In Conversation with the Director of the Institute and educational writer Horst Költze
by Maria Teresa De Donato
Today I have the great honor of having as a guest an extraordinary man, the Director of the Institute and educational writer Horst Költze, a dear friend of mine whose private and professional life is full of aspects as fascinating as they are disturbing.
There is a lot to say about his activities and publications, but I will leave it to my host as is my custom.
MTDD: Horst, thank you for accepting this interview and being here with us today.
HK: Maria Teresa, thank you for your invitation and your interest in the global education message.
You recognized the global importance of the educational message of my writings, which I must transmit from the source of intuition to the “children of the new millennium.”
Through your interview, you open up a global sphere of influence. Thank you for this on behalf of the children.
MTDD: Thank you. Horst, you were born in 1932 in Köslin in Pomerania, which, since the end of the Second World War, belongs to Poland. You lived there until 1945, when you fled to Uetersen, a town northwest of Hamburg, before the invasion of the Red Army.
What memories do you have of those years and events?
HK: As a twelve-year-old boy, I was unaware of the fatal effect of this event when, on the evening of March 1, 1945, my mother and seven of us rushed three kilometers in the dark to the train station. I kept going, as children do. When we arrived in Uetersen, after a six-day train journey, my soul was still shaken, it felt lost in nothingness.
MTDD: How and to what extent have these events influenced your life, career, and publications?
HK: The experience of being tolerated as a refugee, without a real home, having only to eat and dress, and having just what is necessary to survive, has shaped my basic attitude towards life: I am fundamentally grateful for what life brings to me, for all that I could do and create.
Despite the painful experiences, these events convinced me of the significance of BEING THERE [= awareness of one’s existence/living life in full awareness]. Accordingly, the Danish existential philosopher Sören Kierkegaard formulates this belief: “Life is lived forward and understood backward.”
MTDD: While reading your CV, especially in the field of education, countless academic and non-academic topics and roles emerge, from teacher to principal, from principal to teacher, to supervisor and director of the institute.
Would you mind summarizing your activities in this sector?
HK: In all my different activities, functions, roles, and duties, people were always at the center of my thoughts and actions.
MTDD: In your self-portrait, we read: “Who I am. MYSELF! I always have been.”
How important is it to understand who we are and live our lives in full awareness and harmony with our values?
HK: Man’s answer to this fundamental question of his existence, WHO IS, decides what destiny is being prepared.
Two and a half millennia ago, the oracle of Delphi answered the question,
“What is the main task of man?”:
Self-awareness, the awareness of one’s SELF, is the fundamental condition for living in harmony with oneself, being in harmony with oneself, being in tune with oneself in the inner cosmos, and living in peace with oneself.
Such coherence with oneself is successful when one lives according to beliefs that determine a coherent state of being. A coherent state of being is based on values that improve life. These values create homeostatic balance in the organism.
Homo sapiens has the ability to create such an organismic and virtual state of being as a co-creator in their own inner cosmos with the ability to self-regulate. This primordial human option establishes his freedom and his dignity.
The basic condition is the knowledge of one’s true SELF.
MTDD: To what extent does the educational knowledge imposed by the education system interfere with one’s awareness of one’s being and hinder its development?
HK: The prescribed knowledge and learning contradict the ontic constitution of the human being, whose main characteristic is life in freedom. The world-famous poet Jean-Paul Sartre has clear words for man’s innate desire for freedom: “Man is condemned to freedom!”
To justify this, I will name a few details of this primary anthropological constitution:
This original human constitution is the basis of a democratic society.
This original constitution provokes the primal fear of every dictator.
This primeval human constitution led to the collapse of the WALL in Germany.
And this primal constitution is causing millions of Chinese millennials to say goodbye to the system. They live in the state of “Tangping.” “Tangping” means not making yourself an instrument of others. “To go your way, with dignity. Even if you become an outsider and have to settle for less money”, says the young Chinese woman, whom XIFAN YANG calls Yao Feng in her article “Uprising while lying down” in the weekly DIE ZEIT of April 13, 2022. XIFAN YANG states: “Young people do not participate more. They withdraw, go out, greet us and turn to ‘I’.”
In the traditional school system, currently dominated in 76 countries by the PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment] functionalist study, children and adolescents are conditioned to adapt for at least ten years during the growth phase of the brain. The brain area in the frontal cortex for SELF-regulation is impeded from full development by forced learning. With forced learning, there is no existential reference to the person, to the true SELF. This hinders the development of the brain areas necessary for autogenesis.
At the end of school, graduates don’t know WHO they are and what they actually want.
MTDD: On your home page, you state, “The knowledge of the school has clogged my system and overflowed my heart. I almost drowned in it.”
Could you elaborate on this concept?
HK: I was “tied” to a school chair for hours, having to hear what the teacher was trying to put into my head. What was happening in my inner world didn’t interest me. It was all about the subject.
Teachers are obliged to deliver the prescribed learning content in a set time and are obliged to evaluate students’ learning products. Grades motivate and condition students just like mice in a Skinner box. Expected learning products are rewarded with good grades, poor learning products are punished with bad grades.
My heart was driven by fear of getting good grades to get promoted to the next grade. My salvation was that I left the “school jail” and started an apprenticeship.
(Horst Költze: Anthropologically Oriented Teacher Training)
MTDD: Let’s start by looking at some of your publications.
The first were
– Anthropological-oriented teacher training. (1981);
– Teacher training – Theory and practice of the different models (Ed.). (1990);
– Teacher training in transition – From the concept of technocratic to human training, In: Ruth C. Cohn / Christina Terfurth (Editor), Living Teaching-TCI for Schools (1993),
– The Pedagogical Diary – A step towards responsible training. In: Almut / Hoppe / Heike Hoßfeld (edited by)
Evaluation as a process – Dialogue between self-evaluation and external evaluation. (2001)
(Horst Költze: Pedagogy of Self-Genesis)
The first three titles underline the importance of training teachers of anthropological orientation.
Could you, please, describe the anthropological orientation, the theory of different teacher training models, and the transition from a ‘technocratic’ to a ‘human’ education?
HK: I’ll start with a fundamental insight from existential philosopher Sören Kierkegaard:
“Man thinks in categories other than those in which he exists.”
These two ways of being, thinking, and existing form the bipolar field of tension in human unity. Man integrates both modes of being operationally into the act of action.
Being a teacher takes place in the classroom like a live broadcast every minute, where thought materializes into action.
Pedagogically professional actions require a high degree of self-awareness and the effects on students.
Pedagogical professionalism develops only when teacher education integrates both ways of being, the category of THINKING and ACTION, in the teacher training process.
The basis of such a process of professionalization of anthropological orientation is the ontologically legitimized image of man, in which man is understood as SELF. In teacher training, through self-confrontation, awareness of the true SELF develops in the process of conscious representation.
The re-representation of the SELF is the fundamental condition of human formation.
MTDD: To what extent does third-party evaluation affect our self-esteem, and what can be done?
HK: The extent to which others judge our self-worth depends on our awareness of our true SELF. If the consciousness of one’s SELF is underdeveloped, a virtual void arises in the inner cosmos. Dominant reference persons and authoritarian systems then prevail in this void.
What can be done about it?
As soon as the child says “I”, he can distance himself from himself and confront the SELF. This means confronting themselves in appropriate situations and promoting their freedom to make their own decisions, taking responsibility for their SELF and their fellow humans.
The anthropological justification of freedom of choice lies in the original constitution of man. Everyone has a chance to stop before reacting. The founder of speech therapy, Victor E. Frankl, acknowledged, “There is a space between stimulus and response. In this space, we have the freedom and the power to choose our answer. Our answer lies in our growth and our freedom.”
This pause option is the basic condition of AUTO Adjustment. Self-regulation is successful as soon as a man has developed an autonomous standard of values for himself. Therefore it is independent of the evaluation of third parties.
MTDD: How will readers interested in purchasing your publications do so?
HK: My books can be purchased at any local bookstore or ordered through Internet bookstores.
My essays, such as “The Evolutionary Spirit Transforms Educational Consciousness,” can be downloaded for free from the Internet.
MTDD: Horst, your publications are numerous, and the topics to be covered are as interesting as they are profound. We can continue this exciting conversation about the world of teaching and learning in our next interview.
Thanks again for participating. It was an honor to have you as my guest.
HK: Maria Teresa, thank you for inviting me to this interview.
(Horst Költze: School in Education Quake)