Walter Hövel
From Social Diversity to an Educational Diversity


Historical roots
Looking back into history our societies have changed. Within 500 years, we altered from feudal countries into a bourgeoisie capitalistic world.


Since the foundation of the Republic of France, the Switzerland and the United States democratic, at least chosen governments started spreading all over the globe. These histories are full of contradictions. The USA only had 17 years of not starting a war since its foundation in 1798. A terrible Civil War never could heal the wounds between the South and the North, Democrats and Republicans, Pacifists and Shooters, the white race thinkers and coloured thinking people. But they abolished a feudal education system and founded a common comprehensive school, a school for everybody and they know a strong independent press, which wants to write for the governed not the governors. In the Switzerland, women became their election rights in the seventieth of the last century. They never cleared their relation to the Nazis. Their banks never have fostered democracy. But they know a direct voting system to ask for the consent of the people. France suffers from their times of imperialistic past and world leading financial position in the presence. But France is a very strong creator of an united Europe. These countries were the first to introduce human rights in their constitutions.


We started to have nowadays school 200 years ago developing into a form we meet today. In addition, with school the number of freely elected governments all over the world became higher and higher.


Human rights
All people and countries in the world still live in the beginning of having and understanding human rights. Some of them are in pre- ore very early stages. It is difficult to get totally rid of feudal and religious rulers. Always old ideas fight with the new ones and social conditions change rapidly in a flow of times‘ spirits. The capitalistic way of life, economy and consume thinking still are so attractive, that most of the people want consumption, progress and security by strong men and women. Nevertheless, the other half of people wants a reduced consumption, balance or personal freedom.


Free way for capitalistic future
30 years ago, the leading country of the West defeated the Eastern communism, by the way without a war or civil war. The organisation of workers vanish.  A worldwide capitalistic economy and their governments have no more concurrence. Former communist’s states become under the rule of “their” capitalists. Many non-aligned countries (blockfreie) nations either turned into progressive systems or followed more than ever the way of “the States” or their own. Western countries became more aggressive and their markets and rich people became richer than ever. Ever since there are two different main streams of ideas how the world should get on. All of them know that the influence of electric netting and super quick giving information help to control the world.


Either we go a way of democracy with the aim of realizing human rights for everybody, or on the other hand, we‘ll have authoritarian nations again – without the bad left brother – whose ideas and followers are still fought by all powers of the market. Alternatively, we will have mixtures of both with a totally unknown future structure or self-destruction, or the other way round a mixture of both, knowing no or new winners.


Diversity becomes important
We know that all these development already started to change the structure of economies and its governments, but as well our thinking and the speaking of common people. We get a feeling for respecting that all nations are different, all languages and dialects, all cultures, women and men, children, ways of being poor or rich. The phenomenon of realizing this variety of everything and everyone got the name „diversity“.


There are new realities establishing. The world becomes different and so the justifications and motivations for what people do. Diversity became an important key word


School has a history
Teacher education changed. Teachers in former times were priests, old soldiers or women, who were not allowed to marry or to suit “badly”. Their own standard of education and teacher training was low. They taught students to obey authorities and to believe in them.
Nowadays they are trained to give good lessons and to make children to function in different situations, creatively and lifelong. They now raise those who will work and those who have to keep calm, the army of unemployed.

A change in teachers’ education up rises
Sometimes teachers’ seminars even start to teach teachers to learn. They start to ask questions about their young teachers’ learning in their own childhood, about the differences of each individual as a learner and living subject, the variety of cultures, languages and classes. They start to ask themselves questions like "How do we form our view on children nowadays?" Some even ask "How does our way of education form the children’s view on adults?"


We think about what we call in German "Schnittstellen" und "Bruchstellen". "Schnittstelle", "the Cutting Point” or” Surfaces or Sites" maybe translated best by "Interface". "Bruchstelle" by "Breaking Point". We have new fields of thinking where there are Interfaces between aesthetics and participation, between democracy and a higher qualification in subjects and their didactics.


Education becomes a never known importance
There is felt the danger of breaking apart. There is to be felt –on the other hand - a chance of overwhelming borders and differences. Human beings developed powers, which make possible a transformation to more comfort, happiness and worth and living dignity. Humans want to use their abilities to solve the problems of climate change, poverty, education, healthy food, etc.  Diverse problems shall be fought by the powers of diversity. A coexistence of different competences and up growths is demanded.


More and more we feel the power of the rich and their ignorance for social responsibility. In their midst we meet the new riches, who want to live in a world of inclusion and participation. They want to survive by parting. We see an increasing number of the poor. We see arising new types of lower classes. Even see a change of between of the learning of the rich and the poor. Human Rights fight a white racism, an idea of Europe a recreation of strong and week nations fighting each other or getting aliens.


European future
Where shall we find Europe than? A social Europe by or against capitalism? A smaller economically more sufficient Europe having given the leading position to the USA, China or even Russia? A bigger Europe to make even better bargains?


Or just a Europe, a world of even more diversities, where everybody gives what he has or gets what she wants. A new society of various undifferentiated marketing, of very different educational models, of wars not to be won, but profiteered. An aggressive Europe with or without the refugees they produce. Democracy or ruler ship of upper classes and leading electronical firms?


My aims
I decided myself for a Europe where human rights are more and more favoured, where the poors’ life becomes better, food becomes healthier, medical care improves, where an open-minded thinking is produced with the help of a democratic education.


My question is why democracy and future living and learning belong together.
Education has a sky. It’s not the sky full of children’s rights, or filled with the money of our governments. I cannot see this. But it is a sky of language.


More understanding of the meaning of languages
Humans are more and more able to understand what they are doing. They understand their living together and thinking by understanding their language and languages. Intelligent people always were able to speak different languages. Intelligent people of today can think in different languages.
We by now know, we construct our societies and way of living by our speaking. The way we invent language, the same way we invent our reality. Those who neglect this and our responsibility to the future, speak of “alternative realities”, they tell you lies. But, they go the way of using language for this.


Words become important
One of the words doing this, modern and helpful, is “diversity”. Others are participation, heterogeneity, inclusion, systemically thinking and many more. Many of these are not translated into another language. They are kept in English, or simply are popularised in the language of the country. But, they are in discussion in any European country or global progress.


The meaning of diversity
Actually diversity means the variety of species and eco systems, the structural variety of molecules and syntheses, sociological the discrimination of personality traits,  a strategy of increasing resilience, cultural variety, diversity management for companies or different types of antennas.


At the very end, there is „the educational diversity“, and social thinkers try to make an educational strategy out of it.


In the centre, there is -as everybody knows- „the difference“, you always find, always different depending on the individual views. It simply says that totally, not everything is the same and nothing stays the same forever.


Therefore, diversity is an everybody’s door to everything. If you want to do, or treat, or handle, or develop, etc. someone or something, use diversity.


Diversity as an educational weapon
However, as soon as you use it as an educational term, it describes everything that changes old education. It is the easiest way to all kinds of individualized learning, to open education, free learning, Maria Montessori, Celestin and Elise Freinet, to John Dewey or the democratic schools of nowadays.


Diversity demands not any more the self tuning of learners to understand every teacher, but vice versa teachers must find, understand and support the learning structure of any student. Moreover, any student is different.


Individual learning
If you understand diversity correctly, you have to go the way of individual learning. As a teacher cannot make an individually different curriculum for every learner, the teacher has to learn, that any student starts his own way of learning. And this must be learned by the learners.


It is not like the traffic reform in the 1970 of Sweden. You cannot just change from the left side to the right. You, teachers, students, society has to renew and invent newly every little item of every days’ learning after the other.


Please, do not make schools perfect. It is boring, as school is in Finland for many children there. Let the children find the ways, questions and attempts of their own.


Electronic media
This kind of learning will use electronic means. But not the computer like a school book, not by software made out of old training courses, not by playing odd games, not by using the laptop like a type writer or use social medias for soap-writing. No, it will give learners and all citizens any information; it will connect them by voice, picture, film or writing with any child or expert in the world. Children have to learn to write a software programme. They learn to cut films, to produce their own books and sent their lyrics, etc


Cooperative learning
Even better, teachers and students learn together more than ever before. People will learn in their networks of thinking and acting. Not the teachers, students already have an advantage.


New active learning of the learners
Not in a teachers mental map they will learn, but the students first will use their mental mind scapes. Teachers have to learn to make learning environments, to create chances of learning, to offer how to find questions of your own, how to evaluate an experiment, how to do a thesis, how to investigate and explore. They must give opportunities for presenting the learned. They must give time, space and knowledge of learning actively by yourself, how to find repetition and boredom, how to work together in real groups.


Therefore, it is not knowing as a teacher you have to offer more and things better as the students.” School and teachers will never manage this in a way students like to go to school. We will have to learn to go “learn-wards” by going “learner-wards”. It is not school, it is learning that has to fascinate. It will be the learner to take over responsibility for his or her own learning progress and will.


Democratic autonomy learning
It needs democracy, independency, free minds, thinkers, creativity, knowledge, self-confidence. It needs young people able to sit in a circle, to discuss things, to decide, not to oppress others, no wanting to be the boss, but team workers. It needs a class assembly, the knowledge of leading, following and to combine your own interests with the demands of others.


They must know their human rights, the rights of others. They have to learn history, politics, psychologies and games.


Students should learn to know who they are, what kind of learners they are, and what they need and want to exercise, not find out, leave out and stress as itis important to them.


They have to learn fair and successful communication and cooperation with themselves, adults, parents, teachers and authorities.


Do not teach democracy, live it. Democracy is not the extra to exercise. Democracy is not a subject to learn. Democracy never is the ruler ship of any majority over a minority.


Democracy must be within the methods of learning. You recognize them, if children use them by learning by themselves, without a teacher. These are writing their own texts, working with materials by doing; it is dancing and moving, playing own games and asking own questions. It is painting and playing theatre.


Theatre is not the present to your learning, but the way of your learning by ourselves with others, and knowing and using human rights.


The poor old planning of lessons always was suspicious to me. Some students understood, some a little, others nothing. And so were their marks. The elf-determined learning of children demands, that it is not possible to pal lessons. A teacher cannot know before what the learner will learn. So we now try to plan the unplannable learning process. If I write this article now before I had my lessons with the students, I can only describe my thinking, not what I will learn with the students or the students with me.


Education in the whole of society
Not only children are diverse humans. Not only must their learning be as different as they are different. You don’t need more schools, you need more different schools (not meaning a social selection with Gymnasium, lower and special schools), but a diversity of learning places.


Life becomes a chance of solving problems by learning. You learn age mixed, in the whole community, „the whole village“, not only in school. You learn with friends, with adults, from offered or found topics. Your learning area is congruent with your surroundings.


Learning and teaching
Teachers must „suffer” from diversity as well. They are different, they are allowed to be different and pupils want to see their diversities! They will learn, they don’t have to teach children, they learn with the. Teachers will learn that they cannot learn with every child. They will learn, others can do it better. They will learn: every learner can teach. If required by students, they can do as well. Some people are fantastic teachers, others not!


 No more testing and correcting
Learners don’t need marks any more. They quickly learn to evaluate themselves. Teachers are not those who show mistakes, but wait to make the fault an accelerating force for the learning of a child.


Give students time and space to show what they have learned. Let them find out how they worked, how they developed questions and themes in their own interest. How they started teamwork. How they found hypotheses, their experiments to prove or find out something. How they learned learning. Let them do their own presentations, make choices, decisions, correct wrong ways, how they found out what kind of learner they are and who they are or want to become.


Methods shall not rule learners
Methods and tools they use to learn reading and writing, asking and reporting, exploring and dancing must be democratic within themselves. Not a method rules a child, but she or he can use it for her or his advantage. Not a teacher uses it to be better than a child, but she or he may propose.


Children’s questions as an impetus of learning
Diversity means to find many different answers, to show different ways and methods, to find several solutions. More important will be the ability of asking questions. It is not to know the entire world of question you were told by games and media. It is your own question to the world. Learners should be able to ask by themselves, to go their own way of learning then. Not the answers are so basically, the questions are!


No selection into poor and rich schools
School does not differentiate in levels or selected schools. There should be no difference in rich schools for those with a rich origin in families.


Isn’t it the task of society to get less poor people? But school is not the place for extending social differences. Education is – as Nelson Mandela said – the biggest weapon to fight poverty. Education is the way to make people equal in their rights. One day school will have learned to discover the qualification of any kind to support it to master ship.


Let’s stop to integrate everybody into our schools and culture. The differences of today are only the beginning of a richness of society to solve much more problems than we do nowadays. As every (!) child is gifted, we have to help them to bring their abilities to the world. Promote any child by suspicion!


We once learned integration to bargain with everybody. Now we begin to learn inclusion to live together with everybody.


We know by now that not people have handicaps, but societies produces disabilities. We start to know that students are not better than others, but differently gifted. Let us stop to make children gifted and support developing each child’s gifts to a master ship.
We learn together to give our abilities to everybody but not to force everybody into line.


Responsible for the students’ learning
Teachers are no more responsible for the learning of a child. Let the children go by themselves. But adults be responsible for their qualifications. This means lifelong learning. The relation you have to children and others alters with you. Every day you can find your relation as a learner to the learners.


Work with paradoxical interventions, think and talk lateral, needle and do not always help. Leave learners alone. Go, but be reachable.


Do not limit the learning of your children by your knowledge. Don’t know everything, give it in, if you don’t know something, be surprised, show disappointment, be yourself. Children don’t want to meet a robot but a human being.


Don’t love children. Accept them. Take them serious. Meet them eye height. Talk with children, let them talk about their fears, their being stressed, dreams, … listen to them.


Don’t be a child. Don’t imitate children. Be an adult, but still know, what you were like when you were a child. Remember what you were afraid of, what made you tired, sad or upset. Keep in mind what a child’s advantage is, to behave like what he or she behaves.


You are not expected to understand every child. But understand yourself as much as possible. Study human beings, if young or old. Learn understanding.


Never force a child to any deed!


Critical thinking
Let them find out what the world is like. Let them express their likes and dislikes. Let them build their surroundings by their own decisions and trials. Let them contact politicians, scientist and other adults. Teach them how to say “no”. Let them find and express their rights. Let them exercise or be lazy. Trust them in finding their own ways. Don´t try to make them go your ways to repeat your mistakes.


Work together with them, not against them. There is always a core of truth in what they say. Sometimes it is very harsh. Keep calm, don’t let them attack you. Don’t defend your doings, but explain in a professional way. Explain what you will do. Help them to work with their children at home. But do it your way! Don’t tell them how to educate, but tell them how to work with their children. Never make them a controller of homework. Never let them punish their children for things that happened in school. Be self-conscious, but a democratic partner, ready to learn from parents, to learn together.


Pictures on children
Children never are silly, lazy or impudent. All humans are! Children have their own understanding, their comings from. They have their temperament, their way of doing things. They always have reasons for their “misbehaviours” and their “kindnesses”. Help them to know the origins, to find the chances of change, to find more ways of becoming what they want to be. Teachers can protect children and their evolutions by their professionality and force. Sometimes a school protects against parents, sisters and brothers.


Use reality
I could not write down all the other possibilities of democratic education. Obvious becomes that diversity is nothing but a synonym for the variety of free learning. Diversity is a reality. If it comes into the thinking and speaking of more people, we might change education and the world to a better.
Use the richness of this world. It is easy, because you do not have to invent it. It is already there and to be seen by everybody.



Walter Hövel became a teacher in 1973. He was headmaster of the Grundschule Harmonie from 1995 until his retirement in 2014. Here he fulfilled his dream of democratic free learning of children in a state school.


Since 1992 he has been working for several universities in Europe., actually in Cologne, Linz and Klagenfurt. He is a practioner as well as a theoretical thinker.
He published books and many articles. Some you find under