'Education for All?' explores writers and education policy in 19th century Europe

Feb. 28, 2024

On Thursday, Feb. 15, Cathie Jo Martin, professor of political science at Boston University, spoke on cultural narratives and education in 19th century Britain and Denmark.

Her lecture, "Education for All? Cultural Narratives and Education for the Masses in Britain and Denmark," a Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society (EPS) Spring Lecture, identified 19th-century writers as important spin-doctors: they convinced Danish politicians to educate all citizens, but paradoxically helped British policymakers underserve workers. Danish writers imagined mass schools as the foundation for a great society and economic growth. Their depictions fortified the mandate to educate all the people: neglecting low-skill youth would waste societal resources and threaten the social fabric. British authors pictured mass education as harming social stability, lower-class work, and national culture. Their stories of youths who overcame structural injustices with individual determination made it easier to blame students who failed to seize educational opportunities.

Martin's book, of the same title, "is for people who care about educating children of all abilities, are baffled by culture wars over public policy and worry about the future of collective action in our dystopian world," she said in her opening remarks. 

Martin was introduced by Sophie Meunier, senior research scholar at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and director of EPS. 

"Education for All? Cultural Narratives and Education for the Masses in Britain and Denmark," was co-sponsored by the Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, the EU Program at Princeton and the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination.