chapter  7
Identities and equalities
‘I resented being told what to wear, what to think, what to believe, what to say and when to say it’
Pages 14

Social historians of the industrialised world have documented the powerful effects of the introduction of compulsory schooling on the institutionalisation of childhood. School became a designated site of childhood, a space organised and controlled by adults to aid an ordered transition from childhood to adulthood. This process of institutionalisation was also shaped by the emergence and adoption of psychological theories, professional knowledge and practices which defined ‘childhood’ and, in turn, established ‘accepted’ educational and social development phases. Children’s school lives became hierarchically structured according to age and ability (Woodhead, 1997; Baker, 2001). Further, conditions and practices emerged in schools which had as their object the normalisation of behaviour through the production of self-disciplined individuals who adhered to ‘explicit and implicit rules of conduct and norms of conscience as if they were their own’. These normative practices acted as moral regulation – personal identities were disciplined and shaped through the self-appropriation of ideas about what was ‘right and wrong, possible and impossible, normal and pathological’ (Rousmaniere, Dehli and de Coninck-Smith, 1997: 3, 5). In short, the introduction of compulsory schooling resulted in childhood being spatially compartmentalised, and children’s lives and identities being increasingly regulated and shaped by the interior life of the school. Individual children could be judged according to their degree of fit with prevailing theorisations and, at the same time, in order to participate in adult-child encounters in school, children had to become aware of the normative regime of expectations. However, the production of the self-governing human subject through pedagogical practices and discourses also involved children in acts of negotiation, subversion and resistance.