Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A modern school thinker from 1836 - oral, respect and conversation

The living word

In Grundtvig’s preface to his 1832 study of Scandinavian mythology, Nordens mytologi [Nordic

mythology], the first glimpses can be seen of the Danish folk high school of the future:

There will be the common centre from which the institution branches out into all the main lines of practical life, and

back to which it endeavours to gather and unite all the energies of society. Here, all the civil servants of the state who

do not need scholarship but life, insight and practical ability, and all those who wish to belong to the rank of the

educated should get the very best chance of developing themselves in a suitable direction and of getting to know one


Although Grundtvig’s ideas for a folk high school are in the merest embryonic form in ‘Nordic

mythology', nevertheless, this work does contain a full dress-rehearsal for Grundtvig’s later attacks

on the ‘Schools for Death’, as he called the Latin grammar schools. Latin is ridiculed mercilessly;

its literature Grundtvig considers to be an ‘abomination ... imitation work and unlike Greek and Old

Norse did not spring from the life of the people’.7 In Grundtvig’s contrasting of the ‘spiritless and

life-less learning of the Romano-Italian’8 with the vivid oral traditions behind Greek and Norse

mythology, there is a foreshadowing of the great importance Grundtvig was to give to oral

communication in his plans for education.

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