17 SES 02, Paper Session
With the advent of mass compulsory schooling legislation, most children in Western countries were spending their formative years in institutions called ‘schools’ by the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed, compulsory schooling was a transnational phenomenon but shaped by local conditions (Meyer, Ramirez and Soysal, 1992). At the same time, there was a transnational traffic in progressive theories and practices, the Froebelian kindergarten being a case in point (May 1997).
In Australia, mass compulsory schooling dates from the late nineteenth century. Centralised state school systems were established to cater for both urban and rural students in thinly populated regions. The rural (one-room) government school was deemed to play an important role in community-building, but it was also shaped by particular inclusive and exclusive dynamics. For example, Indigenous children and children with disabilities were mostly excluded from government schools (Barcan 1980). Some wealthy families rejected the local government school in favour of private boarding schools and geographic distance of some farms from the local school precluded attendance. Compulsory schooling was thus a site of contention.
The aim of this paper is to explore the everyday educational practice of a middle class rural farming family in 1930s Australia. Marjorie and Alfred Caw and their two children lived on a sheep/wheat farm which was six miles from the nearest school. Formerly a kindergarten teacher prior to her marriage, Marjorie supplied the children with their elementary education at home and then sent them to urban private boarding schools for their secondary education. The paper focuses on her reasons for home-schooling the children, her everyday pedagogical practices and her decision-making regarding their secondary education.
The paper is framed as a transnational history, defined by Curthoys and Lake (2005, 5) as
The study of ways in which past lives and events have been shaped by processes and relationships that have transcended the borders of nation states. Transnational history seeks to understand ideas, things, people and practices which have crossed national boundaries.
Clavin (2005, 425) notes that transnationalism includes non-state actors and ‘interactions across state boundaries that were not directly controlled by the central policy organs of government’. Struck, Ferris and Revel (2011, 574) add that transnational perspectives ‘stress … the entanglement and mutual influence of state, societies and cultures’. Transnational approaches also highlight the adaption and modification of ideas and institutions in different contexts. Transnationalism is thus an appropriate framework to study Marjorie Caw as a non-state actor whose decision-making and progressive pedagogical practices were influenced by transnational ideas and local conditions. The study addresses two questions:
- What exclusive and inclusive dynamics were at play in Marjorie Caw’s decision-making regarding her children’s elementary and secondary education?
- What were some transnational influences on her everyday pedagogical practices?
The paper is based on archival research, and the traditional historical method of combing the documents, following leads from one source to another, examining clusters of associated themes and judging their relative significance. In keeping with feminist methodology, the context in which the documents were produced, their ideological underpinnings and purpose will be taken into account. All records are shaped by the political contexts in which they were produced and by the cultural and ideological assumptions that lie behind them. The archival sources for the paper are a set of private letters from Marjorie Caw to her mother who was living in another part of Australia. Marjorie wrote to her mother every week from the mid-1920s until the early 1940s. Her mother responded in kind so their correspondence contains intimate insights into everyday family life and connections to their local communities. Given that her mother was also a retired teacher, their correspondence was peppered with discussions of education. Marjorie’s letters provide insights into her decision-making re the children’s education and her pedagogical practices. Her letters also indicate she was accessing books and journals about progressive education (e.g the New Era from England) to garner the latest transnational ideas.
The main outcome of this paper will be to add to our understanding of transnationalism in the history of education. It will also shed light on the dynamics of education in rural communities in the 1930s. This paper will form the basis of an article to be submitted to a peer-reviewed international journal.
Barcan, A., A History of Australian Education (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1980. Clavin, P., ‘Defining Transnationalism’, Contemporary European History 14/4 (2005). Curthoys, A. and M. Lake, 'Introduction’, in A. Curthoys and M. Lake, eds, Connected Worlds: History in Transnational Perspective (Canberra: ANU Press, 2005). Edith Hubbe (Cook) and Marjorie Caw (Hubbe) Papers, 1859-1988, MSS 0046, Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide. May, H., The Discovery of Early Childhood: The Development of Services for the Care and Education of Very Young Children, Mid Eighteenth Century Europe to Mid Twentieth Century New Zealand (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1997). Meyer, J., Ramirez, F. and Y. Soysal, ‘World Expansion of Mass Education, 1870-1980’, Sociology of Education 65 (1992). Struck, B., Ferris, K. and J. Revel, ‘Introduction: Space and Scale in Transnational History’, The International History Review 33, no. 4 (2011).
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
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