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Kurt Hahn – Wise words

kurt_hahnKurt Hahn (5 June 1886 – 14 December 1974) was a German-born British educator whose philosophy inspired several innovative educational movements, including The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award


Whenever you have to deal with a boy who is a rebel, remember that you must not fail at some time or other to get him to face the question, Are you going to be a fighter or a quarreller?


What is it that is done to our children that their puberty should deform them? They have the joy of movement; they have an enterprising curiosity; they are ready for sensible self-denial; they dream ahead, and they have a faithful memory, and, above all, great compassion. […] The well-meaning educator who flatters and humours the young not only does a disservice to the community, but also damages the individual by depriving him of the opportunities of self-discovery.


There can be no doubt that the young of today have to be protected against certain poisonous effects inherent in present-day civilization. Five social diseases surround them, even in early childhood.    There is the decline in fitness due to modern methods of locomotion; the decline in initiative due to the widespread disease of spectatoritis; the decline in care and skill due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship; the decline in self-discipline due to the ever-present availability of tranquilizers and stimulants, and the decline in compassion, which William Temple called “spiritual death.”


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


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.


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.


There are three ways of trying to win the young. You can preach at them—that is a hook without a worm. You can say, “You must volunteer”—that is of the devil. And you can tell them, “You are needed”—that appeal hardly ever fails.
An American friend once asked me, “What are you proudest of in your beautiful schools?” I answered, “I am proudest of the fact that there is nothing original in them; it is stolen from everywhere, from the Boy Scouts, the British Public Schools, from Plato, from Goethe.” Then the American said, “But oughtn’t you aim at being original?”. I answered, “In medicine, as in education, you must harvest the wisdom of a thousand years. If you ever come across a surgeon who wants to take out your appendix in the most original manner possible, I strongly advise you to go to another surgeon

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