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Kurt Hahn
Outward Bound

Kurt Hahn Quotes

James Neill
Last updated:
26 Jan 2008

Quotes by & about Kurt Hahn

...Hahn told the story of a distinguished American who, while being shown around Salem School, asked Hahn's colleague, Prince Max von Baden, what he was most proud of in the school. The Prince's reply was to the effect that nothing was original and that they had borrowed from all sorts of other educators and institutions. The American expressed the view that surely all schools should aim at being original, to which Prince Max quickly replied:

In education, as in medicine, you must harvest the wisdom of a thousand years. If you ever come across a surgeon and he wants to extract your appendix in the most original manner possible, I would strongly advise you to go to another surgeon.

So it was with Hahn; he would rather use material that was already proven to work rather than experiment with something new. However, the success of projects lay in the selection and unique combination of the principles that he decided to "borrow".

...As our society has become information rich, it has become action poor.  It has become poor in the necessity and possibility for struggle against the environment.  As affluence has increased, the young person's environment has become impoverished for responsible and productive action, or any action that tests and develops him.

...Expeditions can greatly contribute towards building strength of character. Joseph Conrad in Lord Jim tells us that it is necessary for a youth to experience events which 'reveal the inner worth of the man; the edge of his temper; the fibre of his stuff; the quality of his resistance; the secret truth of his pretences, not only to himself but others.

...I welcome this occasion to register my indebtedness to Dr. Zimmerman to whom  I owe the watchword 'training through the body, not training of the body.' He agreed with Plato 'Let us build up physical fitness for the sake of the soul.' He considered it less important to develop the innate strength in a boy than to make him overcome his innate weakness. 'Your disability is your opportunity' he used to say to a boy who thought that certain standards were out of his reach. He was radiant when he succeeded in defeating a boy's defeatism, but not more radiant than the boy himself who had learned a great lesson.

...I was once present at a meeting presided over by Doctor Carl Reinhardt. One schoolmaster made the remark, 'I have no faith in this boy.' Dr. Reinhardt said to him, 'Then you have no right to educate him.'

...There are three ways of trying to win the young. There is persuasion. There is compulsion and there is attraction. You can preach at them; that is a hook without a worm. You can say "you must volunteer." That is the devil. And you can tell them, "you are needed" that hardly ever fails.

...I am referring to the published statistics on the rise of juvenile crime. For one age group the crime rate has in one year risen by 56 percent. For this state of affairs people blame the lack of parental control and leniency of the Law—the established educational system of the country is hardly ever held responsible. But some of us educators feel that we ought to say, nostra culpa, nostra maxima culpa, ours is the guilt, ours the greatest guilt.

...I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.

...Without self-discovery, a person may still have self confidence, but it is a self confidence built on ignorance and it melts in the face of heavy burdens. Self discovery is the end product of a great challenge mastered, when the mind commands the body to do the seemingly impossible, when courage and strength are summoned to extraordinary limits for the sake of something outside the self--a principle, an onerous task, another human life.

...Education must enable young people to effect what they have recognized to be right, despite hardships, despite dangers, despite inner skepticism, despite boredom, and despite mockery from the world.  

...an eminent man challenged me to explain what sailing in a schooner could do for international education. In reply, I said we had at that moment the application before us for a future king of an Arab country to enter Gordonstoun. I happened to have at the school some Jews...If the Arab and one of these Jews were to go out sailing on our schooner. . .perhaps in a Northeasterly gale, and if they were become thoroughly seasick together, I would have done something for international education.

...The experience of helping a fellow man in danger, or even of training in a realistic manner to be ready to give this help, tends to change the balance of power in a youth's inner life with the result that compassion can become the master motive.

...The passion of rescue reveals the highest dynamic of the human soul.

...It is the sin of the soul to force young people into opinions - indoctrination is of the devil - but it is culpable neglect not to impel young people into experiences.

...Plus est en vous. [Pintar].  There is more in you than you think. [commonly used by Hahn and motto for one of his schools]

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