Radical childhoods

Schooling and the struggle for social change

Author: Jessica Gerrard

Education has long been central to the struggle for radical social change. Yet, as social class inequalities sustain and deepen, it is increasingly difficult to conceptualise and understand the possibility for ‘emancipatory’ education. In Radical Childhoods Jessica Gerrard takes up this challenge by theoretically considering how education might contribute to radical social change, alongside an in-depth comparative historical enquiry. Attending to the shifting nature of class, race, and gender relations in British society, this book offers a thoughtful account of two of the most significant community-based schooling initiatives in British history: the Socialist Sunday School (est. 1892) and Black Saturday/Supplementary School (est. 1967) movements. Part I situates Radical Childhoods within contemporary policy and practice contexts, before turning to critical social theory to consider the possibility for ‘emancipatory’ education. Offering detailed analyses of archival material and oral testimony, Parts II and III chronicle the social histories of the Socialist Sunday School and Black Saturday/Supplementary School movements, including their endeavour to create alternative cultures of radical education and their contested relationships to the state and wider socialist and black political movements. Radical Childhoods argues that despite appearing to be on the ‘margins’ of the ‘public sphere’, these schools were important sites of political struggle. In Part IV, Gerrard develops upon Nancy Fraser’s conception of counter-publics to argue for a more reflexive understanding of the role of education in social change, accounting for the shifting boundaries of public struggle, as well as confronting normative (and gendered) notions of ‘what counts’ as political struggle.

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‘Radical Childhoods will be of interest to those working within the field of the history of education but also those with interests in sociology and education more broadly. The clear, concise introduction, in particular, in which Gerrard situates the work within a contemporary policy context and in relation to debates about the nature of social class, is widely applicable and will find relevance and interest from students and researchers at all levels.'
Kate Spencer-Bennett, University of Birmingham
History of Education
December 2016

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