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The Role of School: Irregular Youth and Schooling (XIXth XXth centuries)

Jeunesse irrégulière et école (XIXe-XXe siècles)

Revue d'histoire de l'enfance irrégulière (RHEI)

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Published on Monday, June 24, 2013


The Revue d’histoire de l’enfance irrégulière (Review of History of Children who do not fit into the patterns of “normalcy”)  is devoted to the sphere of children and youngsters who are “on the fringe”. It therefore concerns itself with juvenile delinquency but also with children when victims, orphans, vagrants…, both in France and outside France. The next issue will deal with the topic "The role of school : Irregular Youth and schooling XIXth XXth". It will ask this paradox : why in France where so much emphasis is put on schooling, so little interest has been drawn towards the schooling of delinquent children or orphans, though they were the children depending the more clearly of government. Articles dealing with the situation in other countries are strongly expected.


"The role of school: Irregular youth and Schooling XIXth XXth centuries"

The Revue d’histoire de l’enfance irrégulière (Review of History of Children who do not fit into the patterns of “normalcy”) is devoted to the sphere of children and youngsters who are “on the fringe”. It therefore concerns itself with juvenile delinquency but also with children when victims, orphans, vagrants…also with policies regarding legislation and institutions and finally with teaching practices used to deal with these children and youngsters who do not fit in, both in France and outside France.

The topic for the next issue of the review will be “The role of school : Irregular Youth and schooling XIXth XXth centuries” edited by Laurent Besse


Modern youth is the outcome of schooling: the development of primary education in the XIXth century, then of secondary education in the XXth made of the pupils-students the epitome of the child, then of the adolescent. It is probably here that the concept of “irregular youth” is the more relevant: those who do not fit in do not also conform to what gradually becomes the norm and moreover the education they are allowed is limited as regards aims, regularity and duration. Thus although there had long been Prison office primary school masters, the part devoted to actual teaching and learning was always limited in institutions in charge of juvenile delinquency, even when at the close of the XIXth century gradually emerged the rehabilitation process of juvenile delinquents, while the will to be repressive still prevailed.

Although the French Republican primary school project (the Ferry school) can be characterised by a strong emphasis on education through schooling, what the unconventional youth was offered in real facts meant to be education or rehabilitation without schooling. This tendency was given greater emphasis in so far as the State relied on private charities of religious nature, especially in the case of girls, for the responsibility of the young people. At the same period of time, schooling was generalised and made compulsory in 1882, thus setting new standards such as the necessity of regular attendance, the concept of the good pupil, this led to a certain amount of infringement : runaway children, absconding from school, families using school attendance as strategy until the 1930’s, acts of violence at school. This tends to show therefore that school also plays its role in the social making of delinquency.

Schooling has been given but scant space in the historiography of children with the remit of justice. This gap shows that until recently the schooling of lower urban class children and pupils in vocational training attracted only mild interest among historians of education. The call for papers is aimed at finding articles dealing with the place of school in the history of irregular children and analysing the institution from afar.

It is intended for specialists of irregular or unconventional children but also for historians specialising in the world of school. Besides, the links with the history of conceptions and practices in the so-called mal-adjustment area or children with special needs area are to be analysed. While the call for papers concern the French situation it is hoped that articles dealing with other national experiences will be submitted, especially papers that might question the apparent paradox of a French society reputed to be school-centred although it attaches so little interest in the schooling of irregular youth. Also studies on the right to education for juvenile delinquents are most welcome.

The scope of the proposals could be directed according to the following items:

  • Schooling as a trial

School as an institution lays down its own rules such as timetables, appropriate behaviour; it also assesses and classifies pupils. Then how do children respond to the rule? What is the significance of the school verdict in their lifes? How much importance do parents, teachers, magistrates, social workers give to schooling in their assessment of the young and the decisions they make about them? Does the history of juvenile delinquency allow one to weigh up the growing influence of school issues in the lifes of the lower classes? Once the young are in care, what importance do they give to the time devoted to school which is but scantily granted?

How does the institution consider good will or the lack of it in the way it deals with the young? How is the school framework used to make psychological assessments? The individual files on children and youngsters provide a first class source, both as regards the life of young people underage of both sexes and also of the circle of professionals and experts around them.

  • Time and space for school within institutions

The part devoted to education when taking charge of young offenders is of secondary importance, if not minimal. And yet education has always played a part in institutions, whether for male or female. It would be interesting to find out what form it took in the different periods of time and the place it had in timetables. What sorts of premises were used? Who actually taught? Primary school masters? Youth workers? Inmates? What were the teaching patterns? One may also analyses the possible links with shifts in the teaching community as a whole and try to find out how and when reforms are accepted within the institutions or, on the contrary, see if the institutions dealing with these young people were not the source of pioneering pedagogical experiments.

  • Real work versus school-work

The place of schooling is all the more reduced as the priority lies in setting the young people to work on economic and moral grounds. One might try to find out if there are significant differences between the different types of schools, between boys and girls, when why and by whom the priority of real work was questioned. The new importance given to vocational training from 1945 onwards is part of reform scheme of Education surveillée (i.e. State education for young offenders). But it is also part and parcel of the trend which consists in including vocational training into the educational system with the CAP (vocational training qualification) as a perspective for the lower classes. Which leads to the question: what changes does it bring about in the daily life in the institutions? In the relationship with the environment? With their community?

  • Not a worthwhile issue for the ministry of Education?

The ministry of Education called Instruction publique then Education nationale in 1932 claimed, especially into its latter name, for a kind of monopoly into educational matters, with the assistance of a host of secular (laïques) associations whose role it was to further its action outside school. Now irregular or unconventional youth does not seem to have aroused much interest within the ministry of Education. Or should this estimate be revisited? Another interesting point is to know which persons within the secular (laïque) sphere insisted on not letting other institutions take charge of juvenile delinquency. On a broader base there remains the question of the relationships between the ministry of Education, the ministry of Justice, the ministry of Health, but also the ministry of Labour and the hypothetical ministry of Youth. Some foreign legislations (the Netherlands’ for instance) have made school a working partner of the institutions dealing with juvenile delinquents and have tutors from the teaching profession close to young offenders. Others, Sweden and Norway among them, have replaced juvenile courts by educational comities. One wishes to know if such examples have been given considered attention in France and elsewhere. They do not only relate to the inevitable competition among the institutions but also to the very notions of irregular youth. The basic question being: are there children who in essence are beyond the realm of education?

Submission guidelines

Proposals (French or English) should give the following information :

  • Family name and surname,
  • university,
  • position,
  • short CV with e-mail address,
  • title,
  • abstract 250 à 500 words.

Date of submission for papers 1rst jan. 2014, Publication : september 2014.

Deadline for proposals : 20th sept. 2013.

Scientific committee 


  • Friday, September 20, 2013


  • histoire, enfance irrégulière, jeunesse délinquante, orphelins, instruction scolaire


  • Laurent Besse
    courriel : laurent [dot] besse [at] univ-tours [dot] fr

Information source

  • Laurent Besse
    courriel : laurent [dot] besse [at] univ-tours [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The Role of School: Irregular Youth and Schooling (XIXth XXth centuries) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, June 24, 2013, https://calenda.org/253947

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