Order in progress

Everyday education practice in primary schools: Belgium 1880-1970

Marc Depaepe (Author), J. Verhoeven (Author),

Series: Studia Paedagogica 29

Category: Education

Language: English

ISBN: 9789058670342

Publication date: May 18, 2000

€20.50 (including 6% VAT)

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Number of pages: 265

Size: 240 x 160 x mm

Stock item: 46063

Standard delivery time for print books:

For Belgium: 5 to 8 working days

For EU: 2 to 3 weeks

For other countries: 4 to 5 weeks


It is plain from any survey in the history of education that little is known about the actual developments at “chalkface”. The classroom remains something of a black box in educational history, which has yet to give up its secrets.

Since the end of the 18th century, a number of basic mechanisms have been at work in the field of education, mechanisms that may be viewed as rules underpinning Western educational mentality and reality. One essential characteristic of an “educationalised” society is for instance the desire for order and regularity, to which the title of the book refers. It paraphrases the motto of Brazil, which appears in the nation’s flag: “order and progress”. By turning “and” into “in” the authors, however, wish to suggest not only that the order in question was always viewed in terms of progress, but also that it was inescapebly governed by the development of society. Despite the great continuity of “order” and discipline, educational behaviour invariably developed against a background of social progress.

The authors attempt to capture the distinction between internal dynamism and external development – between discontinuity and continuity, if you will – by developing in the first chapter an appropriate method for “classroom history”- a concept they have forged by analogy of “curriculum history”. Focusing on the Belgian case, the history of teaching and educating in primary schools is analysed in the following chapters. To test the hypothetical continuity of educational behaviour, a deliberate choice has been made for three key periods, in which the social situation varied significantly: the 1880s, the 1930s and 1960s.

This study leads to the intriguing conclusion that the everyday educational behaviour in primary schools became steadily more formalised and structured. In this sense it seems justifiable to speak of a “grammar” of educationalisation as a complement to the “grammar of schooling”, depicted by Tyack, Tobin, Cuban and other researchers. The often unwritten, though nevertheless fairly well established rules of the school, that have weighed against educational reform, could not be separated from their basic pedagogical semantics. Better education ought to produce more independent people. The pedagogical paradox with which teachers were constantly confronted was, however, that this emancipatory goal implied increasing independence from a pre-imposed curriculum. The school, as both a prefigurative reflection and reduced version of real life, demanded the compromise between freedom in constraint. This was the context in which children had to be able to develop under the expert guidance of their “master’s” hand – a hand that had to be firm yet as imperceptible as possible.

Developing a theoretical framework for the history of educational reality in the classroom

  • ‘The ghost in the machine’: teaching in the 1880s
  • Educational reform as ‘explosante-fixe’: teaching in the 1930s
  • Teaching in the 1960s: the end of schooling?
  • ‘You don’t catch flies with vinegar’: Educating in the1880s
  • Educating in the 1930s: criticism without alternatives?
  • ‘The joy of working’: educating in the 1960s


Marc Depaepe

Marc Depaepe is Professor of History of Education at KU Leuven.

J. Verhoeven

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