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PUBLIC INSTRUCTION IN PRUSSIA.
A. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION.
a. Supreme Administration, The various independent constituent parts of Prussia from which the kingdom has its origin, prevented an early central administration of public instruction, which was not established till the present century. The schools generally, according to their origin, were at first closely connected with the Church and its regulations, or dependent on the local authorities. The Elector Joachim II. organized in 1552 a consistory for evangelical church and school affairs in Brandenburg; John George decreed in 1573 a visiting and consistorial regulation, which determined the supervision of the schools, as well as their internal arrangements, the instruction and the relations of the teachers. Clergymen were made inspectors, and at the head was the consistory, composed of four or five members, whose assessor was usually the general superintendent. This council undertook the traveling inspection in the provinces, which was fixed at every ten years for each province; during which period the clergymen were exempt from school and church visiting duties. The regulation specified as visitors: "Our general Superintendents and one of our Consistory members, or from some other council, together with the Notarius" (clerk.) The visitors appointed as inspectors for the surrounding towns and villages, the pastors of the principal cities of each place. In regard to the instruction of teachers and pupils of the cityschools, which developed afterwards into high-schools, very special regulations were made. At the time of the institution of a privy counselorship, under the Elector Joachim Frederic, as the highest established administrative council, there originated with it, for the consistory, an additional clerical department. The Thirty Years' War, from whose devastating consequences the Brandenburgian countries suffered particularly, prevented for a long time any further progress in School administration. As a proof of this, we have the decree of Elector Frederick William concerning the affairs of the Protestant Church, in 1662, which contains also the beginning of a School regulation, namely, “ that churches and communities should unite their efforts in organizing here and there, in villages, towns and cities, well-administered schools.” The Lutheran Church regulations for the Duchy of Cleves and the earldom of Mark, in 1687, recommend the same, although with more detailed specifications.
The union of the Duchy of Prussia with the Brandenburgian provinces, the erection of Prussia into a kingdom under Frederic III., rendered centralization in the administration possible, and thus in fact developed the general legislation of the Prussian State since the eighteenth century. Entering deeper into the question, and aiming at a still greater centralization of instruction, was the royal decree of Frederick William I., October 24, 1713, concerning the Prussian evangelical, inspective, presbyterial, parochial regulations for gymnasiums and schools. It gives the supervision of all the schools to the Church : “the gymnasiums and Latin schools of Berlin, Frankfort on the Oder, and Halle, to continue in their present organization and typis lectionum, and those of the other cities and provinces to be modeled as much as possible upon the former, so that some uniformity might be obtained.” The decidedly Protestant character of this regulation shows itself in the importance it gives to the Heidelberg catechism : “No other catechism for the young to be . allowed in schools or churches.” The exclusive use of this catechism was again prescribed in 1716. Important for higher instruction was the revised regulation of September 30, 1718, both for students in schools and universities, as also for the Canditorum ministerei, in which the moral and scientific requirements of those devoting themselves to university studies, namely, the theologians, are strongly set forth and enforced.
In December 22d, 1722, Frederic William I. issued instructions for the general treasury, war and domain departments, which contained also an article relative to church and school affairs : “In all places,” says the article, “where the jus patronatus belongs to us, the churches and schools shall be kept in good condition, and the administration shall direct the authorities of the provinces to see to this matter.” The mere æsthetic development of the mind found no sympathy with this king: he cared chiefly for the wants of the common people. The administration of this department was given to Printzen, president of the German and French members of the consistory, director of all ecclesiastical affairs, protector of the academy of fine arts, principal trustee of all the royal universities, etc., who held it from 1722 to 1725. Ile was succeeded by the Baron of In-and-Knyphausen, to whom, in consequence of an accumulation of work in the consistorial affairs, (1730) was associated as vice-president, Von Reichenbach. In the four provincial departments, the church and school affairs were administered by men bers of the consistory and the legislature.
It is natural that under a monarch like Frederick II., the school administration should be more intelligently conceived than under his predecessor, so far his inferior in real culture. As soon as the storms of war were over, he issued a decree, (1750,) for the Lutheran high consistory of Berlin, to whom was intrusted the supervision of the consistories of the provinces, with the exception of those of Schleswig. Its first president was the chief of the ecclesiastical department, the privy State and law minister, Baron of Danckelmann: in 1764, the church and school
affairs of the Protestants were intrusted to a special chief. But it was only after the close of the Seven Years' War that the great king could give his special attention and care to what he considered the hobby of his old age, schools and public instruction. For the carrying out of his views of education and mental culture, he chose Baron von Zedlitz-Leipe, who, as minister of the State and Law department, was made ex-officio chief of the ecclesiastical department for the Protestant church and school affairs, (January 18, 1771.) The king's letter of 1769 sur l'éducation, (Euvres ix., p. 113,) contains the principles by which public instruction was to be guided, and has been guided since. He regretted that in the gymnasiums the pupils were not accustomed to think for themselves and did not begin early to exercise their own judgment. In the public offices, birth had no advantage over merit. “I am persuaded," he says, “that man can be made what you wish him to be. All that enlightens the mind, all that widens the circle of knowledge, elevates the soul, and never lowers it.” The exercise of one's judgment, the cultivation of the understanding, thinking for one's self, were considered the soul of instruction, and Zedlitz was the man to make these principles the fundamental springs of his activity, in opposition to the blind memorizing of matters never understood, to the reciting of mere words, and to the mental inactivity of both pupils and teachers. He succeeded in carrying out his purposes, to find the right sort of men in Meierotto, Niemeyer, Gedike; he called the philologist Fr. Aug. Wolf to Halle, and the development of the Prussian high-school system is still linked with the activity of these men. It was at the time when Zedlitz was at the head of the Educational administration, that that great movement of the Pedagogy took place, a revolution which originated with Basedow, who harmonized thoroughly with the fundamental ideas underlying Zedlitz's views. It was also to carry these out that Trapp was called from his Philanthropinum in Dessau, to take the chair of Professor of Pedagogics at Halle. But Zedlitz recognized soon the emptiness of this scheme of mere pedagogics, and in announcing to the king (1782) the return of Trapp to Holstein, declared the vacant chair to be “no very great loss."
Considering the self-dependent development of the school-system, Zedlitz conceived the plan of organizing a supreme school-board, independent of the superior councils, which, beside the consistory, should have the supervision of the whole school administration in all the royal domains. This plan was carried out by Frederick William II. in 1787. The board was to depend immediately on the king, and have charge of all the affairs which had till then been conducted by the chief trustees of the universities. It became the duty of all State collegiums, magistrates and public officers, to execute the orders of the chief school-board as rapidly as possible. At the head of this new board stood Von Zedlitz, and Wöllner, presidents of the privy council of the department of finances; and as members, the chaplain of the University of Halle, Von Hofmann, the consistorial counselor, Professor Steinbart, of Frankfort on the Oder, and
the gymnasium directors, Gedike and Meierotto, of Berlin, who were also commissioned to make the inspection visits through the provinces. The most important decree of this council, and the most fruitful in results, was the plan of instruction conceived by Gedike, under the coöperation of Meierotto, given December 23, 1788, and stating among other regula tions that the final university examination of the school was to take place before the dismissal of the scholars.
A short time previous to this, however, a counter-movement had taken place in school and church affairs, by the withdrawal of the minister Zedlitz, and the subsequent election of the privy counselor, Wöllner, to the actual privy State and Law ministry, and as chief of the ecclesiastical department, (July 3, 1788,) which election found forth with an expression in the religious edict of July 9, 1788. This edict was decidedly opposed to the so-called “rage of improvement, by which the respect for the Bible, as the revealed word of God, was calculated to grow weak, which falsified, distorted, and even rejected the divine records, concerning the welfare of the human race. A general rule of conduct was necessarily maintained, by which the masses could be led faithfully and honestly by their teachers in matters of faith, and this line of conduct had thus far been the Christian religion, as set forth by its three principal confessions.” The edict of December 19, 1788, brought back into full force the censure on philosophical and theological writings, which in the last years of Frederic had lain dead, and men of a rationalistic cast of mind like Gedike lost their influence.
Niemeyer was threatened with suspension, and a circular addressed to all the inspectors of Kurmark stated, that to help towards the increase of neology, all newly-appointed teachers in the gymnasiums and cityschools should be made to sign a reciprocal agreement printed for that purpose, (1794.) On the 5th of February of the same year was published the general common law for the Prussian States, which, in part ii., tit. 12, declares schools and universities to be State institutions, and sets up a system of laws embracing the whole plan of instruction, of which the principal points are still in force.
Frederic William III., on his accession to the throne, November 16, 1797, sent on the 23d of the same month a cabinet order to the various departments, houses, and public authorities, cautioning them against the many unworthy subjects that had found means to get into office. Prompted by this message, Wöllner dispatched, December 5, 1797, a special order to the consistories, to remind all lower councils of their duties, and urge upon them a renewed vigilance in respect to the pastors and teachers under their special supervision, that these may not only teach religion in its purity and according to the prescription of the religious edict, but that they may also prove efficient and industrious in the discharge of their school and pastoral offices. Meanwhile, the counselor of the legation, Menken, who opposed the policy of Wöllner, had been appointed privy cabinet counselor to the king. The influence of this gentleman upon the king determined Wöllner to issue, January 13, 1798, a circular in which he proposed to devise better means to advance the spirit of true religion and morality. But in spite of the readiness he showed to destroy his own work, he received a message disapproving his course, wherein the leading principle of government which actuated Frederic William III. is freely set forth: “I honor religion myself, and follow gladly its blissful precepts, and would not rule over a people that disregarded it. But I know also that it must come from the heart, from the feelings, from inner conviction ; if degraded to a methodical restraint, if made a senseless babble, it will never promote virtue and honesty. Reason and philosophy must be its inseparable companions; only then will it exist of itself, and be able to maintain itself without the authority of those who would impose their dogmas upon future times, and prescribe to generations to come, how they should think and feel at all times and in all circumstances, on subjects that have the most important influence on their welfare.” In spite of this reprimand, Wöllner continued in his own way of administration, and received in the early part of March his dismissal, as did the counselors of the chief consistory and the members of the chief school-college committee, who sympathized with him. There remained in the chief consistory, Andrew Jacob Hecker, who, like all those appointed after 1800—Zöllner, Nolte, Niemeyer, Sack, Ribbeck, Hanstein-were the right sort of men to carry out the cabinet order of January 11, 1798. Wöllner's place was filled by Von Massow, who was elected chief of the Lutheran and all ecclesiastical affairs, and the school department in general. The church affairs of the Roman Catholics were connected with the former, but the school affairs of the German Reformed Church came under a special department, of which Thulemeyer was chief. Both ministers were designated as ministers of State of the Judicial Department. The chief of the Lutheran party was also president of the chief consistory and chief school-board, of the directory of the poor in Berlin and Potsdam, of the privy high court, and of the court of credit system of the rural districts of East Prussia and Pomerania. The Lutheran school affairs of Silesia, conducted by the chief president of the Breslau bailiff administration, and the Roman Catholic, ecclesiastical and school affairs in Silesia, South Prussia, New East Prussia, and in the Frankish Principalities, that come within the administration of the province ministers, were outside his jurisdiction. In the latter, the Erlangen University came under the supervision of the minister Hardenberg. This dismemberment did not allow of constructing and pursuing a consistent plan for a satisfactory development of the mental and moral faculties of the people : the Prussian nation was composed of too many elements.