 1976, and a core curriculum was introduced, but although the compulsory attendance rule seems to be applied for the six years of primary school, this is not yet the case for the three years of the secondary cycle; educational content and methods remain largely out of date.

The trend towards general education-which succeeded the trend towards ‘classical’studies-and the disaffection for technical and vocational education continue to create anumber of serious problems, such as the dysfunctional relationship between education and the economy, the exodus of young people leaving to study abroad,36 etc.

Sexual inequality, although considerably reduced in education, is still very prevalent in the area of educational and vocational guidance; in Greece, Glinos’ brand of far-reaching and clear-sighted feminism is still ahead of its time.

Teacher training, in particular the training of secondary school teachers, remains agaping deficiency in the Greek education system, the various institutional changes introducedin the course of the century having not led to any well-thought-out or credible solution.

Finally (and rather remarkably), no proposals for global educational reform with asbroad a scope as those advocated by Glinos have been put forward since his time.

Dimitri Glinos has bequeathed to us a task to pursue, and an example to follow, that ofan alert consciousness and singleness of purpose. Having been drawn by reflection and action from educational reform into social struggle, he had, as he wrote from prison, the ‘goodfortune’ to live his life in accordance with his principles.


1. Marie Eliou (Greece). Professor in the sociology of education and comparative education at theUniversity of Athens. Member of the steering committees of the Greek Association for Comparative Education (AGEC), the Comparative Education Society in Europe (CESE), and the AssociationFrancophone d’Education Comparée (AFEC). She has also been a visiting professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (1986/87) and a UNESCO consultant. A member of the Administrative Council of the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture (1983-90), she has also served as President of theGreek League for Women’s Rights (1982/83). Her publications include: Educational and Social Dynamics (1991) and Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back: Issues of Education, Research, and SocialIntervention (1991) (both in Greek).

2. As the text of the Constitution stipulated nothing about language, the introduction of the demotic formof Greek as the language of instruction was, so to speak, achieved by default. Cf. A. Dimaras, [The1975 Constitution and Teaching], in: Philologos, 8 January 1976, p. 9.

3. The title of Dimaras’ major work on the history of Greek education is itself significant: [The ReformThat Never Was], Vol. 1, 1821-94; Vol. 2, 1895-1967, Athens, Hermes, 1973 (in Greek). On the history of Greek education, see also the informative article by D. Anastasiou, L’Enseignement grec et son démantèlement par la junte, in: Les temps modernes, No. 276 bis, 1969 (Aujourd’hui la Grèce).

4. See A. Dimaras, [The Greek Constitutions and Education], in: [The reform …], op. cit., Vol. 2,, pp.303-11.

5. M. Eliou, Les ambiguïtés d’une réforme qui se contre-dit: le cas grec, in: Education comparée (Sèvres, France), No. 31-32, May 1983.

6. Published in In Memoriam Dimitri A. Glinos, Athens, Ta Nea Vivlia, 1946, pp. 175-76.12

7. The educators Rosa Imvrioti, Miltos Kountouras, Michalis Papamavros, Costas Sotiriou and FotisApostolopoulos, among others.

8. The present article owes much to the analyses of Philippe Iliou in his edition of Glinos’ ‘CompleteWorks’. 2 v. Athens, Themelio, 1983

9. In Glinos’ diary of this period, there is an entry about a linguistic observation made by a hierarchicalsuperior to whom he had submitted one of his articles, ending with this reflection: ‘My entire being protests, [as do] knowledge, science and education. O moral freedom [= of conscience], how preciousand rare!’, [Complete Works], op. cit., Vol. I, p. 463.

10. Ibid., p. 137.

11. Previously unpublished letter dated 29 September 1910, part of which is cited by Ph. Iliou in ‘FromMistriotis to Lenin’, in [Dimitri Glinos, Teacher and Philosopher], Athens, Gutemberg, 1983, p. 15.

12. Excerpted from an article concerning the draft legislation on education published in the newsletter ofthe Education Club and reprinted in [Complete Works], Vol. II, op. cit., p. 369-72.

13. Triantaphyllidis was to publish a work describing this experience under the revealing title: ‘BeforeThey Are Burned: the Truth About the Demotic Readers’, Athens, 1921.

14. Many of Glinos’ writings first appeared under a variety of pseudonyms, owing to the personalsituation of the author at various times in his life and the political developments in the country.

15. D. Glinos, [Dead But Not Buried], Athens, Athina, 1925, p. 162.

16. The ancient fortress of Nauplia, transformed into a prison.

17. Costas Varnalis, in Epitheorissi Technis, X, Vol. 20, No. 119-20, pp. 533-34. In another text, Varnalis recounts how he had attended classes given by Glinos at the secondary teachers college inthe 1920s, and had seen him teaching again during his deportation (C. Varnalis, ‘Glinos theTeacher’, in In Memoriam Dimitri A. Glinos, op. cit. p. 56-60).

18. The dictator Metaxas had favoured the demotic language, opting for a pragmatic and non-ideologicalapproach to the ‘language question’.

19. Excerpts from letters published in In Memoriam Dimitri A. Glinos, op. cit., respectively: p. 180, 181,194.

20. [The Present Situation of the Humanities in Greece], Athens, Lacharopoulos, 1940, p. 10.

21. In a polemical text (‘War on war’, published in the Communist review Young Pioneers, No. 7-8,June-July 1932), Glinos had already pointed out the ominous signs of the disaster that was brewing.

22. [Complete Works], op. cit., Vol. II, p. 194.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid., p. 393.

25. This retrograde spirit, considering that ‘the highest measure of perfection’ is to be found in the past,‘persists in making the Greeks advance into the future facing backwards’, ibid., p. 392.

26. Ibid., p. 391.

27. [Dead But Not Buried], op. cit., p. 300.

28. D. Glinos, [The Aim of the Teacher Training College], Athens, 1924, p. 9.

29. This paragraph has been translated by the author from the unpublished Greek original soon to be included in Volume 4 of Glinos’ ‘Complete Works’ being prepared by Philippe Iliou. Glinos’ study was published in a French translation in: Dotation Carnegie pour la paix internationale, Direction des relations et de l’éducation, Enquête sur les livres scolaires d’après guerre, Vol. 2, Paris, Centre européen de la Dotation Carnegie, 1927. In his chapter entitled ‘School Textbooks and Nationalism:Dimitri Glinos’ Approach’, where he analyses Glinos’ study, Iliou mentions that this book alreadyappears as out of print in the publications catalogue of the Dotation Carnegie in 1928.

30. [Complete works], op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 69.

31. The University of Salonika was founded in 1925 in response to the new population situation inMacedonia, but also in order to counterbalance the University of Athens, whose traditionalism made ita stronghold for those forces opposing any idea of reform.

32. D. Glinos, [Feminist Humanism], Athens, Women’s College, 1921, p. 7-8.

33. In ‘The Responsibility of Greek Teachers for the Renaissance of Greek Education’, published in thereview [Education] in 1915 and restated in [Dead But Not Buried], op. cit., p. 298.

34. [Complete Works], op. cit., p. 398.

35. See Table 4.1, ‘Public Expenditure on Education’ which gives the total of all public expenditure and this figure as a percentage of GNP in: UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, 1992, Paris, UNESCO, 1992, p.4-16.

36. M. Eliou, Mobility or Migration?: the Case of Greek Students Abroad, in: Higher Education in Europe (Bucharest), Vol. XIII, No. 3, 1988.13

Works by Glinos (in Greek)

[The Aim of the Teacher Training College.] Athens, 1924.

[Complete Works.] Comp. and annotated by P. Iliou. Athens, Themelio, 1983-.(Two volumes published. Atotal of ten volumes projected.)

[Creative historicism.] Athens, Sideris, 1920.

[Current Problems of Hellenism.] 2nd ed. Athens, 1945.

[Dead But Not Buried: Studies on Our System of Education.] Athens, Athina, 1925.

[Feminist Humanism.] Athens, Women’s College, 1921.[Nation and Language.] Athens, Hestia, 1922.

[The Present Situation of the Humanities in Greece.] Athens, Zacharopoulos, 1940. (Under the pseudonym ofD. Alexandrou)

[Selected Readings.] Ed. by B. Vandoros. Vols. I-IV, Athens, Stochastis, 1971-75.

[The War Trilogy: Soliloquies of the Hermit of Santorin.] Athens, Ta Nea Vivlia, 1945.

[What the National Liberation Front Is and What It Wants.] Athens, Rhigas, 1944.

Works on Glinos

Avdi-Kalkani, I. [Dimitri Glinos and the Women’s Struggle.] In:[Women’s Struggle], No. 17, January-February 1983.

[Dimitri Glinos: Teacher and Philosopher.] Proceedings of a symposium held at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ioannina, Athens, Gutemberg, 1983.Epitheorissi technis, Vol. 20, Nos 119-120, November-December 1964. (Special issue devoted to Glinos.)

Iliou, P. [School Textbooks and Nationalism: Dimitri Glinos’ Approach.] In: [Greece at the Time of theBalkan Wars.] Athens, Society of Literary and Historical Archives, 1993.

[In Memoriam Dimitri A. Glinos.] Athens, Ta Nea Vivlia,

Copyright notice

This text was originally published in Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIII, no. 3/4, p. 559-574.©UNESCO: International Bureau of Education, 2000

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