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Kurt Hahn & The Pursuit of Peace Through Education
Kurt Hahn (1886-1974) is most famed in experiential education circles for being behind the creation of Outward Bound in 1941, itself a response to a war dilemma (low survival rate of British merchant seaman in the Battle of the Atlantic). (...more about Outward Bound)
Hahn, however, should also be better known as a passionate and dedicated campaigner, an educational activist for world peace.
Amongst the major philosophical influences on Hahn was the parable of the Good Samaritan, which he often used in speeches and it guided the design of all his educational projects, particular the service learning components which he saw as the most important. Squadron leader Lester Davies described a conversation with Kurt Hahn on his education philosophy (quoted in Stetson):
There were two key periods of Hahn's life which stand as testament to his dedicated passion and inspired action towards peace-creating education -- the 1930s and the 1960s.
1930's - Hahn Resists the Hitler Regimen, is Arrested, and then Exiled to England
As Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power in the 1930s, Hahn found himself increasingly philosophically opposed to the regimen, particular after five storm troopers trampled a young Communist to death with his mother looking on. Hahn reacted when Hitler came out in support of the storm troopers by sending a letter to all Salem school alumni saying that
"It was," said a Briton who was teaching at Salem at the time, "the bravest deed in cold blood that I have witnessed"."
Hahn wrote and actively publicly campaigned against the the philosophy and actions of the Hitler regimen, "We need to be able to feel that as a people we are just and kindly. On this consciousness depends our strength." (Stetson)
1960's - Hahn Establishes the United World Colleges & Turns Attention to Race & Violence Issues
In 1962, at the age of 76, Hahn established Atlantic College in Wales, with the help of Sir Lawrence Darvall and many others. Atlantic College was the first of seven United World Colleges and was designed to bridge the international gap between secondary education and university level study by offering a universally recognized degree, the International Baccalaureate. The students at these colleges come from a number of countries and the educational program stressed the the importance of outdoor activities and of service to the community."
Wrote Rear Admiral D. J. Hoare (quoted in Stetson):
In Hahn's final visit to the US in 1968 (aged 82) he was deeply disturbed by the racial issues and violence. Instead of going to visit any of his beloved Outward Bound schools,
His Royal Highness Prince Philip said of Hahn:
Stetson concluded his portrait of Kurt Hahn thus:
Certainly, whatever the challenges of our times, Hahn would have us struggle on, combating them all with the strength and creativity we can muster. His message is for us to live so that...we can one day say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Note: This text draws heavily from Stetson, C. P. (n. d.) An essay on Kurt Hahn: Founder of Outward Bound (1941): 1886 - 1974. - downloadable pdf file from www.kurthahn.org