Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

1921

International People’s College opens in Elsinore, Denmark

This year, when Europe was still recovering from the horrors of the First World War (1914-1918), Peter Manniche created the International People’s College (IPC) in Elsinore, Denmark. During part of the armed conflict, Manniche had spend some time at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in England, and there he was struck by the tranquility of the place and by the spirit of peace activism held by Woodbrooke’s members. As a result of this experience, Manniche developed the idea that people from countries that had been former enemies should have opportunities to live, work and study together. He then dreamed about the idea of providing a place for this to happen, a place where people from different parts of the world could congregate, leave their differences and prejudices at the door, and learn from each other. If such experiment went well, Manniche thought, it would constitute a useful contribution towards international understanding.

Translating those ideas into a concrete reality, in 1921 he founded the IPC, which was rooted in the tradition of the Grundtvig’s Danish folk high schools. Very soon IPC was an international reference, attracting students from outside Denmark, and inspiring the creation of similar centres in other parts of the world. Myles Horton, for instance, was a student at IPC in those first years, when he was in his early twenties. In his autobiography, Horton recalls that the learning that he acquired at IPC helped him to start the Highlander Centre in Tennessee in 1932. Horton regarded Manniche, Horton as a man of vision who adapted and recreated the traditional folk school idea: “Peter Manniche saw the planet Earth as the International People’s College campus, and he sought to build bridges among nations” (Horton 1998:53). Some of the notes he took in Denmark during that time would become the foundations for the Highlander concept: 

In the following decades, IPC would become a leading institution in international adult education, and its activities and orientations would change according to the times. While in the 1920 the International People’s College was at the forefront of progressive education, during the 1930s, in the context of a deep economic depression, it became a center for education of unemployed workers. In the early 1940s, it survived the German occupation of Denmark, and at the end of the decade, the College was the host of the first international conference on adult education, organized by UNESCO in 1949. In the 1960s and 1970s, the International People’s College was a center of youth activism, and towards the end of the 20th century it concentrated its efforts on multicultural education, intercultural awareness and peace promotion. Today, the International People’s College continues as an ongoing experiment in international adult education, working for peace and international friendship.

Sources:

Horton, Myles, with J. Khol and H. Khol (1998). The long haul: An autobiography. Teachers College Press: New York.

Official website of the International People’s College: http://www.ipc.dk

   

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