Traversing personal and public boundaries: discourses of engagement in New Education 1930s-1980s

Margaret H. White

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    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Within the discourse of the New Education Fellowship (NEF) in Australia in the mid-twentieth century, active engagement in creative recreation and discussion of social and political issues was highly valued. Members were exhorted to traverse personal boundaries by participating in practical and creative arts. In this discourse, NEF Creative Arts Summer Schools held in regional centres of New South Wales became a means of re-creation of the self from passive observer to active participant. Opportunities to envisage the perspectives of others through engagement with public boundaries of race and ethnicity were created by encouraging a diverse student population. These initiatives are shown to have taken place in response to the circulation of new ideas and practices in an international context. In the process of engaging as individuals in mutual participation, students shaped their own experiences and the community itself. This paper is concerned with articulating ways in which new meanings were negotiated within networks that were engaged in developing new ideas and practices in education. Some insights into these networks are gained, particularly regarding the adoption of ideas discussed at international conferences in local practices. The creation of the Summer Schools is seen to have been an energetic response to a number of interconnected ideas and circumstances. Education was extended beyond the walls of institutions and the boundaries of conventional schooling both literally and metaphorically. Relationships between psychoanalysis and art were central to perceptions of freedom and self-expression that came to be viewed as essential in the education of self-controlled, democratic citizens. Wenger's theory of Communities of Practice assists in the analysis of interviews with former students and staff of the Summer Schools which reveal ways that engagement in the Summer schools shaped personal experiences and the NEF community itself.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)151-163
    Number of pages13
    JournalPaedagogica Historica
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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