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Pestalozzi's treatment of the children he sought to befriend, but it stands out most clearly when we compare his educational doctrine with the teaching of the Gospel. What Jesus asks for is an inward development in spirit and in truth, something which comes from the heart. When He seeks to make us one with Him, it is that we may be nourished by His love, His faith, and His humility, as the branch is nourished by the sap of the vine. He always judges of an act by the feeling behind it, thus making the hidden motives of the human soul a measure of the real value of its external manifestations.
And if we look at the comparisons by which Jesus teaches His disciples, we shall find Him constantly taking vegetable life as a type of the moral and religious life. The kingdom of heaven is like a tree that has grown from a small seed. The word of God is like a seed that falls upon good ground; it takes root and develops in a well-prepared heart. God punishing the sinner is like a gardener pruning a tree that it may bring forth more fruit. Every tree is known by its fruits; men do not gather figs of thorns, etc.
Everywhere, in short, He explains the development of the human heart by likening it to the organic development of the plant. We might indeed call this the philosophy of the Gospel; we are about to see that it was certainly the philosophy of Pestalozzi.
PESTALOZZI was, before everything else, a man of feeling and imagination; it was his feelings that led him to put himself in the place of the unfortunate, it was by his powerful imagination that he so identified himself, as it were, with children and poor people as to discover in them the truths he was destined to reveal to the world.
He was, at the same time, a man of action. In devoting himself to the people, it was by deeds and practical experiments that he sought to serve them. He only began to write when he could no longer act, and afterwards he only wrote for the sake of making known certain views which he was not in a position to test practically.
He would never admit that he had a carefully thought-out system, his intuitions being so simple and so clear that he thought they must be shared by everybody. It is true that he was unable to formulate them in any general manner, because, having so long forsaken books and the society of scholars, he had no power of philosophical expression. And yet he was delighted to hear from Fichte that his ideas were in harmony with the philosophy of Kant.
It is somewhat difficult, then, to think of Pestalozzi as a philosopher. And yet when we see his whole life animated by one idea, an idea which enables him first to discover the faults of the schools of his time, and the dangers to civilization resulting therefrom, and then to apply remedies, many of which, despite his awkwardness, met with admirable success, we can no longer doubt that some new and fertile philosophical principle had been revealed to his mind.
As a matter of fact, all the originality of his genius consists in a new conception of man and man's nature, of his powers, their mode of action, and development. This is
what we venture to call Pestalozzi's philosophy; and when it is once understood, his whole doctrine is seen to result naturally from it.
In Pestalozzi's view, man is created by God and comes into the world possessing in germ all the moral, physical, and intellectual powers which, if exercised and developed by the natural means the world offers him, will, by Divine grace, enable him happily to accomplish the destiny to which
he is called.
In many of his writings, Pestalozzi formally recognizes the necessity of God's grace, but he knows, too, that if it is man's duty to ask for it as being powerless without it, he must none the less work as if he could do everything for himself, and apply his whole strength in the sphere of activity to which God has called him.
The only means that the educator can make direct and practical use of are those offered by the world in general and the child's nature in particular; it is these that Pestalozzi studied and co-ordinated, for the purpose of employing them in accordance with the natural law of the child's development.
This law is the essential part of his discovery; it is a consequence of his philosophical conception of human nature; it became the fundamental principle of his educational doctrine.
It appears in his mind as an intuition of his early youth. As a general rule he does not so much state the law as take it for granted, but he always observes it and acts in accordance with it. We may say, indeed, that his whole life bears its stamp. It is true that he nowhere formulates it as a whole, but he gives its principal features in all his writings. We find it, for instance, in the Evening Hour, his first pedagogical work, and again in the Song of the Swan, the last production of his old age.
As we have seen, this law of man's development is an organic law; that is to say, our true progress cannot result from a mere combination of external circumstances, but only from the work that goes on within us. In the physical or ganism the organs are increased and strengthened by use and exercise only; each of them profits chiefly and directly from the exercise which is suited to it, but also to some extent indirectly from the exercise of certain other organs, on
account of the harmony and solidarity which exist between the different parts of the same organism. Progress follows progress in an unbroken sequence. The development, in short, at whatever point it may be supposed to stop, always forms a whole which is harmonious and complete.
Such are the essential features of this law, discovered by Pestalozzi, and applied by him in all the enterprises of his long life, so long, at least, as circumstances allowed him to freely follow his own impulses.1
It is the law of the natural development of man; we may therefore expect to find it living and active whenever this development has not been interfered with by the prejudices or passions of men and the artificial means they so generally adopt. Hence Pestalozzi sees the type of the law in the action of a good mother in her relations with her infant child.
He wishes the mother to learn to continue and complete this work she has so well begun, to teach always in the same spirit all that the child is capable of learning, and to make him discover for himself the elements of the knowledge that he will afterwards acquire in the school. The work of the school, in fact, is to be but the continuation of the work begun by the mother. This work embraces moral development, physical development, and intellectual development, all of which were included by Pestalozzi in what he called his "idea of elementary education."
In moral development each individual faculty of the heart must be set in action and exercised, that it may not perish but gain strength and breadth; thus, all faith must proceed from a first act of faith, all love from a first prompting of love, all justice from a first sentiment of justice, and it is in ordinary life and especially in the home that the means and opportunities for this development of the heart are to be found; "for," says Pestalozzi, "it is life that educates." For the development of the moral nature the philosopher of education did not propose any special and definite series of exercises, for it would have been impossible to draw one up;
1In The Philosophy and Practice of Education we have shown that this law results strictly from the observation of facts, we have formulated it in its entirety, and we have endeavoured to apply it to all branches of education.
but he organized all the child's activity in such a way as to give him no other motive power than feelings and desires consistent with Christian morality, and in doing that he freed the education of the heart from the subversive influences of the school.
In physical development the organic law had naturally not been entirely ignored, but public education took little notice of it. Pestalozzi revived gymnastics at a time when Europe had allowed them to fall into complete neglect. In his institutions he graduated these exercises in a manner which has since been imitated and improved upon.
But it was above all in what he did for intellectual development that Pestalozzi obtained the success most calculated to strike the public, a success which amazed his visitors and brought general attention upon his undertakings. He sought out the simplest elements of our knowledge in the form in which they engage the attention of the little child; he made him acquire them by that direct and personal experience which he calls sense-impression, and developed them by a series of exercises which proceeded by almost imperceptible degrees in one unbroken chain. This is what has generally been called the "Method" of Pestalozzi. But however far he and his fellow-workers may have carried their labours in this direction, however remarkable their success may have sometimes been in mathematics, drawing, geography, etc., Pestalozzi was not satisfied. He used to say that that was not the end to which he had devoted his life, but simply one of the special means by which he hoped to reach it, and so he worked on and never ceased in his search.
In reality, in wishing to show his doctrine in the light of its practical results, he had set himself a task for which a man's whole life would hardly have sufficed, even had he possessed all the strength and resources that Pestalozzi lacked. Often and often in the course of his experiments he had recognized their defects and insufficiency, he had seen that they were not giving an exact and complete idea of his doctrine, and he had tried to make up for this by his writings. It was in this mind and with this intention that he published most of his books, but in none of them did he concentrate his ideas or co-ordinate his principles in such a way as to make a connected whole of his thought. And thus the world has never found in his works a clear answer