GHDI logo

From a Lecture by Oberstudiendirektor Kurt Hahn at a Sex Education Workshop for Young People at Jugendburg Bilstein/Sauerland (September 14, 1950)

page 2 of 2    print version    return to list previous document      next document

After all, young people have already been educated by the streets; they only act naively, as though they were entering novel territory, when the teacher fails to make some inner connection with them. The question is not at all whether or not to educate them about sexuality. Rather, the issue is to show the young person in all biology classes, piece by piece, that God has entrusted him with a miracle in the form of his body, a miracle whose disgraceful dishonoring is as much within our power as the happy fulfillment of the lifelong task of ennobling it and guarding it with awe and confidence as a temple of the spirit.

Next to biology classes, German and religion classes are especially well suited to the sexual-pedagogical education of our youth. In this regard, the ethnical subjects can give much to our mature youth, in particular, since sexuality and eroticism slowly approach a conciliatory harmony toward the end of puberty. Here, sexual life is looked at from the order of the entire soul, while its regulation from the body alone is recognized as impossible. In German class in the upper grades, Goethe’s Faust offers the opportunity, more so than probably any other work of literature, not only to bring out the Apollonian light sides and Dionysian shadowy sides of our humanity (which is bound up with sexuality by the creator’s intent through the tragic figure of Dr. Faust, who is unable to find his way to true love), but also to penetrate into the personal sphere of the students.

[ . . . ]

During a class outing to a zoo, the sexuality educator will make special note of the monkey cages. As everyone knows, the openly displayed and, by human standards, ugly genitalia of the monkeys always attracts the special attention of visitors. The individual students know they are under less scrutiny than in the classroom and therefore act more naturally. Their behavior upon seeing the monkeys is, to a certain extent, indicative of their ethical maturity. A cynical smile, wink, an elbow nudge, and the like, which one encounters not infrequently even among adults, immediately suggests the student’s level of maturity.

The situation is similar during a class trip to an art museum. This leads us to the problem of human nudity. Every young person must find it thought-provoking that while human nudity is strictly avoided in life, it is glorified in art. The fact is that only a very mature person is able to behold the naked, living human body with purity. Likewise, contemplating a nude sculpture or a nude painting as a pure work of art, without entertaining ulterior thoughts of a sensual nature, presupposes a disciplined soul. In his chapter “The Nuptials of the Flowers,” Carl Linnaeus aptly summarizes the antipodes briefly sketched above with these words: “The genitalia of the plants we behold with pleasure, those of animals with disgust, and our own with wondrous thoughts.” The more mature students must be able, as a result of sexual education, to see the human body as something that is more than merely corporeal; he must sense the soul through the body. And this ability leads him out of the lower sensual desire into a transfiguring light.

[ . . . ]

(Hahn was director of the boarding school in Salem [Baden-Württemberg] from 1920 to 1933.)

Source: Die Höhere Schule (1951), no. 6; reprinted in Christoph Kleßmann and Georg Wagner, Das gespaltene Land. Leben in Deutschland 1945-1990. Texte und Dokumente zur Sozialgeschichte [The Divided Land. Life in Germany, 1945-1990. Texts and Documents on Social History]. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1993, pp. 296-98.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

first page < previous   |   next > last page