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Classroom Struggle

Organizing Elementary School Teaching in the 19th Century

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Edited By Marcelo Caruso

During the institutionalization of mass schooling in the 19 th century, teaching large groups of children became both a necessity and a matter of regulation. For officials and inspectors the systematization of classroom interactions was important for effective results. However, while systematization could bring about the constant attention of children and their uninterrupted work, interactions themselves were difficult to control. Rationalized models of classroom organization provided alternatives for managing large groups before age grading became the dominant pattern of organizing interactions. The contributions in this volume explore diverse paths of transition towards modern classroom organization in different countries, allowing transnational perspectives and comparisons.
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From Competing Technologies of Mass Schooling to the Spiritual Enlightenment of the Nation: The Reception of the Monitorial System of Education in Denmark 1814–1849

Educational Reform in the Enlightenment Era

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In the crucial years of the establishment of inclusive schooling in Denmark after the school bills of 1814, the Bell-Lancaster system, also known as the monitorial system of education, was imported from England. The import, reception and implementation were, however, specific to the Danish case and context. Among these specific features, the role played by the absolutist state and the military was without doubt a central one. With royal support and power, the whole Danish school world was strong armed into using this new system.

This article will take a closer look at this form of schooling that dominated Danish school life from around 1819 till its zenith in 1830 and its astonishing Wirkungsgeschichte due to the educator Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783–1872). In general terms, Denmark was hitherto in educational matters in many ways a continuation of Northern Germany.1 But the case of the adoption of the monitorial system of education in Denmark was an exception to this orientation – now the country of reference was England. The reception of the monitorial model varied substantially in different countries. Developed more or less independently by the two British educators Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster in recognizable versions, it spread from England to France, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, large parts of South and North America, Africa, Asia etc. but hardly gained foothold in the German states.2 This transcontinental reception from around 1800 and onwards is of interest for this article as a main context of its fate in...

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