Articulation and Participation of Adolescents at School

The doctoral thesis “Articulation and participation of adolescents at school. The development of West German student journals in the 1950s and 1960s and their relevance for research on youth and schools“ analyzes how youth cultures entered grammar schools and how contacts between students and teachers became more liberalized. For this purpose, the thesis consulted also historical development of student journals in Western Europe, the USA and the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Project Description

The thesis originates from the DFG-funded project "PAUSE – West German student journals from the 1950s and 1960s. Student journals as artefacts of secondary school cultures". The research was based on the BBF's collection of more than 7,000 school journals.

The work focused on youth participation and youth cultural articulation in West German grammar schools in the 1950s and 1960s. Compared to other West European countries but also the GDR, student journals became highly successful in West Germany after the allied forces had introduced them together with assigning the students an official role in school organization (student councils, Schülermitverwaltung SMV). In doing so, they partly picked up on a similar tradition practized prior to 1945.

Even at an early stage, the students’ journals boards of editors claimed their independence from the SMV councils – the latter had soon realized that their joint responsibilities meant limited power. Student journals on the other hand demonstrated significantly less problematic and potentially more successful opportunities for articulation. They contributed to school cultures that were more strongly characterized by liberalization and participation. The thesis illustrates this aspect for topics that were influential at the time: focusing on

  • the discussion of technology and science-technological developments in the Cold War era,
  • occupation with the United States of America and their cultural influence and
  • dealing with youth cultural developments.

The school's increasing openness towards youth cultural influences was examined, both at the level of thematization and at the material level by analyzing the artifacts, as the joournals were designed, produced, and financed by the young people themselves.

The presented productive efforts for freedom of opinion at school also illustrate the relevance of student journals for relationships among teachers and students and the development of participation at school. The thesis affirms the role of student journals in reconstructing youth culture respectively peer culture in the context of schools and their significance as a source for researching school and youth cultures.

The thesis is the first approach to comprehensively trace the development of school newspapers in the first half of the 20th century. For further research activities, the thesis provides the first comprehensive research report for Western Europe as well as an account of the situation in the USA, since student journals are an international as well as transnational phenomenon.



The thesis emerged from the project “PAUSE – West German student journals from the 1950s and 1960s. Student journals as artefacts of secondary school cultures", funded by the German Research Foundation, DFG.

Project Mangament

  • Marcel Kabaum, M.A.

Project Details

Project type: Qualification project
Completed Projects
11/2012 – 04/2017