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The Will to Change the Child

Re-education Homes for Children at Risk in Nineteenth Century Western Europe

Jeroen Dekker

This book is about the will to change children and how a new phenomenon arose in 19th century Europe – the re-education home. It describes the founders of these homes, of which thousands were established, the children who lived there, their parents (who were considered bad or incompetent educators), and the re-education that took place in these homes. It describes also the role of religion, private philanthropy and the government, child welfare legislation, and child science. «By ceaselessly observing their behaviour and character, by correcting the bad habits, weaknesses and impulses they exhibit, and by developing and reinforcing the positive properties and characteristics they possess», so founders of one of these homes described their will to change the child. From the perspective of enlightened philanthropy, which was based on optimistic views on the child and mankind, change meant betterment. To Evangelical philanthropists, who held pessimistic views on the child and mankind based on the dogma of original sin, change meant atonement and salvation. In child pathology – the science developed at the end of the nineteenth century which studied problem children – change meant diagnostics and therapy.
Contents: History of education – Children at risk – Re-education homes – 19th century – Western Europe.