The Alsatian School
After the defeat in Sedan, a number of Protestants thought of opening up a teaching establishment that the children born in French-speaking Alsatian families but who had retreated to the Paris area could attend. Soon, the Alsatian School became this unique private school whose teaching initiatives constantly caught the attention and aroused the admiration of those in charge of state education
An elementary school in 1871
The Alsatian School first opened in 1871, in the Latin Quarter in Paris, with one single elementary class. With a newly appointed board, the school got properly organised in 1874 and started offering an ambitious and more modern curriculum than the one offered by the regular public high schools (suppression of exercises in Latin verse, creation of science and experimental science majors). In 1879, 200 students attended the Alsatian School and took the final high school exam, the Baccalaureate, with high-rating success.
The School earned general recognition under Jean-Théodore Beck’s leadership from 1890 to 1921. This Alsatian pastor, who had retreated to Paris, first came to the School to teach German. When he was appointed headmaster, he set himself the goal “to turn the School into a place where students would reach intellectual and moral maturity, while asking for the parents’ involvement, whatever be their political or religious backgrounds (which was new in secondary education). Above all their sons must abhor that which demeans man and love that which elevates the mind, for the sake of the family and for the honour of France” (une oeuvre d’affranchissement intellectuel et moral, avec, (fait tout à fait nouveau dans le cadre de l’enseignement secondaire), la collaboration des parents appartenant à toutes les tendances politiques et religieuses, mais désirant avant tout que leurs fils aient l’horreur de ce qui abaisse et l’amour de ce qui élève, et cela pour la dignité de la famille et l’honneur de la France).
In 1891, the Minister of Public Education, Paul Bert, accurately summed up what was, and still remains, the role of the School within the general system of education : “you are the valuable helpers of the university and carry out experiments that it cannot make itself”.
André Gide described his school years at the Alsatian School in his book “Si le grain ne meurt”.
Protestant education since the RevolutionAfter the French Revolution, a public education system was gradually established with the high schools and Grandes Ecoles. Protestants participated widely in the major school and university reforms of the...
Kindergarten schoolsIn the nineteenth century, the importance of the child’s individual character was first discovered. This was mostly due to the influence of J-J. Rousseau, for whom education at its best...
The vocational schoolsUnder the Second Napoleonic Empire, the Protestants were partly responsible for the growing number of vocational schools.
Social ChristianityAt the end of the 19th century, some pastors, shocked by the poverty-stricken situation of the working-class, initiated a reflection on social justice.
Protestant evangelizationFor French Protestants, the nineteenth century represented the period of “reintegration” or “rebirth”. After more than a century-long ban, everything or nearly everything had to be rebuilt. The Concordat rule...
Jean Théodore Beck (1839-1936) and the special circumstances of the Ecole AlsacienneBeck was one of the most striking personalities of the Ecole Alsacienne which he directed from 1891 to 1920.