Addresses to the German Nation/Eleventh Address

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163. The scheme for the new German national education has been stated sufficiently for our purpose. The next question, which is now urgent, is this: who ought to place himself at the head to carry out this scheme, who is to be relied on, and on whom have we relied?

We have represented this education as the highest and, at present, the only urgent concern of German love of fatherland, and wish to make it first and foremost the means of bringing into the world the improvement and regeneration of the whole human race. But that love of fatherland ought above all to inspire the German State, wherever Germans are governed, and take the lead, and be the motive power in all its decisions. It is the State, therefore, to which we shall first of all have to turn our expectant gaze.

Will it realize our hopes? After what has already been said, what can we expect of it, looking, as is always understood, at no particular State, but at Germany as a whole?

164. In modern Europe education actually originated, not with the State, but with that power from which States, too, for the most part obtained their power—from the heavenly spiritual kingdom of the Church. The Church considered itself not so much a part of the earthly community as a colony from heaven quite foreign to the earthly community and sent out to enrol citizens for that foreign State, wherever it could take root. Its education aimed at nothing else but that men should not be damned in the other world but saved. The Reformation merely united this ecclesiastical power, which otherwise continued to regard itself as before, to the temporal power, with which formerly it had very often been actually in conflict. In that connection, this was the only difference that resulted from that event; there also remained, therefore, the old view of educational matters. Even in recent times, and until the present day, the education of the richer classes has been looked upon as the private concern of the parents, who might arrange it to their own satisfaction; and their children were usually put to school simply because some day it would be useful to them. The sole public education, that of the people, however, was simply education for salvation in heaven; the essential feature was a little Christianity and reading, with writing if it could be managed—all for the sake of Christianity. All other development of man was left to the blind and casual influence of the society in which they grew up, and to actual life. Even the institutions for scholarly education were intended mainly for the training of ecclesiastics. Theology was the important faculty; the others were merely supplementary to it, and usually received only its leavings.

165. So long as those who stood at the head of the Government remained in the dark concerning its true aim and were filled with that anxiety of conscience about the salvation of themselves and others, one could rely with certainty on their zeal for this kind of public education and on their earnest efforts in its behalf. But, as soon as they were clear about the true aim of government and understood that the sphere of the State’s action lies within the visible world, it must have been evident to them that anxiety about the eternal salvation of their subjects could be no concern of theirs, and that anyone who wanted to be saved there should see to it himself. From that time onwards they considered they were doing enough, if for the future they left to their original destiny the foundations and institutions that had originated in more pious ages. However unsuitable and insufficient they might be for totally changed times, they considered they were neither obliged to contribute to them by saving on their other aims, nor justified in interfering actively and setting useful innovations in the place of antiquated and useless things. To all proposals of this kind the ever-ready answer was: the State has no money for that. If an exception were ever made, it was to the advantage of the institutions for higher education, which shed splendour far and wide, and procured fame for their patrons. But the education of that class which is the real foundation of the human race, by which the higher culture is ever restored, and on which that culture must continually react—the education of the people remained neglected and, from the Reformation down to the present day, has been in a state of increasing decay.

166. Now, if for the future, and from this very hour, we are to be able to hope better things in this matter from the State, it will have to exchange what seems to have been up to the present its fundamental conception of the aim of education for an entirely different one. It must see that it was quite right before to refuse to be anxious about the eternal salvation of its citizens, because no special training is required for such salvation, and that a nursery for heaven, like the Church, whose power has at last been handed over to the State, should not be permitted, for it only obstructs all good education, and must be dispensed with. On the other hand, the State must see that education for life on earth is very greatly needed; from such a thorough education, training for heaven follows as an easy supplement. The more enlightened the State thought it was before, the more firmly it seems to have believed that it could attain its true aim merely by means of coercive institutions, and without any religion and morality in its citizens, who might do as they liked in regard to such matters. May it have learnt this at least from recent experiences—that it cannot do so, and that it has got into its present condition just because of the want of religion and morality!

167. As for the State’s doubt whether it can meet the cost of a national education, would that one could convince it that by this one expenditure it will provide for most of the others in the most economical way, and that, if only it undertakes this, it will soon have no other big expenditure to make! Up to the present, by far the largest part of the State’s income has been spent on the maintenance of standing armies. We have seen the result of that expenditure; that is sufficient; it is beyond our plan to go more deeply into the special reasons for that result, which lie in the organization of those armies. On the other hand, the State which introduced universally the national education proposed by us, from the moment that a new generation of youths had passed through it, would need no special army at all, but would have in them an army such as no age has yet seen. Each individual is exercised thoroughly in every possible use of his physical powers, and understands them at once, being accustomed to bear every effort and hardship; his mind, developed in direct perception, is ever alert and self-possessed; in his heart there lives love of the community of which he is a member, of the State, and of his country, and this love destroys every other selfish impulse. The State can summon them and put them under arms when it will, and can be sure that no enemy will defeat them. Formerly, another source of concern and expenditure in wisely governed States was improvement in the management of the State’s resources in its widest sense and in all its branches. In this, owing to the ignorance and helplessness of the lower classes, much care and money were spent in vain, and the matter has everywhere made but little progress. By means of our education the State will get working-classes accustomed from their youth up to thinking about their business, and already able and inclined to help themselves. Now if, in addition, the State can help them in a suitable way, they will understand in a moment, and accept its instruction very gratefully. All branches of the State’s economy will in a short time attain, without much difficulty, a prosperity which no age has yet seen; and the State’s original expenditure will be repaid a thousandfold, if it cares to reckon up and if by that time it has learnt the true fundamental value of things. Hitherto the State has had to do a great deal, and yet has never been able to do enough, for law and police institutions. Convict prisons and reformatories have caused it expense. Finally, the more that was spent on poor-houses, the more they required; indeed, under the prevailing circumstances, they seemed to be institutions for making people poor. In a State which makes the new education universal, the former will be greatly reduced, the latter will vanish entirely. Early discipline is a guarantee against the need in later years of reformation and penal discipline, which are very doubtful measures, while in a nation so trained there are no poor at all.

168. May the State and all its advisers dare to look its true present position in the face and acknowledge it! May it realize vividly that, apart from the education of the succeeding generations, there remains absolutely no sphere, in which it can act originally and independently like a real State, and make decisions! May it see that, if it does not want to do nothing at all, there is but this that it can still do, and may it realize, too, that no one will envy or detract from the merit of this service! The fact that we can no longer make active resistance has already been postulated by us as obvious, and is admitted by everyone. Now, how can we justify the continuance of our forfeited existence against the reproach of cowardice and of an unworthy love of life? In no other way than by deciding not to live for ourselves, and by proving this in action; by being willing to make ourselves the seed of a more worthy posterity and, for its sake alone, to maintain ourselves until we have set it up. Deprived of that chief aim in life, what can we do? Our constitutions will be made for us; our alliances and the employment of our fighting forces will be prescribed to us; a code of law will be given to us; even justice and judgment and their administration will sometimes be taken from us. For the immediate future we shall be spared the trouble of these matters. It is only of education that no one has thought; if we are looking for an occupation, let us seize this! We may expect to be left in it undisturbed. I hope—perhaps I deceive myself in this, but as I care to live only for that hope, I cannot give up hoping—I hope that I shall convince some Germans, and get them to see that it is education alone that can save us from all the ills that oppress us. I rely especially on necessity having made us more inclined to attention and to serious reflection. Other countries have other consolations and other resources; it is not to be expected that they will give any attention to the thought of education, or have any faith in it, should it ever occur to them. I hope rather that it will be a rich source of amusement to the readers of their papers, when they learn that anyone expects such great things from education.

169. May the State and its advisers not let themselves become more loath to take up this task by the consideration that the result hoped for is remote! If among the numerous and highly complicated reasons for our present fate one wanted to single out that for which our governments alone are peculiarly to blame, it would be found that, although they above all others are bound to look the future in the face and master it, they have never tried, in spite of the urgency of the great events of their time, to do more than get out of the difficulty of the immediate moment as well as they could. In regard to the future, however, they have reckoned, not on their present age, but on some piece of good luck which should sever the fixed chain of cause and effect. But such hopes are deceptive. A motive power which is once allowed to enter the flow of time continues and completes its course; once the first careless act has been committed, belated reflection cannot arrest it. Our fate has for the moment removed from us the possibility of making the first mistake, that of providing merely for the present; the present is no longer ours. Let us not repeat the second, that of hoping for a better future from anything but ourselves. Indeed, the present can afford no consolation for the duty to live to any one of us who requires for life something more than food; the hope of a better future is the only atmosphere in which we can still breathe. But only the dreamer can base this hope on anything but what he himself can plant in the present for the development of a future. Let those who rule over us permit us to think as well of them as we do of each other, and as the better man feels! Let them put themselves at the head of the business that is to us, too, quite clear, so that we may yet see arising before our eyes that which will some day wipe from our memory the shame that has been done to the German name before our eyes!

170. If the State undertakes the proposed task, it will make this education universal throughout the length and breadth of its domain for every one of its future citizens without exception. Indeed, it is for that universality alone that we need the State, since for individual beginnings and isolated attempts the resources of well-disposed private persons would suffice. Of course, it is not to be expected that all parents will be willing to be separated from their children, and to hand them over to this new education, a notion of which it will be difficult to convey to them. From past experience we must reckon that everyone who still believes he is able to support his children at home will set himself against public education, and especially against a public education that separates so strictly and lasts so long. Now, in these cases of expected resistance it has been customary in the past for statesmen to reject the proposal with the reply: The State has no right to use compulsion for that purpose. If they want to wait until all men have the good will, since universal goodwill will never be produced without education, they are thereby secured against all improvement, and may expect that there will be no change until the end of time. In so far as these statesmen are among those who either consider any education an unnecessary luxury, with which people should be supplied as scantily as possible, or see in our proposals only a daring new experiment with humanity, which may or may not succeed, they are to be praised for their conscientiousness. Those who are filled with admiration for the existing state of public education and with delight at the perfection which it has reached under their direction cannot really be expected now to agree with something which they do not already know. Not one of them is of any use for our purpose, and it would be deplorable if the decision in this matter were to rest with them. But statesmen might be found and consulted on this matter who, above all things, have educated themselves by a deep and thorough study of philosophy and science, who are in real earnest about their business, have a definite idea of man and of his vocation, and are capable of understanding the present and of judging what is absolutely necessary for mankind at this time. If such men perceived from those preliminary conceptions that education alone can save us from the barbarism and relapse into savagery that is otherwise bound to overwhelm us, if they had a vision of the new human race which would arise through this education, if they were themselves inwardly convinced of the infallibility and certainty of the proposed remedy, they might be expected to have realized at the same time that the State, as the supreme administrator of human affairs and the guardian of those who are its wards, responsible only to God and to its own conscience, has a perfect right even to compel the latter for their welfare. For where is there a State to-day which doubts whether it has the right to compel its subjects to military service, and for that purpose to take away children from parents, whether one parent or both be willing or unwilling? Yet this compulsion to adopt permanently a certain mode of life against one’s will is far more serious, and has frequently the most harmful results to the moral condition, health, and life of those who are so compelled. On the other hand, the compulsion of which we speak restores complete personal freedom when education is finished, and can have none but the most salutary results. It is true that even military service was formerly voluntary; but, when it was discovered that this was not sufficient for the purpose intended, we did not scruple to back it up by compulsion, because the matter was sufficiently important for us, and necessity demanded compulsion. If only in regard to education, too, our eyes were opened to our need and the matter became as important to us, that hesitation would vanish of itself; especially as compulsion will be needed only in the first generation and will vanish in the next, which will itself have passed through this education. Moreover, compulsory military service, too, will thereby be ended, because those who are thus educated are all equally willing to bear arms for their fatherland. Even if, in order not to have too much of an outcry at the beginning, it is desirable to limit this compulsion to public education in the same way as compulsion to military service has hitherto been limited, and to exclude from the former the classes that are exempt from the latter, no serious harm will result. The intelligent parents among those exempted will voluntarily hand over their children to this education. The children of the unintelligent parents of these classes, an insignificant minority, may continue to grow up as before. They will survive among the better generation that is to be created, and serve merely as a curious memorial of the past, and to encourage the new age to a vivid knowledge of its greater good fortune.

171. Now, this education is to be national education of the Germans simply; and the great majority of those who speak the German language, and not just the citizens of this or that particular German State only, are to exist as a new race of men. Every German State, therefore, must undertake this task for itself, and independently of all the others. The language in which this matter was first mentioned, in which the means thereto are and will be written, in which the teachers are trained, the one vein of sensuous imagery that permeates all this is common to all Germans. I can scarcely imagine how and with what changes all these means of education, especially to the full extent of our scheme, could be translated into the language of any foreign country so as to seem, not an alien transplanted thing, but a native product arising from the very life of its language. For all Germans alike this difficulty is removed; for them the thing is ready; they need only avail themselves of it.

172. In this respect it is well for us, indeed, that there are various German States separated from one another. What has so often been to our disadvantage may perhaps in this important national business serve to our advantage. The rivalry of several States and the desire to anticipate one another may perhaps bring about what the calm self-sufficiency of the single State would not produce. For it is clear that, whichever German State makes a start in this matter, that State will win for itself the chief place in the respect, love, and gratitude of all, and will rank as the greatest benefactor and the true founder of the nation. It will encourage the others, set them an instructive example, and be their model. It will remove doubts which hold the others fast. It will produce the textbooks and the first teachers, and lend them to the others. The State that follows it next will win the second place of honour. There is gratifying evidence that among the Germans the taste for higher things has never quite died out, for several German peoples and States have striven with one another for the honour of having the higher culture. Some have claimed to have more extensive freedom of the press and greater disregard for traditional opinion, others better organized schools and universities; some have cited former glory and merit, others something else; and the strife could not be decided. On the present occasion it will be decided. Only that education which dares to make itself universal and to include all men without distinction is a real part of life and is sure of itself. Any other is foreign trimming, put on simply for show and not even worn with right good conscience. It will now be revealed where the boasted culture exists only in a few people of the middle class, who show it in their writings (and such people are to be found in every German State), and where, on the other hand, it has reached also the higher classes who advise the State. Then it will be shown, too, how one has to judge the zeal displayed here and there for the erection and welfare of institutions for higher education; whether the motive was pure love of educating mankind, which would indeed treat with equal zeal every branch of education and especially the very first foundation, or mere passion for showing off and, perhaps, paltry schemes for making money.

173. The first German State to carry out this proposal will, I said, have the greatest glory. Yet it will not long stand alone, but will doubtless soon find imitators and rivals. The important thing is to make a start. Even if there were no other motive, a sense of honour, or jealousy, or the desire to have what another possesses and, if possible, to have it in a better form, will spur on the rest to follow the example one after the other. Then, too, the above-mentioned considerations concerning the State’s own advantage, which perhaps seem doubtful to many just now, will become more obvious, once they are proved by personal observation.

If it could be expected that every German State would at once, and from this very hour, make serious preparations to carry out that scheme, the better generation that we need would be in existence in twenty-five years, and anyone who might expect to live so long could hope to see it with his own eyes.

174. But we must also take this contingency into account. Among all the German States that now exist, there might not be a single one which had among its highest advisers a man capable of understanding, and of being affected by, all that has been mentioned above, and in which the majority of the counsellors did not at any rate oppose him. In that case, of course, this business would devolve upon well-disposed private persons, and it would be desirable that they should make a start with the proposed new education. We have in mind here, first of all, great landowners, who could establish on their estates such educational institutions for the children of their dependents. It is to Germany’s credit, and a very honourable mark of distinction from the other nations of modern Europe, that among the class mentioned there have always been some here and there, who made it their serious business to care for the instruction and education of the children on their estates, and were gladly willing to do for them to the best of their knowledge. It is to be hoped that they will now be inclined to inform themselves about the complete scheme that is offered them, and be just as willing to do now on a large scale and thoroughly what they have hitherto done on a small scale and imperfectly. It may be that some of them did what they did partly because they saw that it was more profitable for them to have educated, rather than uneducated, dependents. In those cases where the State, by abolishing the relationship of serf and lord, has now removed the latter motive, may it bear in mind the more earnestly that it is its essential duty at the same time not to do away with the one blessing which, where the lords were well-disposed, was attached to that relationship! May the State in this case not fail to do that which, apart from this, is its duty, when it has released therefrom those who did it voluntarily in its stead! Then, in regard to the cities, we look to voluntary associations formed for that purpose by well-disposed citizens. So far as I have been able to see, no burden of misery has ever yet extinguished in German hearts the impulse to do good. Yet, owing to a number of faults in our institutions, which could all be included under the one head of neglected education, these good works seldom remove misery, but seem, indeed, often to increase it. May we at last direct that excellent impulse chiefly towards the good work which puts an end to all misery and to all need of further good works—the good work of education. Yet we need, and count upon, a blessing and sacrifice of another kind, which consists, not in giving, but in doing and acting. May budding scholars, whose position allows it, dedicate the time between their departure from the university and their appointment to a public post to the business of receiving instruction in these institutions concerning this method of teaching, and of teaching in them! Apart from the fact that they will thereby deserve well of the community, we can assure them that they will themselves gain very much. All the knowledge which they carry away with them from the usual university teaching, and which is often so dead, will become clear and living in the atmosphere of general observation into which they come here. They will learn to reproduce and use their knowledge with skill. Since all the features of mankind appear pure and clear in the child, they will acquire a store of true knowledge of mankind that alone deserves the name; they will be introduced to the great art of life and action, in which the university usually gives no instruction.

175. If the State does not undertake the proffered task, so much the greater glory for the private persons who do. Far be it from us to anticipate the future with surmises, or strike the note of doubt and distrust. We have stated clearly what we wish for first. We may, however, be permitted to say that, if the State and the princes should in fact leave the matter to private persons, this would be in accordance with the usual course of German development and culture, which has been already mentioned and proved by examples, and which would continue so to the end. In this case, too, the State will follow in its own time; at first like an individual, wanting just to do its part, until later it reflects that it is not a part, but the whole, and that it is its duty, as well as its right, to care for the whole. From that moment onwards, all the independent efforts of private persons cease and are subordinated to the State’s general scheme.

Should the matter take this course, the intended reformation of our race will certainly proceed but slowly, and without the possibility of a definite and fixed survey and estimate of the whole. But let us not be deterred by this from making a start! It is the very nature of the thing that it can never perish, but, once set in motion, it lives on of itself and spreads, ever gaining fresh ground. Everyone who has received this education becomes a witness for it and a zealous propagator. Everyone will pay his debt for the teaching received by becoming a teacher himself, and by making as many disciples as he can, who will also in turn some day become teachers. This must continue until the whole community without exception is affected.

176. If the State should not undertake the matter, private enterprise has this to fear; that those parents who are at all well-to-do will not give up their children to this education. In that case, in God’s name let us turn with full confidence to the poor orphans, to the wretched street-children, and to all those whom the adult world has cast out and rejected. Formerly, especially in those German States where the piety of ancestors had greatly increased and richly endowed the public educational institutions, many parents let their families have instruction, because along with it, as in no other occupation, they found maintenance at the same time. Let us, therefore, since it is necessary, reverse this order, and give bread to those to whom no one else gives it, in order that, along with the bread, they may receive mental culture also. Let us not fear that the misery and wildness of their former condition will hinder our purpose! If only we snatch them away from it suddenly and completely, bring them into an entirely new world, and leave nothing to remind them of the past, they will themselves forget and be like newly-created beings. Our course of instruction and daily routine must guarantee that only good is engraven on this clean new tablet. It will be a testimony against our age and a warning to all posterity if the very ones whom it has rejected obtain through this rejection the sole privilege of founding a new race, if they bring the blessing of education to the children of those who would not mix with them, and if they become the ancestors of our future heroes, sages, lawgivers, and saviours of mankind.

177. For the first establishment capable teachers and educators above all are needed. Pestalozzi’s school has trained such people, and is always ready to train more. An important thing to keep in mind at the beginning will be that every institution of the kind should regard itself also as a training school for teachers, where, round the teachers who are already trained, a number of young men may gather to learn and, at the same time, to practise teaching, and by practice to learn it better and better. This, too, will greatly facilitate the supply of teachers, in case the institutions have at first to struggle against poverty. Most of them will be there to learn; let the sole return asked of them be to apply for a time what they have learnt to the benefit of the institution where they learnt it.

Moreover, such an institution needs a building, initial equipment, and an adequate piece of land. It seems evident that, as these institutions develop, they will contain a relatively large number of growing youths of an age at which, under the existing arrangement, they earn as servants not only their maintenance but also a yearly wage. To these the children of more tender age can be entrusted, and by diligence and wise economy, which in any case are necessary, these institutions will be mainly self-supporting. At first, so long as there are none of these older pupils, the institutions will need rather large contributions. It is to be hoped that people will be more disposed to make contributions, when they see the prospect of an end to them. Let us not be parsimonious, and so prejudice the aim. It is far better that we should do nothing at all than permit this.

My opinion, therefore, is that, goodwill alone presupposed, the realization of this scheme presents no difficulty that could not easily be overcome by the combination of several people, and by the directing of all their strength to this one purpose.