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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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Grappling with the Unavoidable: Mixing Systems of Teaching in Schleswig and Holstein (1819–1830)

Tradition as a source of differentiation

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The history of modern mass schooling has often been described as a tension between homogenization and differentiation.1 On the one hand, the close association of mass-schooling, being perhaps the most pervading and substantial form of popular education, to the construction of the nation, the modernization of Ancien Regime societies and the social integration of whole populations led to similar patterns of institutionalization of people’s education around the world. On the other hand, the general models of organizing instruction had to be specified regarding the particular settings where these people lived. The similarities and differences in, for instance, the history of co-educative schools, in the relation to the institutionalized religions, and in the preferred pedagogical concepts across countries resulted from the impact of these two forces in the shaping of modern institutions of education.

Among the factors related to the specification of the general idea of popular schooling, tradition has somewhat become a ‘suspicious’ category as a source of institutional and cultural differentiation. In the aftermath of the seminal work inspired by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger,2 the category of tradition was put under heavy scrutiny and has been consistently challenged by historical analyses showing not only the ‘newness’ of purportedly old traditions, but also ← 229 | 230 → the political intentions related to their very formation. Moreover, the concept of tradition remained closely attached to the vocabulary of modernization theories that largely worked with the opposition between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ societies. These modernization theories have been under...

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