Gertrud Bäumer, 1929-33

HA VI Rep.92 Becker B.Nr. 6273

315. MdR Gertrud Bäumer1 an C.H.B., Kultusminister. Berlin 28.8.1929


Verehrter Herr Minister!

Wenn ich Ihnen das beiliegende Manuskript übersende, so geschieht in der Annahme, daß es Sie interessieren wird, das von Ihnen geprägte Wort vom dritten Humanismus schon in der internationalen Diskussion zu finden. Bei dem Internationalen Kongreß für Pädagogik in Genf Ende Juli hat Albert Thomas, der Direktor des Internationalen Arbeitsamtes, einen der Hauptvorträge über das Bildungsproblem des Arbeiters gehalten und in diesem Vortrag das Stichwort vom „neuen Humanismus“ programmatisch gebraucht. Ich habe in meinem Vortrag über die Verbindung von beruflicher und allgemeiner Bildung dieses Stichwort von Thomas aufgenommen, und darum dachte ich, daß das Manuskript Sie interessieren würde. Es ist in englischer Sprache, weil nur von der englischen Übersetzung, die ich selbst angesichts des zu 47 % angelsächsischen Publikums gegeben habe, mir eine Nachschrift zur Verfügung stand.

Es war sehr interessant, wie auch in verschiedenen Ansprachen das gleiche Problem aus dem pädagogischen und schulorganisatorischen Entwicklungsstand der verschiedensten Länder, – auch des Ostens – auftauchte.

Ich brauche das Manuskript nicht zurück.

Mit verbindlicher Empfehlung (gez.) Gertrud Bäumer


316. C.H.B. an MR’ Dr. Bäumer, MdR. Berlin, 12.9.1929


Sehr verehrte gnädige Frau!

Von einer Auslandsreise nach Berlin zurückgekehrt, fand ich hier Ihre freundlichen Zeilen vom 28. August d. Js. vor, für die ich Ihnen verbindlich danke. Das ihnen beigefügte Manuskript habe ich mit lebhaftem Interesse gelesen.

Natürlich bin ich mit der Tendenz sehr einverstanden, namentlich auch mit der Schlußforderung der einheitlichen Leitung der Allgemein- und Berufs-Schulausbildung. Leider sind wir in Preußen davon noch weit entfernt. Ich wäre aber für jede Hilfe in dieser Richtung außerordentlich dankbar.

Mit verbindlichen Empfehlungen

Ihr sehr ergebener (C.H.B.


Vortrag von Gertud Bäumer auf dem Pädagogik-Kongreß in Genf 1929

Mr. Albert Thomas at the end of his very impressive speech on Saturday has put the question, if in fact vocational toil for the great mass of the population engaged in industrial work can be the whole meaning of their life – if educators as well as social reformers have not to face a higher aim; man as he is in himself, in his own rights, his own pride an dignity, “the form complete” –as Walt Whitman says. And he spoke of a new educational ideal rising with the emancipation and social development of the working classes, which has already been given the name of the “new humanism”.

I want to stick to this word. For it is just the formula for the solution of the educational problem of which I have to speak: the problem how to combine the proper equipment of the young people for the battle of life with that deeper an more general culture of their personality, which from a higher, not purely utilitarian, point of view, for the sake of the dignity of human life has to be indispensable and everlasting key-aim of education. And we have to face this task not only as a question of the preservation of “humanities” in the schemes of higher or university education, but also – and chiefly – as the quite new and modern question, how to give this culture to the masses together with that just as indispensable vocational training in the work they are likely to follow.

In all countries, whose economic and social life has been shaped by technical development, we note an ever-growing tension between the rising exigencies of vocational life on education and the worker’s performances and the ideals of broadness and totality of human and personal culture. The question, how to adapt the educational system to these economic necessities and at the same time preserve space for the human culture of body and soul and for the training of the spiritual and moral forces needed by the community just as badly as practical faculties – this has put himself as the very central problem of the construction as well as of programs and methods of the educational system. Discussion in all countries is full of these problems – in the newspapers as well as in the deliberations of educational circles and administrations.

  • On the one side the complaints of the so called practical people, that schools in devoting too much of their time to “useless” subjects, do not properly equip their scholars for life,
  • on the other side the struggle of the teachers to persuade the public of the worth of culture for its own sake, –

  • on the one side the obstinacy of old tradition against the necessities of a fundamentally changed world,

  • on the other a rather flat and short-sighted under-appreciation of everything that is not “useful” in a very primitive and superficial sense of the word.

It is one of the fatal effects of this cruel commercial rivalry and this passionate and frenzies struggle between Nations that everywhere man is sacrified to business and industry. Production can’t – even if it would like to – escape the incessant urge of competition to raise its efficiency by rationalising, even if this efficiency can only be attained at the price of degrading man – as Mr. Thomas has pointed out – into an annex of the machine. Certainly – the psycho-technical science – beginning with its American pioneers – has begun to realise that the working man is not simply a mechanical force, but a living being with a soul, but investigations into the nature of this living instrument of production only goes as far as its use as working force is concerned, and the statements on the motives and moves of this production instrument end with the last stage of the assembly line. The psycho-technical science is indifferent towards the workers as fathers and mothers, sons or daughters, neighbours or citizens. It is not interested in their taste and thirst for the treasures of culture, or in the deeper questionnings on life stirring within them, or the great thoughts of eternity coming to them.

Everywhere we see two stages in the development of education. In the historical beginnings of the public school-systems – be their roots founded in a want of religious or of civic education – they certainly aimed at a general human education, be it ever so simple and primitive, and did not take the child merely as a future worker. The ascent of education from the elementary school to College and University meant an increasing and deepened cultivation of what the Romans called “humanitas” – an educational ideal and a name that have been preserved in the European educational systems.

This development is interrupted and even broken off by the irresistible claims of the new professional life. The professional system under the influence of applied science has become at the same time immensely specialised, subdued to a whirl of incessant changes and, being splintered up in endless purely mechanic occupations, yet as a whole intellectualised.

The educational systems adjusted themselves, at first hesitatingly, then rather rapidly, to these new circumstances. Today we see an immense increase of professional and technical training in all countries, together with the organisation of vocational guidance and new and modern regulations of all sorts of apprenticeship. The expanding of the modern system of equipment for industrial life is on the point of overgrowing the traditional school system and yet is still far from its final standard.

This remarkable progress of vocational training in the last decades presents two aspects. On the one side it is part of an armament in the feverish economic competition of the nations; on the other side is a very valuable educational movement to meet new wants for skilled work in the best way and to give the young people in a rational and systematic form what otherwise they had to pick up by chance.

But while we are all still trying to meet the incessant demand for all kinds and types of vocational training, the question of the fate and everlasting right of the “humanitas” ideal is advancing upon us, strengthened by a new and very strong political reason: the progress of democracy and the political responsibility of all citizens for all the big questions of national life. The working man, who in his team work on the assembly line has to accomplish the same operation scores of thousands of times, as a citizen bears equal responsibility with the University man, and in many countries – for instance my own – represents the strongest political power. On his vote depend not only the questions of peace and war, of economic and social politics, but also the questions of education and culture. This means that his training cannot be confined to his outfit for work. He too has a right and a claim to this idea of “humanitas”, taken in the new and modern sense Mr. Thomas had in his mind, when he spoke of the humanism needed. With the traditional cultivation of “humanitas” at school there is connected the character of exclusiveness, the concentration of culture on a small class of people, leaving the thirst of improvement and knowledge of the multitude to that bit of elementary teaching given in the primary schools and to pure vocational drill. What we need is an education in “humanitas” that means raising the level of feeling and thought of the masses in a form adapted to their needs and to the necessities for their life, giving them, as Mr. Gilbert Murray said, higher wishes and surer beliefs.

In saying this I realise, that there is a great difference in the social conditions of Europe and the New World. In a country with so many unexploited possibilities and resources of the United States, with such confidence in still growing property you can encourage the largest numbers of students to work their way through college, and the main question seems to be to give everybody a chance to get on. I take from a little book of John Bunn the figure of students enrolled in Colleges and Universities of the U(nites) St(ates) is 500 000 on a population of 119 millions. Germany with a population of about half as many millions has only an enrolment of 112 000 in her Universities, which yet give rise to very serious anxiety, because it is undoubtedly much too large for the limited openings in higher professions. Therefore we have to try to confine the ascent to university to the very fittest – taking them of course from all classes of the people. And as far as I see the same rather tragic situation prevails in other European countries: that they have an expanding competition of highly trained intelligence and too little professional space for them.

But even if the percentage of candidates for higher professions could be raised much higher than it can be with the limited opportunities of Europe – the big mass still remains in the middle and lower sphere of professional life. And the great problem for all the countries is, how to raise the cultural level of these masses, without neglecting the urgent training for skilled work.

Now there are two ways possible to accomplish this.

  • The one is the prolongation of general and fundamental education before vocational training or professional work is beginning. I do believe that we must come to an obligatory school attence of nine years –combined with what Mr. Thomas asked for: a prohibition of child labour up to the fifteenth year.
  • But on the other hand I do not believe in the usefulness of encouraging or even compelling masses of practically gifted children to go through secondary schools, before they are admitted to certain professions or institutes for professional training. There seems to be after the war in European countries an overflowing of secondary schools by children, who are not of the intellectual type with which secondary educations as preparation for University must reckon and who are thrown out of their proper way, without being capable to perform really valuable work on their new lines. By these types the sharp division between the cultured and the uncultured classes will not be abolished, but embittered by disappointment and failure.

  • Therefore we must try an other way and that is to penetrate vocational training with sufficient elements of general culture, to “humanise” it – if I may take up once more the formula of the “new humanism”, that is to say to widen and to deepen it – in preserving its strictly professional character. Boys or girls have to be impressed throughout their professional training by the greater sphere of responsibility spreading all around their professional activities, being closely and by many organic relations connected with it, and demanding not only efficiency in work but a standard and an individual power of mental refinement, character and human and social value. I believe that the words of Walt Whitmann to a pupil still apply to the situation of labour in modern society: “Is reform needed? Is it through you? The greater the reform is needed the greater the Personality you need to accomplish it.”

This programme demands in some sense a new idea of culture. The academic man of Europe brought up on the venerable classical ideas of a spiritual culture based on philosophy and historical knowledge and thought, has some difficulties in catching up with another possibility: the educational ideal of a man who just like the artisan of the Middle ages is in every sense up to the demands of his circle of life:


  • as a worker,
  • as a citizen,
  • as a member of his church,

and impresses us with the simple harmony and the round efficiency of his life, without having gone all this long way through thoughts and arts and performances of all ages and Nations in order to be cultivated. We can’t under so changed and so much more complicated circumstances revive that man in his sane and simple totality – but we may create a modern type of him, and whoever on politics or other spheres of social life has come in touch with the representatives of labour of today, must know this modern type.

We must loosen this sharp division of one group of schools giving what we call “general education” and excluding strictly any professional aspect, even the general training of manual qualities – and another group giving nothing but vocational training without any broader background. We must realise, that human education of those masses of our young people who go to work from the primary school or after a very short vocational training cannot be achie-ved in that space of time that it demands a very systematic care of the age of manhood or womanhood.

Let me point out the chief items of what is necessary:

  1. a vocational guidance for the young people leaving the obligatory school, that is not only aimed at to finding them a job, but – in cooperation with the school – looks after their human qualities and bears in mind that the profession has to serve not only a means of their earning living but as the happy or unhappy sphere of all their active forces.

  2. An educational spirit in shops and factories and all places where young people are employed, whether they go through regular apprenticeship or whether they are and remain unskilled. We have before our legislation in Germany just now a new law, that does not only regulate apprenticeship after modern principles but charges the employer with a responsibility for the general bodily and mental welfare of all the young people, in their employ, apprenticed or not, beyond the mere questions of labour protection.

For a young boy or girl entering working life at fourteen or fifteen the question of further human development is a question of spare time. Children imprisoned in an eight hours work day without holydays besides Sundays cannot, with very few exceptions, be expected to have energies left for self-improvement and any concentrated work of self education. It is the tension between the perhaps often unconscious longing for it and the hard and tiring pressure of work that leads very often to the crisis of this age. That there really exists a very strong longing, a very strong feeling of a claim that youth has to all-sided human development, is shown by our youth-movement, that can be defined as a reaction of youth itself against the human shortcomings in the conditions of modern life. As to the labour-conditions their demand is that young people under eighteen should have paid holidays, and a great exhibition of all our youth-organisations last year has shown, that they are able to make use of these holidays in a way that all educators can only heartily endorse.

  1. The continuation-school, that has to be obligatory up to the eightieth year. There has been much discussion, whether the continuations-school had to be a prolongation of primary schools or part of a vocational education. The decision in Germany, though both forms are existing side by side, has, I may say, been given in the latter sense and the continuation-school is now called “Berufsschule”. But that does not mean that it is nothing but a complementary vocational training for the prentices and young workers. Its ideal is very clearly – and is ever more clearly worked out – to widen the aspect of the professional work which remains the centre of the continuation-school, by physical training, personal culture, civil education and a deeper understanding of the national roots of their existence.
  2. The programmes and methods of vocational schools, technical schools, schools of commerce a.s.o.. In these programmes and methods the tendency to develop a new type of “humanism” out of the very centre of practical efficiency has its broadest field of action. I do believe that for my country as well as for other European countries the most important and promising educational work is to be found here, in the raising of level of all these institutes not be merely multiplying and specialising the subjects, but by preparing a higher and broader conception of them.

  3. This can only be done by the qualification of the teachers. We train the teachers for our professional schools in vocational teachers-training-colleges (berufspädagogische Institute). To enter these institutes they must have the maturity for the University and at least two years of professional work or a training in a vocational school. The studies in the VTTrC take two years and we mean to extend them further to three years. The idea is, that these teachers have to combine the aspects of higher education with a perfect experience in the practical work, which their scholars want to learn. So, being at home in both spheres of education, they are enabled to educate the new type we want: a youth with a solid practical training, with all necessary qualities for nature of their education protected against the danger of being swallowed up by commercialism.
  4. One last item: in the question of administration. In my opinion, the merging of the two great aims of an educational system: practical efficiency and human culture can only be fully guarantied, if the administration of the vocational and the general branches of education at the centre is not separated. A vocational training system under the auspi-ces of industrial or commercial boards is always in danger of sacrifying the education-al to the purely utilitarian tendences. I would like to mention the brilliant speech with which Mr. Herriot in France defended the reform by which he put the vocational school system under the Ministry of Education.

Perhaps many of you think that there is too much idealism in the conception of this new humanism rising out the whirl and haste of industrial life, out of factories and shops and all the places of economic struggle. But as educators we have to look at the possibility with an eye of faith. For it is the only way, to revive the ideals which have once formed European culture, under circumstances, that must otherwise without doubt ultimately defeat them.

317. Gertrud Bäumer an C.H.B. Berlin, Charlottenburg, Fürstenplatz 1, 13.1.1933

Verehrter Herr Minister!

Ich danke Ihnen sehr für die Übersendung Ihres Aufsatzes, den ich in der Vossischen Zeitung schon gelesen hatte, und auch dafür, daß Sie mein Buch in Ihre Charakteristik einbezogen haben. Inder Beurteilung allerdings des Buches von Helbing stimme ich nicht ganz mit Ihnen überein.- Aber das ist zu weitschichtig für briefliche Darlegung.Vielleicht findet sich einmal eine Gelegenheit, darüber zu sprechen.

Mit verbindlicher Empfehlung (gez.) Dr. G. Bäumer

1 Gertrud Bäumer *1873 Bethel + 1954, führend in der deutschen Frauenbewegung, gab mit Helene Lange die Zeitschrift „Die Frau“ heraus (1931-44), MdR

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