Monday, January 27, 2014

Robert R. LaFollette Papers Digital Collection Documents German Post-War Education Reform

Robert Russell LaFollette
"There were shortages of food and fuel. They sat in wrecked and partially wrecked buildings whose windows were out and whose doors were gone while bread and potato soup kept them alive but not adequately nourished. They sat in overcoats and overshoes with blankets draped around their shoulders as they wrote with gloved hands using their knees as desks."

So wrote Robert R. LaFollette, American historian and educator, when describing the challenges faced by students during the rebuilding of a German education system that had been ravished by both the physical destruction of World War II and by Nazi ideology.

Handbook of education
statistics (U.S. occupied area
of Germany), July 1949
Ball State University Archives and Special Collections has recently digitized a collection of papers documenting LaFollette's career, making it available in the Ball State University Digital Media Repository.  The collection emphasizes materials related to his role as an advisor to the rebuilding of the German education system following World War II.  LaFollette served as the head of the social science department at Ball State Teachers College (now Ball State University) from 1921 to 1961.

LaFollette's direct involvement with these post-war rebuilding efforts began in 1949, when he served as a visiting consultant in teacher education and social science with the Office of the U.S. Secretary of the Army in Bavaria. From 1950 to 1952, LaFollette served as an education advisor to the Education and Cultural Relations Division of the U.S. High Commissioner of Germany, organizing the International Social Studies Workshop in Heidelberg.  In 1952, LaFollette was the chairman of the American-German Historian and History Teachers Workshop in Braunschweig, a conference that evaluated history textbooks and curriculum in Germany.

From 1954 to 1955, he was the social studies specialist to North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry, and later served as a Fulbright lecturer to Germany and visiting professor at Oldenburg Paedogogical University from 1956 to 1957.
Diagram of Bavarian school system, 1949

The collection contains documents related to each of these assignments and includes reports and writings created and collected by LaFollette and his colleagues in their service as advisors to the Education and Cultural Relations Division.  It also includes information disseminated by branches of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany regarding rebuilding aims and initiatives, including maps, diagrams, and reports.

A more complete biography of LaFollette is available on the finding aid for the Robert R. LaFollette papers collection housed in Ball State University Archives & Special Collections.

For more information about this collection and other materials related to the career of Robert LaFollette, contact Ball State University Archives & Special Collections at

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