Beyond the Classroom

Studies on Pupils and Informal Schooling Processes in Modern Europe

by Anna Larsson (Volume editor) Björn Norlin (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 235 Pages
Series: Studia Educationis Historica, Volume 1


The research on educational history has traditionally focused on its institutional, political and pedagogical aspects, more or less habitually analyzing schooling as a top-down, adult-controlled phenomenon. Even if change has been visible during the last decades, there still remain important topics that are rarely discussed in the field. These topics include practices related to day-to-day school life that are not part of the formal curriculum or classroom routine, but which nevertheless allow pupils to become actively involved in their own schooling. This book provides historical case studies on such extracurricular and informal schooling processes. It argues that the awareness of such topics is essential to our understanding of school settings – in both past and present.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Table of Content
  • I. Introduction: Taking Pupils into Account in Educational History Research
  • Aim and Ambition
  • The Extracurricular Life and Socialization of Schoolchildren: Overview of a Fragmented Field
  • The Study of Contemporary Contexts
  • Historical Research
  • Sources and Perspectives
  • Contents
  • II. ‘It is Better to Learn than to be Taught’: Pupil Culture and Socialization in The Hazelwood Magazine in the 1820s
  • The Hazelwood System: A Useful Education
  • The Hazelwood Magazine: Performing Citizenship
  • Authorship, Audience and Circulation
  • Conclusion
  • III. Karlberg as a Total Institution: The Royal Swedish War Academy in the 1800s
  • Erving Goffman’s Asylums
  • The Concept of “Total Institution”
  • Characteristics of Total Institutions
  • Use of the Concept in Social Science and the Humanities
  • Boarding Schools as Total Institutions
  • Criticisms and Revisions
  • Purpose of this Study
  • Karlberg as a total institution
  • The Royal Swedish War Academy as a Closed World
  • Enrolment and the Mortification of the Cadet’s Self
  • Adaptation Strategies and Secondary Adjustments at Karlberg Palace
  • The Staff World: Teachers and Officers
  • Conclusion
  • IV. The Nordic Secondary School Youth Movement: Pupil Exchange in the Era of Educational Modernization, 1870–1914
  • The Swedish State Grammar School: Keystone in an Emerging Educational Society
  • The Amalgamation of School Youth: Three Organizational Phases
  • Town, Region, Nation, and the Nordic as Organizing Principles
  • New Media, New Solidarities, New Youth
  • A Social Movement: Promoting an Alternate Way of Life
  • Class and Gender: The Bonds and Boundaries of School Youth Organization
  • Discovering School Life: New Content in the Institutional Sphere
  • The Decline of the Nordic Secondary School Youth Movement
  • Concluding Remarks: Pupil Exchange and Educational Modernization
  • V. School Culture at Fons Vitae: Capturing Pupil Experiences in a Dutch Catholic Girls School, 1914–40
  • Introduction
  • Historiographic Reflections
  • The Pupil’s Perspective in the School Archives
  • Former Pupils Tell the Story
  • Anne Biegel’s Diary
  • Some Final Remarks
  • VI. Remembering School: Autobiographical Depictions of Daily School Life in Sweden, 1918–80
  • School as Memory Site
  • The Importance of Affiliation
  • Attributes and Concealment
  • Characteristics and Harassment
  • Exclusion and Friendship
  • School as Theater
  • Mastering Peer Life through Wit and Violence
  • Peer Solidarity and Associations
  • Memory, Narrative and Emotional Communities
  • VII. Simulating Society: The Norra Latin Summer Residence in Stockholm, 1938–65
  • Background: The Idea of Self-Government
  • Work
  • Punishment
  • Play
  • Girls
  • Nightlife
  • Simulating Society
  • Conclusion
  • VIII. Between Identity and Stigmatization: The Socialization of East Berlin Pupils in the 1950s
  • New Schooling Conditions for Pupils of East Berlin in the 1950s
  • A Socio-Historical Perspective on the Actors
  • The Creation of New Structures
  • A New Spatial and Temporal Environment
  • Disciplining a Spontaneous Experience of Politicization: Pupil Parliaments
  • The Minority: Between Identity Affirmation and Political Stigmatization
  • Conclusion
  • IX. Material and Affective Movements: Danish Pupils’ Reminiscences, 1945–2008
  • Exploring the History of Everyday School Life
  • Conceptualizing the Material and Affective Movements of School Life
  • The 1950s: Lining Up Within the Walls of the Yellow Prison
  • School Memories of the 1970s: Hanging Out in Little Christiania
  • School Memories of the 1990s: Playing Soccer in ‘the Class of Trouble’
  • Crossing the Threshold into Everyday School Life
  • References
  • The Authors

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Illustration of a pupil-led trial at Gävle Gymnasium in the 1820s. Source: ”Om pennalismen vid svenska läroverken”, Ny illustrerad tidning 1872:13/14.


Anna Larsson and Björn Norlin

I. Introduction: Taking Pupils into Account in Educational History Research

Today, research on informal schooling processes and peer group socialisation among children and teens in contemporary education constitutes a well-established, multidisciplinary field. Few challenge the basic premise that the modern-day school is a multiform meeting place that, particularly outside the classroom – on playgrounds, in hallways and school-related Internet forums, etc. – provides meaningful arenas for the socialization of today’s young, both during and after school hours.

In educational history however, the picture is somewhat different. The latest decade of research has been characterized by an increased interest in cultural perspectives on past schooling and by a growing focus on the linguistic, material, spatial, emotional and sensory physiognomies of education.1 This has engendered a broadened awareness of the dialectical ← 9 | 10 → relationship between for example formal educational policies, architecture, teaching technologies and the individuals subjected to school environments. Even so, the field keeps much of its traditional focus trained on practices connected to formal institutional and pedagogical aspects of education, more or less habitually analyzing schooling as a “top-down”, adult-controlled phenomenon. Features of extracurricular school life such as play and recess, organized forms of pupil self-governance, liberal self-study in local school societies, boarding school culture, national and transnational school youth movements, extramural exchange of ideas between pupils, and more subtle forms of peer group socialization linked to day-to-day school life, are still rarely examined and accounted for in the field.

Aim and Ambition

The ambition of the present volume is to contribute to the understanding of such extracurricular practices and to highlight the more elusive routines of informal schooling processes they imply. There are a number of reasons that motivate this undertaking. First of all one can argue that such practices and routines are, and have always been, essential but hidden parts of the education for children and teenagers. Research in this area can thus pave the way for a better overall understanding of what actually happened in different school environments, of the learning processes that have taken place outside the classroom and their meaning. With such knowledge and understanding might also follow the ability to raise new questions about the nature of the history of education, and perhaps also perceive contemporary schooling in new ways. Secondly, by shifting the analytical focus, ← 10 | 11 → researchers are encouraged to include the implemented, rich and far more complex nature of everyday institutional life while examining schooling, rather than emphasizing what can be perceived as a principally intentional level. This in turn opens for more precise and nuanced discussions about the relationship between formally intended moral and pedagogical instruction and its impact on those for whom these instructions were composed. Thirdly, research into this area also accords potent comparative perspectives to various components of the educational system, different school cultures, and so on. Finally, if the extracurricular sphere is perceived as a single domain where ideas and innovations connected with society at large meet and fuse with educational practice, it can also allow researchers to better examine and understand aspects of educational and institutional change.

Against this background, the present volume draws attention to past modes of pupil participation in the schooling process. It provides the reader with eight case studies from a variety of European educational contexts, each offering empirically grounded examples in accordance with its comprehensive theme. The cases also present the reader with empirical, methodological and theoretical input to facilitate future research illuminating the roles played by pupils in educational history. In this way, our book seeks to contribute to the overall historical understanding of pupils’ involvement in the school process and their role in the creation of institutional life.

The Extracurricular Life and Socialization of Schoolchildren: Overview of a Fragmented Field

Concern for what schoolchildren do and do not do and how they should and should not behave when out of the teacher’s sight has a history that is probably as long as education itself. Classical perceptions of youth as inherently ruled by their passions, and therefore in need of strict rules and authority both in and outside of school seems to have echoed in the texts of teachers and school reformers down through the ages. In his correspondence, fifteenth-century humanist, educational reformer and schoolmaster Vittorino da Feltre (1378–1446) constantly complained about the outrageous moral behavior of students and the nature of the student ← 11 | 12 → culture at Italian schools and universities, as did one of his sixteenth- century German counterparts, the Lutheran educational reorganizer, Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560).2 Likewise any researcher who has leafed through seventeenth- or eighteenth-century school logs or the flora of nineteenth- and twentieth-century teachers’ magazines has likely stumbled upon discussions on the art of disciplining schoolchildren, as well as on what should be regarded as appropriate and inappropriate activities for them to engage in outside of the classroom. Although the topic of this book – aspects of the extracurricular sphere – has a parallel history worthy of thorough investigation in itself, the following pages will deal solely with what we characterize as modern academic interest in schoolchildren and their extracurricular lives, in both contemporary and historical contexts. Furthermore, this brief overview deals almost exclusively with West European and North American research.3

The Study of Contemporary Contexts

Sociological and pedagogical interest in understanding the informal sphere of contemporary school life has a long, albeit fragmented, history. Early contributions to the field came from American sociologists and functionalists who, in their effort to establish models for understanding societies as social systems, also became deeply interested in aspects of school life. In “The School Class as a Social System: Some of Its Functions in American Society” (1959), Talcott Parsons acknowledged the significance of peer socialization. However, in his analysis of adolescents and teenagers in school, the classroom and formal education drew the lion’s ← 12 | 13 → share of attention.4 A far more extensive and pioneering work was James S. Coleman’s The Adolescent Society: The Social Life of the Teenager and its Impact on Education (1961), in which social activities and value patterns among students at American high schools were thoroughly examined. Coleman argued that the expansion of the education system in the first half of the 1900s had led to detachment from family-bound moral instruction, only to be replaced by the school’s semi-autonomous youth environments, which he believed had equalled if not surpassed traditional socializing agents like family and formal instruction. Thus Coleman ascribed school youth a more autonomous and influential role in the constitution of educational institutions.5

At roughly the same time, French scholars like Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron began publishing works on the nature of the French educational system and its students’ relationship with culture. These studies not only included investigations of the social and cultural background of students, but also extracurricular activities and their correlation with study results. Their findings later found their way into influential theories of social and cultural reproduction, including The Inheritors: French Students and Their Relationship to Culture (1964) and The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power (1989).6

In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, British sociologists and ethnographers also started to engage with pupil culture, differentiation processes related to school life and pupils’ means of adapting. Noted publications included David H. Hargreaves’ Social Relations in a Secondary School (1967), Colin Lacey’s Hightown Grammar: The School ← 13 | 14 → as a Social System (1970) and perhaps the most widely read, Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs (1977) by Paul E. Willis,7 which examined English working-class boys’ disobedience and contempt for the school and its middle-class culture. An attempt to collate research in the field was undertaken in the early 1980s by Martyn Hammersley and Peter Woods in Life in School: The Sociology of Pupil Culture (1984), in which seventeen scholars discuss differentiation and sub-cultural polarization within the student body, conformism and delinquency, and the experiences of minority students.8

From the late 1980s onward, educational research concentrating on aspects of the intramural school life, informal processes of schooling, student-teacher relationships, peer socialization and so on has flourished and branched out. Some examples should be highlighted. British psychologist Peter Blatchford published (alone and with others) works concerning the importance of primary school pupils’ play and social activities outside lesson time. Based on the assumption that recess was an important but forgotten part of the school day, he argued in Playtime in the Primary School: Problems and Improvements (1989) and later in Social Life in School: Pupils’ Experiences of Breaktime and Recess from 7 to 16 (1998) that a number of social competences were activated during recess, competences that were more or less essential to adult life.9 Together with another psychologist, Sonia Sharp, he also compiled an anthology on schoolyard behavior, Breaktime and the School: Understanding and Changing Playground Behavior (1994), with articles by some dozen scholars from a variety of disciplines, which by shifting focuses analyzed pupils’ social activities as they related to school life.10 ← 14 | 15 →

The expansion and elaboration of identity theory and gender research in the 1990s triggered an increased interest in schools as arenas for processes of identity construction among adolescents and teens. Scholars like Valerie Walkerdine in Schoolgirl Fictions (1990), Barrie Thorne in Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School (1993), Máirtín Mac an Ghaill in The Making of Men: Masculinities, Sexualities and Schooling (1994) and Valerie Hey in The Company She Keeps: An Ethnography of Girls’ Friendships (1997) all contributed to a better understanding of processes of identity formation, the relation between norms of the individual, groups and the adult world, as well as of the role played by gender and class in school life.11

In the anthology Learning to Labor in New Times (2004), American sociologists Nadine Dolby and Gregory Dimitriadis compiled a series of essays on the theme that Willis introduced almost thirty years ago, now applied to new social conditions with new theoretical perspectives.12 More recently, Family, School, Youth Culture: International Perspectives of Pupil Research (2008) compiles some twenty articles examining the interaction between family, school and youth culture. This included studies of peer group socialization, teacher-student relationships and differentiation processes in the school environment.13

Historical Research


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (October)
Freizeitaktivitäten Jugendkultur Ausbildungsprozess Erziehungsgeschichte
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 235 pp., 15 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Anna Larsson (Volume editor) Björn Norlin (Volume editor)

Anna Larsson is Associate Professor of the History of Science and Ideas at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University (Sweden). Björn Norlin is a researcher in History at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University (Sweden). Both are members of the Umeå Research Group for Studies in History and Education.


Title: Beyond the Classroom
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238 pages