Friday, October 16, 2009

Education in Alicante in 1916-17

The image that you see is a historical document that comes from a school book text used in the Colegio de Santo Domingo in Orihuela (a town in the Province of Alicante) during the 1916-17 school year. The documents presents a set of "things to avoid " at the end of the summer for the school kids. Here are a few of the things that are said to be avoided:

-Bad or suspicious friends. Never be alone with them if forced to be with them at family gatherings.
-Read or Listen to someone read bad newspapers, magazines, or books.
-Going to dangerous plays, dances, or other forms of entertainment.

Three fatal abuses in rural life:

I. Very little modesty in dress or postures
II. Friendship with others of the opposite sex.
III. Certain jokes, that although not bad, could be considered by those with good manners offensive.

-Be a slave to human respectability! This should always be followed by some gesture related to religion.
- Excessive familiarity or despotism with house servants(In spanish "criados": those who are raised )
-Finally, avoid independence and distancing of oneself from your parents. Sacrifice your fun to keep them company.

As historians, what kind of new information does this shed to us about the education that students received during that period ? What we can learn from this historical document? I want to hear your opinions and interpretations.


Kassidy Benson said...

Written record such as this document distributed by public institutions are great resources for historians. The document gives us a narrative between authority and school children. From the boundaries outlined, we can infer that authorities used their influence over the young to define the grey between right and wrong.
In all societies, similar techniques are used to instill social norms. For example, in the US nursery rhymes and Sesame Street enforce lessons of proper behavior in relationships and the difference between right and wrong.

The major difference between Sesame Street and the Spanish school pamphlet are the nature of the social norms presented and the authority instilling these norms. Modern educational media like Sesame Street come from a liberal persuasion with encourage exploration, discovering new things, making new friends, eliminating gender discrimination, and strong message of accepting those who are different. These values are promoted by design to develop adolescences who cooperate well with others, who are inventive, and who value diversity. In addition, social norms are dispersed through media which gives parents a greater influence over their child’s exposure.

The nature of Spanish social norms in outlined in the 1916 pamphlet were designed to construct a generation of children who valued modesty and family while avoiding people, readings, or activities which may cause a schism that could trigger rebellious activity. Government propaganda allowed the Ancient Regime to elude the progressive ideas sweeping across the rest of Europe. From this document we can also make assumptions that the majority of material used in public institutions adhered to the same social philosophy. The authorities accomplished their purpose by creating a generation of people whose set of values curtailed social revolution. In addition these values also retarded the intellectual growth, economy ingenuity, and humanity which put Spain at a disadvantage in the subsequent decades.

Exerting influence over adolescences through an educational authority is the most potent way to implant ideals onto an entire generation. This strategy is not unique to Spain in 1916.The United States used similar methods to encourage assimilation of immigrants and the Hitler Youth League was used to promote the nationalist philosophy in Germany. Because history has proven the power of these methods, media and material intended for children has been a hot topic of debate in modern societies.

Kandace said...

How interesting! I always love these kinds of things because it sheds such light upon the world that it came from. It reminds me of those decorum books for "young women" in the '50s in America, reminding them to rub their husband's toes every night or else he'd leave her or something equally ridiculous.

My main question is who is going to be defining the word "bad". Such a subjective word - what exactly constitutes 'bad' or 'dangerous'? Who is going to pick the definition for what makes the cut?

Education at this time most likely consisted of memorization and regurgitation, not questioning and analyzing. (Because, if we teach children to think, they might fight us back!) Looking at education models is extremely important to understand why people think the way that they do. These people learned to conform, to shun anything different and not to challenge the status quo. This ingrained sense of thought manifests itself in the history of these generations.

Esteban said...

Kassidy and Kandace did a great job explaining the importance of public documents on the mind set of the youth. However, I will attempt to give meaning for the opposition by trying to translate the text into present day language i.e. not the literal translations. This, I believe will begin to make readers understand the moral codes used then then still hold true today.

-Do not interact with strangers, because they have the potential to be dangerous.
-Do not fall for the seductive pleasures of reading profanity, like sex and violence.
-Try to avoid areas where violence occurs, for example suspicious parties and bad organization, i.e. the kkk, bloods and crypts.

Three Fatal Abuses in Rural Life
-Dress appropriately for your surroundings.
-Avoid sexual relationships while young.
-Always be aware of your words, because you never know who you might be offending.

-Respect one another.
-Be wary who you make friends with, because some individuals in life have no passion to make something of themselves.
-The last and maybe the most important, is keep your family and friends close, because they are truly what matters when life come to an end.

As you can see, everything mentioned above can be applied today. THSES ARE ALL THINGS WE TELL OUR CHILDREN NOW A DAYS. The education we recieve today is very similar to that in 1916 only worded differently. Tell me what you think of my translations. Peace!!!

Randall Horn said...

This agenda prescribed to adolescents is ultra-conservative and leaves little room for individualism. This doctrine warns against all things that could be harmless and instills fear to ensure the components are followed. The first point about staying away from "bad or suspicious friends" only creates isolation and rejection for peers who may need a good friend or someone to look up to. Rather than look out for friends headed down the wrong path, this doctrine tells you to avoid them and fend for yourself. This text also hinders individualism and is filled with segregation. Don't be funny or make jokes, don't flirt with the opposite sex (how boring), don't show your affection to people who work in your house and take care of you, and don't worry about making a life for yourself because you're going to live with your parents the rest of your life.

From this generation, I'd expect little innovative thinking, few great artists/actors, and a bunch of 40 year-old virgins living at home.

I like how Kassidy compared the messages being sent here to Sesame St. They are quite the opposite. While Sesame St. may be the liberal agenda of loving one another and sharing is caring, this text is in the opposite direction telling you to be like everyone else because if you act differently you're friends will stop hanging out with you.

From this document I would hope we'd learn how to put forth more moderate ideals at the least and better goals for society at best. Where are the lines that say be a good neighbor and do unto others as you'd have done to yourself?

Chao amigos

Andrew said...

After reading the summary of this pamphlet, I would argue that the main insight we can garner from the document is the intense religiosity of the power structure in Spain during this period, and how it was used to keep that power structure in tact during a turbulent time. By using strict religious principles, children could seemingly be scared into avoiding relationships and activities that would expose them to a wide array of ideas, experiences, and people. In other words, it is clear that those in charge were training children to view people with incendiary ideologies as personae non grata. When viewed in the historical context of the period, which featured anarchist strikes and turbulence (such as the general strike of 1917 in Barcelona), it only becomes more evident that some in Spain were trying to use the youth to hold onto a set ideology.

_”Give me the boy until he is seven, and I will give you the man.”
-Jesuit saying

Andrew said...

Further, I agree with Randall. I feel any media that has direct and unrestricted access to youth should be viewed with a degree of caution. Even shows with such “liberal” values as Sesame Street can be effective in perpetuating stereotypes (see Roosevelt Jefferson) and ideas that cause the phenomenon of “group think.” In my opinion, this can be extremely harmful. The free flow of ideas, no matter how extreme or ludicrous they may seem, is the surest way to promote a healthy society.

William Suttles said...

I view the ideas and values put forth by this document into two distinct categories, depending on whether one views the item in the light of the present or past. Analyzing the document through the eyes of the present places it in a near authoritative state since we have grown up in a society that embraces the idea of individual development through personal experience, whether the choices be good or bad. In this sense I agree, in part, with Kandace. This vertical dispersion of authority, which leaves little room for personality and individuality, seems to be an atrocity. But this mindset when viewing past societies and institutions leaves one with such an ethnocentric view as to not allow for a thorough interpretation of why the document existed in the first place.

The second possible way to view this document is through the eyes of the past by putting it in terms relative to today. This leads me to agree with Esteban's translation of the document into values and morals that are held in today's society. By placing the views into today's terms we are able to appreciate that educational authorities want the best for their pupils and don't simply wish to impose their power for the mere sake of enjoyment or pleasure.

Geethi Abraham said...

The early 1900s in Spain were marked by political and social instability. After a series of military defeats that occurred at the close of the 19th century, the Spanish population began to grow uneasy; anarchist and fascist movements gained popularity, leading to public uprisings, namely the revolt at Catalonia in 1909. The post- WWI depression further perpetuated the instability in Spanish society. It was around this time that the above mentioned document was presented to school children. As others mentioned above, through these stringent rules, the Spanish government was trying to suppress liberal, progressive thought and behavior in the young generation.
I cannot entirely argue against these guidelines laid out by the government. Although they appear to be very over-restrictive, by following these guidelines the younger generation would be exposed to far less danger. What concerns me the most is the arbitrary adjectives used to describe the prohibited behaviors, such as “bad” and “dangerous,” such subjective language could easily be taken too far.

Cristina said...

The most striking aspect of the document is the parental role that it takes on. Time and time again, my mother would warn about strangers, the "wrong crowd" and so forth. Therefore, it is strange that these types of regulations are being distributed and are directly related to an authority outside of one´s family. It portrays the level of power the Church and governing authority had over the daily lives of the Spanish citizens. It would be most interesting if the document clearly defined what constitutes as "dangerous plays" or "bad newspapers". The term "dangerous" and "bad" are used so loosely, it is almost laughable.

I really enjoyed Kassidy´s comparison between the pamplet and Sesame Street. I do recall Big Bird warning against strangers, but in many ways, Big Bird´s advisory seemed more for the good of the society, rather than the good of the authority.