Outreach in Prussian Education System

The overall system was soon widely admired for its efficiency and reduction of illiteracy, and served as a model for the education systems in other German states and a number of other countries, including Japan and the United States.

The underlying Humboldtian educational ideal of brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt was about much more than primary education; it strived for academic freedom and the education of both cosmopolitan-minded and loyal citizens from the earliest levels. The Prussian system had strong backing in the traditional German admiration and respect for Bildung as an individual's drive to cultivate oneself from within.

Drivers and hindrances
Major drivers for improved education in Prussia since the 18th century had a background in the middle and upper middle strata of society and were pioneered by the Bildungsbürgertum. The concept as such faced strong resistance both from the top, as major players in the ruling nobility feared increasing literacy among peasants and workers would raise unrest, and from the very poor, who preferred to use their children as early as possible for rural or industrial labor.

The system's proponents overcame such resistance with the help of foreign pressure and internal failures, after the defeat of Prussia in the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars. After the military blunder of Prussian drill and line formation against the levée en masse of the French revolutionary army in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in 1806, reformers and German nationalists urged for major improvements in education. In 1809 Wilhelm von Humboldt, having been appointed minister of education, promoted his idea of a generic education based on a neohumanist ideal of broad general knowledge, in full academic freedom without any determination or restriction by status, profession or wealth. Humboldt's de:Königsberger Schulplan was one of the earliest white papers to lay out a reform of a country's educational system as a whole. Humboldt's concept still forms the foundation of the contemporary German education system. The Prussian system provided compulsory and basic schooling for everyone, but the significantly higher fees for attending gymnasium or a university imposed a high barrier between upper, middle and lower social strata.

Interaction with the German national movement
In 1807 Johann Gottlieb Fichte, known as the spiritual father of Nazism, had urged a new form of education in his Addresses to the German Nation. While Prussian (military) drill in the times before had been about obedience to orders without any leeway, Fichte asked for shaping of the personality of students, as evidenced when he said "Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.". The citizens should be made able and willing to use their own minds to achieve higher goals in the framework of a future unified German nation state. Fichte and other philosophers, such as the Brothers Grimm, tried to circumvent the nobility's resistance to a common German nation state via proposing the concept of a Kulturnation, nationhood without needing a state but based on common language, musical compositions and songs, shared fairy tales and legends and a common ethos and educational canon.

Various German national movement leaders engaged themselves in educational reform. For example, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852), dubbed the Turnvater, was the father of German gymnastics and a student fraternity leader and nationalist but failed in his nationalist efforts; between 1820 and 1842 Jahn's gymnastics movement was forbidden because of his proto-Nazi politics. But later on Jahn and others were successful in integrating physical education and sports into Prussian and overall German curricula and popular culture.

By 1870, the Prussian system began to privilege High German as an official language against various ethnic groups (such as Poles, Sorbs and Danes) living in Prussia and other German states. Previous attempts to establish "Utraquism" schools (bilingual education) in the east of Prussia had been identified with high illiteracy rates in those regions.

Interaction with religion
Pietism, a reformist group within Lutheranism, forged a political alliance with the King of Prussia based on a mutual interest in breaking the dominance of the Lutheran state church. The Prussian Kings, Calvinists among Lutherans, feared the influence of the Lutheran state church and its close connections with the provincial nobility, while Pietists suffered from persecution by the Lutheran orthodoxy. Bolstered by royal patronage, Pietism replaced the Lutheran church as the effective state religion by the 1760s. Pietist theology stressed the need for "inner spirituality" (de:Innerlichkeit), to be found through the reading of Scripture. Consequently, Pietists helped form the principles of the modern public school system, including the stress on literacy, while more Calvinism-based educational reformers (English and Swiss) asked for externally oriented, utilitarian approaches and were critical of internally soul searching idealism.

Prussia was able to leverage the Protestant Church as a partner and ally in the setup of its educational system. Prussian ministers, particularly Karl Abraham Freiherr von Zedlitz, sought to introduce a more centralized, uniform system administered by the state during the 18th century. The implementation of the Prussian General Land Law of 1794 was a major step toward this goal. However, there remains in Germany to the present a complicated system of burden sharing between municipalities and state administration for primary and secondary education. The various confessions still have a strong say, contribute religious instruction as a regular topic in schools and receive state funding to allow them to provide preschool education and kindergarten. In comparison, the French and Austrian education systems faced major setbacks due to ongoing conflicts with the Catholic Church and its educational role. The introduction of compusory schooling in France was delayed till the 1880s.

Political and cultural role of teachers
Generations of Prussian and also German teachers, who in the 18th century often had no formal education and in the very beginning often were untrained former petty officers, tried to gain more academic recognition, training and better pay and played an important role in various protest and reform movements throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. Namely the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states and the protests of 1968 saw a strong involvement of (future) teachers. There is a long tradition of parody and ridicule, where teachers were being depicted in a janusfaced manner as either, authoritarian drill masters or, on the other hand, poor wretches which were suffering the constant spite of pranking pupils, negligent parents and spiteful local authorities.

A 2010 book title like "Germany, your teachers; why the future of our childrens is being decided in the classroom" shows the 18th and 19th century Enlightenment ideals of teachers educating the nation about its most sacred and important issues. The notion of Biedermeier, a petty bourgeous image of the age between 1830 and 1848er was coined on Samuel Friedrich Sauter, a school master and poet which had written the famous German song "Das arme Dorfschulmeisterlein" (The poor little schoolmaster). Actually the 18th primary teachers income was a third of a parish priest and teachers were being described as being as uppity as proverbially poor. However German notion of homeschooling was less than favorable, Germans deemed the school system as being necessary. E.g. Heinrich Spoerls 1933 "escapist masterpiece" novel (and movie) Die Feuerzangenbowle tells the (till the present) popular story of a writer going undercover as a student at a small town school after his friends in Berlin tell him that he missed out on the best part of growing up by being homeschooled.