Published: 02.03.2021

A difficult time in which it is so hard to stay positive. It affects the young as much as the adults, maybe even worse. Yet I dare to turn the page and think about how to help young people in the near future. 

One hundred years have passed since the brilliant German educator Kurt Hahn first defined "Six weaknesses of modern youth". A hundred years have gone by... And lo and behold! The issues that Hahn so astutely described are still very relevant in today's digital and social media-obsessed age and resonate perhaps far more than in the past.  

Hahn felt as early as 1920 that young people must be protected from the negative impacts of civilisation, and formulated the key measures that later became the DofE's Experiential Learning Programme. While we are struggling within formal education systems to find ways to teach skills and educate responsible young people, the means and forms have long been devised.  

What were the six weaknesses that Kurt Hahn was already concerned about? 

  1. Weakening of physical activity as a result of technological development 
  2. Weakening of initiative and entrepreneurship due to the widespread disease of "spectatorship" (i.e. activities in which one is a passive spectator rather than an active participant) 
  3. Weakening of memory and imagination as a result of the inner turmoil arising from the modern way of life  
  4. Weakening of skills and interests due to the decline of craftsmanship 
  5. Weakening of self-discipline due to the constant presence of stimulants and various substitutes 
  6. Weakening of belonging and compassion as a result of the constant rush in which modern life takes place, or, as William Temple put it, "spiritual death."  

Tento obrázek nemá žádný popisek

Hahn couldn't have guessed the absurd proportions of the "audience disease" he described 100 years ago, when in 2019 an eight-year-old YouTuber earned 26 million from videos of him playing with toys, and when one of his videos of him opening a giant Kinder egg had nearly 2 billion views!   

Fortunately, as a proper founder of experiential pedagogy and non-formal education, he did not just stick to defining key issues or strict theory, but also came up with his "The Four Solutions"

1. Physical activity (to compete with oneself in physical fitness and thus train the discipline and determination of the mind through the body) 

During physical activity, the mind asks you to stop, long before the body actually needs it. Overcome this mental defiance and to ask things of the body that we've never asked before, leads to setting new standards of personal achievement and character development. Your mind learns to understand that challenges are surmountable and overcoming them has a holistic impact on your personality.  

2. Expedition (on water or on land so as to put long and difficult tasks requiring endurance in front of us) 

Building resilience and adaptability is at the heart of the philosophy of the programs founded by Kurt Hahn. The programmes challenge participants to stand outside your comfort zone and move them into their learning zone. Endurance builds character. Graduates often mention that it was the confidence that the DofE gave them that enabled them to overcome significant obstacles in their lives.  

3. Projects (involving skill, craftsmanship and handwork) 

Train the brain to create tangible and practical objects, brings a specific kind of happiness. This joy of creation is why gardeners spend their days growing plants, woodworkers fill their shops with treated beams, and cooks spend hours in the kitchen preparing that one special dish.  

4. Volunteering (helping others and the needy) 

Giving your time to help others in need helps build compassion and belonging. The realization that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  

Tento obrázek nemá žádný popisek

Last time I wrote about the need for rethinking - "rethinking" and reimagining - "reimagining", the essence of education that emerged from this year's Davos 2021, and which we suspect should indeed happen quickly. The possibilities are countless. We need only look back in history and refer to figures like Kurt Hahn, who always wanted one thing and one thing only, namely every young person, without distinction, can fulfil their potential and live a successful and responsible life. Isn't that the essence of education? 

Tomas Vokac 

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