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An Elementary Building Block of Education on the Thorny Path to Peace. What Is “Lebens­kund­licher Unterricht”, Actually?

By Franz J. Eisend and Thomas R. Elßner

Franz Eisend and Thomas Elßner not only offer a comprehensive definition and description of the tasks of Lebenskundlicher Unterricht (LKU) in the Bundeswehr in its current form, they also explain in detail its relevance to peace education. After the Second World War, a new soldierly self-image emerged, based on the dignity and responsibility of the individual and emphasizing service to peace, freedom and justice. This, they argue, is essentially due to LKU. As a “democratic freedom for self-discipline of the intellect and character” that was partially removed from military control, it represented an innovation and at the same time defined the moral standard for leadership. This reflects a basic insight of peace pedagogy: a community can only achieve lasting external strength through the inner cohesion of its parts, based on freedom, law and self-restraint.

In a historical overview, the authors retrace how the decidedly peace pedagogical orientation found its way step by step into LKU. LKU developed from Christian-influenced moral instruction into a compulsory professional ethics skills development program ­without denominational ties. It now makes a decisive contribution to independent personality development for military personnel and to the cross-sectional task of ethical education.

At the “heart” of ethical education, LKU raises fundamental ­questions about human existence and personal world-views. ­Military chaplains are well qualified to deal with these issues appropriately, not simply because of their academic or scientific expertise but because they occupy a clearly identifiable position regarding “Weltanschauung” – and therefore bring sensitivity and a sense of responsibility to personal encounters. There is no such thing as “neutrality” in this field.

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