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School Reform in Baden: Edict Issued by Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden (May 13, 1803)

Educational reform and innovation, driven both by Enlightenment precepts and state interest in an age of burgeoning nationalism, figured prominently in the reform era that accompanied the Napoleonic conquest and occupation of Germany. In Baden, new territorial acquisitions and the challenges arising from the coexistence of Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists inspired the following edict, which offers a good picture of German educational structures and ideals at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

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Thirteenth and Last Organizational Edict

May 13, 1803

Considering the variety of educational institutions and the progress that We encounter in the territories now united under Our government, and considering the addition of a university in Heidelberg, whose common benefit for our territories also demands, apart from its own practical arrangement, the precise linking of the remaining educational institutions for male youths, We deem it necessary to issue the following general order concerning the organization

of the common and scientific educational establishments:

I.) The lower or elementary schools are intended to convey to the urban or rural dweller knowledge of all those things that are necessary to know for his life’s occupation as a Christian and a citizen of the state, without, however, carrying him off to any intellectual development that would make him miss his occupational work or render it unpalatable to him. This specific restriction necessitates a dual division of the school plan into rural elementary schools and urban elementary schools, since the latter already require extended arrangements. According to that

A.) With respect to the rural elementary schools, the following is the aspect toward which Our ecclesiastical commissions – and under their supervision, the public servants or ecclesiastical overseers and special representatives, inspectors, or school visitors – have to work, and to which level everything must be elevated gradually in those regions where the status of schools is still lower, as soon as the teachers needed for this purpose have received the suitable training, and the means required for potentially continuing expenditures have been located.

1.) Everywhere, permanent schools must be organized, i.e. the kind held throughout the entire year and definitely not only in the wintertime, since otherwise during the summer the children always forget half of what they learned in the course of the winter; [ . . . ] in this context, however, one needs to take care that in the summer, classes are held early enough for the older children so that a good part of the day remains during which they can help their parents with domestic work.

2.) Throughout, the children must be exhorted to attend the school from the beginning of their seventh year, that being the determined school age, until the end of the thirteenth year among girls, and of the fourteenth year among boys, [ . . . ] [This means] that even those who perhaps pass with good success in earlier years must nevertheless stay in school up to the specified age for adequate reinforcement of the good basis established; those, however, who have, upon reaching these years, not learned the required material, must stay there for another year and must not be exempted from this extended sitting without urgent reasons.

3.) Willful absences from school, i.e. those not excused by illnesses of the children or temporary urgent domestic business, e.g. harvesting, haymaking, etc. or illnesses of the parents [ . . . ] must not be tolerated by the school supervisors. They must punish the children if their willfulness is to blame or the parents if they have given cause to the children for this conduct. Punishment of the former involves moderate beating, of the latter, sentencing to minor fines, either from 12 to a maximum of 60 kreuzers to the local alms, or by imprisonment in the village hall for a duration of four to 24 hours.

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