August Francke (1663-1727) was a Protestant minister in Germany during the 17th and 18th century. His influence on education was distinct in that he brought a distinct theological view to education. This post will examine his life and views on education.
Born in Germany in 1663 Francke studied the sciences, languages, philosophy, and theology at university. His primary complaint about his theological studies was that he understood what he studied but that he did not have a corresponding experience in his heart. In other words, Francke wanted an emotional experience about the theological concept he studied.
This search for an emotional heartfelt experience led Francke to become sympathetic towards pietism. Pietism was a theological movement that believed protestants should replace the dead orthodoxy of scholastic theology with an emotional or theology of the heart. In many ways, this was exactly what Francke was looking for and he embraces this immediately.
Around the same time circa 1687, Francke starts a school but soon leaves to become a professor at the University of Halle in 1691. It was while working at Halle that Francke reached out to the poor. Initially, his ministry was simple Bible studies. However, with time Francke and his people opened several schools and other institutions to support the poor in Germany. All this was done while he still taught at the university.
Francke believed that education should be linked with the future vocation of the student. This in stark contrast to the generalized education that is common in most countries today. Students destined for trades should have different education form students who are going to be merchants.
With his focus on the emotions, Francke had a lot to say in particular about classroom management. For example, he stated that a teacher should never discipline in anger. This may be because the children will think that discipline is about how people feel rather than right or wrong.
The teacher also needs to maintain discipline without being harsh and severe. Of course, this is easier said then done but it still needs to be said. On the other hand, a teacher also needs to avoid the other extreme of being too nice as this is equally detrimental. Again, this is easier said than done.
Lastly, Francke counsels teachers that they must be sure that they are not the source of the students’ behavior problems. In other words, the teacher’s poor management should not be the source of the misbehavior in a classroom. Misbehavior should originate from the student and not because of an inconsistent teacher.
Francke was a man who was looking for an emotional experience to support his theological knowledge. In reality, what he was looking for was the practical application of his theological knowledge. This is said because as Francke helped people according to his religion he also experience the emotional satisfaction he so desperately needed.