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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Schulz, Adolf John (1883–1956)

by H. H. Penny

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Adolf John Schulz (1883-1956), educationist, was born on 6 August 1883 at Stepney, Adelaide, son of Johann Karl Heinrich Schulz from Silesia, Germany, hairdresser and tobacconist, and his wife Maria, née Bagung. He attended Flinders Street Lutheran Church School before spending a year with his mother, brother and sister at Harburg, near Hamburg, Germany, where he went to a higher primary school. He was at other Adelaide public schools before becoming a monitor and pupil-teacher at Rose Park Public School. In 1902 he began part-time study at the University of Adelaide (B.A., 1905; M.A., 1909) and in 1904 entered the University Training College. He won a scholarship to the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where he studied for two years (Ph.D., 1908).

On Schulz's way home from Germany in 1909, South Australia's director of education Alfred Williams surprisingly appointed him, at 25, as superintendent of students at the University Training College. Academically brilliant and able to hold his own with senior university professors, Schulz seemed grave and ascetic—he eschewed smoking, drinking, dancing, sport and social mixing—but many found him kind in their difficulties. His schoolteaching experience was limited, but his academic lecturing was marked by clarity. His scholarly ability was in psychology, philosophy, education and languages (he was fluent in seven). He taught education (1910-48), German (1920-51) and educational psychology (1922-48) at the university.

His major concern in his early years as superintendent was that his students should enter fully into university studies and activities. He came to realize that three balanced elements were necessary in teacher training—academic study, knowledge of educational theory, classroom experience—and he gave increasing place to the practical. Until 1920 his chief concern had been for the academic qualification of student teachers. Schulz was deeply hurt by the anti-German bigotry of World War I, but bore it with dignity.

In 1921 the college moved into its own building near the university. He ran it superbly on a shoe-string, fostering student self-government and esprit de corps, despite the inadequacy of the accommodation. In 1922 he pleaded for even 'a galvanized iron structure or a tent' to meet the need. In 1927 the college was finally housed in a new building, but in 1933 because of the Depression there was no intake of students and the full-time staff was reduced to three.

In 1922 he had taken charge of one of the earliest diploma of education courses in Australian universities, unusual in that it was originally designed for primary teachers. As a lecturer he emphasized a psychology of the self and an intelligent personal morality, and parallel with it a psychology of others, a deterministic psychology which, he held, enabled his educational theories to be scientific.

In 1930 Schulz was first president of the South Australian Institute of Educational Research, a branch of the Australian Council for Educational Research. His publications include Morality and Moral Education (1929), revised as Character and its Development (1939). After guiding Adelaide Teachers' College under six directors of education, in two world wars and the Depression, Schulz retired in 1948.

He died unmarried on 5 February 1956 and was buried in West Terrace cemetery. He made bequests to the university for research in educational theory and German language and culture. A building on the Adelaide campus of the South Australian College of Advanced Education is named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Thiele, Grains of Mustard Seed (Adel, 1975)
  • H. H. Penny, ‘In retrospect’, South Australian Education, Dec 1968
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 7 Feb 1956
  • H. Beare, The Influence of Alfred Williams and the Price Ministry on Public Education in South Australia (M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1964)
  • newsclippings, vol 3, 27, from Adelaide Teachers' College Newssheet, 3, no 4, 5 Aug 1948 (State Records of South Australia)
  • Special Collection (University of Adelaide Library)
  • private information.

Citation details

H. H. Penny, 'Schulz, Adolf John (1883–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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