The Review of Politics

Research Article

Emancipation: The Politics of West German Education

William S. Stokes Jr

In his Farewell Address, George Washington said: “'Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free Government. Who that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric? Promote then as an object of primary importance, Institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” With these words in mind, I sought to examine West German institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, specifically the schools. I tried to find out whether those institutions promote, or even speak of, virtue or morality, and whether they aim at the development of enlightened public opinion. I defined enlightened public opinion as those opinions which support free, popular government. Enlightened human beings are those “who recognize other human beings for what they are, namely, persons with rights which they must respect, in order to have their own rights recognized and respected.”