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"I READ your essay on Pestalozzi,” said to me one of the three Commissioners who were some twenty years ago empowered to remodel our endowed schools; “I read your essay on Pestalozzi, whom they are always talking about on the Continent, and I found there was nothing whatever in him.” This might have been a very
effective sarcasm, but I have reason to think that it was not so intended. It was only an expression of our insular ignorance, and of our inability to measure the effect of ideas. Since then we have seen France prostrate before Germany; and not a few, both of the Germans and the French, have attributed the German triumph to the influence of Pestalozzi. So perhaps there was something in him after all.
But what was there in these ideas of Pestalozzi which can be supposed to have so profoundly affected the education of the Germans ? Let us go back a little pour mieux sauter.
Europe was indebted to the Renascence for the conception of "a learned education.” The key to all wisdom seemed to have been found in the classical languages, and the highest display of the human intellect was seen in imitating the ancient writings. So education was for the few; the many might do as best they could without it.
This sixteenth-century devotion to the classical literatures met with many adversaries in the centuries following ; but the notion had got so firmly fixed that education consisted in learning, that the only question it seemed possible to raise was, In learning what?
A great advance was made by our philosopher Locke, when he treated of education under the four heads : (1) Virtue; (2) Wisdom; (3) Manners; (4) Learning; and declared that learning was least and last. But according to him, the education of the gentleman was the only thing to be cared for. “If," says he, “those of that rank are by their education once set right, they will quickly bring all the rest into order.” (Epistle Ded. to "Thoughts c. Educ.”)
Then came Rousseau. From the circumstances of his life he had no class prejudices, and he had a genius for thinking himself free from all conventions. He it was who first severed entirely education and learning, and brought up his ideal Emile without any regard to the requirements of “Society.”
Pestalozzi was, like Rousseau, a citizen of the Swiss Republic, and little fettered by class distinctions. He read Rousseau with enthusiasm, and saw what a force education might become. His great object in life was the elevation of the people, and the consequence was, he became " a schoolmaster."
But his notions of the schoolmaster's function were based on conceptions which then for the first time came clearly into consciousness.
First, as to the aim of education, he announces that every human being is entitled to the development of the faculties he was born with.
Then as to the nature of the educator's task, he says that it consists in a continual benevolent superintendence, with the object of drawing out those faculties.
There is a strange contrast between the men Rousseau and Pestalozzi. Rousseau was a voice, and nothing else. Everything that he did tended to lessen the influence of everything that he wrote. But Pestalozzi taught mainly by action. In him the most interesting thing is his life.
One of the best authorities we have had on education, my friend Professor Joseph Payne, drew my attention to the excellent biography of Pestalozzi by the Baron de Guimps. Professor Payne has now been taken from us more than thirteen years, and I have been hoping all those years to find as good a translator as my friend would have wished for this valuable book. At last such a translator has been found in a Cambridge friend, Mr. Russell, who was a pupil of mine more than twenty years ago, and who has since become familiar with French educational life and speech as a master in a Lycée. The completion of his task has been delayed by his waiting for the new edition ; but now the work has a suitable English dress, I trust we shall find a large increase in the number of Englishmen and Englishwomen who can discern that there is something in Pestalozzi.
R. H. QUICK. REDHILL.
AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE SECOND
EDITION . " In half a century from now every social stay will be shaken.” These words were spoken eighty-three years ago by a man who, to save the poor had made himself poor; who had lived as a pauper with paupers to teach paupers to live like men; and who, after having sounded all the depths of the moral and intellectual poverty, hidden beneath the brilliant civilization of his time, had come out of the experience terrified for the future of society, but bringing it a means of salvation. This man, whose prediction we now see fulfilled, was Henry Pestalozzi.
It is important to have complete knowledge of a man who, throughout a long life, sacrificed himself for what was, perhaps, the most fertile idea of modern times, the regeneration of nations by elementary education; a man who, passionately loving the people in spite of their ignorance and vices, sought to teach and raise them even before they had made themselves feared; a man who, in his ardent desire to help humanity, became, in turn, theologian, lawyer, agriculturist, manufacturer, author, journalist, and schoolmaster; a man who, amid flattery from kings and people, never swerved a moment from his course; a man, finally, whose bold and original genius was, to the very last, combined with the openness, simplicity, and absolute trust of a child.
Such was Pestalozzi. In another age and in other circumstances he would have been a saint. T'he Catholic Church has few greater or purer.
The life of this man offers strange contrasts. It will seem full of eccentricities, blunders, and even follies, unless we are guided by a perfect knowledge of his character and of the idea which was the mainspring of all his actions.
His child-like trust, which prevented him from thoroughly understanding the men of his time, led him into many an error, and caused the failure of his undertakings, and the world, that believes only in success, condemned Pestalozzi.
But posterity has been fairer to him, and to-day his memory is venerated and his devotion admired. We see that it is to him
1 The town of Yverdun is just about to honour the memory of the famous man who lived there for so long, a bronze statue of Pestalozzi with two poor children being almost ready for inauguration.