What Kind of Education Does our Direct (Swiss) Democracy Require?

October 3rd, 2011

Published on Current Concerns no. 17, by Dr phil Henriette Hanke Güttinger, Switzerland, September 2011.

Today’s children and youth are the future citizens of our direct democratic Switzerland. Our country’s survival, prospering and development will lie in their hands. For this to happen, the necessary foundations have to be laid in family and school education. In the family, kindergarten, elementary school, in vocational schools and colleges individuals are to be brought up and educated who will – as the next generation – act to promote the common good in society and the democratic state. 

Children need education and schooling:

It is nature of man, to think about education and schooling of the next generation. Therefore, we can draw on a rich fund of knowledge today, from ancient times up to the present, amongst others on the writings of the humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam … //

… In 1966, the Education Committee of the Canton of Zurich enacted a new purpose for education. This amendment formulates the essence of education in such a profound, comprehensive and universal way, that it is still valid. Some excerpts are quoted in the following:

I. The purpose of elementary school: Elementary school constitutes, established by the state, an educational institution for children of all social classes; endowed with the same rights and duties, the same principles of education and schooling applying to all. In conjunction with the parental home, schools aim at the harmonious physical and mental education of the child to an integrative and vigorous personality.

The elementary school forms the body. [...] The elementary school forms the intellect. [...] The elementary school forms mind and character. It makes the youthful mind susceptible to all the noble impulses of the human soul, so that it is strengthened against the influences of the ugly, crude, vulgar passions and inclinations. It forms and promotes a sense of duty, the joy of work, firmness of conviction, the pursuit of truth, openness and freedom, and a sense of loyal, devoted, and strong action. It lays the foundation for the ability to self-education in the sense of the claims of enlightenment, of humaneness and tolerance.
Thus, elementary school is a place of universal human education. Undoubtedly, it should convey a certain amount of knowledge and skills necessary for a prosperous advancement in life. True human development, however, does not exclusively manifest in knowledge and skills: its characteristic feature rather lies in the harmony of a pure inner life and in action, which is always directed to the welfare of the whole and never has to shun the light. ”

In 2005 the new elementary school law states its purpose as follows: “The school educates to a behavior that is based on Christian, humanist and democratic values.” The contents of this purpose clause could in future serve as a benchmark against which all innovations and reforms in our educational institutions are measured and assessed. As Arthur Brühlmeier points out in his book “Menschen bilden”2 [“Forming people”]: „Economy and state is also best served when schools care for educating the whole person, and therefore do not focus on people’s usability, but their humanity.
(full text).

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