M. Depaepe: Between Educationalization and Appropriation

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Between Educationalization and Appropriation. Selected Writings on the History of Modern Educational Systems


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Depaepe, Marc
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Claudia Baumann, Centre for Area Studies, University of Leipzig

Marc Depaepe is professor at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, where he leads the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences. His field of research is the “History of Education” with a special emphasis on the “History of Educational Psychology and Experimental Education” in Belgium and the R.D. Congo during the 19th and 20th centuries. Between Educationalization and Appropriation is a compilation of articles he published throughout the past three decades, here compiled into a single volume to commemorate his 60th birthday in 2013. The articles were developed in the interactive process between research and teaching, and serve in their collective form not only as working material for students in the M.S. in Educational Studies offered in Leuven, but also for readers who take an interest in education, higher education, psychology and historiography.

The two key concepts of “educationalization” and “appropriation” are the heart and soul of this work, and are the subject of rigorous scrutiny throughout the twenty-three articles, many of which were collaborative efforts between Depaepe and other scholars. Organized in five chapters, the book begins first with a history of educationalization in Belgium, and then the West as a whole. Depaepe then takes a closer look at the colonial context in Congo and Zaire respectively, theorizing about a shift from educationalization to appropriation. Chapter four examines appropriation processes in theory and practice by working alongside scholars’ biographies, while chapter five is composed of a comprehensive methodology for the book and for educational historiography in general.

The Enlightenment and Romanticism were at the root of the pedagogical optimism advocated by scholars such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. By redefining knowledge as a virtue, education was seen as means of freeing men from the grip of religious authority, reducing their dependency and fostering social change. A particular interest was devoted to children, especially the ones from the middle-class and led increasingly to isolation from the adult. In the course of time, however, it became clear that education alone could not fulfill its great emancipating promise, and in many cases produced and reproduced social inequalities. Depaepe describes how education was an arena of ideological conflicts in which non-Catholics stood for a neutral education built upon scientific and secularized foundations, while Catholics supported denominational education. This conflict remained a source of latent tension throughout the evolution of educational policy in Belgium.

In the first set of articles -- “Starting from the Belgian Case: From Schooling to Educationalization” -- it is explained that schooling underwent a major expansion in the second half of the 19th century, and acquired several new important social functions. For the educationalization of the masses elementary school had proved itself as means of social control, fostering citizenship and patriotism. During the second industrial revolution there emerged a necessity for highly technically specific education. This produced segmentation and systemization within the sector, and aided in the creation of a hierarchical social system. In the interbellum period, to which Depaepe refers to mostly throughout this book, a more conformist code of behavior dominated, dictated by authoritarian educational relationships.

The “femininization” of the teaching profession and the “sacralization” of childhood are two other topics included in Depaepe’s exploration of educationalization. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed a significant influx of women into the teaching profession. One explanation is the immigration of French nuns, who comprised a large share of the teaching personnel in France at the time, to Belgium following the 1904 French law that prohibited nuns from working in education in their native country. “Sacralization” is discussed through the example of the open-air school “Diesterweg,” which opened its doors in 1904 in Heide-Kalmthout, Flanders. This school was founded on the basis of knowledge emerging from processes of “medicalization”, “hygienization” and later “psychologization”. The concept was to create a “convivial atmosphere” and “intimate familiarity” in the midst of a calm, splendid nature which the “blameless blooms” (children) would come to “pure moral beauty”. The question Depaepe poses is whether this increasing attention to the child, rooted in the trends of modernization and secularization of the education process, came to be a projection of what is holy in the child – and is thus injecting a religious element into the equation.

The second set of articles are concerned with the educationalization of the West, and explore what Depaepe sees as a paradox of intent: on one hand, there is the “pastoral” compulsion of the educator, whose lessons impart a specific objective, and on the other is the liberating experience of the learning process, which is idealized as not being teleological. Depaepe claims that understanding the complexities of a “Kultivierung von Freiheit trotz Zwang” [1] and unraveling this paradox from “our collective memory“ is one of the great challenges for a truly contemporary educational historiography that is able to deal with the heterogeneity of discourses and language games of “our post-modern culture”. Strands of these discourses see educationalization in western welfare states as bound up with “moralization”, related to industrialization, “bureaucratization”, and “scientization” of pedagogy and educational sciences. A predominant perspective in contemporary context sees pedagogization focusing on “employability, adaptability, flexibility and trainability”, reducing it to “Die Vorbereitung auf die Selbstanpassung an den Wandel”. [2] At this point it seems valid to question to what extent or to which point in time these characteristic features and level of discourses in educationalization are actually confined to the “Western hemisphere” -- Bearing in mind that sources are taken primarily from a Belgian, German, French, Spanish and North American context.

The third part of the book deals with the question of “The Colonial Context – From Educationalization to Appropriation?” and highlights how colonization and its associated mission work have often been presented as a one-way traffic from a civilized North to the South (or from the West to the East), although Depaepe makes it apparent that these encounters also influenced the psycho-pedagogical construction of “the self” in the “mother country”. He describes the concept of appropriation as usually being associated with the lack of or loss of authenticity, especially when confronted with different cultures. From the neo-colonial perspective of Western superiority, the history of education was traditionally seen as a “history of adaptation and assimilation”, but as Depaepe argues historical research has shown that there are subtle distinctions in this interpretation in relation to questions of who did (or did not) learn from whom, and why. The processes of cultural hybridity, as he frames it, are still in a narrow space, due to the fact that research about the role of education in Belgium is in relative infancy. Therefore he argues that further research in appropriation for example in “Deoccidentalisation” or “Zaïrization’’ is warranted.

In the section titled “Appropriation Processes in Theory and Praxis,” Depaepe illustrates how both Catholic and non-Catholic actors appropriated Darwinism for their educational purpose, how individual scholars and their theories have been “mystified,” and how the “psychologising” of pedagogy has been feared throughout history. The final section, “The Self-Concept of a Demythologized ‘New Cultural’ History of Education,” challenges the prevailing interpretations of the past, which Depaepe characterizes as having an odor of hagiography, neglecting cultural interwovenness and inappropriately treating concepts as suprahistorical entities. Historians in the field of education, he argues, ought to think of themselves as historians, resisting the temptation of following special practices, theories or ideas, and thus lowering the risk of “pedagogical heritage” or “good practice” distortions perpetrated, for example, by the Catholics in Flanders, Marxists in the former GDR and the Eastern bloc, Communists in China and Afrikaners in South Africa.

Between Educationalization and Appropriation is a comprehensive work highly recommended for those interested in the history of education. It captures the epistemological and methodological pluralism of the past and present without claiming to act outside of it. Rich in sources and self-reflexive in its style, the book concludes with “ten commandments of good practices in history of education research,” the overarching message of which can just as easily be applied to other fields and to this book: “thou shalt discourse about discourses”.

Notes:
[1] Depaepe, p. 138 quotes Georg Cavallar, Die Kultivierung von Freiheit trotz Zwang (Kant), in: Vierteljahresschrift für Wissenschaftliche Pädagogik 72 (1996) 1.
[2] Depaepe, p. 193 quotes E. Gruber, Pädagogisierung der Gesellschaft und des Ich durch lebenslanges Lernen, in: Ribolits & Zuber, op. cit., pp. 87-100, 2004.

Zitation
Claudia Baumann: Rezension zu: Depaepe, Marc: Between Educationalization and Appropriation. Selected Writings on the History of Modern Educational Systems. Leuven 2012, in: H-Soz-Kult, 15.03.2013, <http://www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/rezbuecher-19758>.
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Diese Rezension entstand im Rahmen des Fachforums geschichte.transnational. http://geschichte-transnational.clio-online.net/
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