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KRUSI, PESTALOZZI'S FIRST FELLOW-WORKER.
Outer Appenzell and its inhabitants. How Krusi the carrier became a schoolmaster. Eastern Switzerland ruined by the war. Krusi takes twenty-eight poor children to Burgdorf. Fischer employs Krusi in a training-school in Burgdorf Castle. Death of Fischer. Krusi joins Pestalozzi.
THE village of Gais, in which, in 1775, Hermann Krusi was born, is situated in one of the upper valleys of the canton of Appenzell. This district is one of the most remarkable in Switzerland, not so much perhaps for its beautiful scenery as for the manners, industry, character, and natural intelligence of its inhabitants. It has produced not a few distinguished men, and it supplied Pestalozzi with several of his best collaborators.
There is very little arable land in the country, which is exceedingly hilly, but its valleys and heights are thickly wooded, and its well-kept pastures always fresh and green. Its fruit-trees, too, are very numerous, and of a small, hardy sort, suited to the harsh climate. Milk, butter, dried fruit, and cider are its chief products, but these alone would not suffice either to feed or occupy the inhabitants, whose comfort and prosperity are owing rather to the manufacture of stuffs, embroideries, and especially muslins, an industry which has long been associated with agriculture. There is scarcely a house in the district, indeed, but has its cattleshed and work-room.
Krusi did not get much schooling, for his father, a poor shopkeeper, soon required his help at home. What he did get was probably worth very little, for the school at Gais, like most of the schools at that time, was of little real value. The children were called up one by one to say their lesson, and for the rest of the time were left inactive. Their work consisted of spelling, and reading, and repeating the catechism,
only a few of the elder ones being taught to write. If little Hermann ever learnt anything there, it was soon forgotten, for at twelve years of age he was going about the district for his father from village to village, entirely ignorant of the things generally taught in school.
But the child was sharp and observant, and passionately fond of study; and though he had to work hard for a living, he still found time for self-improvement. As his father sent
him to make sales or purchases in the different villages, he often found himself the bearer of considerable sums of money; and as he had to keep a strict account of this money, he gradually taught himself to count. He learned at the same time to distinguish the various qualities of different sorts of goods. He was in the habit, too, of botanizing as he went along, and so became familiar with the names and characters of the most useful plants. He had, besides, that deep appreciation of Nature which is so rare amongst those whose daily struggles for a living leave them little or no real leisure. To his admiration for the beauties of his country 1 was joined a fervent inborn piety, which, even amid his mercantile pursuits, always held the first place in his simple, pure, and loving heart.
Hermann Krusi was eighteen years old when a chance encounter resulted in his taking up teaching, work for which he was eminently fitted, but of which he would probably never have thought had not the idea been suggested to him. Here, for a moment, we must let him speak for himself, for it was from his own lips that we first heard the story:
A very good general view of the country is to be had from the top of the Gäbris, which lies to the north of the village of Gais, and can be reached in rather less than an hour. At this height, hills and woods lie stretched ont below, and between them the numerous villages, with their large painted houses of carved wood, and their high, red church steeples. To the south the view extends to the mountains of the Catholic canton of Inner Appenzell, no longer connected with Outer Appenzell, which, on embracing the reform, was made into a separate half-canton. The glaciers of the Sentis crown this side of the picture. To the east lies the Rhine valley, with the river winding like a silver ribbon; beyond are the Austrian Alps of the Vorarlberg. To the north is the plain of Thurgau, so thickly covered with fine trees as to be like an inmense orchard. On this side the view is bounded by the lake of Constance, and beyond the lake, as ar as the eye can reach, by the mountains of the Black Forest.
"One hot summer's day I was crossing the Gäbris on my way back from Trogen with a heavy load of thread. It was just at the top of the mountain where the path changes its direction that my thoughts and my life also changed theirs. I had set down my pack to wipe my forehead, when I was met by Mr. Gruber, at that time State Treasurer, who recognized me.
"It's very hot, Hermann,' he said.
"Yes, very hot.'
"As Hoerlen, the schoolmaster, is leaving Gais, you might perhaps earn your living without working quite so hard. Wouldn't you like to try for his place?'
"It isn't merely a question of what I should like. A schoolmaster must know things of which I am entirely ignorant.'
666 At your age you could easily learn all that we expect a village schoolmaster to know.'
"But where and how? I see no possibility of such a thing.'
"A way will easily be found if you would like to do it. Think about it, and lose no time.'
"Whereupon he left me.
"I thought and thought, but could not see how it was to be done. However, I rapidly descended the mountain, hardly conscious of my load.
"My friend Sonderegger procured me a specimen of writing from a clever caligraphist, of Altstätten, which I copied more than a hundred times. This was my only preparation. Nevertheless, I sent in my name, though with little hope of succeeding.
"There was only one other candidate. The chief test was to write the Lord's Prayer, which I did with the greatest
"I had noticed that capital letters were used here and there, but I knew nothing of the rules, and took them for an ornament. I accordingly arranged mine symmetrically, so that some of them came even in the middle of a word. The fact is that we neither of us knew anything.
"Soon after the examination was over I was sent for, and told that the examiners thought us both very weak; that my
1 In German all nouns are written with a capital letter.
rival read better than I did, but that my writing was better than his; that as I was only eighteen, whereas he was forty, I could more easily acquire the necessary knowledge; that, moreover, my room, being bigger than his, was more suitable for a schoolroom; and, lastly, that I was appointed to the vacant post."
Krusi's room was therefore cleared of some old furniture to make room for the hundred children who formed the school. This was in 1793.
There he was, then, with a hundred children in his room, much perplexed as to how to keep them in order, how to occupy them, and how to teach them. Another man, in his place, would have bethought himself of what was done in the school where he had been taught, and would have imitated his former master. But not so Krusi; he had been attracted to this new career not so much by the insignificant salary as by the opportunity it afforded him of satisfying his passion for study; he knew that he had much to learn, and now, instead of trying to show his scholars what he already knew, he set himself to learn with them.
He was much helped by the pastor Schiess, who, struck by the vices of the old routine-system of the primary school, was endeavouring to find something better to replace it. This worthy man gave Krusi his personal assistance for the first eight weeks. The children were divided into three classes, and every effort was made to keep them constantly occupied. A new reading-book had just been introduced into the school, containing Bible stories and a few facts of geography and natural history. The children were questioned on what they read to make sure that they had thoroughly understood.
Krusi worked very hard; he was very happy in his new position, partly because he was gaining knowledge, but chiefly because he really loved his children. He cared not only for their future welfare, but for their present contentment. He knew how necessary activity was for them, and he did all he could not to cause them a moment's weariness. Amongst the varied exercises of his class, he was not afraid to introduce the personal experiences by which he had gained, sometimes indeed to his cost, useful knowledge of things connected with the everyday life of the country, and so he often talked of weaving and cattle, plants and merchandise, to the great
delight of the children, who were not a little surprised to hear in school about the very things in which they were most interested.
It was impossible that such a change in school methods should be understood and approved by everybody. It excited, indeed, considerable opposition in the district, an opposition which became stronger after the Revolution of 1798. Krusi was in favour of the new order of things, because he thought it more likely than the old to encourage work amongst the people, and the development of public instruction. He thus lost the goodwill of many who remained faithful to the old system.
It was then that, thanks to a combination of circumstances which we must briefly explain, a new career was thrown open to him.
Towards the end of last century, the famous pedagogical establishment conducted by Salzmann at Schnepfenthal had excited in the minds of several of its best students an ardent desire for the reform and progress of public instruction. Amongst them was a young Swiss, called Fischer, who, after completing his theological studies, had obtained a post of deputy-minister. But in the Revolution of 1798 he gave up this post for the secretaryship of the Science and Art Department under the new Swiss Government.
Fischer's views, like those of Pestalozzi, were lofty, generous, and patriotic; like him, he felt the need of raising the schools of Switzerland; but it was by the foundation of a normal school that he sought to reach his end, whereas Pestalozzi was anxious, first of all, to apply his method to the education of poor children.
Fischer's views were shared by the minister Stapfer, who induced the Government to adopt them. The state of the finances, however, did not admit of any practical steps being taken, and the Government merely promised to support Fischer should he succeed in founding a normal school, and held out the hope that it might perhaps later on become a State institution.
For the carrying out of his plans, Fischer had chosen the Castle of Burgdorf, and the Government had granted him the use of a certain part of it. The future director accordingly went and settled there. He was well received by the inhabitants of the town, who entrusted him with the reorganization