Kurt Hahn and the Core

Article by Claire Brillon (UWC Atlantic College ’13-’15)

 When Kurt Hahn founded UWC in 1962, his dream was to use education as a tool for creating peace. That’s the part that everyone knows… what most don’t know is that Hahn had developed a strategy – a game plan to approach the enormous objective he had set himself.

Kurt Hahn observed the youth of his day and thought up a list of problems; declines, as he called them. These declines outlined the downfalls of modern youth, and Hahn put himself through this exercise in order to cease the unnecessary criticism and take action (something that perhaps more critics should think of doing). He also decided on remedies, ways to address these declines. Some of these remedies, such as *** are found on a daily basis in the Atlantic Diploma (grand plan that was thought up by the Vice-Principal Academic at Atlantic College that meant to go above and beyond the good ‘ole CAS) the UWC ethos, but others, such as expeditions*, for example, seem to have been swept under the rug.


This is were the Kurt Hahn Experiential Core comes in; the core was established in Atlantic College in order to address the six declines via the remedies, and to further encourage the student body to fulfil the movement’s ethos. I was a member of the core during my first year, and accepted to take on leadership of the core in the month of May for the duration of my second year. With a small group (between 20 and 30) of dedicated people, we wake up early twice a week (yes, even in the cold rainy winter when it is comfortably before the sun even thinks of beginning to dream of potentially rising) and do crazy, challenging things. Granted, many Wednesday mornings I question my role as a member of the school community when it feels like I am the only person awake at this ungodly hour, but as soon as the group is reunited as a whole, I never regret rolling out of bed. The group’s enthusiastic members and nature of our beautiful campus are conducive to productive learning, fantastic team building and real, experiential learning.


So, the purpose of this article, you will ask? I intend on setting up a core where I go next, regardless of whether or not people have any idea who Kurt Hahn is. I know that my three second-year leaders did the same, and I dare hope that the people to whom I will pass down the core to will also attempt to do so. However, I would like to push Kurt Hahn’s ideals further than this. Do I think every UWC should have a Kurt Hahn Core? Yes. Do I think it’s realistic (after all, we do take the IB, internationally renown and feared yadayada blablabla)? Yes, and the IB will be more achievable if you can wake up early. I’ve only every been to one other UWC, and as soon as I arrived as a representative of Atlantic College, I was met with scepticism, which questioned legitimacy of Atlantic College within the UWC movement, the corruption behind the system of IQ (International Quota) fee-paying students, the abusive drinking culture in the UK and other failures that the school “should” justify. Although many of these are real issues that the school does face as a community, there are many other things that are very right about where we are, and the Kurt Hahn Core is one of them. These last few sentences have taken a turn for the sour, but my point is that there are ways to counter every problem, and critics, turn yourselves into doers.

Farewell, my dear UWC friends who are reading this. I leave you in the hopes that this will have encouraged you, lit a spark within you, or inspired to talk to someone you know about setting up your very own Kurt Hahn Experiential Core.


2 thoughts on “Kurt Hahn and the Core

  1. Hello Claire! I love your article because, at least during my time, I could recognize some of these values put into practice at RCNUWC and we sometimes went on excursions but I guess they weren’t our excursions so I don’t know if that counts. I believe every UWC kind of follows the original method one way or another considering the pressure and work we have to do to successfully finish the IB… On another note I wanted to ask if the following would apply as examples of the 4 solutions: walking the dog, working and studying as well as thinking of a community service project to be implemented next year at some point, and the community service I’ll do once the project is implemented… The only thing missing would be the excursions… Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time but I do get up early to start my day (around 5am everyday)… Although I want to start doing some excursions and “discovering” places in the near future…What do you think? What do you recommend I change or keep or do?

    1. Hey Margina! Thanks for reading, and for your interest 🙂 I agree that pretty much all UWCs follow the different antidotes, but sometimes I think we get lost in the workload from the IB, and we just end up putting academic at the forefront of our experience. Also, with how the IB has evolved, we’re not so much on the spirit of adventure or physical fitness, so that’s why Kurt Hahn core exists. Regarding your question, you can always work at different tasks (like the ones you mentioned) on your own and think of them as declines that you’re fixing in yourself. Yes, that definitely does “count”. However, to have your own core, you would need to be spreading these ideals and using all the declines & remedies. That’s why you need to have a group of committed people who will do things together, because that way you’re serving the larger purpose of raising awareness. Hope this helps, and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions!

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