An Educational Experiment in Poland
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   In the 1920s and 1930s a remarkable experimental school was operated in Rydzyna Castle, Poland. It was conducted by a prominent educator, Tadeusz Łopuszanski, utilizing the resources of the Sulkowski Foundation established by Prince August Sułkowski in the 18th. century.

The Sulkowski palace, in the town of Rydzyna, is one of the largest and most beautiful in Poland. It was built in the baroque style by Prince Raphael Leszczynski in the years 1690-1694. His son, Stanisław, was king of Poland 1704-1709, later exiled to France to become Duke of Lorraine. Stanisław's daughter became Queen of France and mother of King Louis XVI.

The palace was subsequently enlarged by Prince Joseph Sułkowski, who had purchased the palace and the estates in 1738. His son August created the Sułkowski Foundation in 1783, deeding the entire estate for the purpose of education upon the death of the last of his family. This occurred in 1909 when this part of Poland was occupied by Prussia. When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the estate was taken over by the Ministry of Education. Subsequently the entire estate, consisting of 17,648 acres and all the buildings, was returned to the Sułkowski Foundation in 1924. Finally, in 1928 the Sułkowski School was opened, a boarding school with six classes from sixth grade up to Matriculation.

Aerial view 1990Rydzyna - view in 1930s.

Biology class - 1938 Tadeusz Łopuszanski was the prime motivator and organizer of this school with a special program. He was a man with a mission. A tall, imposing, rather heavily built man with a prominent nose, he wished to create a group of young men who would become leaders of the young Polish Republic. He believed that by immersing young boys in an isolated environment in which learning and team sports were almost the only available activities he could achieve this. He believed that Spartan conditions would eliminate laziness, selfishness and gluttony, which he considered the main sins of Poles as a nation.

Classes were limited to no more than 20 students. The boys were divided into groups of 10. A teacher was assigned to each group and became their counselor throughout their stay at the school. Academic levels were higher than at any other high school in Poland. A student that was unable to maintain satisfactory grades, or did not meet the high moral standards imposed by the Director, was not permitted to return the next year. The expelled students usually excelled in any other Polish school!
Classes started at 6.30 a.m and continued until 12.30, with breaks for breakfast and later for a cup of milk or cocoa. Two hours of compulsory team sports followed dinner. Then two hours of study hall preceded supper. The two hours of free time between supper and bed-time (lights out at 9 p.m.) could be spent on homework by those who needed the extra time, or on reading or various games. However there was considerable pressure to spend that time working on special projects in various clubs:- physics, chemistry, history, mathematics, literature, drama, music and similar; or in social activities such as working with children in the various villages on the estates. Sunday started with Mass at church, compulsory for all except those of other religions. Then two hours of compulsory sports. The rest of Sunday was free. But there was little to do in Rydzyna, except work in the various club activities. The students were given only 50 cents of pocket money each month that they could spend in the pastry shop in the little town (in those days a sticky bun filled with jam cost 5 cents). The food served at the meals was nourishing, but dull.

The school was expensive by Polish standards of the day. But income from the Sulkowski estates made it possible to grant a large number of scholarships to poorer boys that could meet the high scholastic standards. Among the students were two boys from the town, the son of a railroad worker, and boys from less wealthy middle class and farming families. Naturally a large number of students came from families of government officials and higher ranking army officers and from the aristocracy. However, regardless of origin, all students had to meet the same high scholastic and moral standards. The high rank of a father could not protect the son from instant dismissal in the case of some transgression of the rules.

Rydzyna was located only 5 miles from the German frontier, on the main road connecting the provincial capital Poznan with the German city Breslau (today's Wrocław). Within hours of the outbreak of World War II, Rydzyna was occupied by German troops. Thus ended this unusual educational experiment. During the war, the palace was used as a school for Hitlerjugend. After driving out the Germans, Soviet troops set fire to the palace which had survived the war intact. The Polish communist government confiscated the estates and set up state farms. In the Sixties work started to rebuild the palace. Under the tutelage of the Association of Polish Mechanical Engineers and Technicians it has been totally restored to its original grandeur. However it no longer houses a school; it is used as an International Conference Center with hotel rooms and a restaurant. In 1994 the European cultural organization Europa Nostra awarded a Diploma recognizing Rydzyna's artistic and architectural excellence.

The town Rydzyna is a an outstanding example of a small XVIII century municipality. Since the restoration of democratic freedom in 1990, the town leaders have done an outstanding job modernizing the town's facilities, supporting cultural events and attracting new industry.

To see more pictures of the beautiful palace, click on the button in the right column.

Continue on to Rydzyna Castle and its history.
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More about Rydzyna Castle and its history.

To learn more about the Rydzyna Hotel and Conference Center click here.

If you read Polish, you can learn more about the
Sułkowski and Lopuszanski Foundations.
They would like your support in their effort to revive this great educational experiment.

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Copyright © 2002 B. C. Biega. All rights reserved.

Last update July 2004