Walter Hövel


The „Maximal Compromise“


Real life catches us!


Cracow in 1996: „How much freedom can we express?




Learning techniques must be democratic! They must have the character of Freinet techniques. They never mean a therapy of people or experiments with them. They don`t attempt to create games of getting less or more hierachies and competitions of abilities.




So we (Marta Fontana from Southern Italy and me from the Rhineland) chose only techniques which successfully had already been used in Freinet classes, Freinet ateliers or techniques, which are absolutely sure to develop democracy, cooperation, self-determination and create expressing free and efficient learning.




They must be techniques, that allow those, who work with it to know in any situation - what they do, - what happens to them and - what they don't want to happen to them.




Techniques must allow the participiants to say „No“ in any situation and step aside during the work without loosing face or come into a situation to defend their leaving the group's work. The technique itself must leave responsibility to the learners.




We never plan in an abstract way. Every plan (planning is neccessary!?) must be changed with the developement of reality. Usualy the progress of an atelier's day never copes with the plan made the day before. While working Marta and me often don't need more than a short look to understand each other and to go on. The decision to change the course of the atelier is always done by the one moderating the atelier.




So things always find new situations, the old planning is forgotten and often enough techniques become a new quality.




Here the example from our Cracow's atelier. (20 or more people did not only come from different European countries like France, Finland, the Netherland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Sweden, the Switzerland, but also from different ideological countrys like Poland, Croatia or Hungary, and they came from Asia (Japan), South America (Brasil) and Europe. Languages were not translated first, but used and put into English, French or Japaneese. It was not easy to get along.)




We had - after six days' work – to decide, which theatre scene, already worked out – could be shown in the final presentation in front of the more than 200 participants of the RIDEF. We had to show our central ideas of liberty or freedom.




The discussion was very controversially, emotionally and politically. There had been a problem between members of our hosts, whose topic had become our's and vice versa. As the problems concerned very fundamental ideas of Freinet, cooperation and democracy, everybody was involved.




Some felt simply bumped in their heads, as the topic of our atelier was „How much freedom can we express?“, others saw their life after the „Western“ had gone. We had left the playful theoretical level of an atelier. Real life had caught us.




I did no more have to solve the problems of others. I had to live and talk myself.


The decision of what to do was no more a question of voting. Any majority would have oppressed a minority. Here could only help what is one of the arts of democracy of a Freinet class: Individuell rights and interests have to fit completely with the general interest. Any compromise would have lowered the success of the (atelier's) work.




So Marta and me started talking about a solution during the discussion of the group. (Others would have waited for the group to make a proposal...) We reminded a technique called „flashlight“, a „flash report“ or the "flash method". That's a thing we usually don't like so much. It is very often used as a bloodless, meaningless rite at the end of a seminar. It changes to a hidden mark for those who understood - or did not – the purposal and contence of the told. It's one of the favourite misdeeds of teachers. But we used the original idea of the flashlight's inventors: things are not said by the power of brains, but by the deepness and intelligence of emotions. So we used this technique in the final round of our seminar and in the final of our represantation of our work.


We combined this technique with the idea of Freinet education to give cooperating people the right to express their comman will of their work individually and in general without contradiction.




So everybody had here the „last word“. They did not vote for something, but said what they thought and do in their future. Everybody showed her or his last point of view, keeping it and continue it by themselves. Nobody was interrupted, there was no more discussion, just listening. Nobody spoke against everything or anyone. Every-one tried to express himself – after six days of working together. It was the under-standing of freedom in a real situation. We can only do what everybody wants.


After everybody had spoken we all knew what we had to do in the final represen-tation. We choose these scenes that showed our understanding of freedom. It included a scene that perhaps could not be understood by the whole audience, but by every host, who was involved in the affair.




On the other hand WE developed a thoroughly evaluation of our atelier, as there was not a asked a judgement, but a proposal for a solid acting in reality, that had to show the values that we had found during our work. So it was real evualtion.




For Matha and me this developing „new techniques“ is worth our doing of our work.We like to push forward Freinet education by Freinet education in a way of working. That's more than practical or theoretical work. It is our understanding of a holistic approach.




It's the freedom of permanent re-vision of one's own working on ourselves and the relations you develop towords the world and the others. It's the freedom to put yourself by yourself into relation.




Freinet education swops all methods and tools of education into „democratic techniques“, into techniques in the hands of the learners. The idea is to give the right and the knowhow of self-determination in a cooperating learners' group back to the learner by simple use of „techniques“ belonging to the learners.