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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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The Invention of the Modern School in Brazil: Methods and Materials in Brazilian Schools in the 19th Century

Schooling methods and materials

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Organization, order, discipline, control and standardization. These are some of the traits that can be used to characterize the 19th century in the Western world and its ideal of rationalization of society. This ideal emerged from the tension between the rise of the masses in the political sphere and from the search for order and hierarchical organization that shaped the 19th century. The institutionalization and spread of schooling at that time are two of the multiple facets of this process, which also reveals the contemporary obsession with rational organization. In Brazil as well as in other Latin American countries,1 the social, economic, political and cultural processes that led to independence also resulted, at least for a part of the national elites, in a need to spread schooling to the poorer part of the population, which had been kept away from schools till then. The project of extending basic schooling to the whole population required organization.

As inheritance from the French Revolution ideals, ‘education’ was related to social improvement. In that period, social progress and diffusion of knowledge mixed together and created the myth of education and the school as agents of regeneration of humankind in the social imaginary. Thus, providing basic schooling to the population and spreading knowledge to all social classes were necessary tasks to the extent that knowledge and true and rational learning should be spread in order for progress and general happiness to be attained. This strategy for the construction of the...

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