By Peter Cunningham
I visited our Faculty archive for a conference we’re holding next year to mark the centenary of Democracy and Education. I wanted to explore when and how Dewey entered the syllabus, but it turned out his entrance was painfully slow. What caught my attention was a tortuous trajectory of course content, as generations over the first half-century of university-based ITET were introduced to ‘history and theory’. Engaged for years in teacher education and CPD, over the last four years in Kazakhstan, I have a particular interest in the uses of history for critical thinking about pedagogy. Syllabuses found in the archive stirred my passion for good history with professional relevance, challenging historical imagination to understand why they were delivered and how they were received. J.H.Higginson, J.B.Thomas and Wendy Robinson have been here before, but the territory’s ripe for re-visiting.
What paradigm shifts, what contingencies, negotiations and compromises, move from this in 1892 …
… to this in 1919 …
… and to this in 1948?
To these trains of thought was added the surprise and pleasure of meeting unexpected friends. Unsurprising was the pre-eminent J.W. Adamson, communiting from King’s College London to teach history and advise on education courses generally. But in the archive I met names unknown to me, names not normally linked with the history of education.
Albert Cock, philosopher and writer on Christian thought, was Professor of Education and Philosophy in the University College of Southampton 1916–39, and Principal, St John’s Diocesan Training College York, 1939–45. He published widely on education, literature and the history of Christian thought.
Henrietta Dent, Principal of Cambridge Training College for Women 1933-45 was a first class History graduate from Girton who gained Distinction in her London University Diploma in Education. An accomplished linguist with a powerful and lively mind, and an exceptionally good lecturer, she impressed on her students a sympathetic and imaginative approach in the classroom. She advocated dynamic pedagogy, seminars, tutorial groups and individual work, as better suited than routine lectures to the needs of trainees.
Albert Victor Murray was Professor of Education at Hull 1933-45, President of the Training Colleges Association 1940–42, and President of Cheshunt Coll., Cambridge, 1945–59. He travelled and taught in Africa, wrote on religious education in schools, on natural religion, Christian theology and church history.
The Cambridge Teachers’ Certificate was widely offered throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Between 1887 and 1935, 41 Training Colleges from Aberystwyth and Bangor to Waterford and Wantage were recognized by the Cambridge Syndicate, including 8 in London, 2 in Edinburgh and 3 in Dublin, though meantime some such as Bristol and Reading gaining independent university status.
Through the interwar years however, periodic rumblings from the colleges led to debate and modification of the syllabus. In 1922 the historical period was updated from 1400-1660 to the 19th century, and the following year was confined English education. In 1928 complaints about the lack of options and calls to reduce the period still further to 1860-1902 were made.
Four years later, on 6 January 1934, Harriet Dent, called a meeting in London at which 10 colleges were represented. Her objections were that History loomed too large, occupying a fourth of the whole education exam, and that shortening the period had necessitated much greater attention to detail, making it more difficult for students to appreciate the general historical background. She proposed that the ‘Principles of Education’ Paper could include historical reference, that alternatives to the History paper should be permitted, and that independent historical work could be considered for assessment.
Albert Cock from Southampton, and J.W.Adamson, were asked to observe and report to the Cambridge Syndicate on the 1934 meeting. Cock recorded general agreement that the period should be extended back to 1800, and especially that more modern reference beyond 1902 should be allowed. The heavy burden of detailed knowledge demanded was also criticised. One concrete suggestion was for an optional section entitled ‘Rousseau to Dewey’, the greater classics of education in the last 150 years. There was no suggestion that history of education was not important and one or two spoke with great emphasis on its necessity and value. Cock reports approvingly on Miss Dent’s proactive and reflective representation of the discontents widely felt by history teachers in training colleges. (We should note that the Cambridge Teachers’ Certificate was a prestige qualification acquired at considerable expense to the colleges and their students, a source of income that kept the Cambridge UDE afloat!)
I’ll leave the last word to Victor Murray. On the outbreak of war, Hull University College’s education department was evacuated to Cambridge, so he was close at hand. On retiring as examiner in 1941 repeated his conviction that the History of Education should be studied as part of social history. He was convinced that many lecturers in the colleges failed to observe ‘this very salutary rule’ and dealt with education in far too great isolation.
There is no value, educational or practical, in candidates knowing, as many often do know, the precise amounts of attendance under the Revised Code or the recommendations of some dead and gone Commission, and insistence on such matters has gone far to bring this subject into disrepute among the Training Colleges and Departments.
J.W.Adamson (1920) A guide to the history of education. (Helps for students of history) London
J.W.Adamson (1930) English Education, 1789–1902 (Cambridge, CUP)
J.B.Thomas (1979) ‘The Curriculum of a Day Training College: The logbooks of J.W.Adamson’, Journal of Educational Administration and History, 18, 2, 24-33
J.H.Higginson (1980) ‘Establishing a history of education course: the work of Professor Michael Sadler 1903-1911’, History of Education, 9, 3, 245-255
Wendy Robinson (2003) Pupil Teachers and their Professional Training (Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen)