Only Children Starting School in the Early 20th Century: Some Case Studies

This week, I’ve spent a bit of time puzzling over putting together an abstract for a conference, where I want to talk about only children’s experiences of schooling, particularly starting school and going to boarding school, as well as the more atypical experiences of starting school late or being educated at home for long periods of time.  I already wrote about boarding school experiences a few weeks back, and today I’m going to write about a few good and bad experiences of starting school from my twentieth-century only-child autobiography collection.  This will hopefully help me with my abstract a bit without giving away too much of my talk!  The main issue I’ve had has been filling in the blanks in the sentence ‘___ and ___ have written about experiences of schooling, and I want to build on this by looking specifically about only children’s experiences.’  Either I’m overlooking a whole body of scholarship, or nobody has done substantial research on how children felt about their education.  I guess if that really is the case, I can say ‘most scholarship about history of education has focussed on policies and implementation, and while children’s experiences of school have featured in edited collections of autobiographies and oral histories.’  And maybe have an idea for a postdoc proposal.

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In Which I Feel Like A Real Academic

This week has mainly been about two things: preparing a conference paper I’m giving, and teaching.  I’ve also managed to squeeze in a little work on my board paper (which looks to be better than the last one, but we’ll see) but there has been no time for reading autobiographies lately - and I do hear that in the academic life, it can be hard to find time for actual research sometimes!

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A Lazy Blog About My Year

It’s freshers’ week again.  That means I’m now officially a second-year PhD student!  So it seems like a good time to review what I’ve achieved this year and what I hope to achieve next year.

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Learning to Teach: some thoughts

A few years ago now, the Browne report recommended a year’s teacher training for new academics.  I thought that was really rather excessive and I still do (already spent 7/8 years training in the academy!  Only teaching for a few hours a week!  Resentment if you prefer the research side!  Would we be getting paid for this?!) but, on the other hand, I think the two days of training we get in my institution before being let loose on the students may be a little on the small side.  We actually get our teaching qualification by reflecting on practical experience rather than before we get out there and teach.

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'Birth: Personal stories to population policies' conference

I spent Thursday and Friday of this past week in Leeds (hence the late blog post - it was a long journey back!) at the ‘Birth: Personal stories to population policies’ conference.  The full programme can be found here, and I also livetweeted most of the papers (alas, train trouble meant I missed the first session on the Friday) on the #histbirth hashtag.  I’m not going to talk about every single paper as it would make for an insanely long blog post and you could just read my tweets, but I am going to blog here about my particular favourites.  It was hard to choose as they were naturally all excellent and accomplished!

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Autobiographies, Oral History, and Objectivity

Every now and again, you come across an autobiographer or oral history interviewee you find objectionable to some extent or another.  You’re happily reading or listening along and then BANG, they advocate a bizarre one-child policy in Britain, criticise the Church of England for having the gall to take the views of minorities into account (with the conjunctive use of the terms ‘gay marriage’ and ‘unnatural lives’), or say that women shouldn’t go out to work (all actual examples).  You have to keep going, because you haven’t quite finished compiling their only-child experiences, but you’re less inclined to be sympathetic with them.  You also have to keep an eye out for any unintentional bias you might use against them when you’re analysing and writing up.

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