Incomplete Intelligentsia: Efforts of Folk Teachers to Improve Their Social Status within the Habsburg Monarchy
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As part of the modernisation process, the authorities of major European countries ascribed to teachers of people’s schools the role of educating the lower strata of society (inhabitants of villages, manual workers, etc.). Similarly, they put this professional group in charge of the realisation of the hidden purpose of state education: shaping subjects so that they would accept the social and political order. Given their required education and the social tasks they undertook, it was assumed folk teachers would be associated with opinion-forming groups and the intelligentsia. However, in fact, for a long time, they were denied belonging to either of these groups. During the long nineteenth century, they had to struggle with a negative reception of their efforts in those circles in which the school and the teacher were perceived as unnecessary institutions. In most regions of Central Europe, for example in Austrian Silesia, thanks to the improvements of the professional competencies of the teachers and their dedication in fulfilling their obligations, both at school and outside it, the teachers and their organisations were successful in changing this perception of them. They were also actively involved in the political activities of various national camps. Nevertheless, in most official institutions, they were not the ones making the most important decisions concerning elementary education. At the same time, however, without their cooperation, none of the educational and social plans would have been implemented in practice.Thanks to their participation in the public life of local communities, especially rural ones, over time they became the new opinion-formers, playing the role of an intelligentsia that works among the people. They were not only elementary education specialists, but also pedagogues, activity-inspirers for the adult inhabitants, and experts in dealing with all kinds of situations and emergency issues.
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