The purpose of this paper is to examine expert ideas about education for citizenship in 1930s Australia. Drawing on a larger study of adolescence and schooling during the middle decades of the twentieth century, the paper explores the role of international networks and US philanthropy in fostering the spread of new psychological and curriculum ideas that shaped citizenship education, and broader educational changes during the interwar period. A second purpose is to provide historical perspectives on contemporary concerns about the role of schooling in addressing social values and student wellbeing.
The discussion is informed by approaches drawn from Foucauldian genealogy and historical studies of transnationalism. It examines constructions of the good and problem student and the networks of international educational expertise as forms of “travelling ideas”. These transnational exchanges are explored through a close analysis of a defining moment in Australian educational history, the 1937 conference of the New Education Fellowship.
The analysis reveals the ways in which psychological understandings and curriculum reforms shaped education for citizenship in the 1930s and identify in particular the emergent role of psychology in defining what it meant to be a good student and a good future citizen. The paper further finds that Australian education during the interwar years was more cosmopolitan and engaged in international discussions about citizenship and schooling than is usually remembered in the present. Elaborating this is important for building transnational histories of knowledge exchange in Australian education.
The paper shows the value of a relational analysis of school curriculum and psychological understandings for more fully grasping the different dimensions of education for citizenship both in the interwar years and now. It offers fresh perspectives on contemporary educational debates about globalisation and youth identities, as played out in current concerns about social values and schooling.
The project on which the paper draws is a genealogical study of schooling and adolescence in Australia during the middle decades of the twentieth century, “Educating the Australian adolescent: an historical study of curriculum, counselling and citizenship, 1930s-1970s”. The research is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant 2009-2012; and Katie Wright is the recipient of an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (DP0987299). The principal researchers are Julie McLeod and Katie Wright, with research assistance from Sari Braithwaite, Sophie Rudolph and Amy McKernan. For further information, see the project web site: www.edfac.unimelb.edu.au/eaa
McLeod, J. and Wright, K. (2013), "Education for citizenship: Transnational expertise, curriculum reform and psychological knowledge in 1930s Australia", History of Education Review, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 170-184. https://doi.org/10.1108/HER-09-2012-0029Download as .RIS
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