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This volume explores questions about hope, optimism and the possibilities of the ‘new’ as expressed in educational thinking on the nature and problem of adolescence. One focus is on the interwar years in Australian education, and the proliferation of educational reports and programs directed to understanding, governing, educating and enlivening adolescents. This included studies of the secondary school curriculum, reviews of teaching of civics and democracy, the development of guidance programs, the specification of the needs and attributes of the adolescent, and interventions to engage the ‘average student’ in post-primary schooling. Framed by imperatives to respond in new ways to educational problems, and to the call of modernity, many of these programs and reforms conveyed a sense of enormous optimism in the compelling power of education and schools to foster new personal and social knowledge and transformation. A second focus is the expression of such utopianism in educational history – themes that may seem novel, or incongruous, or even inexplicable in the present – and in studies and representations of young people as citizens in the making. Finally, developing broadly genealogical approaches to the study of adolescence, the chapters variously seek to provoke more explicitly historical thinking about the construction of the field of youth studies. This book was originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Educational Administrative and History.