Accepted Paper:

Die Schultüte als Mythos: ethnographic perspectives on starting school in Germany and its implication for the shaping of school spaces  

Authors:

Heike Deckert-Peaceman (University of Ludwigsburg)
Gerold Scholz (Goethe Universität Frankfurt)

Paper short abstract:

The paper presents an ethnographic study of narratives and practices around starting school in Germany in comparison to other countries. It discusses a specific ritual that symbolises becoming a pupil and investigates how membership of school is being created and how this changes actors and spaces.

Paper long abstract:

There is an ongoing and increasing debate worldwide over the best time to start formal education and on how to deal with the transition from a play-based learning to the foundation stage of a formal curriculum. Modern societies vary in their answers to these questions. International studies mostly focus on structural and outcome-based aspects but neglect the specific cultural narrative that is being told and performed when starting school.

The paper presents an ethnographic study of such narratives and practices in Germany in comparison to other countries. It discusses a specific ritual, a cone filled with sweets, which symbolises becoming a pupil. It looks at the processes in how membership of school is being created and how this changes actors and spaces. Photographs and a short film will be shown to investigate two dimensions, a vertical and a horizontal. Firstly the ritual divides biographical phases (before school and school) and spaces of childhood (preschool and school). It creates a community of the same by telling a myth about maturity. Secondly we refer to Luhmann's assumption that each child is equal at the moment of school entry, which is the prerequisite for institutional selection based on the myth of talent and performance. We will show the implications of the ritual "Schultüte" for this selection process and how this shapes school as a space in a specific "German" way.

Panel P233
School ethnographies: inside and beyond schooling