What would Kurt Hahn do? – I. Limits of Idealism and China

In the light of the recent discussions regarding the UWC movement United Words asked the biographer of Kurt Hahn and former headmaster of UWC AC and UWC AD, David Sutcliffe, for Kurt Hahn’s opinions on some issues. His answers will be

United Words: Mr. Sutcliff, how uncompromising was Kurt Hahn in terms of realising his ideas and visions? Would he refrain from opening a UWC in an environment which does not accept the UWC values?

David Sutcliffe: Hahn was a pragmatist when it came to bringing his projects into being. Salem existed in and survived a totalitarian regime (more or less) but of course did not start out in one. He was always very anxious to counter the influence of the socialist/communist regimes on the young (whilst admiring their effectiveness and many of their methods) – remember the attempts to start an OB School in Berlin in sight of the Wall. The Atlantic Colleges were intended to be both a demonstration and a binding force for good among the “Atlantic” nations, and Russians and others were to be welcomed later, but the idea of launching a college in Eastern Europe never crossed his mind as far as I know, and how could he have done it anyway?

United Words: From your point of view, would Kurt Hahn have supported the idea of opening a UWC in China?

David Sutcliffe: “I think he would have greatly welcomed the chance of setting up a school now in China if the basic safeguards (staff appointments, independence over the choice of curriculum and examinations, physical safety, etc.) were in place. …..there are IB schools in China, … hundreds of Chinese students have attended the United World Colleges, … thousands are at universities in the US, and … there are wonderfully equipped boarding schools in Shanghai attended by students “on merit” which have been running with impressive success for the past 15 years..

– United World College Student Magazine –


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