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Kees Boeke: Wikis


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Cornelis Boeke (September 25, 1884, Alkmaar - July 3, 1966, Abcoude) was a Dutch reformist educator, Quaker missionary and pacifist. He is best known for his popular essay/book Cosmic View (1957) which presents a seminal view of the universe, from the galactic to the microscopic scale, and inspired several films.

Boeke tried to renovate education by letting children in on decisions concerning school. He let decisions be made unanimously. He called this process sociocracy. He designated school as a workshop, teachers as employees and pupils as workers. The goal of this form of education was to teach children a sense of democracy. It was also based on Quaker ideas. He founded one such school in 1926 in Bilthoven, which he led until 1954. The later Dutch queen Beatrix enjoyed an early education at this school.



Kees Boeke grew up in a Mennonite family in Alkmaar. He studied architecture at the Delft University of Technology. As a student he spent a year in England where he met the Quakers. He became a Quaker and attended Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, the Quaker college near Birmingham. There he was inspired by Bournville, the garden town which the Cadburys, owner of the chocolate factory, had built for their workers. He married Beatrice (Betty) Cadbury. The couple went to Syria in 1912 as Quaker missionaries. In 1914, after the outbreak of World War I, they returned to England. They became active in peace work, the Fellowship of Reconciliation having come into being through Henry Hodgkin. In 1915 Kees traveled to Berlin where he met Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze, with whom Hodgkin had been working at the outbreak of war. Kees began to speak publicly in England: "The Germans are our brothers; God did not create man that he might kill; the war will find its quickest end when all soldiers lay down their weapons." He was expelled from England and returned to Holland. His family followed; there they lived in Bilthoven, near Utrecht. Their home soon became a pacifist center.

After the war, Boeke built a larger conference center which he called "Brotherhood House." The first international peace conference took place there October, 4-11, 1919. Leon Revoyne, Mathilde Wrede, Leonard Ragaz, Pierre Ceresole, as well as Hodgkins and Schultze, were present. Boeke and Ceresole became the secretaries of this movement, which called itself a “Christian International”. Together with Helene Stöcker, Friedrich August Wolf (?) and Wilfred Wellock they founded the Service Civil International and in 1921 "Paco", which later became War Resisters' International (WRI).

Kees and Betty Boeke considered the state and capitalist entanglement to be the root of war. As Betty was a Cadbury, she received large shares in her family's firm. She transferred this money to various charitable organizations such as the Quaker-Help Organization in Russia in 1920. Later they gave the shares to a trust for the workers in the Cadbury factory. For a while the Boekes refused to use money and avoid contributing to the state as they also spend on weapons; they wouldn't pay postage, tolls, or taxes and they never used public transport. They were imprisoned several times, and one of their seven children was born in prison. On one occasion the Dutch tax authorities auctioned off his estate to collect taxes, and the then Queen, Wilhelmina, bought his favorite violin out of the auction with her own money, and gave it back to him on the spot. Kees supported his family by working in Utrecht in a building association which he had founded; he did not work as an architect (which was his training), but as a simple worker.

In the late 1920s Boeke withdrew more and more from the international peace movements. He now believed he could build a better society through educating children, and he started a school, called “De werkplaats” (the workshop). He founded his school when in 1926, as a result of a 1917 constitutional reform, al private schools, including the Montessori school his children attended, started receiving an equal amount of money per child from the state, to which he objected. His school, which uses Maria Montessori's methods, extended by Boeke's own educational ideas, became famous; even the Dutch queen Juliana sent her daughters there [1]. The school has been hugely influential for its creative way of making the students co-responsible for their own curriculum with the teachers, and many students who failed in regular schools, have blossomed at "De werkplaats."

Co-responsibility in school did not mean freewheeling at "the Werkplaats". Children had to perform tasks like help clean the school, gardening to grow vegetables and fruits, as well as aid with cooking the lunch. One could say that Boeke's notion of sociocracy was in effect a secular implementation of the Quaker ideals, applied to education, in such a way that children were treated as adults, and were on a first name basis with their teachers. The roster of highly creative and successful people from this school is highly impressive.

Boeke wrote a major book on education. One of his last works was Cosmic View (New York 1957). He died in 1966 in the company of his family.


Boeke's system of sociocracy survives today and was expanded upon in the work of a well-known student of the school, Dr. Gerard Endenburg, who in the 1960s and '70s developed a governance and decision-making methodology by the same name while directing the Endenburg Electrotechniek company.

Boeke's essay/book Cosmic View (1957) presents a seminal view of the universe, from the galactic to the microscopic scale. It inspired several films:

Cosmic View is mentioned as an inspiration by Will Wright creator of a video game, Spore (2008). [2]

External links


  1. ^ (Dutch) De school van Beatrix. Andere Tijden, 25 september 2008
  2. ^ Cosmic view, inspiration for a video game. The Guardian, September 14, 2008

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