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The historical site of Blackfriars Public School in Chippendale would appear unremarkable to most passers-by. It is, after all, just an old primary school building, now used as a teaching and learning space by the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Yet to the historically trained eye, this site holds much greater meaning. Within the classroom walls of Blackfriars Public School, human reason emerged as a threat to the Church’s dominance in society, a quest for human improvement and progress was embarked upon through a range of educational initiatives, and a community-based organisation was initiated by UTS to actively combat social problems. To understand how and why these developments occurred at Blackfriars, one must call into consideration the historical forces of ‘the modern’ and ‘the postmodern’. It is only in light of these ideas that we can arrive at a true understanding of the site, and more generally an appreciation of why we learn the way we do today.