The point of posting this article is to underscore how the ‘German laws against homeschooling’ are not a new development. Any discussion of a change in German outlook, especially by people in other countries who don’t have first-hand experience of the attitudes of the people using the system under discussion,must take history into account, and not just modern political trends and developments.
Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung (Ausburg General News), Augsburg, Germany, 23 December 2003, 200 Jahre Schulpflicht in Bayern (200 Years of Compulsory Schooling in Bavaria)
From Swabia and Upper Bavaria
Without school, no wedding
200 years ago Duke Max VI. Joseph introduced the compulsory schooling of children to Bavaria
From our editor Uschi Ernst-Flaskamp
illustration: The draftsman J. C. Beeg observed public school instruction around 1830. The size of the classes was enormous.
illustration: Duke Max IV Joseph (1799 – 1825), from 1806 king of Bavaria, established compulsory schooling in the country after 1802. Picture: Archives
It was probably no Christmas present for the state’s children exactly 200 years ago when, on the 23rd of December 1802, Duke Max IV. Joseph from Bavaria ordered compulsory schooling. The date was selected, rather coincidentally, as Professor Max Liedtke of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg found out. And many parents and children were not at all pleased about this present. One can well imagine this. Everyone can remember bad notes, unloved teachers, and boring lessons. Pain and pleasure often go together if it concerns school. And often enough, pain prevails.
Two hundred years ago when they ranted against compulsory schooling, the parents didn’t have the well-being of their children in mind. As Konrad Fendt, the former director of the School Museum in Ichenhausen, knows, they were concerned about more important things. While the children between six and twelve years of age were sitting on the school benches, they couldn’t work in the farm fields or earn money in the factories. Above all, the poor farmers bellyached about school taxes, which the State required of them. For each child, 24 Kreuzer [unit of currency] were due per quarter. For a pound of butter one had to hand over 14 Kreuzer.
In addition, the Catholic church did not necessarily stand behind the compulsory schooling of all children. From a source in the year 1773: “The farmer should learn reading and writing! Almighty God gave ignorant country people [too little?] power of reading and writing to be able to understand what is necessary for temporal and eternal welfare.”
Duke Max VI, Joseph of Bavaria didn’t just mandate compulsory schooling for humanitarian reasons. By doing so, he maintained the traditions of his forbears, who had also sought to order school for all. The school was finally a brilliant possibility, to hold loyal citizens accountable to the state. [??] Historians have found that the first attempt of a form of national education goes back to Charles the Great [Charlemagne] in the year 813. Charles, as he’s called in a source, saw it as a holy obligation of his imperial offices to, in general, develop the understanding of Christian teaching in the people. [next sentence unclear] Concerning ‘enforceability,’ he did not want to shy away before forced measures.
Even if it were not the first attempt for compulsory schooling, the regulation of 1802 is, nevertheless, something special. For the first time, not only is school attendance regulated, but teacher education is given form, school books given out, and school buildings built. The duke was serious about compulsory schooling, showed by how the graduation certificate was one of the keys to later life. It must be tendered if one wanted to establish a business in a trade, or if one wanted to buy a house. Also, one couldn’t marry without this certificate. The pressure was, therefore, substantial. And so must the State therefore, make some concessions to its citizens.
In order to accomodate the rural population — and at the beginning of the 19th century, eight out of ten inhabitants lived in the country — long summer vacations were planned so the the children could help their parents with the harvest (“from the middle of July to the 8th of September”). Additionally, from the first of May to the general vacations during the working days (Monday until Saturday) only two hours of instruction could be given “because in the summer months, the children must be available to help their parents with necessary work.” For practicality, the school hours would be held from 6 until 8 o’clock.
Despite the concessions, there did not appear to be overall enthusiasm for the schools. Konrad Fendt has found that in Burgau, the local school inspector, with the assistance of the police, had to proceed against careless school attendance, “with seriousness and severity”. It wasn’t unusual that out of one month, children would ditch school for 16 or 17 days. That would attract attention only with exact counting. The classes were stuffed full with up to 100 children. Nevertheless, unexcused absences cost four Kreuzer.
In Nattenhausen it was more often that the teacher was absent. In 1802, according to Fendt, it was revealed by the [principality’s] Welfare and Supervisory Office in Augsburg/Pfaffenhausen as the “first definitive school teacher and sacristan [?],” he was also a “well-known country doctor and surgeon.” When Haugg was busy with surgery, the instruction would be cancelled.
posted by Valerie