Exchanging Views on important Questions for the Future: The Kassel Youth Symposium

Schoolgirl stands in the middle of the symposium
Photo: S. Fröhlich

Since 2009, the Kassel Youth Symposium, which is held twice a year by the Association of Independent Waldorf Schools (BdFWS), has provided high school students and young university students with a challenging forum to discuss important issues for the future. After the symposia could only take place on a limited basis in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone involved is looking forward to returning to the usual format with many in-person encounters.

The 26th edition of the Youth Symposium is captioned with two catchwords that may at first seem contradictory: “Fragility – Resilience”. As a matter of fact, the symposium initiators are calling for the fragility of our times – laced with crisis – to be used as a starting point for a sustainable concept of the world and the self. This requires a fundamental philosophical approach that is not based on supposedly irrefutable certainties but rather on the continual re-assessment of one’s own position in the face of changing circumstances. According to the initiative’s website: “[…] resilience [is evident] precisely in the ability to continually change perspectives, deal with ambiguities and spontaneously seize current opportunities for action”.

The four-day programme includes plenary lectures followed by debates, as well as seminars and training sessions with three units each. Christine Figgener, a marine biologist and the Footprint Foundation director of science and education (USA), will speak about ecological responsibility; philosophy professor Michael Hampe from Zurich will give a lecture on “The Third Enlightenment”; and Katharina Ohana, a social philosopher, psychologist and author, will show ways out of mental crises. Another highlight is a joint theatre visit to the Kassel State Theatre, where the musical comedy “Etwas Besseres als den Tod finden wir überall” by Martin Heckmann will be performed.

SAGST has supported the Kassel Youth Symposia for four years. Project leader Andreas Rebmann notes: “The topics chosen and by feeding the insights back into the later years of everyday school life in addition to the seminar context of Waldorf teacher training, the symposia have developed into a place where new societal initiatives are born. A growing group of alumni, some of whom are also active as lecturers, has given rise to a network with great potential for the future viability of the Waldorf movement, which we are happy to continue to support as a funding partner.”