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David Hamilton talks about the reissue of ‘Towards a Theory of Schooling’ this April

Author of Towards a Theory of Schooling, David Hamilton, talks to us about this Revival and and why it is still such a timely publication today.

'Towards a Theory of Schooling was researched, written and published between 1977 and 1989. Extracts subsequently appeared in Spain, Portugal and a South American journal, translations of the entire work appeared in Japanese and Korean and, as a result, the English language edition went out of print.

The organization and conduct of modern schooling took a new shape in the sixteenth century as Latin forms of the words syllabus, class, curriculum and didactics became prominent in the international educational lexicon. In turn, schooling maintained the same terms and supporting framework until the 20th century.

Towards a Theory of Schooling was written as an exploration of the forms taken by modern schooling. It starts from the premise that schooling and society must be examined in terms of the reciprocal relationships that hold them together over time and space. In addition, it makes a strong distinction, rarely considered in English-language sources, between education and schooling; it offers a history of schooling between 1500 and the First World War; and, deriving its case studies from Scottish, French and American sources it has an international, not an Anglo-American outlook.

Throughout, the narrative is held together by linking the history of schooling to parallel changes to the organization and management of craft and industrial production. With reference to the word classroom, for instance, its first recorded educational use took place in the presence of Adam Smith (1762) and seems to have arisen from generalisation of the word wareroom to describe rooms that were occupied by classes and schools. The remainder of Towards a Theory of Schooling operates with similar concerns, ranging from an analysis of the earliest use of the word class in an account of the University of Paris (1517), through the emergence of ‘lock-step’ teaching in the early part of the nineteenth century, to American efforts to institute the recitation, a form of instruction where groups of children, could be questioned individually via oral questions from a teacher’s ‘well-stored mind’. The last case is also a generalisation from the idea that teachers might operate as single machines that could drive many minds.

Insofar as the early years of the twenty-first century have been marked by the intrusion of ideas about marketisation, neoliberalism and neocorporatism into schooling from industry and commerce, the re-publication of Towards a Theory of Schooling is probably more timely than it was in 1989.'

This timely reissue publishes in April. For more information and to order your copy today, visit: