Andragogy

"Andragogik" (first published in the first number of the Archiv für Erwachsenenbildung, the house journal of the Hohenrodter Bund (1924): 248-276.)

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy



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“Andragogik” (First published in the first volume of the Archiv für Erwachsenenbildung, the house journal of the Hohenrodter Bund (1924): 248-276. Reprinted in Im Kampf um die Erwachsenenbildung (1912-1926), Leipzig, Quelle & Meyer, 1926.)

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Andragogy is an essay that could only have been written by someone who believed that men have only as much future as they have past: although examining a seemingly narrow subject, the emergence of adult education after the war, Rosenstock-Huessy draws on a millennium of legal history and turns the discussion into an argument against German idealism and its Aristotelian sundering of theory and practice.

The split is embodied in the approach to adult education taken by the old bourgeoisie and the working class.  At Count Keyserling’s School of Wisdom, the well-to-do student could endeavor to “find himself” in contemplation of the eternal verities—the product was to be a truly individual personality; at the workers’ council schools, the “students” were taught primarily the practical applications of their new legal status—the product was a “typical” conscious worker.

Keyserling rejected the Church and the University as failures, but attempted to renew spiritual life with the same cult of individualism that had poisoned the institutions he rejected.  And because he failed to see the difference between a personal truth and a truth which can be taught, Rosenstock-Huessy argues, he was doomed to repeat their failure.

“Unless the immense difference between truth and doctrine is understood, we are left with the impure mixture which youth today rejects for its insincerity.  Scholasticism once sacrificed truth to doctrine; modern science on the other hand sacrifices doctrine to truth. Both have had disastrous effects on the life of the people.”

“The problem of continuity, inheritance, and transmittal is the problem that saps our existing institutions.”

The council schools were concentrating on awakening legal awareness in “the” worker, at a time when the institutions of justice were in uproar and decay.  “Make no mistake,” Rosenstock-Huessy adds, “inflation is the most thorough destruction of state-controlled justice to take place in Germany since the interregnum.” Since workers accepted the mental habits of bourgeois spiritual life along with the other fashions and foibles of the class, they were in danger of paying the price of an empty heart for a head full of obsolete ideas.  Since compulsory education had deprived the people of the daily experience of justice and law, the lack was now to be made up by more schooling.

“With the triumph of the Enlightenment in the 19th century, the life of law and its spiritual content reached the people only in its idealistic gaseous form, as politics: Law is what we accept; politics is what we want.”

Although everyone sought to regenerate society, each class tried to do so in isolation and exaggeration of its own type, and all proved impotent.  They failed because they repeated German idealism’s fatal mistake of ignoring its origin in the pain and sorrow of a lost war. Rosenstock-Huessy calls for a school based on the knowledge of death, for men ready to move beyond the graveyard of their dreams.  At this School of Events, the classes would no longer turn in on themselves, but toward each other and a common future based on shared suffering. For, viewed over time, Aristotle’s dichotomy of theory and practice disappears: Aristotle’s teaching and Alexander’s actions belong together; Paul lived Christ’s teaching, but taught Christ’s life.

Rosenstock-Huessy could scorn the attempts to recreate the old order on the one hand, and to enter the old order after its end on the other, becuse he was so passionately attached to the old order and its distant origins, and yet was able to see that they needed replacement, not restoration, if the people themselves were to experience regeneration.