tudy, teaching and research in the history of education

2001 Volume 30 Number 1

Ian Hunter
Christian Thomasius' Attack on Protestant Scholasticism
Despite his significance in early modern Germany, Christian Thomasius (1655-1728) – political and moral philosopher, jurist, lay-theologian, social and educational reformer – is little known in the world of anglophone scholarship. For educational historians, Thomasius is of interest for the extraordinary historical self-consciousness displayed in his attack on Protestant scholasticism and the discipline of metaphysics in particular. If not the first, then he was certainly among the most acute of early modern critics of metaphysical scholasticism, identifying its ‘confusion’ of natural and revealed truths with the catastrophic merging of civil and religious authority in the confessional state. The immediate objective of Thomasius’ campaign to undo the metaphysical unity of the scholastic curriculum – thereby allowing the ‘civil sciences’ to be studied autonomously or in an ‘eclectic’ manner – was to create a curriculum suited to the formation of jurists and statesmen. Lying behind this was a penetrating analysis of the kind of moral and political deportment that would be required by the legal and political officials of the ‘desacralised’ states that were emerging in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War and the Treaty of Westphalia (1648).  Thomasius’ campaign against metaphysical scholasticism was driven by his account of its malign effects as a comportment education, just as his own positive reforms were driven by his desire to create pedagogy suited to the comportment of those charged with governing the desacralised state. The paper first outlines briefly the religious and political significance of seventeenth-century Lutheran scholasticism. This is followed by an account of Thomasius’ anti-scholastic program to reform the university curriculum. The paper concludes with a discussion of his ambitious attempt to find a philosophical alternative to metaphysics.

Bernadette Baker
Foucault, Historiography, and Writing a History of the child: Productive Paradoxes
This paper is grounded in the challenges that Foucault¹s mobile historiography presents to writing educational histories, and in this case a history of the child and modern education. The paper argues that there are productive paradoxes at play in Foucault¹s rethinking of three key concepts: the subject, time, and power, and that any effort to 'apply' his analytics of these concepts will run into the very difficulties that Foucault warned against and tried to resolve. The paper concludes by providing examples of what the productive paradoxes in Foucault's methodology can inspire. It contrasts the conceptions of the child, pedagogical recommendations, and theories of power that were utilized in the work of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Ulla Johannson
Coming up to the Standard: Normalising Practices in Swedish Grammar Schools 1927-1960

Much history of education has been preoccupied with causes: with why school systems came into existence when and as they did; with why they gradually entered social consciousness and practice as a normal and natural part of daily life. An alternative is to look at the work schools did. Foucault's work, concerned with effects rather than causes, invites us to look at the work of schools as instruments for the administration of the population of the nation. Understanding schooling as a means for disciplining populations invites us to consider how schooling came to be taken up as part of social subjects' own life projects. This paper takes up such an approach in considering life and learning in Swedish grammar schools between 1927 and 1960. In particular, it treats the following questions. Which techniques were employed in order to establish patterns of normality? In what way did routines operate as disciplinary techniques? Which standards did the rule system and other normalising practices set? Which counter strategies did students mobilise in order to handle the demands on them to achieve and behave according to the explicit or implicit norms of the school? How did the normalising practices effect students’ subjectivities through their positioning of themselves as more or less worthy students? How did the students thereby construct themselves as ethical subjects (using 'ethics' in the Foucauldian sense to refer, not to a set of moral values, but to 'the rather practical goals, judgements an precepts by means of which individuals relate to their own worldly conduct')?

The data consists of interviews with thirty former students from coeducational and single sex grammar schools. The informants were asked to tell about school routines, rules and modes of rewards and punishments, which I regard as very weighty parts of the normalising processes. They were also encouraged to remember occasions when they had made fools of themselves and other concrete episodes, as such events may illustrate more abstract phenomena. Staff records from three grammar schools supplement the interviews.

The paper argues that Grammar School students were supposed to belong to the most talented part of the Swedish youth, and in daily life at school they had to prove this once and once again. The teachers were busy with testing them, questioning them and grading them. Many failed their yearly exams, and a large proportion never made the final grade. In other words: the discourse of meritocracy left its mark on school rules, routines and school practices. As a consequence, patterns of normality were established, and the students’ behaviours as well as their subjectivities were brought into the field of normative judgement and shaped in relation to these norms. For example, those who deviated from the norm had to deal with their shortcomings and potential feelings of guilt or shame. Some students might have excluded themselves on the subjective level from the category of the good and normal student, while others might have resisted the teachers’ positioning of them as belonging to the 'others', that is, the category of unworthy students. These informants, I note here, were all successful students who completed their Grammar schooling; as I suggest in the paper, it is highly likely that some effects of normalisation might be even more evident in the lives of those who quit before completion.

Peter Rushbrook
Australia's First National Report on Vocational Education: The Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry (The Wright Report) 1954

The paper is a narrative account of, arguably, Australia's first national report on vocational education. Through detailed narrative and discussion it attempts to restore some of the historical power of the Wright Report by arguing that in its inertia lay its legacy: the failure of the federal government to act on the report's recommendations bequeathed to the vocational education and training sector a restrictive system of apprenticeship training which was not tackled comprehensively until the 1990s with the introduction of the Australian Vocational Training System and the National Training Reform Agenda (NTRA). To reveal this organising theme the paper is divided into four sections. The first section considers in more detail the political, economic and industrial context which gave rise to the report. The second and third sections examine the origin of the report, its work and its outcomes. The fourth section concludes with a discussion of the report & its legacy to the new millennium.

Anthony Potts
Its History Could Not Save It: Bendigo City and its College
Autonomy and identity are crucial issues for universities in the 1990s.  For many institutions, history and tradition help give identity and autonomy.  For modern and emerging institutions, in new lands such as Australia, long institutional histories are no guarantee of identity or institutional viability.  In addition, efforts by centralising governments may threaten an institution's effort to develop its autonomy and identity.

This paper examines an Australian example of a tertiary institution's relationship with its host city and examines this from the perspective of identity and control.  It concludes that identity and freedom are very much dependent on not only the institution's history but the role played by governments.

Robert Austin
'Cultural Influence' or 'Cultural Imperialism'? Australian Secondary History Curricula and the United States Information Service since 1990
Official Australia’s bicentenary of colonial occupation in 1988 shared much tragic symbolism with the 1992 quincentenary of the European invasion and colonisation of the Americas. It also marked the initial year of a neoconservative National-Liberal Party (NLP) government in the most populous Australian state, New South Wales. The NLP’s aggressive economic rationalist agenda included a drastic restructure of school curriculum, largely reproduced in subsequent years across the country. Nonetheless the NLP privatisation-cum-elitisation of profitable sectors of education and consequent degradation of public education had a complementary national focus under the Hawke and Keating Labor regimes (1983-1996), epitomised in the conversion of the University of Melbourne’s School of Management into an unlisted public company, half-owned by private enterprise. Alongside Geography, the most widely reported and contested arena of syllabus reform at the New South Wales government’s statutory Board of Studies centred on History, with direct intervention from NLP Ministers for Education, the dominant mass media and other powerful conservative and private sector lobbyists. The present study analyses a less public but complex intervention with deep roots in the construction of postwar Australian society.

This article makes three principal contentions. Firstly, it argues that United States Information Service (USIS) policy and practice, both public and beyond ready observation, are at odds with the advancement of the study of history in Australian schools. Secondly, it argues that the operation of USIS in the construction of recent New South Wales History curricula – and by inference in all Australian states’ History curricula – ought to be publicly reviewed, as it erodes the reconstitution of the study of History in Australian schools. Finally, it contends that political intervention by USIS-aligned Australian academics has obscured the operation of cultural imperialism, both at the historiographic conceptual level and in a global context within syllabi, and in the dilution of any focus on the USIS-syllabus production nexus itself.

In an uncanny reflection of their distorted twentieth century interface, USIS-driven ‘American’ history has lately expanded and consolidated its curricular role while Latin American history – despite, or perhaps because of its prolific literary iconography and an organic popular, not manufactured mass culture – has been relegated to the unresourced periphery. It is a decline which mimics results generated in Latin America by comprador practices of multinational recording companies like Capitol and CBS, wherein radio programmers and disc jockeys are bribed to promote mainstream US artists, thereby drowning autochthonous music. Or that same industry’s sanitisation of Calypso songs from Trinidad and Tobago, voiding them of local insurrectionist content for mass consumption at home (like ‘Working for the Yankee dollar’), and often re-packaged for the country of origin. Far from being a desultory or teacher-endorsed decline, the trajectory of Latin American history in the NSW syllabus revisions since the 1980s suggest itself as a fertile case study of the power relations within the reigning national cultural, education and political structures.