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Classroom Struggle

Organizing Elementary School Teaching in the 19th Century


Marcelo Caruso

During the institutionalization of mass schooling in the 19th 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 Tutor to Teacher: The Birth of Popular Schooling in Early 19th Century Italy

The new teaching methods and the strength of the old tradition



Italian historiography has dealt with the history of schools for a long time. Not unlike other countries, this has been a favored topic of its investigations, mainly with regard to the modern era. However, until recently, most studies have focused on the even shorter period from the Unification of Italy up to the Republic (1861–1946). The classic university manuals on the subject, certainly quite valuable and useful,1 generally present a brief introduction to the pre-Unification period in which they describe the different situations existing in the various states and, in particular, the Kingdom of Sardinia. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that in the treatment of these manuals, the development of schooling in the pre-Unification era is portrayed merely as a backdrop for the purportedly radical changes of the Unification period, particularly the Casati Law.2 The enactment of this general regulation in 1859, adopted only with great difficulty in the different parts of the peninsula, represents in these narratives the main disruptive moment in the whole education history of the 19th century. This type of approach, centered around the history of institutional changes and linked to the vicissitudes of the national state, has often neglected the history of actual teaching. Moreover, if teaching is part of scholarly attention, it is mainly seen in the light of regulations and effective practices of teaching, which were often so diverse and even in contrast to the lawmakers’ intents, are rarely addressed by scholars.

This historiographical context has changed...

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