folk high school, type of adult education that in its most widely known form originated in Denmark in the middle of the 19th cent. The idea as originally conceived by Bishop Nikolai Grundtvig was to stimulate the intellectual life of young adults (generally from 18 to 25 years of age) of rural Denmark, to foster patriotism and strengthen religious conviction, and to provide agricultural and vocational training. The first school, established in Schleswig (1844), was moved across the Danish border after Schleswig passed to Prussia. The movement then gained momentum, and numerous schools were established, with national history and literature emphasized in the curriculum. The folk high schools had a great influence on the civic life of rural Denmark and helped to improve the condition of the small farmer whose products were marketed through cooperative societies. The folk school idea spread throughout Europe with local adaptations, but by the early 20th cent. the movement had abated. In the United States notable experiments in this type of adult education were instituted at Rome, Ga., and at Brasstown, N.C., where the John C. Campbell Folk School was founded (1925). Most attempts to found folk high schools in the United States, however, have been unsuccessful.
See T. Rordam, The Danish Folk High Schools (1965); D. C. Davis, Model for a Humanistic Education: The Danish Folk High School (1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.