The Song of Roland

#91- A Founding Figure of Modern Schooling: Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation

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This week, Scott and Karl read selections from Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation. They focus on the Second Address, “The General Nature of the New Education,” and the Third Address, “Description of the New Education.”

As a series of polemical speeches delivered during 1807-8, Fichte detailed his plan for national revival, or rather “salvation,” for Prussia after falling to Napoleon at Jena in 1806.

In a time of national crisis, he believes a new kind of education is necessary to preserve the nation. Only with a total revision of the method of educating children could Germany hope to become immune from the Napoleons of the future.

According to Fichte, this system would, “completely destroys freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate, and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the decisions of the will, the opposite being impossible.”

Karl says, “He doesn’t want the product of an education to still be capable of choosing evil.”

Scott adds, “For Fichte, if you employ the right educational methods, every student will have a vision of what the state will be like, and it will be identical, and they will march forward on that vision.”

But why should we care about Prussian education?

As it turns out, Fichte’s influential Addresses are at the heart of the universal compulsory schooling system we know in the United States today.

Tune in to learn more about how his ideals, while radical during his lifetime, have become the foundation for the American education system.

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