23 SES 17 D, Public Education at the Crossroads in Germany, the United States and Canada
Klaus Mollenhauer (1928-1998) is one of the most important German theorists of education of the postwar era. Mollenhauer is often remembered in Germany today for his first book titled Education and Emancipation: Polemical Sketches, but he received international renown for his final solo-authored monograph, Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing (2014; translated by the author of this paper). The first of these texts established the term “emancipation” as a rallying cry in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, and solidified Mollenhauer’s reputation as a guiding light in West German “emancipatory” or “critical pedagogy.” Forgotten Connections, meanwhile, represents a significant departure from critique and emancipation, and goes back to the (in many ways “pre-democratic”) basic human and cultural constituents of education as both a private and public endeavor. It deals with these in a highly original and accessible way, based largely on literary, historical and pictorial examples. Although Mollenhauer saw Forgotten Connections as actually working to move towards a more “substantial conception of emancipation” many of his followers and colleagues saw it as nothing less than an act of “infidelity to those who had taken on his emancipatory pedagogy.” In the light of these differences in emphasis and interpretation, this paper provides an overview of Forgotten Connections that (following Wivestad & Saevi, 1997) sees it as presenting six main questions and themes—ranging from “Why do we have children” to “How can we respect and draw out a child’s inherent character?” However, in doing so, this paper simultaneously traces Mollenhauer’s own efforts to develop a more substantial concept of personal and political emancipation in this text. It shows this concept as ultimately applying not only to students and young people, but as giving special attention to the teachers and adults who care for them, demanding their resistance to coercive and in this sense, undemocratic, limitations on their actions and sense of self.
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