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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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Perfect Imperfection: Lancasterian Teaching and the Brussels Educational System (1815–1875)

United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830)

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In the course of 1872/1873 there was considerable criticism in the Brussels press of the state of urban primary education in the city. Thomas Braun, a teacher in educational science at the teachers’ college in Nivelles, also joined in the debate. After Alderman for Education J. Funck had given him permission to visit the local schools, he announced (his) “La vérité sur les écoles communales primaires de Bruxelles.”1 Braun had much praise for the financial efforts being made by the city authorities for the benefit of education and teachers. In particular he portrayed the recent creation, school no. 8 for girls, as a true model school with spacious, well-ventilated classrooms, “bancs-pupitres américains”, blackboards with a counterweight, abacuses, maps, small tablets for drawing, all expertly laid out. According to this super-didactician, there was a lack of illustrations to support object teaching, just like a small museum with a corresponding function. The lack of a courtyard and a gymnasium were also seen as flaws. However, according to Braun, such schools were even hard to find in neighbouring Germany and France. This panegyric was actually a soft start to a chain of critical remarks: deficient training courses organised by the city for the trainee assistants (no notion of “science pédagogique”, no model lessons, no quality supervision, unprepared teaching); poorly maintained buildings, unhealthy and inadequately ventilated; furniture from a previous era (fixed slates, a letter box from before 1830); overcrowded classrooms and inadequate segregation of boys and girls;...

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