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In Focus - Educational Reform

By Archivportal-D

In the "In Focus" section, we present special highlights from archives that are represented in Archivportal-D. These selected archival items provide insight into the holdings and offer research suggestions for a possible search in Archivportal-D or in the thematic portal "Weimar Republic". This month, we are pleased to present an academic contribution by Sophia Schorr and Daniel Lieb from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen with sources from the State Archive of Baden-Württemberg.

In the information on further research options below, we refer to our object gallery on the main page of online collection, where we present further sources on this complex of topics.


Willi Flemming's (1888-1980) essay "Richtlinien zur Schulreform" (Guidelines for School Reform) was published in 1919 as the 79th issue of the journal "Werbedienst der deutschen sozialistischen Republik."

Links ist das Titelblatt der Broschüre, rechts ein Auszug aus der Broschüre (seite 2) abgebildet.
"For everyone is to serve the basic goal in his own way, and accordingly has to demand equal consideration from others, and thus also equal entitlement to educational opportunities" - so it says in Willi Flemming's essay on educational reform (page 2). Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Abt. Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, E 135 b Bü 576.

Willi Flemming was a literary scholar and Germanist. During World War I he did voluntary military service, being released after a month due to a mental breakdown and taking a job as a teacher. In 1919 he was habilitated at the University of Rostock as a scholar of art and literature. As a result of the November Revolution, Flemming sought proximity to the socialist-oriented workers' and soldiers' councils, which also published the "Werbedienst". The aim of the journal was to propagate socialist and social democratic reforms for the young Weimar Republic.

Titelblatt des Aufsatzes
Another essay from the "Werbedienst der deutschen sozialistischen Republik" is by Georg Flatow: "Die sozialpolitischen Errungenschaften der Revolution"
Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Abt. Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, E 135 b Bü 573.

In his essay on school reform, Flemming made clear his socially critical attitude toward the social inequality of the late imperial period. To counteract this, he proposed some fundamental reforms of the education system. According to Flemming, education should be accessible to everyone free of charge. In addition, students from the lower social strata of society in particular should receive more state support and individual achievement should be placed above class privileges. Teaching was to be interdisciplinary, for which a stirring teacher was to be primarily responsible: the teachers were to have a leader character and thus shape the personalities of the students in order to produce mature people at the end of the school career. Such Führer organizations eventually became the fascist model under National Socialism. However, they were also popular among broad strata of socialists and Marxists of the time, who saw them as a necessary means of educating the masses. With the establishment of equal education for all, the rigid division of labor and with it the division of society into classes was to be overcome at the same time. For Flemming, the inclusion of working people in the classroom was central in this context: this was intended to make education relevant to life and to counteract the isolation of teachers as a caste; at the same time, Flemming was thus pursuing a socialist ideal: overcoming the separation of manual and mental labor.

Titelblatt des Aufsatzes
Theodor Thomas, "Was bringt die sozialistische Republik dem Handwerker?", Werbedienst der deutschen sozialistischen Republik, No. 61. Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Abt. Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, E 135 b Bü 567.

Flemming's text thus stands in a series of further articulations from the environment of the workers' and soldiers' councils of the years 1918-1920. With the end of monarchist rule, the overcoming of the class hierarchy within German society seemed tangible, the basis of which was already laid in the education system through the division into higher and lower forms of schooling. Free education and the establishment of a unified school were part of a series of radical democratic demands articulated especially in the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Flemming's essay on school reform can be counted among these. These advances came to a halt in the course of 1920 due to financial constraints on the part of the state and the dominance of conservative forces. The only long-term result of the reform efforts was a slight increase in the standard of elementary school education.

Willi Flemming only became an important academic figure in the wake of National Socialism. There he showed himself to be a völkisch mastermind, a contributor to the transformation of education, and an ardent admirer of the soldier ethos; a paradoxical turn of events for a man who had experienced firsthand the horrors of war and its psychological consequences. Towards the end of the war Flemming was dishonorably relieved of his duties at the University of Rostock, but already in 1946 he received a new chair at the University of Mainz. However, he was no longer able to play an important role in the young Federal Republic. Flemming died in Mainz in 1980.

This text is a scientific contribution to the series "In Focus". We would like to thank Sophia Schorr and Daniel Lieb of the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen for making it available to us.


Links to the sources in the online collection

Willi Flemming, "Richtlinien zur Schulreform", Werbedienst der deutschen sozialistischen Republik, Nr. 79

Georg Flatow, "Die sozialpolitischen Errungenschaften der Revolution" Werbedienst der deutschen sozialistischen Republik, Nr. 76

Theodor Thomas, "Was bringt die sozialistische Republik dem Handwerker ?", Werbedienst der deutschen sozialistischen Republik, Nr. 61


Research options

If you are interested in further sources on educational policy in the Deutsches Reich, use the A-Z Index to select Bildungspolitik and combine this thematic keyword with Geografikum Deutsches Reich.

In the object gallery on the bottom of the main page of the online collection you can find more sources related to the keywords Bildungspolitik and Lehrer.