"GLIMPSES FROM THE LIFE OF N.F.S. GRUNDTVIG"
By Director Daniel Jayakumar
Grundtvig Study Centre
Nellikuppam, South India
Nikolaj Frederik Serverin Grundtvig a Danish Minister, Educator, theologian, poet, philosopher, historian, hymnwriter and social critic; was born on the 8th of September 1783 in a small village called Udby, near Vordinborg on the island of Zealand in Denmark. He lived to a ripe old age of 89 and died on the 2nd August 1872 at Copenhagen the capital of Denmark.
N.F.S. Grundtvig had his early education privately at home and later at the old fashioned but exvcllent grammar school of Aarhus, a famous city in Denmark. Grundtvig in Copenhagen
In 1800 he joined the University of Copenhagen from where he graduated in theology in 1803. He was keenly
interested in Danish Literature. For a shortwhile NFS. Grundtvig worked as private tutor to the son of a riach family at Egelokke manor on the island of Largeland in 1805. During that time he had ample time to study and he published a number of articles and a book on nordic mythology. In 1808 Grundtvig moved to Copenhagen where he continued his mythological and historical studies. He was also a part time teacher at 'Schouboe' ske Institute' an advanced grammar School of his time. He experienced profound spritual crisis during 1810 - 11 and gave up his literary pursuit and was ordained as a minister in order to serve as a chaplain to his aged father who was a minister at the Udby Church.
- Grundtvig in Danish Church
- Grundtvigs father died in the year 1813 and he returned to Copenhagen and continued his historical and literary pursuits and the translation of scandinavian texts. From 1821 he entered the church service, first at Praesto and later from 1822 onward, in Copenhagen. Due to some ideological controversies with H.N Clausen a professor of Theology regarding the 'historical church' Grundtvig 's writings had to be cansored for a short while.
- Grundtvig in England
- Grundtvig visited England four times during 1821-31 and realised the importance of secular and ecclesiastical freedom besides the practical and realistic view of life. After his return to Denmark
He worked out a new edition of his book on Nordic Mythology. At that time Grundtvig understood the relationship between humanity and christianity and realised that human life is "a union of dust and spirit." This gave him the new conviction to work in secular matters together with people of all faiths.
In 1839, he once again entered the service of the church as a pastor at a small hospital church of Vartov in Copenhagen. This church later became the spiritual centre of the Grundtvigian movement. The prominent traits of this movement were the advocacy of ecclesiastical freedom and lively involvement in secular ventures like education and cooperative undertakings.Grundtving's Writings.
Grundtvig wrote a number of pamphlets, books and articles on theology, history, literature politics and education. He also wrote about fifteen hundred hymns which are being sung in the Churches of Denmark even
today. If all that Grundtvig wrote were to be printed it would form about a hundred and fifty volumes. He was a member of the Danish Parliament for more than ten years. In 1861 he was also made honourary Bishop
of the Danish Church.
Grundtvig on Education
- Grundtvig was greatly concerned about the educational problems of time throughout his life. His very first article which was printed in 1804 dealt with the misery of a local country school and his last book which was printed a few days before his death in 1872 was a selection of his educational writings.
Grundtvig's earliest statement on education was made even while he was still studying in the University during 1802. He was for solid humanistic scholarship and newer educational ideas like disapproval of physical chastisement and unintelligent rote learning.
Later, during the eighteenth century which was known as the age of Enlightenment he was more concerned
about the social responsibility. In a jotting in his diary during 1804 he reveals his desire to dedicate himself to the enlightenment of the peasants.
- Eduation for Eternal Salvation
- During the period in his life known as the langeland period (1805-1808) he was strongly influenced by Romantic philosophy of his time and one can see the unfolding of the powers of his personality. While he was a teacher at Schouboe'ske Institute(1808-1811) his view was further developed in the direction of awakening a 'new viable culture' and that went beyond the development of individual personality. During this period he underwent a religions crisis and defined the aim of education was the 'eternal salvation of the soul' and it was also in agreement with the Bible and the teachings of Martin Luther.
- Grundtvig and Danishness
- The following period 1815-1830 was a time of transition when a nuumber of fundamental concepts became clear to Grundtvig. The term "Danishness" entered into his educational thinking as an expression of 'national identity' . He was totally opposed to the Latin based higher education and realised the importance of the 'living spoken word' for the education of the people. In 1820 Grundtvig focussed his attention on SoroAcademy which was being rebuilt and modernised on the pattern of London University and wanted to make it a suitable centre for a new
- Education of the people.
- English influence on Grundtvig During 1830, Grundtvig's education ideas became more concrete as a result of an interaction of his own critical review of his thinking on the one hand and the external factors like travel impression and the current events on the other. Grundtvig experienced a radical change in his outlook while he was working on his book Nordic mythology (1832) and some new elements entered his educational thinking. He realised that a profound respect for humanity, combined with civic freedom are basic and essential for human development.
These realisations were a result of his visits and experiences in England.
Grundvig books on Education Another source of inspiration was an event in the Danish political history; the first session of the Provincial Advisory Councils held during 1835-36 in which the spoken word was used very effectively and Grundtvig was very pleased with it, Grundtvig described it as"the secular resurrection of the word".
In the spring of 1836, NFS. Grundtvig published his major work on education. "Det Dank Fir-klover (The
Danish Four leaved clover). The four leaves are:
Grundtvig also published the following books:
To Norsernen about a Norwegian High School- 1837
The School for life and the Academy in Soro -1838
Petition about the concepts of a Danish High School at Soro-1840
Congratulations to Denmark - 1847
On the Academic union of Scandinavia - 1839
- Grundtvig s concepts and ideas on Education
- The basic concepts and ideas of NFS Grundtvig and his education philosophy can be summarised as follows
Right age for Education The age of youth, not that of childhood is the optimal period for schooling and education. It would be more beneficial for children to be brought up in a house of active, busy adults instead of being confined to a school. This alternative type of 'school' would be more enjoyable for children instead of rote learning, dead language and grammar.
Freedom in Education
The education must be conducted in total freedom forboth teachers and learners. There should be no coercion, punishment, fines or examination. Freedom combined with consideration for other peoples' welfare
must be the guiding principle. Grundtvig envisaged a 'Nordic freedom' where 'one who wishes to be free must let his neighbour to be free too'.This freedom avoids the extremes of subjection and licentiousness.
- Past and present in Education
Education must be based on the past and present life of people. Regarding the past, 'education for life should be historical and poetical'. People's own cultural and literary past with the wisdom of ages should be the guiding spirit for the younger generation. Ancient literature, poetry and mythology encapsulates their deepest convictions concerning the meaning of life. The passing time and changing civilizations in the history have made us witness agradual unfolding of such insights.
- Concerning the present Grundtvig emphasises the importances of dealing with current matters such as the natural resources of a country and its socio political and economic situations prevailing. These radical ideas emphatically reveal the educational realism and practical wisdom of Grundtvig.
Mother tongue-the Living word
The medium of instruction should be the mother tongue in the living spoken from. For Grundtvig mother tongue is the 'living word' and it is the primary basis of 'the school for life'. As for Grundtvig in the process of education books are of secondary importance and are 'good friends for consulation.
- Role of state in Education
Government has a cardinal role to play in the implementation of the education ideas. Grundtvig even envisaged a centrally located education institution like Soro Academy fully funded by the state so that education would be freely available for the rich and the poor alike and forbid the cropping up of any smaller privately run institutions where individualistic education may be offered but they may not be ideal for an egalitarian society.
- School as unifying factor
Grundtvig wanted schoold to be a unifying factor and an expression of unity. School should cater to the needs of students from all walks of life and all socio-economic levels.
- Medium of Instruction
Mother tongue being common to all irrespective of their social standing, should be the medium of instruction'. The subject matter to be taught should be what the people have in common as people of a society and nation such as their history, basic ethical principle and contemprary situation.
- Religion and Education
Grundtvig had secular convitions about religious education being given in the school as religious convitions are very different and a personal matter.
Despite all Grundtvig was emphatic that all are citizens of the same a country inheriting the same historial and cultural tradition. Grudtvig has further said emphatically "First a man, then a , Christian"
- School for Life
The central idea of Gruntvig regarding education was 'the school for LIfe'. This schoold, envisaged by Grundtvig should make all other schools superfluous.
He called the latin school the "School for Death" and the knowledge gained there as "dog knowledge" and
"Boyish Scientific efforts" as they treat man as if he was an ape. To Grundtvig, man is not an ape but first and foremost a historic being, an intellectual being in whom spirit and dust can intermingle in a life-giving interaction.
- Space the rod and liberate the child
The primary schools should be liberated from corporal punishments, coercive methods and the children should
be taught some useful work.
- Education to fight barbarism
The Grammar school should be upheld "as a chinese wall against barbarism". Grundtvig was totally against "spiritless cramming and rote-learning". To Grundtvig the knowledge acquired should safe guard and protect man from the negative realities and cultural onslaught in life.
- University to initiate reforms
- The University with all its traditional scholarship must continue to function until the necessary reforms are carried through.
- Education and Scholarship
Grundtvig emphasizes that the 'new education' will become superficial if it is not constantly confronted with scholarship.
Grundtvig also makes a distinction between 'scholarship' and 'education for life'. While scholarship may be useful for a limited section of the population, 'education for life' is a must for everyone.
- Living Interaction
In the recent year the Gruntvigians scholars are of opinion that the core and the nucleus of the educational ideas of grundtvig has been 'living interaction'. It is the basis of a single coordinating point of view and the basic formula for Grundtvig's educational theory.
- Teacher - Learner relationship
Grundtvig is of opinion that only through 'living interaction' one has the advantage of grasping and describing the specific educational relationship existing between the two partners the teacher and the Learner, in such a process. This concept encourages openness regarding the ever-changing nature of knowledge and enables 'dialogical education'.
- Freedom for the Poor
Grundtvig's fight for freedom was manifold and basic.
He was aiming at freedom without restrictions from authorities or paternalistic Surveillance.
Grundtvig's fight for freedom has the distinctive objective of establishing freedom for those groups in society by economic and cultural constraints.
- Ture Interaction
Grundtvig is of the view that true 'interaction' is characterised by freedom, life and naturalness.
The interaction which develops in the school and the condition which enables it to come into existence are
- Mutual Education
According to Grundvig the function of true, mutual education is characterised by 'life', 'living' and 'liveliness'. The living word or the spoken word is basic for all education.
- Teaching and Dialogue
Grundvig is of opinion that in the 'school for life' the teaching process begins when the teacher orally deals with a subject and the process culminates and terminates in the dialogue between the teacher and the learner or among the learners themselves.
- Life and Learners
'Life' is eduction also shows itself in the appeal to the interest of the learners in practical useful matters rather than with abstract theory.
- Life and Joyfulness
'Life' for Grundtvig is joyfulness and happy songs are a symbol of life in the school.
- Tradition and Alternatives
Traditional book based education is a burden on the young minds and therefore should be given up and replaced.
- Segregation and Interation
- The past and present life of people should not be seen in segregation or isolation, but as an integrated expression of life itself.
- Education for Democracy
Grundtvig wrote about his concern regarding education for democracy even as early as 1836.
"Education for common people must necessarily go hand in hand with the councils, and should not be given in
a boys school but in a school for adults. And it must aim at giving its pupils the training and elightenment
that is desirable both among the members of the councils and among their electors".
- Education for human Enlightenment
Grundtvig has written clearly about education for human enlightenment and emancipation. During 1848
when Europe was undergoing political upsurge and was shaken by outburst of revolutionaly movements in any
places Grundtvig wrote.
"The signs of the times, and the events of the day show all too clearly that without such gentle, natural and salutary 'enlightenment', which has been shamefully neglected everywhere, the hour will strike in all countries, when the masses if the people who has been treated unnaturally and debased to the life of cattle, will and must sonner or later rise like wild beasts and rend asunder all that is human".
This quotation clearly shows that Education is for democratisation and human liberation.
Education for Independence and Maturity
For Grundtvig Education is not for changing profession or for future profession or for climbing social ladder. The people who get education and training and as a result englightenment, should remain peasants and citizens and each one of them should return to their own village. In the words of Grundtvig; "All we want to do is to teach them what is necessary if they are to behave as independent and mature members of the community".
Grundvig's general aim of education differs from the normative humanistic educational philosophy of his time in that Grandvig does not consider the developement of human personality to be the highest aim of education. Gruntdvig considers that the cardinal aim of education is to foster an understanding of the historically conditioned life which people have in common as a people. According to Grundtvig the ultimate aim of education is to contribute to the clarification of the fundamental meaning of human life.
Mr. M'.Bow, Director General of UNESCO in the conference held at Belgrade in 1980 said:
- "cultural indentify is universally present today. Aculture makes itself seen, heard and understod through
the inter mediary of all works which express it".
- The Danish culture viewed through the works and educational philosophy of N.F.S. Grundtvig gains universal acceptance, application and interpretation in the socio-cultural milieu of any nation and not shunned as a cultural invasion.
Though the educational writings and the philosophy of Grundtvig were not taken seriously during his time, he kept on formulating and reformulating his eaducational ideas. This was possible partly because of the 'personal stubborness' of Grundtvig and the interest shown by king Christian VIII and Queen Caroline Amalie. Folk high schools and free schools are the brain child of Grundtvig and a great legacy not only to Denmark but to the whole world .
Dansk – Indisk Historie- & Forskningsselskab
v/ Tine Elisabeth Larsen