High Spirits in High Schools
In the Nordic countries, children are not expected to just follow orders in school. They used to be, but things started to change in the 19th century with the Danish thinker and teacher, N.F.S. Grundtvig and his folk high school movement.
It was founded as a reaction against old, conservative ideals of education and culture: against an educational system, in which the primary focus was on book learning and nothing else. Tokai University, founded in 1942, was directly inspired by N.F.S. Grundtvig.
The founder of Tokai University, Dr Shigeyoshi Matsumae had visited Denmark to study the spiritual and public education in Danish folk high schools. On his return, he established the university, which still exists, and continues to be based on the same ideals of promoting spiritual strength in the students.
He himself pondered the larger question: “How should I lead my life?” To help find the answers he read Japanese books such as The Story of Denmark and The Greatest Heritage to the Future, which greatly influenced Japanese youth at the time. He learned the history of Denmark’s post-WWI reconstruction through education – which was based on Grundtvig’s ideas.
The Danish, national high schools, often called “universities for the people”, were dynamic learning communities where students and teachers lived together and engaged freely in discussions about society, philosophy and other subjects. In 1934, Dr Matsumae visited Denmark to observe them personally. He came to believe that schools should: “Help students understand historical perspectives, views of life, and develop a sense of mission so that each student can become a more complete person.”
He recognised that such an educational system resulted in the creation of the driving force that had built up the dairy farming nation of Denmark. His experiences in Denmark led him to believe that: “the fundamentals of building a solid nation lie in education. We must build Japan as a peaceful nation with education as a foundation.”