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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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Retrospect and Prospects

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At the beginning of the nineteenth century, across the world, schooling was piecemeal, patchy, uneven. Schools, while common in many countries were provided by a diverse array of agents and agencies: churches and religious orders, charitable foundations, and teachers themselves. They were sustained by their own resources, including donations and bequests, tuition fees and partly, in many cases by the teacher’s second occupation, and conducted in a variety of premises, from dedicated and purpose designed and built schoolrooms, through churches, rented shops and warehouses, to sheds, hotels and private dwellings. Their curricula were determined by their governors, and usually broadly or loosely defined. Teaching methods were, as far as is known, generally determined by the teacher, and generally understood to have been largely individual in focus, oral in medium, supported by whatever reading materials might have been available and rote in approach to instruction and learning. The proportion of all those who might be considered children, or of school going age (concepts that themselves varied) attending school varied widely from nation to nation, and within nation-states was distributed unevenly across the populations, according to age, social class, regional location and season. There were parallel marked differences between and within nations in terms of literacy, while other outcomes are barely known. Finally, while a number of governments showed interest in education, the policies they had in place were broad and in many cases largely gestural.

By the end of that century comprehensive school systems, imagined as such,...

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