Historical Pedagogy Laws & Education

Child protection, children’s homes, supervision, release or expulsion from parental authority. These are all familiar concepts that point to the interference of the government and the judiciary with regard to education and (re)educational homes. However, this government intervention only started around 1900. From this time onwards, both the position of the churches and the position of parents have changed: from parenting rights to parenting obligations.

(Re)education homes

Orphanages already existed in the fifteenth century, but the number would only increase in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the early nineteenth century, children who did not belong to a religious community and lived in an orphanage were housed in peat colonies. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a new type of home was created in addition to the orphanages: the (re)educational homes. Church charities see it as their job to do something about the problem of poverty. Roughly speaking, three trends can be distinguished within the institutions that deal with poverty and highly neglected children:

  • the Philanthropists (influenced by the Enlightenment)
  • the Orthodox Protestants (Reveil) and
  • the Roman Catholics


Homes and educational ideals

Numerous homes were founded in the period from 1850 to 1900. Many of these homes are located in rural areas. Through contact with nature, a religious education and learning a profession, these young people would later become virtuous citizens who could provide for themselves. A loving bond instead of dressage becomes the educational tool. Individual attention, looking at the child’s own nature, is an important aspect of re-education ideals. There will be a differentiation of homes according to philosophy and different categories of young people, such as: agricultural colonies, homes in large cities, rescue homes and correctional homes for criminal young people. The role of the government at this time is limited to providing care for delinquent youth. Nowadays, people are increasingly seeing crime as a social phenomenon: as a result of the often poor and restrictive circumstances in which these young people grow up. This insight means that people believe that punishment should have an educational character. Around 1900 it was generally accepted that criminal children should first and foremost be regarded as children rather than criminals.

Position of homes

Until the end of the nineteenth century, the function of the State was seen as very limited: it should be concerned with the safety of people and property, and should not interfere in the affairs of its citizens. Until now, the care of orphans and foundlings has been a task of the ‘Church’ and the associated private initiative (charity associations) and the state does not interfere in this.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the government became increasingly involved in public life and abandoned its role of restraint. With regard to neglected youth, cooperation between government and social organizations has been established since 1890. These organizations are increasingly calling for legislation that can ensure that voluntary charity work with regard to the neglected child cannot be stopped or refused by parents. Children must be able to be protected against parents who do not take good care of the child’s interests.

Children’s Laws 1901

In 1901, three children’s laws came into effect. From this time on, there is no longer so much a question of a right to raise children, but rather an obligation of parents to raise children.

  • The government is given the legal opportunity to intervene in the family
  • The Children’s Laws introduce greater differentiation in punishments for minors
  • Restriction of parental authority becomes possible through expulsion or exemption
  • The mother has more influence in raising children
  • The implementation of guardianship is assigned to private organizations and the Guardianship Council, subsidized by the government


Parental Authority – State

In 1921 these measures were expanded with supervision. The relationship between family and state is now, as it were, reversed. It is no longer the father who, with the help of the state, is responsible for the members of his family, but it is the state that enters into a contract with both parents for the upbringing of the children. In addition, the education that parents give their children is bound by standards imposed by the state. Through this legislation, parents can no longer remove their children from homes or otherwise refuse assistance: the judge has the option of declaring the need for mandatory assistance.

These laws and the Child Protection Act based on them were primarily about prevention: the Child Protection apparatus had to ‘keep parents on the right path’ and it had to prevent more severe measures. The supervision order had to be exempted or expelled, and the exemption or expulsion had to prevent the conviction of the ‘criminal child’.

The introduction of these measures broke with the Christian theory about the inviolability of parental authority. Michielse (1989) quotes a statement from the Association for Christian National School Education: ,Within the actual circle of education, the government has no say and the say belongs only to the parents, because the care for the education of the children is assigned by God. not to the State, but to the parents, (p.113).

Child protection in the nineteenth century was about punishment, rescue and education. Kruithof (1990) states that the share of orthodox followers of the Reveil and proponents of re-Christianization of society was large. They ,laid the foundations for an infrastructure that made legal regulation necessary and possible at the end of the nineteenth century. Re-education in a boarding school context, outside the world of sin, was the ideal, (p.238).

In the Children’s Laws of 1901 it was officially accepted that neglect of education on the part of the parents was the cause of the children’s derailment. Assistance and justice should not be separated from each other: juvenile justice measures would in future arise from a new right to assistance. With the acceptance of the Children’s Laws, the ‘institutions and asylums’ succeeded in obtaining subsidies without their independence being curtailed.

Government interference

Dekker (1985) states that initially there were fundamental objections to government intervention from both Protestant and Catholic quarters. The government had no business interfering with the parents and their educational duties, nor with the re-education of the children. Only the care of delinquent children was a task of the government, as a contribution to the maintenance of legal order. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, these objections had faded into the background. The benefits were decisive:

  • The new legislation made it possible to carry out long-term treatments without the risk of parents withdrawing their children prematurely.
  • With an increased systematic approach to the re-education problem, this was a welcome reinforcement of the range of power available to a home. The granting of subsidies was also particularly attractive. One could continue to rescue, re-educate, discipline, normalize, test scientific ideas, according to the principles of one’s own group, but now supported by the law, the judge and the government, (p. 303, 304)


Child Protection Aid and Coercion

The juvenile justice measures allowed the judge, says Michielse (1989), to individualize: to take more account of the person and the social and psychological situation of the child. The punishments are then no longer aimed at ‘revenge’ on the part of society, but at education. In this way, Child Protection has become an apparatus between help and coercion.
The principle of individualization brought more attention to the ‘psychology of the poor’. Attention was paid to the influence of their environment, life history, hereditary burden and their deepest inner motivations. The same happened in Child Protection, where the attention to environmental factors on personal development was also very great.

Social laws

In addition to the Children’s Laws, a series of Social Laws were passed during this period, including:

  • 1900 the Compulsory Education Act
  • 1901 the Housing Act
  • The Health Act
  • The Accident Act and
  • Reforming tax laws


Social economy

Michielse (1989) speaks of a new approach that was called Social Economy. The social economy strategy was aimed at imposing standards through state legislation regarding housing conditions and behavior, health, development, morality, family life and education among the lower classes.
In the Social Economy:

  • ‘Decent’ upbringing is the object of ongoing concern, through education for all children
  • Through education of workers and the poorest (Compulsory Education Act) and
  • Through care for neglected and delinquent children (Children’s Laws and Child Protection).
  • In addition, all kinds of other (private) facilities were needed, such as crèches and children’s homes, to replace family education.

For the ‘Social economists’, the school had to take a central place in relation to the family. The more the functioning of poor relief was reduced by socio-economic development, the more the school also came to function as one of the most important devices for promoting and monitoring the educational functioning of families. The ‘social economists’ saw neglected and delinquent children as both an important goal in itself and an opportunity for intervention in families. With legally sanctioned norms and options for intervention, the parents could be forced to provide a better upbringing or else the children could be withdrawn from the ‘bad’ parents and raised elsewhere.

Morality and civilization offensive

Peeters (1986) speaks of a new moral and civilization offensive. After 1850 and certainly towards the end of the century, churches and many private organizations and associations showed a great interest in the family life of the working classes.

The civilizing offensive was unleashed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by educationalists and doctors, preachers and priests and was aimed at spreading an educational ideology among the people. Increasingly higher demands were placed on family upbringing. According to Peeters, this led to the paradox that the parents lost part of their authority as educators: the family itself increasingly became the object of Pedagogy. The idealization of family education led to a condemnation of families that did not meet the ideal, resulting in an increasing number of children being withdrawn from parental control and raised in boarding schools or foster homes.

Education, social laws and social sciences

The social significance of education was increasingly valued. Thus, at the same time as a stronger approach to the parental educational function within the family, there was a stronger emphasis on the importance of education outside the family: and this was also given a general social interpretation.

Peeters argues that the systematic use of education as an instrument for correcting child-rearing practices in the family has become more important as social relations have become more complicated.

In various areas (such as family life, legal measures in the field of social insurance, education, public housing, child protection and (women’s) work) it can be seen how towards the end of the nineteenth century ,under pressure from a As public opinion increasingly mobilizes, the various parties, including the confessional ones, for whom the ‘sovereignty’ of the family was a major tenet, feel compelled to give the State task a broader content, (Peeters, 1986, p. 230). From 1900 onwards, the regulation and discipline of the family life of the working class became an important point on the political agenda increasingly determined by the Confessionals.

The influence of the social sciences, especially Pedagogy, increased and penetrated into family education and institutions. ,Empirically scientific Pedagogy gained increasing influence both in legislation and in the practice of institutions. It was evident from the debates on the Children’s Laws, it was evident from the vocational training for staff of the homes, and finally it was also evident from the terminology used in the homes, (Dekker, 1985, p.304).

Dekker (1985) indicates that in modern literature the ideas and activities surrounding re-education homes are seen as a new phenomenon that emerged in the nineteenth century. This phenomenon is emphatically distinguished from the age-old orphan problem and the orphanages established for this purpose. Although most authors agree about the early period (the first decade of the nineteenth century) of this phenomenon, they differ about its characterization and possible explanation. There are various perspectives (which can also be recognized in the above descriptions) to characterize and explain the emergence of the new phenomenon of re-education:

  • Its origins can be placed within the context of the disciplining and normalization of Western European society.
  • Some authors see the new phenomenon not as part of a disciplining process but as a rescue activity.
  • Under the influence of the modernization of society, the old self-evident community assistance was replaced by a formally institutionalized network. The activities in the re-education homes became increasingly pedagogical in nature. It can be understood as an aspect of the civilizing process.
  • Due to developments in mentality. The Reveil, in particular the Protestant faith, is seen by some as the driving force behind the creation of rescue and education homes.
  • The Enlightenment and Philanthropy based on Enlightenment ideas. Although both movements had opposing views, according to some, they both functioned as the driving force behind the Tehuis assistance.
  • The influence of the social sciences, especially Pedagogy, is seen by some as the main influence.
  • The influence of wars, political developments and legislation are also mentioned


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