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Wednesday 12 April 2023 11.00 - 13.00
O-2 EDU02 Adapting Children to Socialist Societies: Experts at the Crossroad of State Ambition and Parental Care
C33
Network: Education and Childhood Chair: Dora Vargha
Organizer: Annina Gagyiova Discussant: Dora Vargha
Moderators: -
Annina Gagyiova : “Children as Flowers in the Garden of Education”: Expert Discourses and Practices Towards School Maturity in East-Central Europe, 1970s-1980s
Across East-Central Europe, state socialist governments understood the successful school trajectory of children as being central to the building of socialism. School maturity describing a sufficient level of biological and psychological development enabling the child to successfully participate in schooling was and is decisive for the future learning performance of ... (Show more)
Across East-Central Europe, state socialist governments understood the successful school trajectory of children as being central to the building of socialism. School maturity describing a sufficient level of biological and psychological development enabling the child to successfully participate in schooling was and is decisive for the future learning performance of the young student. Throughout the Eastern bloc, pedagogues, psychologists and pediatricians expressed diverse views on how to assess school readiness and how to translate the results into effective and pragmatic solutions on the ground. While discussions in the GDR, Czechoslovakia and Poland aimed at centralized solutions, during the 1970s Hungary has shown itself to be a vast field of experimentation based on local decision-making processes. Experts widely agreed on the harmful effects of premature school entry but developed different solutions at how to give every child the same positive learning experience and – even more important – to avoid any harm to the child. After these four countries experienced tensions between collective solutions and customized nurturing of the individual, a standardized approach could be identified especially for the second half of the 1980s. While experts in the GDR believed personality tests analyzing action and corrective lessons on an individual basis would ensure school readiness at the age of six, Czechoslovakia applied rigid policy by determining school entry age at six years for everyone with the trust in effective pre-school education on kindergarten level. Poland on the other hand pursued a more fluent approach by differentiating between rural and urban areas and setting pre-school entry age at five or six years while education itself took place either at kindergarten or already at school. Also Hungary – after years of heterogenous development – decided in 1986 to implement a nation-wide law, shifting power and influence to kindergarten teachers who decided on school maturity in children. Depending on their recommendation and the eventual assessment by an expert consortium, children not yet ready for school were allowed to stay on in kindergarten for another year. While politics changed during the 1970s and 1980s dynamically, many parents reacted even in the final years of socialism with insecurity and lack of understanding, ranging from experiencing shame in what they perceived as competitive environment to punishing their child.
By concentrating on expert discourses and practices regarding school maturity and its interplay with parents on the ground during the 1970s and 1980s in the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, this paper aims at analyzing how responsibility and power shifted to kindergarten teachers who - in all four countries - were largely in charge of pre-school education as well as assessment of school maturity. Based on scientific journals, archival sources as well as mass media sources of print and film the paper intends to shed light on how (local) governments – based on experts’ recommendation – had to decide between standardized solutions and individualized approaches while integrating parents and children into the decision-making process. Ultimately, it will explore broader shifts in how experts’ decisions shaped the agency of ordinary citizens and vice versa. (Show less)

Barbara Klich-Kluczewska : Knowledge contra Feelings. Experts’ Networks and Initiatives to Modernize the Adoption Process in Post-War Poland, 1960s-1970s
The involvement and help of a community organization, the Society of Friends of Children[1], in the preparation of adoption is gradually replacing the previous practice of each family individually trying to adopt a child, going from one children’s home to another, from one hospital to another or using random intermediaries ... (Show more)
The involvement and help of a community organization, the Society of Friends of Children[1], in the preparation of adoption is gradually replacing the previous practice of each family individually trying to adopt a child, going from one children’s home to another, from one hospital to another or using random intermediaries in trying to find an ‘orphan’ to adopt, which in some cases bordered on human trafficking. The organization of adoption centers has largely put an end to such practices”.
The process described by psychologist Wanda Klominek in 1974 was initiated in the 1960s and not only radically changed the adoption system in Poland, but also had a huge impact on the perception of the role of families, the state and experts in caring for orphaned children. The paper will analyze the expert thought that was the basis for the implementation of this system, especially in the context of questions about a radical change in the requirements for future adoptive parents, expert control over the whole adoption process and the development of Polish pedagogical and psychological thought. I would like to pay special attention to the bottom-up nature of the experts' activities and the theoretical and practical inspirations that guided the first creators of adoption centers (e.g., the use of methods of supervision of adoptive families). Particularly noteworthy is the interest of Polish experts in the experiences of Czechoslovak educators and researchers, especially of Zden?k Mat?j?ek.
I base my analysis primarily on the preserved archival materials of the first adoption centers of the Society of Friends of Children, scholarly articles and records, including doctoral theses of psychologists and pedagogues specializing in the care of orphaned children in the People's Republic of Poland. This documentation is preserved today in state archives, such as the State Archive in Lublin, and university archives, such as the Jagiellonian University Archives. Moreover, I conducted a search of specialist press published in 1950s-1980s (among others: Problemy Opieku?czo-Wychowawcze [Problems of Care and Education], Zagadnienia Wychowawcze a Zdrowie Psychiczne [Educational Issues and Mental Health]). (Show less)

José Luis Aguilar López-Barajas : From Preterm Babies into Normal and Healthy Citizens. The Expert Discourse on Long-term Development of Premature Babies in East-Central Europe
For the socialist states of East-Central Europe, building a healthy society entailed securing the development of the new generations that came to the world. Especially fragile were infants born too early. This paper will explore how medical experts in East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia understood the risks in long-term ... (Show more)
For the socialist states of East-Central Europe, building a healthy society entailed securing the development of the new generations that came to the world. Especially fragile were infants born too early. This paper will explore how medical experts in East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia understood the risks in long-term development of children born preterm and what remedies they suggested.
In the first postwar decade, Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia suffered from high infant mortality rates, and prematurity was identified as their most frequent reason. As these mortality rates dropped during the 1950s with medical doctors able to save more and more babies, a new question emerged: what will become of these children when they grow up. In Czechoslovakia the further development of surviving babies began to appear as a concern already in the 1940s; in 1950s Poland, experts held optimistically that preterm-born infants would develop into full-fledged citizens later in their lives. Since the 1960s, as the survival rate of preterm babies increased, neurologists, psychologists and pediatricians started to investigate the long-term consequences these preterm babies may suffer. In the four countries, experts assessed preterm babies’ retardation in physical and mental development. In the late 1960s, neurologists and pediatricians focused mostly on the behavioral and mental disorders that premature-born children would develop later in their lives. They identified diseases, syndromes and delayed development during infancy and adolescence as directly related to preterm birth. School failure gained importance as investigations showed a correlation between prematurity and low school performance. Delayed mental development was considered acceptable in the period up to three years-old, however, pedagogues and psychologists saw that from three to six years premature children lagged behind the average and even after having reached school entry at the age of six, the linkage between prematurity and school failure did not fade away.
In the 1980s, the infant mortality rate of preterm babies kept decreasing and the survival rate of extremely small babies grew. Experts from Hungary, Poland and the GDR saw then how many problems plagued these kids. Premature and extremely small babies did no longer die but suffered from long-lasting problems and some experts began talking about “a problem for the whole society.” Prematurity ranked high among causes of misbehavior and drug abuse in adolescence and in East Germany, forensic psychiatrists even listed it as a possible precondition of youth criminality. To palliate the increasing number of consequences resulting from prematurity, the first weeks and months were deemed crucial and thus pediatricians highlighted the importance of perinatal care as a key solution to prevent long-term consequences.
This paper aims to investigate East-Central European countries in comparative perspective. By analyzing the expert discourse regarding premature babies' long-term development, this paper intends to assess similarities and differences in the four countries that faced a similar and multifaceted problem but addressed it from diverse perspectives and came up with distinct diagnoses and solutions. (Show less)



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