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A Progressive Education?How Childhood Changed in Mid-Twentieth-Century English and Welsh Schools$
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Laura Tisdall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526132895

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526132901

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Secondary school teachers, class and status

Secondary school teachers, class and status

(p.176) 6 Secondary school teachers, class and status
A Progressive Education?

Laura Tisdall

Manchester University Press

Using a case study of the secondary modern school in the 1950s and 1960s, this chapter explores why media depictions of the ‘sec. mod.’ or ‘modern school’ were so fraught with violence and conflict during this period. Class is a key variable; the 1944 Education Act had brought a new influx of working-class children within the ambit of state education at the same time as the teaching profession, especially at secondary level, was attracting more middle-class recruits. However, teachers from working-class backgrounds also had a vested interest in maintaining a ‘cultural gap’ between themselves and their pupils. The anxieties engendered by progressive teaching methods, I suggest, increasingly defined the interests of the child and teacher not as a unity, but in opposition to each other. Non-utopian progressive education contributed to this shift by emphasising the gulf between the abilities of children and of adults, reconfiguring childhood and youth as negatively defined by what subjects were unable to do before they reached adulthood. Both children and adolescents were characterised by their essential egotism, their orientation towards practical and concrete experience that directly related to their own lives, and their lack of capacity for abstract reasoning.

Keywords:   Class, Race, Secondary modern, Youth, Adolescence

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