Page images

of the States of the German Empire. Such a study is illuminating for the reason that it affords an opportunity for a vivid setting forth of a single concrete situation, which at the same time may be regarded as typical of the opposition of ideas in other European countries.

While it would be difficult, if not impossible, for one on the outside to present such an account in perfect perspective, Professor Show has taken great care to be objective and impartial in his statements, giving the views of all of the leading parties concerned, and, as far as possible, setting forth the argument of each in the words of some of its most eminent spokesmen.

I would accordingly recommend the publication of this account as one of the numbers of the bulletin of the Bureau of Education. Very respectfully,



PREFATORY NOTE. This report does not pretend to be more than a partial and cursory survey of a bit of history in the making. The writer got his first impressions of the controversy in Saxony on the spot, and gathered there the materials on which the study is based. But in a matter so intimately related to the inner life of a great people, only a minute and prolonged acquaintance with their ideals and institutions could fully qualify one to write of them in due measure and proportion. The writer can only claim that he has studied and written without conscious bias, and has sought to make faithful use of such data as were available to him. The investigation impresses one a fresh with the moral and spiritual earnestness of the German people and their splendid devotion to the progress of popular education. In this time when our own educational thought is beginning to take more serious concern for the demands of moral training in the schools, we have much to learn from the comprehensive and well-grounded ideals of our German neighbors.

No attempt has been made to include in the bibliography references to the very voluminous general literature on the subject of religious instruction. Good discussions, with lists of recent literature, may be found in such works as Loos, Enzyklopädisches Handbuch der Erziehungskunde, 1908, and Rein, Encyklopädisches Handbuch der Pädagogik, 1908.

I am indebted to my colleague, Prof. Karl G. Rendtorff of Stanford University, for reading the proofs and for various helpful suggestions. LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY, CALIFORNIA, February 26, 1910.





No question occupies the educational thought of Germany more deeply at the present moment than the problem of religious instruction in the public schools. The existing system, inherited from the days of the Lutheran reformation and consecrated by these centuries of almost undisputed supremacy, has at length come under a censorship that is persistent and unsparing, and in consequence there is a general disturbance of old conditions. The scope and character of the discussion now in progress show the widest interest and the deepest concern among the leaders and workers, who have most serious regard to the national welfare. The question has ceased to be purely academic or pedagogical and has become an issue of the largest moment in the public mind of Germany.

At the present time the Kingdom of Saxony is the storm center of the controversy concerning Religionsunterricht, and it is the specific purpose of this report to outline the situation in that State of the Empire. It will readily appear, however, that the Saxon conditions are not unique, but that they are rather typical of the general state of the problem in Germany. Only a detailed inquiry could trace the present debate in Saxony to its ultimate origins. It must suffice here merely to point out some of the influences which have given shape to the struggle.

For at least the last decade an increasing attention on the part of educational workers has been turned to the matter of religious instruction as it exists in the public schools, and the demand for reform has steadily grown more definite and urgent. Significant evidence of the reform spirit may be seen in the brochure of Professor Rein, of Jena, published in 1904 and 1906. In these pamphlets are

Heft I, 1904 ; Heft II,

Stimmen zur Reform des Religionsunterrichts. Langensalza. 1906.

23352-10 -2


brought together the opinions of some twenty-five representative scholars and teachers, all of them in substantial agreement as to the necessity for reform. Among them are found the names of such leaders as Professors Paulsen and Pfleiderer of Berlin, Natorp of Marburg, Bassermann of Heidelberg, and the editor, Rein of Jena. The utterances of these men, and of the others associated with them in the book, put it beyond question that the demand for reform is deep and radical. It comes on the one hand from the practical schoolmen, and on the other from the exponents of progressive theological thought, the two finding common ground in the need of an instruction adapted to present-day conditions.

A work of some consequence as showing the steady rise of the reform spirit is the small monograph of J. Tews, published in 1906. The author is a teacher of wide view and of strong popular instincts. His plea is for a Volksschule free from all external control, a school of the people based wholly on the demands of national life and culture. Consequently he would exclude all confessional influences from the schools. Beyond any doubt the author speaks for a wide circle of the German teachers.


These are merely significant voices raised here and there. The first serious organized effort for reform, so far as the writer is aware, arose in the Freistadt of Bremen, in the year 1905. In May of that year the teachers of Bremen gave formal indorsement to the proposal to abolish the religious instruction in the schools and appointed a committee to put its conclusions into a memorial for presentation to the authorities of the city. In September, 1905, the committee's report was indorsed by a large majority of the teachers and was officially laid before the municipal senate."

The somewhat extended memorial of the Bremen teachers covers practically all the large questions involved in the issue. Starting from the postulate that the modern state rests on the principle of liberty of conscience, that religion is a matter of private belief, the memorial argues that the state can not legitimately allow its schools to be used to impose any particular confession on the people, cites the progress of the movement in other countries for the separation of religion and the state, and urges that the confessional instruction

& Schulkämpfe der Gegenwart. Leipzig, 1906. See also his recent article in Leipziger Lehrerzeitung, 17 Jahrg. 335-337.

For a good brief account of the Bremen movement and its influence see Pädagogische Jahresschau I. (1906) 397-399.

The Denkschrift of the Bremen teachers is printed in Gansberg, Religionsunterricht! Achtzig Gutachten. Leipzig, 1906. 182-202.

« PreviousContinue »