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Classroom Struggle

Organizing Elementary School Teaching in the 19th Century


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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Pax Hispanica?: The Mixed System of Teaching and Competing Groups of ‘Experts’ in Spain during the 19th Century

Poor results: Central policies towards the modernization of teaching


For an absolutist ruler in early modern times, the very possibility of regulating interactions in elementary schools throughout ‘his’ country would have been proof of unrealistic governmental ambitions. It is one of the most characteristic features of early modern statecraft that the ideology of pervasive and continuous government repeatedly encountered the challenges of fragmented sovereignty, distance, local powers and tradition.1 At least for the biggest countries in Europe, the lack of any detailed plan ruling teaching represented the implicit admission of its impossibility.2 Although Prussian rulers certainly dreamt of enlarging the spheres of the “governable” – as displayed in the school regulations from 1763 – the first more or less successful attempt to reshape the scene of teaching were the Austrian school ordinances from 1770. Embedded in a more comprehensive reform of administrative structures inspired by ideas of rationality connected to the Enlightenment movement, these ordinances with their ambitious plans for training teachers in the techniques of group instruction did reshape main features of the inherited cultures of mass teaching.3 They may not have completely changed mass teaching; yet they accomplished the task of imposing the new norm of group instruction in a majority of schools.4 ← 275 | 276 →

Reforming teaching, not only the general organization of schools, remained a serious challenge for all major European countries in the 19th century. The Austrian example was by no means easy to follow, nor was its degree of success. If this applied to all major European powers in different extent at...

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