Kurt Hahn is one of the great educators of the 20th century. His significance and impact are based primarily on the strength and charisma of his personality, his educational ideas, and the establishment of many educational institutions.
With the founding of Salem in 1920, Kurt Hahn brought to life an educational concept that opposed the one-sided academic education of the traditional gymnasium and instead focused on the holistic development of the individual.
Together with the last Chancellor of the German Empire, Prince Max von Baden, and the renowned and experienced educator Karl Reinhardt from Frankfurt am Main, he realized the idea of an international, socially responsible school community with Schule Schloss Salem.
The goal was to educate young people to become politically responsible citizens, drawing on the experiences of World War I. The focus of pedagogy was not on instruction and lecturing, but rather on:
- Character formation in terms of education for responsibility,
- Learning and research characterized by direct experience and practical thinking, and
- Learning characterized by helpful action.
Every child should have the opportunity to discover their own “grand passion” by recognizing themselves. Insights and attitudes are primarily acquired in a social context, making school and community life particularly important.
Over five decades, from 1920 to 1970, Kurt Hahn established his pedagogy in various forms. The results of his pedagogical and entrepreneurial actions span across five continents.
Examples include the boarding schools Schule Schloss Salem and Gordonstoun, the United World Colleges, the Round Square School Association, and Outward Bound. Approximately 60 schools and institutions engage over one hundred thousand boys and girls in their activities each year.
In the late 1960s, Kurt Hahn was involved in the conception of the International Baccalaureate (IB), an international high school program that is now recognized in 70 countries.
With the establishment of Salem International College, an international upper-level boarding school, and the IB as its academic core, Salem impressively strengthened and modernized Hahn’s ideas in the year 2000.
Kurt Hahn formulated his pedagogical ideas and educational ideals in seven laws that remain relevant to this day: [Note: The text does not provide the specific seven laws.]
SALEM LAWS ACCORDING TO KURT HAHN
- Provide children with opportunities to discover themselves.
- Allow children to experience triumph and defeat.
- Give children opportunities for self-devotion to a common cause.
- Ensure moments of silence.
- Foster imagination.
- Let competitions play an important but not dominant role.
- Liberate the sons and daughters of wealthy and powerful parents from the feeling of privilege.
HONORS AWARDED TO KURT HAHN
- Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Edinburgh, Göttingen, Tübingen, and Berlin
- Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grand Cross)
- Freiherr-vom-Stein Prize, Hamburg
- C. B. E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), United Kingdom
- Professor of the State of Baden-Württemberg
- Foneme Prize, Milan
“Nowhere is it written that children of wealthy parents must be more suitable than those less privileged. He would be a fool to claim such a thing. However, a private school, especially, should represent the entire society as it currently exists, not just the highest income brackets.”Golo Mann, Altsalemer, Abitur 1923
Golo Mann writes in the Kurt Hahn Foundation’s founding book
“When an original Altsalemer, Abitur 1923, briefly speaks up here, it is because the endeavor he is concerned with appears promising.
Today, the Salem Schools belong—once again—to the most thriving of their kind; I cannot call them the ‘best,’ such superlatives are indeed prohibited. The fact that alongside the vast majority of state schools, there should also be private ones is a realization that hardly anyone disputes anymore in earnest. (…) A private school requires resources. For the old English public schools, for the famous prep schools and colleges in the United States, this is self-evident. Not so in Germany, and not for Salem either. Here, the new foundation brings about a fundamental change: it will have the right to accumulate capital. Those who give to it know that they are giving for something lasting; they contribute, however much or little, to a sum whose interest will endure and serve future purposes (…).
Nowhere is it written that children of wealthy parents must be more suitable than those less privileged. He would be a fool to claim such a thing. However, a private school, especially, should represent the entire society as it currently exists, not just the highest income brackets. And our society is no longer hierarchically structured like the English society of the 18th and 19th centuries; a fundamental condition to which even Eton and Harrow have adapted as best they could. Hence, the more scholarships, the better. Every school, a miniature state, needs an elite. Those who belong to it should not even be aware of it; it emerges discreetly and naturally. It is the elite that carries and further develops the institute’s good spirit. Today, it can come from anywhere; from students whose parents have illustrious names, and from those of more modest origins. The more financially independent a private school is, the closer it will come to this ideal goal.”