Kurt Hahn was the principal of a German boarding school as Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power. He spoke out against them in 1933 after Nazi Stormtroopers killed a young Communist in front of the boy’s mother. In response to his protest, Hahn was thrown in jail and later exiled from his homeland.
From Scotland, he endured the agony of watching World War II unfold. Being of Jewish descent, he realised that many family members, friends, former students and colleagues had been sent to gas chambers and deadly labour camps.
Horrified, he questioned what could make thousands of average men and women willingly play a part in the Nazi death machine. How could still more have stood by and passively allowed it to happen?
However, he also discovered that human beings could be capable of the opposite. Many Europeans had put their own and their family’s lives in danger by harbouring Jews and political refugees. Underground resistance had spread throughout Europe.
He finally realised that people had the potential to fulfil either destiny.
In his research, he found that young children tended to have natural compassion and strong values and principles. But this could change around the age of fifteen if six elements of contemporary society were not challenged. These included declines in:
- Fitness due to modern methods of moving about
- Initiative and enterprise due to widespread ‘spectator-itis’
- Memory and imagination due to the confused restlessness of modern life
- Skill and care due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship
- Self-discipline due to the ever-present availability of stimulants and tranquillisers
- Compassion due to the ‘unseemly haste’ with which modern life is conducted.
“THERE IS MORE IN YOU THAN YOU THINK”
Hahn always told his students: “There is more in you than you think!” He wanted to help them become the best version of themselves and this goal was at the heart of his philosophy for educating mind, body and spirit. In 1956, he also helped Prince Philip set up the widely acclaimed Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
The basis of his experiential programs was to encourage participation of hearts, minds and hands by targeting four main types of activity:
- Fitness training
- Rescue service
He found that if he could challenge them mentally, physically and emotionally, they tended to choose self-reliance, compassion, discipline, and determination.
Like Hahn, we seek to educate students’ minds, hearts and hands. Not only are we concerned with academic performance, creative power, curiosity and problem solving, we are also concerned with enlivening ideas and beliefs, valuing diversity and inclusiveness, and fostering resilience, reflection, respect, responsibility, empathy and caring. All of these character traits serve young people for life and eternity.
Through involvement in real life experiences such as mission service, peer mentoring, and projects and expeditions, students become crew rather than mere passengers. This mindset will take them into a future where they can serve God and their community faithfully and well.
This post is the third in a series of four articles. The final post in the series will be published next Friday.
For the full article detail, read Charting Course: there is more in you than you think! (link no longer available).
This article was originally published on the Brisbane Adventist College website, and has been adjusted for use here. Article written and posted in Australian English.