The European Bureau of Adult Education: A Mirror of Incipient and Continuing European Unification
Toiviainen, Secretary of the Association of Finnish Adult Education
Organisations, Secretary of the EAEA Office for Information and Documentation
In studying past
events, historians have been unable to agree on whether to focus on large
macro-level events and the influence of important political figures of each
time period, or rather to concentrate on the micro-level, the grassroots-level
coincidences less significant from the point of view of the society, and the
"little" people toiling away in political obscurity. Yet, one hopes that this disagreement among
historians will continue, since conflicting opinions are fruitful from both a
scientific and a practical standpoint.
It is often the case that a picture of history created through research
calls for taking into account both the macro- and the micro-level
phenomena. In this article, I attempt to
focus especially on the macro-level, which until now has received less
attention than details clarifying the micro-level. This article concentrates on connections
between the founding of the European Bureau of Adult Education and its
activities in the 1950s and in the 1960s, and the great historical changes that
took place in Europe at the time.
Disgrace and the golden handshake of the United States
assessment of our condition following the Second World War can only lead us
Europeans to one conclusion: the western part of the continent was in a pitiful
state of disgrace. It did not seem able
to manage on its own. It was facing both
internal and external problems. Among
the former, the worst were the destruction caused by the war and the ensuing
economic decline. The latter manifested
itself as the threat of communism.
Although the human and material losses suffered by the Soviet Union in
the war were immense, its totalitarian system made it possible for it to
continue its aggressive foreign policy, and to create a buffer zone of vassal
states between itself and western Europe.
At a conference
of foreign ministers held in Moscow in the spring of 1947, George C. Marshall,
the Secretary of State of the United States, heard the foreign policy demands
of the Stalinist Soviet Union. When
Marshall returned from Moscow to the United States through the war-ravaged
countries of western Europe, there was only one conclusion he could reach: unless the United
States would take radical action, the combination of Soviet political goals and
western European weakness could only lead to the spread of communism into
Already a few
months earlier--after a well-known speech given at Fulton, USA by Britain's
former Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill--the United States' new policy
towards Europe had begun to take form.
It was named the Truman doctrine, after the President in office. Its central tenet was that the United States
would help all free nations fighting for their existence against external as
well as internal enemies. In a sense,
the plan for helping Europe presented by Secretary of State Marshall provided
the Truman doctrine with a concrete approach, without which it might have
remained a mere empty declaration.
The plan accepted
by the United States for helping the western European States was called the
Marshall Plan, and the accompanying economic aid the Marshall Aid. It is necessary to remember here that
Marshall Aid was not given unconditionally.
Among the conditions set by the United States was that the recipients
had to join in commercial and economic cooperation, for instance by gradually lowering
and removing trade barriers. In fact,
these conditions marked a starting point in the development of common markets,
known today in the form of the free movement of people, capital, services and
What was the
United States trying to accomplish with these conditions it attached to its
aid, conditions which were to be so significant from the viewpoint of European
integration? We might have various
opinions about the USA's kindheartedness as such, but we could hardly be so
naive as to overlook its primary motive--American interests in Europe. When the Marshall plan was implemented the
Cold War era was already underway, and the USA's European policy must be
understood against this background.
Aid and the conditions attached to it were primarily meant to serve the United
States' interests, not European integration.
If we have any doubts about the validity of this starting point, we can
take another approach, and ask whether the United States would have been
willing to help create a significant trade rival to itself--such as what
Western Europe gradually became through the EU, once it became capable of
choosing its own course. We cannot
believe this to have been the American goal.
If, however, we are happy with the European Union we have today, we can
thank the United States for setting substantial integration processes in motion
in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This
was a time when the open wounds of the recent war would have effectively
stopped the Europeans themselves from embarking upon such a course.
In terms of the
founding of the EBAE, we saw above the highway along which American interests
in Europe were marching deliberately.
The history of the founding of the EBAE is, however, rather the crossing
of two different roads than one road alone.
The other road was traveled by Europeans themselves, as they were forced
to look for some new directions for the western parts of the continent to
take. During a quarter of a century,
that area had given birth to two World Wars, and it was not possible to
confront the future without looking for new foundations to build it upon.
One such 'new'
foundation was the attempt to find a partial solution in federalism. Within the European federalist movement,
which emerged after the War, it was assumed that regulating conflicts in
western Europe might succeed better within a federal state or a similar
federation of countries than between nation-states fueled and held together by
the forces of nationalism.
The ideas of the
European federalists appealed both to Oscar Guermonprez, who became the first
President of the EBAE, and Bob Schouten, who was the Director of the EBAE for
nearly all of its first two decades.
Since the federalists themselves had limited power, they actively sought
support from institutions they saw as sharing the same greater ideological and
political goals. This approach led to
cooperation with, among others, the European Cultural Center (ECC) which had
started working in Geneva, and with the European Youth Campaign, which had
founded its headquarters in Paris and which chiefly relied on American funding.
The director of
the ECC, Denis de Rougemont, had a plan to begin promoting the establishment of
Cultural Centers in western European countries.
These were modeled chiefly after the French Foyers de Culture (Community
Centers) and the German Volkshochschulen, which were beginning to be rebuilt
with the support of the Allied interim government. One manifestation of these support activities
was that an esteemed adult education specialist from Manchester, Ronald Wilson,
was assigned to the British Embassy in Germany in 1947-58, with the task of
helping the Germans launch activities in the Volkshochschulen which had
operated already before the war, as well as of founding new schools.
Both the Foyers
de Culture and the Volkshochschulen represented the non-residential form of
adult education. Oscar Guermonprez and
Bob Schouten, however, were more interested in developing cooperation between
the European institutions of residential adult education. For this task the Foundation for the European
Work of the Dutch Folk High Schools was founded in 1953.
Rougemont was a man of initiative. He
offered the support of his Center for a new secretariat to be created to coordinate
the activities of the Foyers de Culture to be founded in different
countries. This idea did not catch on,
however, and by the time of a meeting held near Geneva in May 1953, it had to
be abandoned. The fundamental weakness
of the idea was that in order for it to succeed, the basic units, meaning the
community centers, would have to be founded first before western European
cooperation between them could be established.
It is quite understandable that an idea chiefly based on already
existing adult education institutions turned out to be more viable.
The cause which
de Rougemont wanted to advance was western European unification. It was such a lofty goal that a person
inspired by it could not give up after one unsuccessful attempt. On the contrary, de Rougemont presented as a
new idea that a forum for cooperation for European adult educators would be
founded under the auspices of the ECC.
Since we know that European adult educators had begun having ad hoc
contacts across national boundaries in the 19th century, the idea of organized
cooperation in the form of an international organization was most
interesting. When we consider the ECC's
own objective of promoting Europeanism, we must ask whether the motive for its
activity was primarily the advancement of adult education or of European
We saw above the
role of the Americans in setting the European unification process in motion
through the conditions attached to Marshall Aid. The American thread in the origins of the EBAE,
in turn, comes from the ECC having used the European Youth Campaign (EYC) as a
sponsor for a series of meetings which eventually led to the founding of the
EBAE. The EYC, as was mentioned above,
got most of its funding from the United States.
Today, we can be
grateful for having the EBAE. Given that
the purpose of the EBAE is to represent the non-governmental sector of adult
education, however, the history of its origins is rather interesting. To begin, we must consider that the EBAE was
founded by the ECC, rather than by adult educators themselves or their own
organizations. And, above all, the ECC
represented the incipient European unification aspirations, and thus the
efforts of the governmental sector. As
it happens, European integration has never been a unanimously pursued goal for
large popular movements; rather, the unification process has been driven by
politicians and business interests.
eagerness to establish a European adult education organization went so far that
de Rougemont presented a fully worked-out plan of action for founding it. In fact, his plan led, albeit not quite in
its original form, to the founding of the EBAE.
I am not going to discuss the complex founding process in more detail
here; let it suffice to say that it went through various stages over a span of
more than ten years, and that is if we consider the process as having ended
with the registration of the European Bureau of Adult Education in 1964 as an
organization in accordance with Dutch law and with its headquarters situated in
In the EBAE, the
adult educators of western Europe had been offered help they had not been
asking for. The way it was born and its
possible political ties were not apt to encourage all of the potential members
to apply for membership. It is
interesting here to look more closely at the guarded stance some of the member
countries assumed towards the EBAE. This
guardedness parallels the political reactions these same countries later
displayed towards the EEC when it was founded by the Rome treaty in March 25,
EBAE enthusiasm displayed by the Benelux countries as well as by France and
Germany was counterbalanced by a relatively marked British reticence. This difference escalated into an open
disagreement when the Franco-Netherlandic contingent attempted to emphasize the
EBAE's connection with the ECC, and the English felt this emphasis to be too
political. Denmark was the bridge
between the Nordic countries and the rest of western Europe at the time, since
it was the only Nordic founding member of the EBAE, and for a long time its
only Nordic member in general. Since
Denmark wanted to be sensitive to the foreign policy orientations of its Nordic
neighbors, it attempted to make the EBAE politically neutral in a way that
would make it possible for the adult education organizations from the other
Nordic countries to join. Among these
other Nordic countries, Finland was more interested in the EBAE than was Sweden
(compare with results in Finland and Sweden to their referendums on joining the
European Union in 1994). Slowest to warm
up to this 'organized' European orientation was Norway, where the majority
still has not seen the EU as the framework to best serve the interests of
Europe and the rest of the world.
by the European Economic Community
The second UNESCO
World Conference of Adult Education held in Montreal in 1960 had recommended,
among other things, the promotion of adult education by increasing regional
cooperation. For this purpose the EBAE,
in cooperation with the European Economic Community (EEC), organized a one-week
educational event in Brussels in December of 1961. The first part of the event was hosted (and
sponsored) by the EEC. Participants came
from the six countries that formed the EEC at that time (the Benelux-countries,
France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Italy), and from Great Britain,
Austria and the Nordic countries.
The overall theme
for the event was the training of adult educators, and at least one
interesting report about the proceedings remains. From Finland, two people
participated: Paavo Kuosmanen, a high-ranking official from the National Board
of General Education, who represented the Society of Culture and Education; and
Aune Tuomikoski, an English teacher and noted author of textbooks. The latter
wrote a review of the event. Its testimonial
value is increased by the fact that it was written from the standpoint of an
"outside" observer: in her own
country, she had hardly anything to do with adult education, aside from the
fact that her textbooks might have been used by adult educators. From the
viewpoint of European unification, on the other hand, any Finn might well have
been considered an "outsider" in the early 1960s. At that time, managing
foreign relations with the Soviet Union was such a central issue of national
survival that, despite centuries of Western European cultural ties, there was
little attention left for any orientation towards western Europe.
observer noted that the Brussels discussions revealed that the EEC had
maintained contact with the EBAE for some time. The purpose of the event in
question was the EEC's wish to inform representatives from adult education
circles about its achievements, its present situation, and its future outlook.
Special emphasis was placed on charting the potential adult education had
in advancing European integration. One presentation was precisely about
the possible forms of cooperation between the EEC and organizations of liberal
adult education. According to the
Finnish observer, this "courting" by the EEC contained the following
The EEC wished that adult educators would make it a part of their work to
present accurate and up-to-date information about the goals and activities of
large international organizations such as the U.N., EEC, and EFTA. For
example, the process of adopting common agricultural and labor policies would
offer adult educators of the EEC countries important work in spreading
information and preparing
people for change. Adult educators could engage in important
preventive work in combatting the dangers brought about by rapidly emerging
nationalist zeal which could be the result of sudden political instability
were not asked to become active supporters of integration without a reward,
however. According to Aune Tuomikoski,
there was a carrot: "The possibility was raised that the European
University being planned by the European Atomic Energy Community EURATOM would
include adult education in its curriculum." In her summary of the
Brussels event, hosted by the EEC, our reporter noted that many of the
participants had expressed a wish that "the EEC would continue to address
information to adult educators." However, the summary continued:
"There were others who felt that the tasks suggested by the EEC were
not in concordance with the nature and purpose of adult education.
leadership highly appreciated the study visit to the European Communities and
the ensuing seminar. It published a detailed 99-page report on the visit and
seminar as a special issue of Notes & Studies. However, not a word
was reported of those opinions that questioned the ethical basis of mixing
adult education and politics and the proposals suggesting the use of adult
education to promote the unification process of Europe. Probably, the desirable end justified the
means in the minds of the Bureau's leadership.
Although it would
be interesting, it is not possible here to discuss the various traditions of
liberal adult education of countries represented in the seminar in
Brussels. From the standpoint of liberal
adult education traditions in Finland, however, the hesitation felt towards
the EEC's "engagement proposal of December, 1961," was
understandable. According to those traditions, liberal adult education cannot
be used as a vehicle for spreading political, religious, or other
doctrines. These traditions do not, of course, prevent political, religious, or
other organizations from offering education adhering to their values and goals
to those who have already chosen their ideology, since those people
would not be "converted" under the cover of education anymore. It is possible that those who felt reluctance
about the proposal by the EEC thought likewise.
Conference Produces a Far-Reaching Idea
Article 2. of the
constitution of the EBAE reads as follows:
an independent body established on the initiative of the European Centre of
Culture, proposes to pursue its own work in the general spirit of the aims
defined in article 3 of the Constitution of the E.C.C.
office is at the E.C.C. but its executive office may eventually be
This article raises
a question of the organization's independence if its aims were tied to the
constitution of another. This strong link is understandable because it was
impossible to break all contacts with the E.C.C. Disappointed that the Bureau remained
uncommitted, as early as 1953 a representative of the European Youth Campaign
had noted that the Campaign had a hard time supporting an organization
"whose European intentions were so weakly formulated." The concession in Article 2 must have been
necessary to avoid having the E.C.C. turn its back on the Bureau as well.
Later, in the
early 1960s, the "European intentions" of the EBAE became more
focused, however. The joint meeting with
the representatives of the EEC described above, for instance, already reflects
a certain kind of more active approach.
It might also no longer be paradoxical but rather a given that we would
find ourselves unable to ignore a certain American influence when we study how
the EBAE began to promote European ideals and European unification.
Starting in 1951,
representatives of European Folk High Schools and other Residential Adult
Colleges had met in annual conferences to develop their work. For the 1957 conference, it was decided to
invite Americans as well. This
conference, which was held in Bergen, the Netherlands, was sponsored by the
EBAE and the Adult Education Association of the United States. Five years later, the European-American
conference held in Rendsburg Folk High School in the Federal Republic of
Germany produced a far-reaching idea.
According to sources: "Some Americans and Canadians asked, if it
would not be possible to make the advantages of Residential Adult Education
directly subservient to international cooperation."
Those who made
the initiative backed it by referring to the fact that every year thousands of
Americans and Canadians visited Europe. In an educational sense, their
situation was no better than that of a regular tourist; there was no way to get
in touch with the Europeans in a genuine and meaningful way. Neither was it possible to get to know
European culture and world view from a deeper perspective. The question raised
by these American and Canadian participants was whether "Folk High Schools
and other educational centres could lend a helping hand to this experiment"
of establishing more intense European-American contacts.
available sources, the guests from North America approached their idea
pragmatically. They willingly admitted that it would take money to realize it,
and promised on their part to explore potential funding sources in their own
countries. The Europeans, in turn, noted that they themselves did not have
educational institutions of the kind that would facilitate the sort of
cultural exchange and educational activity their North American colleagues
were proposing. The Europeans also acknowledged that realizing the idea would
require some form of financial support. From the beginning, their highest
hopes were attached to the European Cultural Foundation.
1962, a few months after the Rensburg Conference, the General Assembly of the
EBAE was held in Haus Buchenried, West Germany. The fact that the meeting
itself is never the main event of the General Assembly gatherings does not
lessen its value and importance. Indeed, compared to the educational event
arranged in conjunction with it, the General Assembly has always lasted a
relatively short time. In Buchenried as well, it was the accompanying seminar
that offered one working group an excellent opportunity to critically review
the idea that with much enthusiasm and perhaps less realism had been proposed
in Rendsburg. In its report, the working group, led by Harald Eng-berg
Pedersen, Vice President of the EBAE and a Danish FHS professional, announced
that the European Cultural Foundation had tentatively agreed to provide
financial support to the Meeting Europe venture. The working group gave its
unqualified support to the basic idea of arranging a series of courses and
suggested that the EBAE's secretariat should, without delay, begin to search
for suitable Folk High Schools to arrange the courses and to print brochures
about them. The working group also recommended a more conservative start to
the project than the 10-12 annual courses originally suggested by the Rendsburg
initiative. It was planned that the project should materialize as a pilot
program in 1963, and it was deemed more practical to plan a fuller program for
the following year (1964).
Rendsburg Conference and the EBAE General Assembly, there were two ideas to be
considered. One was the American idea aimed at establishing more intense
European-American educational contacts in the residential settings offered by
the folk high schools and other equivalent centres. The second idea was still
in the planning stages and unclear. Although the EBAE leadership had already
decided to launch a pilot program, it was still unable to clarify educational
goals for the courses. The first concrete version of the basic course idea
appeared in a brochure advertising the 1963 pilot courses.
Program for Promoting European Citizenship
projects intended to support unification, the "Meeting Europe" course
series which was carried out in 1963‑1970 was the largest. It consisted of 44
international summer courses, each 7‑10 days long, with topics advancing
European awareness and unification. A total of 9 countries (Austria, Belgium,
Denmark, Finland, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, England, the
Netherlands, and Sweden joined the Meeting Europe program. These 44 courses
were held at residential folk high schools and other residential centres and
were attended by a total of some 1,200 adult participants.
Keeping in mind
that through all of these years the Bureau was suffering from insufficient
financial resources, it is interesting to note that it nevertheless managed
to carry out the organization of these
courses. In addition to the usual expenses, the Bureau was even able to
sponsor travel expenses for the course participants to a notable extent. From
various sources, the Bureau managed to gather over 132,000 Dutch guilders to
sponsor the courses. When we note that this sum is equal to the Bureau's three
yearly budgets for the same period of 1963-1970, we realize that the course
series was in a class of its own as a special project given the highest priority.
Who, then, was
interested in sponsoring the "Meeting Europe" courses? Two sponsors were significant. First was the European Cultural Foundation,
whose work would be forwarded by sponsoring these courses; over the years it
contributed a total of 81,000 Dutch guilders, amounting to approximately 62% of
the total sponsored funds. The Prince
Bernhard Foundation, which was founded during the war in 1940 and operated
under the auspices of the Dutch Royal Family, in turn gave approximately 47,000
Dutch guilders, or just under 36% of the total outside financial support. This foundation primarily sponsored Dutch
undertakings, but especially when it came to international activities, it did
not draw the line too carefully. The
fact that the EBAE organized the courses made them sufficiently Dutch. To some extent, this situation strengthened
the image of the EBAE as a "Dutch institution." The fact that the EBAE based its existence
largely on the gracious support of the Dutch government contributed to this
image even more. Pleas to the effect
that member organizations would assume more responsibility for supporting the
Bureau were received with deaf ears.
Several appeals to this effect were made, the most authoritative
probably being the one forwarded by Mr. L.B. van Ommen, Director of Youth
Welfare, Adult Education and Sport in the [Dutch] Ministry of Cultural Affairs,
at the 20th Anniversary Meeting of the EBAE.
Europe" courses were an early--perhaps even the earliest--multinational
program designed to promote European Citizenship. Their historical pioneering value can only
now be fully appreciated, when the European Union holds European Citizenship as
one of the central priorities of the educational and cultural programs it
Why, then, were
the courses not continued? First of all
we must note that the sponsorship for the courses dried out. Perhaps it was assessed that the courses,
nevertheless, were not an effective enough means for promoting international
understanding and European ideals among the "common" people, since
the leaders of the nations still had a long way to go until Europe could
experience real detente. On the other
hand, we must realize that the "Meeting Europe" courses were a
demanding task for the small secretariat of the Bureau, even if funding could
have been found to continue with them.
As a positive consequence of the courses, however, the Bureau staff
grew. That staff we are vividly reminded
of by Willem Bax, who entered the Bureau's service during the final stages of
the course series. For many of us, he is
one of the positive manifestations of the kind of Europeanism adult education
should try to foster.