SCHOOL EXERCISE BOOKS
A COMPLEX SOURCE FOR A HISTORY OF THE APPROACH TO SCHOOLING AND EDUCATION IN THE 19th AND 20th CENTURIES
(Macerata, 26-29 September 2007)
CALL FOR PAPERS
The Scientific Committee of the International Symposium on «School Exercise Books, a Complex Source for a History of the Approach to Schooling and Education in the 19th and 20th Centuries» (Macerata, 26-29 September 2007) is calling on researchers and scholars in this field to submit papers; instructions for authors may be found below.
The symposium, which is open to scholars from throughout the world, is explicitly designed to allow as broad and in-depth a comparison as possible between different researchers’ experience. Its aim is to trigger an international debate on the school exercise book and its uses, in relation to a history of schooling seen as a history of the ethos and practice of education, embracing the history of teaching, literacy and writing, while at the same time addressing the issue from the standpoint of a history of dominant ideologies and of the perceptions of the players involved in school life (pedagogues, teachers and pupils).
The exercise book (quaderno, schulheft, cahier, cuaderno, caderno, tetrad’) is an extremely complex source offering a variety of levels of interpretation, lying as it does on the borderline between several different disciplines: the history of pedagogy and teaching, the history of illustration and publishing, the social history of childhood, linguistics and cultural anthropology. Thus papers for submission may hail from a broad variety of disciplines as long as they focus on the exercise book and children’s writing; in other words, these two factors need to be the primary sources around which the rest of the paper is built.
The Scientific Committee is particularly eager to encourage young research students in this field to submit their work and to apply for a grant to cover expenses incurred in attending the symposium.
Università degli Studi di Macerata
Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione per la Innovazione e la Ricerca Educativa di Firenze
Prof. Roberto Sani, chairman (Università degli Studi di Macerata)
Prof. Onorato Grassi (Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione per la Innovazione e la Ricerca Educativa di Firenze)
Dott. Giovanni Biondi (Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione per la Innovazione e la Ricerca Educativa di Firenze)
Prof. Giorgio Chiosso (Università degli Studi di Torino)
Prof. Pino Boero (Università degli Studi di Genova)
Prof.ssa Carmela Covato (Università degli Studi di Roma III)
Prof.ssa Simonetta Polenghi (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano)
Prof. Alberto Barausse (Università degli Studi del Molise)
Dott. Davide Montino (Università degli Studi di Genova)
Prof. Francesco Sicilia (former Head of Department with the Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities)
Prof. Aurelio Rigoli (Centro Internazionale di Etnostoria di Palermo)
Prof. ssa Annamaria Amitrano (Centro Internazionale di Etnostoria di Palermo)
Dott. Juri Meda (Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione per la Innovazione e la Ricerca Educativa di Firenze)
Prof. Antonio Castillo Gómez (Universidad de Alcalá de Henares – Spain)
Prof. Antonio Viñao Frago (Universidad de Murcia – Spain)
Prof. Charles Magnin (Université de Genève – Switzerland)
Prof. Luis Vidigal (Escola Superior de Educação de Santarém – Portugal)
Prof. Alain Choppin (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique de Paris – France)
Prof. Mariella Colin (Université de Caen – France)
For any further information relating to the aims of the International Symposium or to the submission of papers, please contact:
Dott. Juri Meda: email@example.com (for papers from Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe)
Dott. Davide Montino: firstname.lastname@example.org (for papers from the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, North America and Latin America)
To all intents and purposes, the school exercise book may be classed as “special material”, the very hybrid nature of which, lying as it does on the borderline between an editorial product and a hand-written document, is in danger of leading to excessive differences in approach. On the one hand, the school exercise book is an editorial product with its own distinctive and intrinsic characteristics, predominantly didactic in scope yet which may also be used for other purposes; on the other hand, it is a vessel for children’s writing, and that writing can in turn be broken down into two groups: discplined writing produced in the classroom, and spontaneous writing produced by the pupil in an unsupervised environment.
Papers submitted should focus on both these aspects of the school exercise book, and thus they may address the exercise book as a tangible object and as a concept.
In detail, the following issues may be highlighted in dealing with the multifaceted nature of the exercise book:
§ as an editorial product:
- types of exercise book (handwriting books, rough and fair copy, written and illustrated composition, having lines or squares and so forth);
- production and criteria (manufacturers, distribution systems, legislation and regulations governing the exercise book);
- physical appearance (cover, internal graphic space, format, materials used, ruling and so on).
§ as a vessel for children’s writing:
- classroom writing (dictation, written compositions, précis, essays, notes taken during lessons, spelling and grammar exercises): writing connected with the practice of acquiring the ability to write, mainly didactic in aim, crucial from a pedagogical standpoint inasmuch as it is indicative of real educational practice in schools, and it tells us how closely teachers keep to government curricula; moreover, above and beyond its purely curriculum-related content, such written work is also a pointer to social habits and ethical values relating on a broader level to civic and religious education;
- independent writing: exercise books may contain spontaneous children’s writing both when such writing is required by the teacher and/or the teaching of the subject (for instance, the introduction of the practice of keeping a school diary, or free composition, and so forth), and when it is freely pursued by the child in an effort to express his or her own point of view. It is in the gap between disciplined writing and spontaneous writing that we find subjectivity; in other words it offers the child-cum-pupil an area of relative autonomy, thus allowing us to perceive him or her as an individual with his fantasies, his desires and his fears.
For all of these reasons, it has been decided to break the symposium down into six different sections:
§ Section entitled «Public collections of school exercise books»: This section will offer a brief institutional presentation of the main public collections of exercise books and exam papers at both the national and international levels.
§ Section entitled «Children’s writing»: Papers in this section will focus on providing an analysis of children’s writing (both as school work, and of the subjective kind) from a historiographical perspective; the papers will also discuss the opportunities and risks involved in using this writing as a historical source, providing necessary directions for a proper critique of the sources. Of particular interest in this connection is the process involving the gradual disciplining of school writing from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century (shifting away from a method involving “ready essays” -- offered to pupils as a model for their own compositions -- towards a method based on free composition);
§ Section entitled «Subtle propaganda: The exercise book as a tool of mass communication»: Papers in this section will focus on the use of the school exercise book as a tool for mass communication in the context of propaganda campaigns, dwelling on features both intrinsic (covers) and extrinsic (dictations, compositions, arithmetic problems and so forth).
§ Section entitled «An article of stationery or an editorial product? The exercise book as a source for the history of educational publishing»: Papers in this section will focus on the exercise book as an editorial item produced by specialist publishers, distributed through specific commercial channels, and subject to a regulatory environment designed to codify its functions, its format and its appearance. The process of codifying the exercise book’s appearance and its internal graphic space is of particular interest in this connection, raising as it does the question of the development of formats and ruling, which were gradually standardized over time.
§ Section entitled «Speech and language: The exercise book as a source for the history of language»: Papers in this section will focus on an analysis of children’s school writing in an effort to highlight language changes over the 20th century and, in the case of Italy, the gradual ascendancy of school Italian, which grew from a literary language into a spoken language, with the gradual disappearance of slang expressions and dialect-based syntax and vocabulary from children’s compositions.
§ Section entitled «Sweating and swotting… The exercise book as a source for the history of school teaching and education»: Papers in this section will focus on an analysis of the exercise book as a major source for the study of educational practice in schools and the development of methods adopted for teaching individual subjects at school, with particular reference to the introduction of the principle of pedagogical pro-activism in schools. In contrast with the concept of education as something merely imparted to passive pupils, this method stresses the pro-active role played by the pupil in the educational process. Of especial interest here is the analysis of changes in instructions for the use of school exercise books built into school curricula from the 19th to the 20th century. Equally important is the analysis of developments in the teaching of mathematics, natural sciences, geography and handwriting -- not as an artistic-cum-graphic technique so much as a stringent system for learning to write, in accordance with the need to codify and formalize the written word as expressed by teachers tasked with imparting literacy to the working classes.
Papers submitted should focus on the modern era, in particular on the years between 1850 and 1950. The Scientific Committee may, at its discretion, accept papers discussing earlier periods, but only on condition that they offer useful opportunities for comparison with topics addressed in the various sections as broken down above.
Cuadernos escolares del museo virtual de la escuela