Special Issue: Bodies and Minds in Education

AHP readers may be interested in a recent special issue of History of Education dedicated to “Bodies and Minds in Education.” Full details below.

“A weak mind in a weak body? Categorising intellectually disabled children in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Switzerland,” by Michèle Hofmann. Abstract:

This paper focuses on nineteenth-century theories according to which intellectual disabilities find expression in physical impairment. Such theories became widespread in Switzerland due to the growing interest in a condition then called ‘cretinism’ – a specific form of ‘idiocy’ in the course of which mental and physical disintegration went hand in hand. The first institution for ‘cretinic’ children initially achieved considerable fame. However, it eventually failed completely, leading to a loss of interest in ‘cretinism’. Interestingly, the specific body–mind connection that was associated with ‘cretinism’ did not vanish; instead, it became important in the context of another intellectual disability that gained attention after the mid-nineteenth century: ‘idiocy’. Physical aspects became the main criteria for identifying ‘idiotic’ children in order to allocate them to special educational measures. The paper argues that the connection of an ‘abnormal’ mind to an impaired body allowed for the popularisation of knowledge regarding ‘idiotic’ children.

“Catholic minds/bodies–souls: Catholic schools and eugenic inspired educational reforms in the United States, 1915–1952,” by Ann Marie Ryan. Abstract:

Social efficiency shaped much of public schooling in the United States during the early twentieth century. Simultaneously, Roman Catholic schools proliferated and became increasingly regulated by state departments of education. This led to increased influence of public education reform movements on Catholic schools. This article examines the arguments advanced by Catholic educators who questioned the educational measurement movement and eugenic-inspired reforms such as intelligence testing. It follows those debates during the early twentieth century through to the mid-century. American Catholic educators offered arguments beyond self-interest grounded in the principles of Catholic education with a commitment to educating the whole child – mind/body–soul – in the Thomist tradition. This historical case demonstrates how the dualist tradition of the mind/body–soul stood against the pseudo-scientific attempt of eugenicists in attempting to measure minds and bodies–souls.

“The hand as agent of the mind? The irony of manual training reform in Menomonie, Wisconsin (1890–1920),” y Sébastien-Akira Alix. Abstract:

At the end of the nineteenth century, proponents of the manual training movement called for the implementation of manual training classes in America’s schools. This movement – whose distinctive feature was ‘the education of the mind, and of the hand as the agent of the mind’ – was supported by a revolutionary rhetoric: manual training classes were supposed to be at the centre of a school transformation dedicated to the principles of ‘learning by doing’ and ‘freedom for the child.’ Using archival sources from the city of Menomonie, Wisconsin, this article is conceived as an effort to move beyond progressive reformers’ rhetoric in order to understand the functioning of manual training classes. By documenting how progressive reformers changed the curriculum, social purposes and reality of schooling for local pupils, it unveils the irony of manual training reform in Menomonie, ie that the Menomonie schools remained bastions of social order and stability.

“Re-turning matters of body_mind: articulations of ill-/health and energy/fatigue gathered through vocational and health education,” by Geert Thyssen & Frederik Herman. Abstract:

This paper explores ‘articulations’ or ‘re-turnings’ of ill-/health and energy/fatigue in education, re/configuring bodies and minds as ‘body_minds’. The Luxembourg vocational school Institut Émile Metz (IEM) thereby serves as a starting point. This institute is analysed ‘diffractively’ through health education institutes as part of an architecture of industry-related social welfare provisions with a global dimension. From knowledge and praxis ‘gathered’ through the IEM, tuberculosis, an infectious disease known to manifest itself in bodily and mental fatigue, emerges as a conspicuous silence. Based particularly on corporate film stills featuring the IEM and a preventorium-sanatorium and open-air school, similar articulations around tuberculosis and (energy/)fatigue are traced across such institutes. Whereas previous research in this context has pointed to new encounters of bodies and machines, this paper reframes articulations pertaining to such newly imagined ‘body_machines’ as having allowed also for re/configurings of the interrelation of (machine) bodies and minds as ‘body_minds’.

“Sexual hygiene: Dutch reflections on the adolescent body in the early twentieth century,” by John Exalto. Abstract:

Around 1900, interest in adolescence as a separate and crucial phase in human development increased among psychologists, educators and youth workers in the western world. This paper reviews the relation between adolescence and sexuality in the early twentieth century from a Dutch perspective. In the 1920s pedagogues started to study adolescence. The Amsterdam professor Philipp Abraham Kohnstamm was a pioneer in developing a pedagogical approach (instead of a clinical approximation) to understand adolescence and sexuality. For Kohnstamm, sexual health education had to be part of moral teaching. He stressed the importance of sex education at an early stage, for body and mind are connected to such an extent that a separation will result in the depersonalisation of man. Kohnstamm’s work reflected the ideas of the European intellectual elites of his time regarding the sexual morals and manners of the working class.

“From ‘puritanical goosebumps’ to the nostalgic longing for heterosexual harmony: the emotional organisation of sexuality in relationship education in the 1970s and 1980s,” by Barbara Rothmüller. Abstract:

Comprehensive approaches to sex education emphasise an integration of the mind and the body via emotions. Drawing on the historiographical shift towards the study of emotions, this paper explores cognitive, bodily and emotional dimensions of sexuality education and social relations. By analysing the institutionalisation of sex education in Luxembourg, the paper examines often neglected sex education material as well as political reform debates in a Catholic-conservative context. The analysis demonstrates that in the mid-1980s, and despite public disputes, reform opponents shared a common horizon in sex education: they promoted emotional education to channel sexual practices in the direction of family formation. As a consequence, emotional education marginalised bodies, sexualities and forms of relationship that were not conforming to the ideal of a happy heterosexual dyad in which ‘love and sexuality belong together’. It is argued that the prohibition was part of a twofold emotionalisation of sex education in the 1980s.

“Afterword [part 1]: the practice of attending to bodies and minds in education,” by Ethan L. Hutt. Abstract:

This article identifies and explores three major themes evident in the scholarship seeking to re-examine and re-think historical understandings of the mind/body debate in education. The first concerns the expansiveness and flexibility of beliefs about the relationship between body and mind. Though often rooted in scientific findings or religious dogma, the day-to-day enactment of these beliefs by educators involved continual re-imagining and pragmatic re-configuring to address the challenges of practice. The second involves the application of new methodologies to analyse visual media as well as the creative application of traditional techniques to analyse print media in a way that helps surface the missing voices of students and patients in official institutional records. The third involves the latent issues of privacy, personal disclosure, and measurement. The issue of what should be known by whom and with whom it should be shared, was – and remains – an animating concern in efforts to disentangle the relationship between body and mind in education. The examination of these themes is followed by a consideration of their implication for future research in this area.

“Afterword [part 2]: governing bodies and minds,” by Enric Novella. Abstract:

This brief comment is intended to provide some remarks on the possibility of placing the particular entanglements of ‘bodies and minds’ presented in this special issue of History of Education in a broader theoretical and interpretative framework resorting to Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality. In my opinion, this analytical tool may be very fruitful for the historiography of education and other ‘government practices’ if we want to overcome the troubling dichotomy of ‘bodies and minds’ and interpret the varieties of pedagogical articulations of the corporeal and the mental in their singularity and in the context of the historical evolution of educational concepts and practices.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.