I’ve spent the better part of this week trying to wrap my mind around the German Volksschule. What was school like in 1850’s Germany?
Fun facts to know and tell:
According to Thom Hartmann, of Mythical Research, Inc., at this article on Good German Schools, state-run schools were established in Prussia in 1756. They were not born of a desire to bestow culture on the masses, but to keep child labor from competing with adult labor, and to indoctrinate kids at a young age to learn duty and loyalty to the king and/or fatherland.
Prussian state-run schools taught the 3R’s, plus a 4th: Religion. Schoolwas compulsory for children ages 7-15, and was held 5-6 days / week until noon (a practice still continued to this day in Germany (see NY Times article by Katrin Bennhold).
German schools were generally considered far superior to American ones (although Goethe is known for stating: “America, you have it better than our continent, the old thing”). America’s public education system began in 1852 in Massachusetts, where it was modeled after the Prussian state-run schools.
Such an inauspicious beginning to our public education system (where children were forced into school as a means of controlling the unruly populace, and parents thrown in jail if they didn’t cooperate — see Hartmann link above), makes me all the more glad scholars like Rudolf Steiner came along.