A school for life

A school for life

An essay by Joergen Carlsen principal of Testrup Folk High School – A Free Academy

"Love is inexplicable!"

So said the great Danish philosopher Soeren Kierkegaard. It is impossible, he believed, to convey through words what love actually is. Not that it matters very much though, he went on reassuringly, since a moment's thought shows that the problem more or less resolves itself. For on reflection, there are really only two kinds of people: those who have experienced love, and those who have not - or at least, not yet! And the first need no explanation because they already know what it is, while the others will never understand the phenomenon of love, no matter how often you try to explain.

So why waste time trying...?

It is exactly the same with the Danish Folk High School. Basically it is impossible to explain what a "hoejskole" is. I suppose a very brief, rough definition would be that it is a type of school for adults which places the emphasis on general, mind-broadening education. But this fails to convey the true reality behind the words. To understand the Danish Folk High School properly, explanation is not enough - it is something that has to be experienced.

Nevertheless I am going to ignore Soeren Kierkegaard's warning, and simply hope that You will not regard it as a complete waste of time. Indeed, I would argue there are several good reasons for making the attempt. The most important is that the Folk High School is the single most original contribution Denmark has made to international thinking about popular education - original because of the comprehensive and profound meaning attached in Denmark to the concept of "popular education". For popular education means more than just spreading knowledge and technical skills more widely among the population at large. In principle it encompasses man's entire cultural environment, reminding us that we should be careful not to confuse the means and the end when it comes to human activities. Furthermore the Danish tradition of popular education rests on a solidly democratic outlook: no one can claim privileged access to the absolute truth - so everyone has a right to have his say! And there is a mistrust of pure "reason", gazing down on reality from so far on high that practically everything turns out to be of minor significance. What is the use of giving "intellect" free rein, if there is no "heart"...?

Forstander Jørgen Carlsen med 2xhund