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The Black Box of Schooling

A Cultural History of the Classroom

Edited By Sjaak Braster, Ian Grosvenor and María del Mar del Pozo Andrés

This book is about the classroom, the most important meeting place for teachers and pupils in an education building. Our knowledge, however, about what happens inside this space is limited. In many respects the classroom is still the black box of the educational system.
To open up this box, this volume brings together scholars from the disciplines of Art, Architecture, History, Pedagogy and Sociology. They present a wide variety of new perspectives, methodologies and sources for studying classrooms.
The book examines images and representations of classrooms (photographs, paintings and pictures on school walls), writings and documents inside the classroom (school exercise books, teachers’ log books and observer reports), memories and personal experiences of classrooms (egodocuments from teachers and pupils, and oral history interviews), the space and design of classrooms (architecture, school murals and the transformation of space), and material objects in the classroom (school furniture, primers for reading and school wall charts). The essays are illustrated with a unique collection of more than fifty photographs of classrooms in Europe.


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PART V MATERIAL OBJECTS IN CLASSROOMS 263 The Material Classroom Jacques DANE, Sarah-Jane EARLE & Tijs VAN RUITEN National Museum of Education, Rotterdam Introduction For a few centuries, the classroom has been a room to be frequented only on working days as a rule. The classroom is a part of every-day life. Most of the pupils didn’t stop at the thought of the school desks, the school books, the educational appliances, the pictures on the wall et cetera, because these were familiar objects not to be paid attention to. Only later, when childhood and youth have passed, memories of schooldays will surface every once in a while. What could be the trig- gers of such memories? In his nostalgic verse De oude school (The old school), the Dutch poet Willem Wilmink (1936-2003), looked back on a building with heavy doors, chestnut-trees in the schoolyard, an old hedge and wall- charts on the wall with knights and other historic scenes. Above all things, the poet put a feeling into words, a memory: “autumn leaves on the ground”, which were so nice to tread on as a pupil and the big cast- iron stove in the winter which hissed whenever you threw snow in it. Except for the image of the wall charts, the other appliances in the classroom of Wilmink’s childhood of the 1940s – ink-pot, crown-pen, atlas, pointer et cetera – only play a marginal role in his memories.1 In the Netherlands of the 1970s, Wilmink’s poem became nationally well- known when a...

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