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The origin of primary school. The Prussian school

The German educational system has its origins in the Middle Ages, where education was basically given in monasteries and served to train new generations of clergy or in Latin schools to educate the aristocracy and later the wealthy upper class .

Germany introduced compulsory basic education in the 18th century, in the spirit of the “utilité” of the Enlightenment, in order to train useful citizens for the state. The German state that stood out for its school system was Prussia.

In the State of Prussia (v.) Of King Frederick William I, compulsory schooling appears for the first time in history as the basis of a teaching system closely linked to the state organization (Decree of 1717, with other subsequent measures: Training seminars for teachers, grants, inspections, school societies around parishes and municipalities).

The nationalization is accentuated with Frederick II (v.), With the Aufklärung (v. ILLUSTRATION), despotism (v.) And the educational policy of Minister Baron von Zedlitz; and culminates in the Prussian General Civil Code of 1794, which sanctions a state system of education of great influence in the other German states (it would help to insinuate and encourage a German unity; and it would mark teaching in A. with the stamp of a more regionalization or less stateized).

Lutheranism has had a great influence on both culture and education throughout German history. Martin Luther was in favor of compulsory education and through him it spread throughout the country. During the 18th century, the Kingdom of Prussia was one of the first in the world to introduce compulsory and free primary education. This consisted of eight years of Volksschule and provided the minors not only with basic academic knowledge (reading, writing and arithmetic) but also with a very strict education based on discipline, ethics and obedience. The sons of the aristocracy continued after the Volksschule with secondary education in a private school. The rest of the population did not have access to secondary education.

The Prussian era (1814–1871)

In 1810, after the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia introduced a state certificate for teaching, which served to improve the quality of education considerably. The Abitur was introduced in 1788 and implemented in all Prussian secondary schools in 1812 and in the rest of Germany in 1871.

By 1870 the Prussians organized nascent Germany to their liking. The instruction and the military spirit took hold of the children as soon as they entered the school. An elementary school manual told teachers how to act: “Sit up straight! Silence! Shut up! Hands up! The feathers are straight! Show me the notebook! ”. The teacher ordered and the student had to obey the orders immediately.

    “If the teacher was to be the sergeant of the nation, the teachers of the Gymnasium, the secondary school, moved wrapped in a cloud of splendor that was a reflection not only of a deep respect for education, but also of hierarchy absolute of society. Poorly paid, poorly dressed and often too poor to marry, even the humblest of them had the right to be called Mr. Professor, and the students addressed him in a firm position.

Thomas Mann wrote:

    “As a child I liked to personify the State in my imagination as if it were a severe wooden figure, with a tailcoat, a black beard and a star on his chest, and with a mixture of military and academic titles that perfectly expressed his power and seriousness: it was General Doktor Von Staat ”.

However, a schoolboy of the time, Hans Khon, would recall:

    “Politics – Austrian, European, Turkish or Asian – interested us very little, and we knew nothing about it. People didn’t travel like they do today, and to a large extent our horizon was defined by a classical education and the German language. The neighboring world, that of the Slavs, was unknown to us, although we devoured the fashion novels of Dostoevsky and other Russians ”.

 (Information taken from Years of Vertigo, 1900-1914, by Philipp Blom).

German Empire (1871–1918)

During the German Empire the school system was centralized in order to establish standards in the educational system. To this end, four classes of schools were created:

– Classic Nine Year Gymnasium (Latin, Greek and a modern language)

– Nine-year-old Realgymnasium (mathematics, natural sciences, Latin and modern languages)

– Oberrealschule aged nine (science, mathematics and modern languages)

– Six-year-old Realschule (which did not allow entry to university and rather prepared students for technical vocational training)

At the beginning of the 20th century, these four types of schools achieved the same rank and privilege, although not the same prestige. In 1872 the Prussian state founded the first secondary schools for women, thus allowing them access to higher education.

The battle of Jena

In 1806 Napoleonic troops humiliated the Prussian army at the Battle of Jena. It was the beginning of public education. The Prussian philosopher Johann Fichte, in his famous Speech to the German nation, assured that the catastrophe was entirely the responsibility of the independence of the Germans: a submissive people and dominated by government slogans were necessary. Thus, he suggested that the State “should mold each person, and mold them in such a way that they simply cannot want anything other than what the State wants them to.”

Or, to refer to another philosopher who defended public education, Franz de Hovre, this should be “education of the State, education by the State and education for the State.” Phrase that demonstrates the fascist roots of the public education model, since it is almost identical to what Benito Mussolini would pronounce shortly after: “Everything for the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

The State had to indoctrinate the common people to discipline them and turn them into an instrument at the service of the political aspirations. In this way, three years after the battle of Jena the German educational system was established, whose declared objective was the creation of five social groups: a) obedient soldiers for the army, b) obedient workers for the mines, c) good subjects. for the Government, d) servile employees for the industry and e) citizens who think the same way in most matters.

Years later, John Dewey, one of the main promoters of American public education, would rule that “independent and autonomous people are a counterproductive anachronism in the collective society of the future.”

This abhorrence of German society was practiced in the Volkshochschule or People’s School, which was attended by 95% of the population. The literacy age was delayed until seven years, and the learning of spellings was replaced by that of phonemes. With this method, children learned late and poorly to read, as they were unable to relate sounds to what was written.

John Dewey. Half a century later, and in the United States, Dewey criticized reading for producing “thinkers” who could not easily socialize. In this sense, Dewey himself collected the ideas of one of his professors, Stanley Hall, who held the following opinion: “We must stop considering reading a fetish. You have to pay much less attention to it ”.

Faced with this “School of the People”, the Prussian system created other types of centers where a higher quality traditional education was offered; and he called them, with astonishing sincerity, Realschule, that is, the “Authentic School”. Little more than 5% of the students attended these schools, and their mission was to educate the leaders of the future. The School of the People created the collectivist masses, and the Authentic School the generals who would command them.

In fact, the constructivist mentality of the Prussian educational system could be observed from the very childhood. The nurseries were called Kindergarten, that is, “Kindergarten”. Its promoter, the German Frederich Froebel, made it clear that it was not about the children playing in a garden, but about the teachers being the children’s gardeners turned into vegetables.

It is no coincidence that all this interventionist and statist framework was the result of a war. In reality, the state is nothing more than a continuous war against society. Unfortunately, this model of expansive government and indoctrinating education was not relegated to Germany, but spread to the United States and the rest of Europe.

We must not fall for leftist rhetoric and think that public education was instituted to provide free education to those most in need. In the 19th century, both Catholic and Protestant parishes and private charity perfectly met the needs of those who wanted to study.

Furthermore, if the objective of the State had been to help the most disadvantaged parents to provide a good education for their children, it would not have to have created a whole network of public schools, with regulated programs and compulsory universal attendance. The intention always was, and continues to be, to break parental-filial ties to replace them with political-filial ties through the inculcation of state ideology.


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