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)


La Ligue Internationale de l'Education Nouvelle is founded in Calais, France

This year, when the scars of the First World War were still fresh in Europe, a group of progressive and peace educators congregated in Calais, France, to create the Ligue Internationale de l'Education Nouvelle, known in English as the World Education Fellowship (WEF).

Soon thereafter, The League was established in more than 20 countries, under the leadership of the most prestigious educators in those countries. Among the early members of the League were John Dewey, Karl Jung, Jean Piaget, Alfonse Ferriere and Maria Montessori.

After the 1921 congress, the League organized several conferences to discuss national and global issues, and to share innovative educational projects. Some  of the topics addressed in these meetings relate to social justice, peace education, teaching for caring, experimental learning, environmental education, multicultural education and lifelong learning. 

In 1952, Henri Wallon reflected on the ideals that led the 1921 Calais Congress to create the Ligue Internationale de l'Education Nouvelle  in the following terms:

Ce Congrès était le résultat du mouvement pacifiste qui avait succédé à la première guerre mondiale. Il avait semblé alors que pour assurer au monde un avenir de paix, rien ne pouvait être plus efficace que de développer dans les jeunes générations le respect de la personne humaine par une éducation appropriée. Ainsi pourraient s'épanouir les sentiments de solidarité et de fraternité humaines qui sont aux antipodes de la guerre et de la violence.

Wallon was the president of the Groupe Français d'Education Nouvelle during the period 1946-1962, when the scars of the Second World War were still fresh. During the Nazi occupation, Wallon played a key role in the Conseil National de la Résistance, and in his mandate at the League he made an important effort to revitalize the impetus of the Calais meeting to connect educational initiatives with  the development of a culture of peace.

The 1921 Calais Congress represented a foundational moment for the peace education movement that would continue growing during the remaining of the 20th century, with the contributions of educators and leaders like Pierre Bovet, Celestin Freinet, Jane Addams, Mahatma Ghandi, Paulo Freire, Martin Luther King and Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

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