Schools in society and politics

The School Ordinance of Bavarian Elector Ferdinand Maria, 1659. For the first time, all children between the ages of 6 and 12 were required to attend schooling of their choice. Photo credit: Archives of the Bavarian State, Munich

Having a voice – influencing society

"Too much education threatens the monarchy." This was the argument used by the Prussian state in the first half of the 19th century to keep school education for the wider population at the lowest possible level. But can school be used to politically manipulate the people? The interactions between sociopolitical developments and schools are many and varied. What happens when the children of nobility and day laborers first begin attending school and graduating together in the 17th century? What are the consequences in the 19th century when schools demonstrate that, contrary to popular sentiment, girls do indeed possess the intellectual capacity for higher education and university studies?

The exhibition shows the two "faces" of school. On the one hand, schools provide students with the skills and capacities to think and act independently. Education can also contribute to an understanding between peoples, and to enlightenment. But the exhibition also highlights the manifold attempts to misuse public education for political ends. Examples can be seen in textbooks and lesson books that advocate war or denigrate other peoples, or in a teacher's reports to the East German secret police. School can also be misused for ideology and manipulation. This is illustrated by contrasting textbooks and classroom materials – some that engage in war-mongering, others that promote reconciliation with other nations.