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The Modern School of Francisco Ferrer i Guàrdia (1859–1909), an International and Current Figure


by Carme Garcia-Yeste, Gisela Redondo-Sama, Maria Padrós & Patricia Melgar — 2016

Background/Context: Throughout history, a country’s economic and military strength has influenced its times of cultural splendor and the rise of famous intellectuals and artists. Spain has been an exception to this. At the turn of the 20th century, a surprising series of events that no one could have predicted occurred. At the time, Spain had recently lost the last of its overseas colonies. A few years later, the Moroccan War was also a failure. All these events sent Spain into a state of confusion and provoked strong political tensions within the country: popular uprisings, street fights, and a general state of economic, political, and military weakness. Simultaneously, the cultural and intellectual scene developed a fascinating degree of momentum. Spain became the cradle of some of the world’s foremost painters, poets, writers, and intellectuals, such as Picasso, Machado, Lorca, and Buñuel. Among them, the Catalan pedagogue Ferrer i Guàrdia (1859–1909), who was important in the libertarian tradition of popular culture, became a world figure with his educational project, the Modern School. This project was specifically aimed at the lowest social classes so that they would have access to a scientific, democratic, quality education, thereby developing their skills in a society where education was limited to the upper classes and contributing educational development to improve social conditions. Both his project and Ferrer i Guàrdia himself were persecuted and attacked until he was finally sentenced to death in October 1909.

Purpose: This goal of this study was to analyze Ferrer i Guàrdia’s indefatigable fight for an egalitarian, high-quality pedagogical project. Specifically, the figure of Ferrer i Guàrdia was analyzed in the context of a socially and militarily decadent country, which led to his defamation, persecution, and death—in contrast with the international impact and prestige he achieved.

Research Design: This research was based on historical methods, specifically drawing on analyses of literature review, historical documents, books, and articles (both scientific articles and newspaper articles from the time) regarding the life and work of Ferrer i Guàrdia and the historical context in which he lived.

Findings/Conclusions: The article concludes with a summary of the great current value of Ferrer i Guàrdia’s libertarian approach to education, which consisted of transforming education to provide high-quality learning for all regardless of socioeconomic class.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 4, 2016, p. 1-36
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 19360, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 7:59:24 AM

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About the Author
  • Carme Garcia-Yeste
    University Rovira i Virgili
    E-mail Author
    CARME GARCÍA-YESTE holds a PhD in pedagogy. She is professor in the Department of Pedagogy at the University Rovira i Virgili. She has directed diverse national and European research projects on ethnic minorities, immigration, and social inclusion. Her research interests involve gender, social inclusion, theory and the history of education, and learning communities. She is editor of the journal Social and Education History. She has published in journals such as Qualitative Inquiry (2014, Overcoming Stereotypes Through the Other Women’s Communicative Daily Life Stories, 20(7), 923–927) and Scripta Nova (2013, Learning Communities, 17, 427(20)).
  • Gisela Redondo-Sama
    University of Cambridge
    E-mail Author
    GISELA REDONDO-SAMA is Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Cambridge. She is currently developing the research line on dialogic leadership in educational contexts, and her research interests have focused on leadership, community participation, and school improvement. Her recent publications include “Not Without Them: The Inclusion of Minors’ Voices on Cyber Harassment Prevention” (Qualitative Inquiry, 2014) and Successful Educational Actions for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe edited by Flecha (Springer, 2015).
  • Maria Padrós
    University of Barcelona
    E-mail Author
    MARIA PADRÓS is professor at the University of Barcelona, Department of Teaching and Learning and Educational Organization and researcher at CREA. She has a special focus on women and cultural and ethnic minorities and is currently one of the researchers of the SOLIDUS Project, funded under the Horizon 2020 Programme of Research of the EU and dedicated to exploring expressions of European solidarity. She has published in journals such as Qualitative Inquiry, Journal of Psycho-didactics, and the European Journal of Education.
  • Patricia Melgar
    University of Girona
    E-mail Author
    PATRICIA MELGAR, PhD, is a tenure-track lecturer in education at the University of Girona. Her research interests include educational theory, social work, and gender studies. She has published articles on these topics in journals, including European Journal of Education and Qualitative Inquiry: Melgar, P. (2015). Luis, From Ex-Prisoner to Neighborhood Representative and Interlocutor With Public Administrations. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(10), 872–878. She is the Editor of Géneros. Multidisciplinary Journal of Gender Studies and is on the editorial board of Violence Against Women.
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