The functional liminality of the not-dead-yet students, or, how public schooling became compulsory: A glancing history

Baker, Bernadette (2004) The functional liminality of the not-dead-yet students, or, how public schooling became compulsory: A glancing history. Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, 8(1), pp. 5-49.

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This paper redefines the focus for narrating histories of education in the USA through a ‘glancing history’. It highlights the important role played by ‘not-dead-yet students’ who occupied a liminal place on the scale of life in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century. Traditional histories of education have been more singularly focused on the advent and dynamics of public schooling, ignoring the functionality of such child subjects to public schooling’s existence. This paper argues that public schools as historical objects cannot be understood outside of a broader trinary system of prior institutions that were established for ‘delinquent’ and ‘special’ children. These prior institutions facilitated the formation of ‘the public’ in public schooling less in opposition to ‘the private’ and more in consonance with ‘the human’. The existence of prior institutions enabled the enforcement of compulsory attendance legislation. Compulsory attendance legislation, in place across all existing states by 1918, was concerned more with the conditions for exclusion and exemption than with compelling attendance. Thus, at the most immediate level, this paper historicizes some of the discursive and hence institutional events that linked an array of tutelary complexes by the early 1900s, and which enabled such legislation. This part of the argument extends the notion of institution to consider broader places of confinement and systematicity. It examines the prior practice of reservation and slavery systems, and the efficacy they lent to further institutionalized segregation in the USA. At a second level, the narrative reflects on how such a narration has become possible. It considers how histories of education can currently be rethought and rewritten around the notion of dis/ability, historicizing the formation of dis/ability as identity categories made noticeable in part (and circularly) through the crystallization of a segregated but linked common schooling system. The paper thus provides a counter-memory against dominant economic foundationalist and psychomedical accounts of schooling’s past. It documents both ‘external’ conditions of possibility for public schooling’s emergence and ‘internal’ effects that emerged through the experiences of confinement

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3 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 89890
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Historiography, Education, Disability, Race, Confinement, Liminality
DOI: 10.1080/13642520410001649714
ISSN: 1470-1154
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Taylor & Francis
Deposited On: 01 Dec 2015 04:44
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2015 04:55

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