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Educação & Realidade

versão impressa ISSN 0100-3143versão On-line ISSN 2175-6236

Educ. Real. vol.40 no.4 Porto Alegre out./dez. 2015 


School-Student Relations: a changing history

Miriam Waidenfeld ChavesI 

I Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro/RJ - Brazil


During the last century, whilst school was turned into the socializing agent par excellence, it became an object of dissatisfaction, indicating that it should now be seen under this double movement: historically, we are faced with the consolidation of the school form of socializing and, at the same time, we witness the demise of its institutional program. The present text puts forward, under a sociohistorical approach, some considerations about the establishment of the school paradigm in modernity, and analyzes the school crisis, highlighting the hegemonic and shifting character of certain manners of thinking, acting and feeling within one of the main social groups that comprise it: the pupils.

Keywords: School; Pupils; History; Modernity; Crisis


A escola, no último século, ao mesmo tempo em que se transforma na agência socializadora por excelência, também se torna alvo de insatisfações, indicando que seja entendida segundo esse duplo movimento: se historicamente nos deparamos com a consagração da forma escolar de socialização, igualmente nos confrontamos com o fim de seu programa institucional. Este texto, através de uma abordagem histórico-social, desenvolve algumas considerações sobre a fixação do paradigma escolar na modernidade e analisa a crise da escola, destacando as formas hegemônicas e em mudança de certas maneiras de pensar, agir e sentir de um dos principais grupos sociais que a compõem: os alunos.

Palavras-chave: Escola; Aluno; História; Modernidade; Crise

It has been some time now since we began to perceive that the project of school education established in modernity no longer corresponds to the expectations of those who benefit from it on a daily basis. And, if this is a true statement, then a reflection becomes necessary about the historical conditions of production that, while producing the naturalization of this project and its acceptance by all, also fomented a feeling of rejection and/or failure about its competence, particularly in those who are to be found daily in the school benches.

As already demonstrated by some authors, this kind of discontent (Bourdieu, 2002a) present in school today raises doubts about its future (Canário, 2008; Dubet, 2006; 2004; 2003; Perrenoud, 1995). Notwithstanding that, its past, grounded in the principles of social modernization - the scientific, liberal and industrial revolutions - endowed it with the legitimacy that allowed it to become by the mid-20th century one of the most powerful institutions in our society. Indeed, it allowed a large proportion of individuals from the most diverse social classes, ethnicities and religious creeds to be educated according to a more secular and less religious perspective, inserting them into a new social division of labor that now requires an ever more specialized education.

Eventually, during the last century, whilst school was turned into the socializing agent par excellence, it became the object of criticism and dissatisfaction, indicating that its consolidation and crisis 8 should be understood as constitutive parts of a single process: historically, we are faced with the consolidation of the school form of socializing (Vincent; Lahire; Thin, 2001) and, at the same time, we witness the demise of its institutional program (Dubet, 2006).

Such swift passage from a time of promises, in which one believed in the potential of school's social function, to a time of uncertainties, when certain disenchantment with its pedagogical work lingers (Canário, 2008), imposes a reflection upon the historical conditions of its production in order to better understand it in the current days.

Therefore, the present text employs a sociohistorical approach to propose a discussion about this double movement - consolidation and crisis - in the history of school. It develops considerations about the consolidation of the school paradigms in modernity, and analyzes its crisis, highlighting the hegemonic and shifting character of certain ways of thinking, acting and feeling within one of the main social groups that comprise it 9 - the pupils 10 .

We have chosen an investigation that sees the pupil and the school as the two sides of a coin, which constitute themselves from the relations they established between them and with the other school agents. We assume that pupil identity can only be constructed in the relations of this group with itself, with the school and with the other agents that comprise the school 11 , particularly the teacher (Dubar, 1998).

As a last point, we should emphasize that this proposal intends to reveal only the tip of an iceberg: to put forward broad and general questions that can be considered in other, more focused reflections taking as their reference empirically situated contexts. We do not intend here to draw a complete history of the school (Braudel, 1992), but only to make a few considerations that resulted from our observation in researches and in the classroom.

The School Institution: a competent means of socialization

As a historical construction, school gives birth to an authentic revolution in the modes of socialization. It structures a hitherto unknown social relation, instituting a type of socialization that eventually produces a moral framework sufficient not only to overtake the other socializing spheres - family and Church -, but also to establish a system of values, a national and scientific culture that will be internalized in the form of a habitus (Bourdieu, 2002b). Lastly, by materializing at a specific time and place, this institution outlines a school form of socialization (Vincent; Lahire; Thin, 2001) that goes beyond its walls, shapes the whole society, and the still creates the conditions that allow new citizens to respond to the new social demands.

Its invention presupposes the diffusion of the ideas of the civilization of manners which, establishing the kind of sociability avowed by urban life, the scenario of modernity itself, imposes the self-control of the emotions and the respect for hierarchized norms of social common life (Elias, 1994). From a political point of view, it contributed to the organization and reproduction of the national States that developed, in Western countries and through the constitution of the Republic as the form of Government, their own conception of public school, the same to everyone (Xavier, 2013).

To disseminate the knowledge and the feeling of belonging to communities united around their own national identity, the school assumes a double significance. The political elite and the intellectuals of the early 20th century began to see that school could be a useful tool in the struggle against the ignorance of the illiterate people, against economic underdevelopment and in the struggle against the endemics resulting from the lack of information and of healthy habits. Moreover, because it offered the population the means to achieve better positions within the already intricate social division of labor, it began to be also considered as an instrument of social mobility (Xavier, 2013).

Under this perspective, the school configuration was constituted as a unity that necessarily outlines forms of the exercise of power that can be made explicit through the knowledge-teacher-pupil triangle (Vincent; Lahire; Thin, 2001). Its emergence signifies the end of a way of knowing and of decoding the things of men and nature in which knowledge was not separate from social practices but, on the contrary, was transmitted through them.

In its stead objectivated knowledges are established, explicit and fixed, that needed to be ready to be taught through reading and writing. "We propose to bring back to life, through a specific live work (the pedagogic practice) the results of past labors" (Vincent; Lahire; Thin, 2001, p. 29). This dimension of knowledge, which is reproduced under the purview of what is written, predicted, controlled and previously quantified, outlines eventually the very mode of school socialization that ultimately implies the "[...] writification - codifying of knowledges and practices" (Vincent; Lahire; Thin, 2001, p. 29).

The introduction of this cultural model that, despite its local peculiarities, is generalized and rapidly adopted by several countries in Europe and America, eventually organizes the so-called primary school. Its establishment and expansion, based on an invariant structure (Souza, 2006), consolidates the use of the termclass (Hamilton, 1992), originating the archetype of modern school itself: "[...] teachers, pupils and the classroom in a personal relation, in other words, each class in one room, each class with a teacher" (Souza, 2006, p. 40).

This school model, in its turn, also establishes a series of administrative devices - hiring of adequate personnel, creation of an internal division of labor and organization of enrolment - and pedagogic - creation of seriated curriculum and contents, teaching methods and class schedules - that require the development of a new didactic-pedagogic arsenal - world globes, banners, collections, school desks, chairs, blackboard, notebooks, books -, implying the creation of a separate space in which knowledges and practices can be taught and learnt.

This pedagogization of the social relations of learning implied a substitution of the government of the house with the government of the State (Faria Filho; Vidal, 2000) which, in its liberal conception, transforms the school into its most faithful representative. The performance of that social function produces therefore the time of certainties which, identified by Canário (2008), corresponded to a period of harmony between the school itself and society, extending from the late 18th century to the end of World War II. The demarcation of this time of certainties reinforces its own legitimacy before society, allowing, at least until the late 1960s, the school institution to be seen under a positive and optimist light: as an entity committed to certain policies - of development, social mobility and equality - that would be materialized through schooling itself (Canário, 2008).

It is worth noting the role of Normal Schools at that moment, as they contributed to the institutionalization of school education, taking onto themselves the responsibility to form the new teachers, the main heralds of the newfound modality of teaching and learning (Nóvoa, 1991).

Nevertheless, and despite existing since the second half of the 18th century, the school only acquires its most finished form in Brazil in the mid-19th century, when improvised spaces - public, private or domestic (Faria Filho; Vidal, 2000), are replaced by specifically built buildings, prepared to receive the whole administrative, bureaucratic and pedagogic machinery.

As an investment both collective and individual, school also structures an institutional program (Dubet, 2006) aiming at its assimilation by the school agents themselves, mainly teachers and pupils. As an arm of the Nation-State, from its inception until at least the 1960s, it will remain as a model of socialization that, based on certain principles - of reason and progress -, will have as its end to transform a set of knowledges and values into action. Its goal would be, then, to put into effect the internalization of the social, of culture and science, in the subjects that, in practice, are already circumscribed by this same cultural system of values.

We believe that this stage of consolidation of the school endowed it with such social strength that it allowed the socialization and formation of subjectivities to be integrated into the same process, giving birth to an individual that is autonomous but accordant with the social norms and rules, bestowing upon him/her a habitus and an identity attuned to the requisites of social life.

This model of school, founded on universal principles contained in the ideology of the Nation-State, through the ideals of liberty and equality, allows the individuals to internalize the idea of being free and equal before the law, an aspect that makes the school institutional program something extremely modern for that time.

However, during most of the 20th century this program appears more as a State plan - an abstract proposal, monopoly of the power and of the government - than as a project produced by a community of individuals expressing the actions and contradictions of life. Contrary to the diversity and to the fragmentation, it believes in the homogenization and in the cohesion of ideas and behaviors, and defends the principles and norms of civility that, once legitimized, begin to be regarded as the highest values to be achieved.

In this case, the possible resistances are faced with a social and political context conducive of their co-optation by the model implemented. Additionally, while in the first years of the 20th century liberal capitalism guarantees the implementation of this model, decades later, with the end of World War II and the configuration of the Welfare State 12 , its reproduction becomes rather facilitated, since the increase in industrialization and urbanization opens up new possibilities of social insertion via schooling, particularly in view of the increase in the school offer.

This context can be widened if we take as our reference some of the ideas of Giddens (1991), for whom the consolidation of modernity, the sphere of production of school, is founded on the premise that the individuals would acquire more security, confidence and opportunities if there existed a project of social participation via schooling. Besides, it is worth noting the solidity of the administrative systems in modernity which, through a high level of organization and coordination, are capable of inspiring credibility and authority in those who find themselves under their sway (Giddens, 1991).

Nevertheless, it is a fact that this project is materialized in very diverse manners, according to the social, political, economic and cultural conditions of each locality, as it is also a fact that this project is not brought to fruition without certain contradictions which may even be among some of the current problems of schools, such as its impossibility to produce fairer and more egalitarian mechanisms of assessment. Among others, we might mention at least three factors that we believe have a bearing on the school crisis: a) the existing incoherence between the principles of homogeneity and individual differences among pupils; b) the emergence of a system of selection, classification and hierarchization both within the school systems - what some people denominate the school market (Bourdieu, 2002b) - and inside the classrooms, where pupils are sometimes labelled as weak, ill adapted or strong and/or well adapted; c) the creation of disciplinary devices which, establishing an authoritarian relation between the knowledge and the pupil 13 , also allow the relations between teachers and pupils to be ridden by conflicts and by a series of disharmonies which, in actual fact, are often expressed through what became customary to call school violence (Charlot, 2002). These aspects will be discussed in the second section of this text.

The Pupil: a situation of armed peace

The considerations above demonstrate that the modern school, despite its tensions, develops a nationalizing function that allows it to experience throughout the first half of the 20thcentury a golden age (Canário, 2008). Indeed, it overtakes family and church which, in a previous historical context, dominated the social scenario by regulating behaviors and practices through a specific form of work upon the others (Dubet, 2006), whose "[...] time of practice (was) confused with the time of learning" (Vincent; Lahire; Thin, 2001, p. 24). Lastly, it is also true that this project succeeds in being put in practice because of the emergence of the subjects that comprise it, among them the pupils.

As a social category, pupils emerge in modernity, alongside the school itself, from certain elaborations that have as their objective to integrate them socially according to given pre-requisites that implied the shaping of a cognitive structure that would allow them to acquire practices and knowledges proper to a society whose values are grounded in the principles of reason, of liberty and of right (Sacristan, 2005). It constitutes also a post following a type of pedagogic work carried out by obligation and equally consecrated by society through an organization - the school - that draws the boundaries of its own activities (Perrenoud, 1995). A transitory function - that of being a pupil -, is nevertheless constituted according to a prolonged school trajectory, insofar as the social exigencies have demanded a qualification for work which is more and more complex, specialized and/or school-based.

In this sense, its forms of being and acting have suffered modifications that reveal pupil identities that are also variegated. And if at the first moment the pupil is forged by the other, with the passing of the decades and with the emergence of a society more heterogeneous and plural, they begin to be formed not only by the dictums of the school institution, but also by experiences, expectations, desires and disappointments they have which often collide with the impositions of their own social function - that of being a pupil - (Perrenoud, 1995).

Pupil, student, he who studies, and learner, he who learns, they are all one, named as someone constituted according to certain rules, values and purposes that conform this same social category (Perrenoud, 1995). In other words, the pupil is someone who emerges with the obligation of submitting to an order ruled by certain patterns made possible by the teacher, the most legitimate representative of the school institution. It is also a fact that this new social/school subject is materialized through a "[...] synchronism between the class of modern age and the social class" (Ariés, 1991, p. 194), in the sense that thinking about the birth of modern school under the optics of the pupil implies taking into account at least two points: a) the transmutation of the child into a pupil presupposes understanding it based on the idea of childhood, a concept quite dear to the 19th century school (Ariés, 1991); b) this new social role - that of a pupil - is beset by social differences, indicating that class origin determined the type of teaching pupils would have.

Through a school identity forged from a pedagogical model originated in Catholic education - Ratio Studiorum -, the pupil will find him/herself, at first, faced with a mandatory adhesion constituted by a symbolic, or even physical, coercion during the first period of the existence of the school institution.

Social condition of every child, and also of youngsters, the pupil is also forged as a citizen that needs to be socially inserted. Being a pupil implies, therefore, the interiorizing of the laws and of a social order which, during the early times of its existence, was obtained through imposition, later being guaranteed on the basis of a pedagogic action able to produce in pupils both their self-discipline and their self-control (Lahire, 1997). That is to say, if during the first times of the modern school what was required was the shaping of a disciplined and trained student, later the ideal model becomes that of the intelligent pupil, the pupil that understands and takes part in the rules of the school game.

By being transformed into a pupil, the child and/or youngster is thus civilized, integrating society through a condition of citizenship that needs to be respected according to the fulfilment of its duties. To that end, the institutional program needs to be taken to completion, producing a model of pupil that, until the first half of the 20th century, implied the operationalization of an institutional know-how that had to collaborate with the reproduction of the same social model implemented.

Another aspect worth noting is that this model of a pupil presupposes an individualization hitherto inexistent, since the societal forms previous to the constitution of modern school based their teaching/learning relations on a stratified society, where the category of the individual still did not exist. In this case, the slow and constant modelling of the student identity in the soul of the child/youngster configures a conduct that moves towards the consubstantiation of the designs of the newly implemented national project.

This pedagogical framework takes shape after the materialization of a group of forms of representation that are fixed either at the time when the diagnostics of the pupils is conceived, or at the moment when they present their production through a series of records. As devices of identity inscription, the school notebook, the individual record, the written exercises, the tests, the journal, the homework and the pedagogic press become the school mechanisms that had as their finality to guarantee the conformity of the pupil to the pedagogical model proposed (Ramos do Ó, 2003). They constitute a kind of pedagogic manual that organizes the school conduct of children and/or youngsters that would have become pupils.

By establishing a routine, these procedures endorse a series of judgements made by others - teachers, school itself, national assessment systems - which ultimately define what will be regarded as school success or failure. Subjected to this model, pupils have their school trajectory constructed after what the school institution - materialized in the teacher - thinks about them. When the child/youngster enters the school and becomes a pupil he/she is permanently compared to an ideal type of pupil who gladly accepts and incorporates the school lessons.

Catholic schools - duly adapted to the new social demands (Dallabrida; Carminati, 2007; Chaves, 2010) -, produce in a rather competent way this model of pupil imagined by the institutional program of the school in modernity. They define their forms of existence according to manners of thinking, acting and feeling that presuppose their conformity to a kind of pupil participation predisposed to accept silence, order and hierarchy.

In this case, through a moral education, the purpose is one of producing in the pupil an altruistic feeling, or rather, their adhesion to something beyond themselves (Durkheim, 2008), so that this same being, at first egotistic, can adapt to the demands not just of school but, principally, of society. According to the French sociologist, it becomes "[...] necessary that the child himself perceives that there is something in the rule that makes it effortlessly accepted. In other words, he must sense the moral authority in the rule, which renders it worthy of respect" (Durkheim, 2008, p. 154).

Above all, it is still a fact that this pedagogic project, by breaking away from other forms of socialization, contributes to the demise of the rights of students of mediaeval Universities who, in this case, had power of decision and veto over the management and administration of university life (Varela; Alvarez-Uria, 1992). With the end of their privileges, students turned into pupils and installed in recently-opened schools now suffer the inculcation of certain values instituted by the school itself - the new trustee of what must be taught -, their role now being only that of learning the lessons taught.

Nevertheless, this identity perspective of the pupil, which gradually becomes hegemonic, whilst corresponding to the model described above, also constitutes part of certain openings that progressively give room to more possibilities of being a pupil, which become more and more plural and diversified.

The School Space: sphere of negotiation

Broadly speaking, we can say that the 1960s and 1970s were marked, both in Western European countries and in America, by the expansion of mass schooling, by the increase in the number of teachers working in public school systems, and by the amazing complexification of the relations between the school and its teacher with pupils, with school knowledges, with managers and with the community as a whole. This process is the result of population, technological and commercial expansion which, by giving birth to contemporary society, promotes a climate of uncertainty that raises questions about the school pedagogic work, also increasing expectations of the society about its commitment to the general and professional formation of young students (Xavier, 2013).

Here, because it no longer works as expected, its image is not that of a "[...] little island of formal justice amidst an unequal society, it creates its own inequalities and its own exclusions" (Dubet, 1994, p. 175).

The heterogeneity of its public, the unfamiliarity of pupils with school norms, and the bewilderment of teachers faced with the anguish of those who understand little of what their teachers say in the classroom (Silva, 2003), whilst presupposing the end of an era of schooling, also indicate the need for its own reinvention based on the constitution of relations that are more negotiated between teachers and pupils, for example. In other words, while school has lost the cultural monopoly to the competition with mass culture, it remains in existence because of its dominance in the academic field (Dubet, 2006), and has to be rebuilt according to a new educational, social and political perspective.

If that will happen, it is necessary to be understood that it no longer works as a social institution (Dubet, 2006). That it will have to revise its basis and become more plural in other to deal more evenly with pupils seen as weaker, since it will only be through such attitude that merit - a founding idea of its existence - can be applied with justice (Dubet, 2004).

However, we know that the school crisis is inextricably linked to the same social crisis that since the 1980s acquired new proportions in view of the acceleration of the globalization process, analyzed in many different ways by several social scientists (Lyotard, 1988; Sennet, 1988; Dubet, 1994; Giddens, 1991; Bauman, 2001).

In the 1990s, François Dubet in his Sociologie de l'experience, in an attempt to systematize the new logics of social action, states that the society structured on the connection between economic development, social modernization and political democracy installs, with its downfall, a crisis at the heart of the idea of progress, of Man as master and ruler of nature and of himself, a crisis that necessarily spills over onto the project of school education begotten by this paradigm (Dubet, 1990). Also, the death of some of the common principles of economic integration and of social and cultural organization produced by the internationalization of economy and by the redefinition of systems of belonging and of social and cultural representation, fosters the decomposition of the classic image of the relation between society and individual, whilst bringing about the collapse of the social relations extant within schools.

It also presupposes a reflection about the end of industrial society, of the notion of common good and, lastly, of the concept of high culture or legitimate culture (Bourdieu, 2007), questions that affect directly the concept of school education practiced in the previous century which, under the wings of a nationalizing set of ideas, remained hegemonically as one of the most competent forms of socialization during that period.

In this case, it is a fact that the exhaustion of the market organization established by the industrial society contributed markedly to the discredit of the school, since the latter's general and professional formation no longer agrees with the new demands of a society that, having ceased to be characterized by the industrializing ethos, is now structured around knowledge and information (Tedesco, 2002).

Moreover, the collapse of that new social order - whose work was seen as the center of social life -, by generating more complex mechanisms of social differentiation, formerly demarcated by inter-category inequalities and now delimited by intra-category inequalities (Tedesco, 2002), eventually prevented the school from being recognized as the most competent sphere of social insertion. Its public, faced with the discrepancy between the school formation and the new demands of the labor market, is stimulated to seek other forms of social participation, seeing the school as a place devoid of meanings.

In this case, whereas the formation and insertion in the world of labor in the democratic societies corresponded to a school education and to a social division of labor based on industry, which ceased to function, the introduction of new elements in this intricate game of correspondences leads us to reassess those same spheres of socialization - the world of the school and the world of labor. In other words, whereas during most of the 20th century there was a belief in a harmonious relation between school and society through the establishment of merit and of social mobility, which together would rule the new principles of justice, allowing each individual to succeed both at school and at work, the transformations of modern times allowed the contradictions hitherto camouflaged by the success of this proposal not only to be made explicit, but especially, to be questioned (Dubet, 2004; 2003).

Consequently, those achievements, today called in France Republican elitism (Dubet, 2004), for being based on a rather partial criterion of merit - still defined by social origin - testify to the fact that mass schooling, despite its progress, was not consolidated without problems: the equality of meritocratic opportunities, by supposing equality of access, also presupposed an equality of treatment that did not materialize, particularly for those pupils from less favored social backgrounds.

This kind of unfulfilled promise, whilst generating disappointment in those who needed the school most, allowed social inequality to continue to influence school inequalities, and also allowed those same school inequalities to reinforce even more social inequalities, in so far as "[...] the weaker pupils (continue to be) generally less well treated, and also 'coerced' to identify themselves with their failure, by accumulating years of difficulties produced by orientations that lead them to undignified school trajectories" (Dubet, 2004, p. 551).

At a different level, the social and school models established in the late 19th century and early 20th century were also destabilized due to certain behavioral changes that occurred both within public and private life. By affecting the relations between society and individual, they disseminated new manners of thinking, acting and feeling, presupposing the demise of a period of modernity, and thereby establishing an intimist society characterized by the end of public culture (Sennet, 1988).

Sennet (1988) believes that the public domain in the shape given to it by modern society, being emptied and destitute of meaning, brought about a kind of intimist outlook of the world that necessarily establishes new forms of relationship of the individual with him/herself and with the other, with the city and with politics, for example. To that author, one of the main features of this transformation would be the constitution of a kind of isolation that would be interposed within the individual him/herself and between him/her and society. And, in this case, the public environment would be fated to become more of a passage than permanence. "[...] this means that the public space has become a derivative of movement" (Sennet, 1988, p. 28) and, still, that this society sees itself based on an unbridled personal life and on an emptied public life.

Translating, this type of demise of the public space through the creation of an ever more cosmopolitan lifestyle, by stimulating behaviors and attitudes defined more by impersonality than by direct social life, ends up launching new forms of social relationship. That is to say, the development of networks of sociability independent of real direct control would generate the encapsulation of an individual who inadvertently sees him/herself forced to relate to somebody else with whom he/she has neither social nor affective ties. According to Sennet (1988), we would be more and more obliged to relate to strangers.

Undoubtedly, these new circumstances interfere in school. As a social institution that is established through the execution of a project conducted by the national State, that survives on the maintenance of social cohesion, of the common good and of the guarantee of the rights of individuals, understood here as citizens belonging to a given community, the school invaded by a reality that rejects those same values sees its purposes imploded, and its very project put in question.

Its public, born already under the effigy of the reality denominated by Bauman (2001) liquid modernity, become one of its fiercest critics. They are the first to stop recognizing and accepting the rules and determinations conceived when the public space - in this case, the school - was seen as the locus par excellence of the common good and not of someone's private wishes and desires.

Lastly, it is also a fact that the school with its institutional model under attack, with its social space ever more heterogeneous and plural, and in view of its relation with other logics and cultural codes, becomes inhabited by other points of view that no longer accept the vision formulated by the devisers of the school. The homogenizing odor of its project is denounced, indicating that its forms of socialization need to be reinvented, since the conception of citizenship, of national State, of public space and of social and school justice upon which the school is based no longer correspond to the new exigencies of participation of the new citizens who, within school, are precisely those school subjects - pupils, for example - still little understood and accepted by those who teach, manage and run the school.

The Pupil: a confrontational situation

According to Perrenoud (1995), school is a place of confrontation, to the extent that historically pupils are circumscribed to a work whose adhesion is imposed on them through a series of obligations expected to be fulfilled in a kind of exemplary behavior that does not exist in practice.

This expectation is, however, transformed as the school becomes less concerned with the ideal pupil and more focused on the real one, and also from the moment when the school's public is modified, becoming more plural and diversified. In this case, this pupil who is more real tends to make emerge a bad behavior previously repressed and, until recently, disregarded by the school institution and by those responsible for it - State, teachers, principals, coordinators.

This new situation of the pupil does not, however, appear suddenly, but rather alongside the social and school crisis of the 1960s/1970s. That is, if at the economic level the post-war developmental boom, built on top of a series of social achievements - including school achievements through the popularization of secondary education - and spearheaded by the Welfare State is soon replaced by the first oil crisis, by super production and unemployment, engendering disbelief in school, the struggle for civil rights in the United States, the Vietnam war, American cinema, the hippie movement and the student movement of May 1968, for example, allow the emergence of new behavioral models that eventually define new ways of being young/pupil (Passerini, 1996) that often go against the existing school discipline.

At the same time, by making the excluded part of its own institutional space, school contributes to the end of the dynasty of the heirs as holders of the best grades, best courses and best posts in the social division of labor, whilst allowing school daily life to be mingled with a culture - or cultures - that until then were outside the school (Bourdieu, 2002a).

Between boredom and revolt, pupils tend, therefore, to intensify their survival strategies at school, aiming to go through this stage of their lives without major trauma. And, in this case, the new studies on the theme show that these pupils, many of them turned into dissidents, constitute a variety of groups that relate to school, to knowledge, to their own peers, and, still, to school authorities, in the most varied manners: a) a group more and more restricted of heirs who, through an ascetic attitude, identify with the school and continue to carry on the school work without difficulties, establishing a disinterested relation with knowledge (Bourdieu, 2007); b) others that equally chose the school, but who through a combatant path (Perrenoud, 1995) seek to succeed in the exams and fulfil the requirements in order to obtain better social insertion than their forbearers; c) a segment that prefer to be socialized on the streets, considering that this sphere of socialization, by bringing the outsiders together (Elias; Scotson, 2000), guarantees them a feeling of belonging that historically the school has denied them (Dayrell, 2007); d) a large group that survives the school environment by making increasing use of cunning, deception and dissimulation, making minimum effort to acquire through a utilitarian attitude the passport - diploma - to a supposedly better life (Perrenoud, 1995), e) a portion that, by feeling themselves to be marginalized by the school process, develop a violent attitude towards the school institution, its buildings and educational rules (Charlot, 2002). Lastly, we observe that a new pupil identity has been constituted which, with the crumbling of the school walls, becomes more often than not filled with anguish, bitterness and disappointment towards the school.

This variety of possibilities indicate how much pupil identity finds itself fractured and, also, how much that first model of pupil has given room to other forms of being and acting that coexist inarticulately within the school. In its turn, the learning carried out by the pupil implies a relationship to the school work which is, at first, established through affective affinities between teacher and pupil/child, wherein the latter seeks to please the former, later evolving into a kind of artificial sympathy, an awareness of the need to learn, or even to a relationship of open conflict (Perrenoud, 1995).

This new condition of being a pupil is made even more difficult to be experienced when we take into account two other aspects. First, that school relations today, despite being more democratic, continue to express unequal power relations, if we have in mind that the pupil still is the one that draws the fewer rights and less power from this social experience. Second, that the lack of a predefined model of a pupil presupposes that he/she has, in practice, in the face-to-face of the relation, to rediscover his/her place inside this new social space that is the school.

To this uncomfortable reality we might add a third aspect that strongly contributes to explain the type of ambiguity that permeates the relation of pupils to the school today: if the inflation of certificates and their ensuing devaluation reinforce attitudes of disinterest in their attainment and even a possible forgoing of the school, school life for those who remain in it will require an even higher investment to allow these youngsters to qualify for their future jobs.

Today's social and economic instability, whilst requiring the pupil to continue in school for as long as necessary and in conditions such that later they will not be unemployed or subjected to a second-rate job (Perrenoud, 1995), fills them with uncertainty towards this option, since the devaluation of certificates and unemployment threaten the success of this enterprise. Whilst school, as a passport to jobs, suggests that the more knowledges and certificates the students accumulate, the more opportunities for work and for a better life they will have, raising the level of their expectations towards schooling, by the same token it increases the possibilities of their frustration of those same aspirations.

We conclude, therefore, that whereas pupils, particularly those from the outskirts of big cities today, no longer submit to the imperatives of the institutional program erected by the school, by dint of being strongly socialized by other social and cultural spaces (Dayrell, 2007), contradictorily still continue to dream about what the school may offer - an institution that whilst claiming to accept this youngster remains bound to certain abilities that value expression, writing, the use of reason, organization, autonomy, and being ready to learn how to learn (Lahire, 1997), and in the end discriminates them by treating them in a differentiated/prejudiced way in the classroom (Dubet, 2004).

Lastly, despite the fact that the pupils have increased their degree of participation in the makings of the school, and despite continuing to have a major part of their identity shaped by the others - the school institution and the teachers -, contradictorily they will be excluded and/or not accepted by the school institution if they display other qualities not recognized by it. Indeed, we share the conviction that the school abilities mentioned above - fragments of an arbitrary class-based culture -, which could give these youngsters a passport for a better life, by requiring an Herculean effort from them to master those skills, ultimately open space for the emergence of student identities still unknown by the school institution. These, certainly, have characteristics much more related to their own reality than to the school, and this fact undoubtedly needs to be investigated!

Final Considerations

We conclude that along its trajectory school inaugurates new forms of socialization that presuppose the consolidation of the ambiguity of the nascent schooling process: while it imposes a homogenizing logic with the objective of integrating the new citizens into the principles of the national State, it installs a process of social exclusion through its denial to accept certain pupil profiles. By having as an end to diminish social inequality through merit - propelling social mobility -, it eventually reinforces the very same inequality, in so far as its evaluation system has allowed the creation of its own mechanisms of school inequality, which have had the function of treating pupils in a rather differentiated way, according to stereotypes and prejudices.

Moreover, to reveal that pupils coming from marginalized social groups need to work harder in order to remain in school and, consequently, obtain the recognition of their teachers (Bourdieu, 2002b), means to conclude that the proposal inherited from modernity - a public school, equal to everyone - still awaits to be fulfilled, making this a fundamental debate. In other words, the problem of exclusion reveals that the school has lost its innocence (Dubet, 2003), since school itself has become the agent of a specific form of exclusion, giving rise to questions about its modes of existence.

To allow these questions to be answered, we need then to redefine the systems of beliefs and values based on the principle of the common good that grounded the very idea of citizenship, as well as to establish a new curriculum and assessment framework capable of responding to the demands of society as well as those from the school.

Perhaps the solution to end the school crisis and its denial to accept pupils with profiles less predisposed to school work lies in the adoption of educational policies that seek to build into the school systems what has been denominated fair inequalities, "[...] that is, legitimate inequalities, since the other inequalities, especially those of birth, would be unacceptable" (Dubet, 2004, p. 544). Lastly, that school, by developing the analysis of its own historical conditions of production, realizes that at the moment of its birth less than Republican principles attached themselves to its foundations, principles that can certainly be overcome through, for example, what the French sociologist calls positive discrimination, that is to say, through a more specific attention to pupils considered as weaker who, in this case, are precisely those who are less well treated by the school (Dubet, 2004).

Finally, we should perhaps stress that it would be productive for the school to know that pupil identities today are also configured outside school, in virtual communities and on the streets. They are, therefore, filled with ideas of freedom, autonomy and forms of participation previously unimaginable to the school 14 . Indeed, these new forms of pupil suggest that the school as an institution, as well as the History of Education (Finkelstein, 1992), need to listen to these voices, so that they are not only considered by the school, but also allow the creation of other historiographic versions of the incorporation of children/youngsters by the school (Finkelstein, 1992).


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8Understood here as "[...] The demise of a model of organization conceived as a device to institutionalize values" (Dubet, 1994, p. 177).

9Assuming the risk that often affects those who analyze a longer historical period, we make use of authors from various trends simply to give us conditions to carry out our purpose: to bring forward the strong contradictions of the consolidation and crisis of the school.

10Considering that the relations between teachers and schools have already been the subject of many publications under the theme of History of the Teaching Profession, this text focuses on the pupil, a history still waiting to be constructed.

11It is worth observing that school is shaped by a complex system of relations which, in addition to teacher and pupil, also cover support personnel - those involved with the management, maintenance and day-to-day functioning, including kitchen staff, parents and government agencies (Hutmacher, 1992).

12We should keep in mind that this political-economic reality, when applied to the Brazilian case, needs to be redefined, since our country has its own political and economic history.

13See the theory of symbolic violence (Bourdieu; Passeron, 1982).

14See the June 2013 manifestations that changed the face of Brazil and of social movement itself.

Received: March 27, 2014; Accepted: February 20, 2015

Miriam Waidenfeld Chaves is Associate Professor I of the graduate program of Universidade Federal of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and a researcher in the Program of Studies and Documentation Education and Society of that same institution. She develops research in the History of Education focusing on the following themes: educational institutions and teacher and pupil identities. E-mail:

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