PULLMAN – Albert Schweitzer seems an unlikely source of inspiration for 21st century educators. He was born in the 19th century and deliberately turned away from an academic life.
“People cannot understand why I feel removed and especially why I don’t care about my ‘career’ as a professor!” he wrote to his future wife. “No, I want to live, live my life – you understand me!”
Education philosopher A.G. Rud includes that quote in his new book, “Albert Schweitzer’s Legacy for Education: Reverence for Life” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). The subtitle is a reference to the philosophy that won Schweitzer the 1952 Nobel Peace Price.
Rud, dean of the WSU College of Education, was inspired to write the book because of the passion that Schweitzer showed in his second career – the one that made him world famous.
“What he did was so radical,” Rud said. “He left a comfortable life as a pastor, as a scholar and as a musician in Europe and, at age 30, devoted himself to others by becoming a doctor and going to Africa to establish a hospital.”
Just as Schweitzer answered a calling, Rud said, so do teachers. They may not go to a foreign land, but they devote themselves to others. He added that educators can learn from the attitude that Schweitzer called reverence for life.
“By reverence he means not only respect but a sense of awe – a deep understanding of nature and human beings and their connection,” Rud said. “What I develop in my book is an idea called practical reverence. We can take this attitude of awe, respect, wonder and connection and bring it to the kind of things we do with students, with teachers and with educational leaders.”
Rud wrote the book after visiting Florida’s Harmony Institute. Its mission is to promote human health and well-being through the interaction of people, animals and the environment. Its founder, Martha Lentz, was inspired by Schweitzer.
“Until then, like most people, I knew Schweitzer as some sort of remote figure in history who helped people in Africa,” Rud said. “When I read more about him, I thought there hasn’t been enough work done linking him to education.
“Writing this book brought together my interest in the human-animal bond, my education work, and my appreciation for somebody who was a philosopher and a thinker” Rud said.