Cultural epoch theory is a 19th- and early 20th-century theory that assumes human development to recapitulate or mirror the historical development of the human race. Educational and psychological scholars such as Johann Frederich Herbart and G. Stanley Hall are prominent early proponents. Harold Dunkel's treatment of the Herbartians elaborates the formative influence of disciples of Herbart on what emerged as the curriculum field of the 20th century, thus having continued influence on curriculum studies, by showing the centrality of developmental theory to the field.

This theoretical perspective guided curricular discourse and planning as the mental disciplines theory, the notion that the mind was comprised of muscle-like entities for logic or imagination that profited from exercise, declined in prominence. Though Herbart died in 1841, his disciples in ...

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