Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

of number and form is to have any real educational value, it must not consist in shortened, mechanical methods, but in a series of exercises so well graduated that the child may take pleasure in the study, and succeed in it; that his thinking powers may be always active; that his judgments may be really his own, and that all he does may be closely connected with his real everyday life.

“On the industrial or artistic side, it is also life that educates. The industrial power comprises two elements : the one, intellectual and interior, which is but the power of thought developed by the practical study of language, number, and form ; the other, physical and exterior, which is but the power of the senses and limbs developed by use. These different developments must be in keeping with the idea of elementary education, that is, with the method of Nature, and must result from a connected and carefully graduated series of exercises founded on the tendencies, needs, and natural tastes of the child.

“The exercises intended to develop the industrial or artistic power must also be determined by the general circumstances of the child's life; for again it is life that educates.

“ With regard to art and industry then, it is in the conditions and needs of actual life, and in the heart of his family, that the child must first learn how to use and improve his powers.

The lesson is much easier and much more fruitful and valuable in those families which have to work hard for a livelihood than in those richer homes where the need of work is not felt, and where the child's help is not required.

“ Thus the idea of elementary education applies to the physical powers as well as to those of the heart and mind; it encourages the child's activity from the very first; it leads him to produce results which are really his own, and it gives him at the same time both the power and the will to rise without slavishly copying others.

“It is because these principles of education are still so widely ignored that we see so many people entirely without skill, taste or originality. This is why ninety-nine hundredths of the world unthinkingly follow the stream of custom or fashion, incapable of producing anything by themselves; this, too, is why, even in the upper classes, the pleasure of

luxury is much more a matter of vanity than a matter of taste.”

The foregoing is a condensation of the first third of the Song of the Swan, with all unnecessary developments omitted. We have not space, however, to treat the rest of the book in the same way, nor indeed would it be necessary, since the other parts have far less importance. Farther on, too, the order and connection of the ideas are sometimes hard to follow, repetitions abound, developments are carried too far, and the style generally loses much of its force. But in spite of these defects, the song of the Swan is full, to the end, of true, original, and pregnant ideas. A man who could reproduce them in their logical order with clearness and eloquence would make an admirable treatise on education.

We can do no more than glance at the remaining twothirds of the book, quoting a few of the most striking ideas :

" A child accustomed from his earliest years to pray, think, and work, is already more than half educated.

“The general effect of the methods employed by the education of our time is rather to send us forth into unknown regions than to develop that which is within us, and

, of which, as independent beings, we stand in need.

“ Any particular knowledge or skill is, in itself, of little value as a means of development and education; it is by combining and acting on each other that they give harmony to our nature. It is the early and harmonious cultivation of all branches of activity that develops our moral, intellectual, and physical individuality.

“If the religious element does not penetrate the whole education, it has but little influence on the life, and remains formal and isolated.

Religion is not an effect of what we do, but of the Divine element within us, and of God's grace.

“Elementary education, by developing all a man's natural powers, develops also, and from the very first, the real religious element in his nature, and is thus in perfect accord with Christianity.

In writing the Song of the Swan, Pestalozzi had been actuated by an ardent desire to save from his own fate the

fundamental idea of the educational reform he was urging on humanity. Fearing to see it involved in the discredit which the failure of the establishments he had founded had brought upon himself, he endeavours to show that this failure had been entirely his own fault; and in support of this view, he gives, starting from his earliest education, the story of his life. It was in this part of the book that his first biographers found their information, information true and valuable enough in itself, but so fragmentary that for forty years,-till Morf's work appeared that is,—there was no complete account of the great educational reformer.1

In the course of his account of the Burgdorf institute, Pestalozzi says:

“I must say here openly what, during my years of misfortune, I have often and often said secretly to myself, that at the very first step I took in Burgdorf Castle I was lost. I was indeed embarking on a career that could only end in misfortune, seeing that the post I was to occupy demanded the very strength and administrative talents I so terribly lacked."

A little farther on, after having compared his institutes to a tower of Babel, he adds :

“This confusion, so fatal to the spirit of our work, was bound at last to come to an end; and this being so, I feel very strongly that the fall of my establishments at Yverdun, since it gave me the opportunity I so much wanted of placing my work once more upou a clear basis, should be looked upon as a piece of good fortune, and not at all as a proof of the worthlessness of my undertaking and of my inability to produce any

useful results." The last page of the book well sums up its character and aim. It runs as follows:

"At this solemn moment, I dare, calmly and earnestly, to express my conviction that certain ideas connected with this great question of elementary education have ripened in me more perhaps than in most other men, more even than they would have done, but for the vicissitudes and misfortunes of

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 Morf's work does not go beyond Burgdorf.

my life. The results of my work, few and scattered, it is true, seem to me to be hanging like ripe fruit on the tree of my life, and I am unwilling that any hand, friendly or unfriendly, should shake them to the ground. Poor as they are, they are yet so near maturity that I feel it to be a sacred duty to do my utmost for their preservation. The hour has not yet sounded when, satisfied as to their fate, I can resign myself to repose. In the meantime this other hour has sounded, in which, full of grief and bitterness, I find myself

, compelled to beg that the soundness of my conception of elementary education be once more examined and put to the proof. This once done, and in such a way as is meet, I shall have nothing left to wish for. And so I close my dying strain with the words with which I began it.

"Try all things, hold fast to that which is good, and if anything better has matured in you, add it to what, in love and truth, I am here attempting to give you. In any case, do not

, reject the work of my whole life a thing already condemned and unworthy of further examination. It is not yet condemned, and merits most serious attention, not indeed for my sake, but for its own."

My Experiences in my Educational Establishments of

Burgdorf and Yverdun. Leipzig, 1826.1 In writing this book, Pestalozzi's original intention was merely to give the reasons of his many misfortunes, and explain the failure of the various establishments he had founded; but his desire to justify Schmidt, and make the public share his own admiration for the man, led him into making a personal attack that was most unworthy of him, and for which it is hard not to hold Schmidt in a great measure responsible, seeing that he was the person chiefly interested, and that he exercised such a great influence over the old man's mind.

The attack, which is most unfair, is chiefly directed against the Niederers, their faults being cruelly exaggerated, while Schmidt's are more or less condoned. But even this unfairness was far from justifying Biber's venomous reply, which, as we have seen, finally hastened Pestalozzi's death.

1 Nat in Cotta's edition, but in the fifteenth volume of Seyffarth's.

he says:

[ocr errors]

1

If the book were merely polemical, we should have nothing
more to say about it; but happily Pestalozzi often forgets that
he is pleading for Schmidt, and becomes the educational en-
thusiast again, and at these times he is admirable.
On the

very
first

page
"At Burgdorf I soon had a very great number of pupils,
and unfortunately a hundred times as many belauders. To-
day all this praise and success seems to have been the work
of enchantment. Intoxicated with pleasure, joy, honour, and
hope, we lived in a sort of paradise, with little fear of the
serpent that in every earthly paradise lays snares for the ruin
of poor humanity, so weak, so vain, and so easily misled.”

Pestalozzi then refers to his proved incapacity to direct or manage an institution, and declares that his own weakness and mistakes have been the cause of all his misfortunes. He also points out that such an educational establishment as he had dreamed of was, by its very nature, an impossibility, and that those he had founded were, from the very first, doomed to destruction. This being so, it seems strange that he should ever have attributed his failure to the opposition which, almost from the beginning, bad manifested itself between Niederer and Schmidt.

But however this may be, Pestalozzi does himself an injustice when he speaks of being utterly incapable. Was he not pre-eminently successful every time that, unchecked by material obstacles, he was able to act freely? And with regard to the education of children, were not his efforts at Neuhof in his youth, at Stanz and Burgdorf in his maturity, and even at Clendy in his old age, crowned with marvellous success?

He is also unfair to his schools when he says that they did no good. From the point of view of the elementary method, they brought about undeniable and important improvements in most branches of teaching, improvements which, carried into different countries by his pupils, gave the first impetus to a general reform of the old mechanical methods.

When Pestalozzi comes to the foundation of the poor-school

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

1 The reasons of this impossibility have been pointed out in chapter xiy.

« ForrigeFortsæt »