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NIEDERER'S LITERARY COLLABORATION, AND A FEW WRIT INGS OF PESTALOZZI'S FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1873.
WISHING, in our work on Pestalozzi, to study the evolution of his thought throughout his long career of activity and self-sacrifice, we endeavoured to consider it apart from the foreign influences which occasionally modified its manifestations, and, for this reason, we abstained from mentioning the works published by Pestalozzi between 1807 and 1811, in the writing of which Niederer had a considerable share.
And yet these works deserve to be known; for though they are not always the pure and true expression of the master's ideas, they still give an interesting insight into his opinions and the working of his mind at the time when the institute of Yverdun was at the height of its fame.
Nor is that part of these works which is to be attributed to Niederer without importance. Pestalozzi's biographers have not forgiven this philosopher for having put something of his own spirit and style into the spirit and style of his master; and this grievance has made them unfair to the most enlightened of Pestalozzi's collaborators, and prevented their recognizing his merit and the very real part he took in the elaboration of the "method." It seems to us that to rescue from oblivion a literary collaboration at which he worked with the most complete self-forgetfulness, is the least we owe to his memory.
This was also the opinion of Seyffarth, who, in 1873, published, as an Appendix to his edition of Pestalozzi's works, two volumes containing the writings of Niederer and the master's other collaborators.
As we have seen, Pestalozzi first entrusted to Krusi and Buss, and then to Schmidt, the writing of what he called his
Elementary Books; that is, the Book for Mothers and the Exercises on Number and Form. In these works the authors did but follow to the letter the instructions of their master, so that we can hardly hold them responsible for the monotony and extreme prolixity which rendered these books useless for schools, in spite of the excellence of the principle of which they were such a clumsy application. This being so, we need say no more about them.
With Niederer's collaboration, however, it is another matter. When quite a young man, he had enthusiastically adopted Pestalozzi's ideas about education; but his love of generalization and philosophical formulas had led him to elaborate them still further, and give them the form and scientific expression they seemed to him to lack.
Pestalozzi, with his childlike trust and modest diffidence, generally submitted his manuscripts to Niederer before printing, though he was not always entirely satisfied with his alterations. But it was not till afterwards, when engaged, at Schmidt's suggestion, in preparing a new edition of his works for Cotta, that he was tempted to repudiate a part of what Niederer had made him say. His repudiation is to be found in the notes he added to the new edition of the writings we are now about to consider.
The first in the order of publication is entitled, On the Principles and Plan of a Journal announced in 1807. It tells us that already at Burgdorf Pestalozzi had undertaken a Journal of Education, of which the first number only had appeared; explains the circumstances that interrupted the publication, announces the re-issue of the journal, and describes its character. This journal is no doubt that which was published at Yverdun from 1807 to 1811 with the title of Weekly Journal for the Education of Humanity.
In this short work of twenty-two pages Pestalozzi is only spoken of in the third person; in other respects, the ideas and style show clearly enough that it is Niederer's work. To show the need for the forthcoming publication, he first points out that Pestalozzi's doctrine is generally very imperfectly understood, and then gives the two chief reasons.
The first is the artificial system of teaching that has long been in use, which makes it exceedingly difficult for men to understand and approve of a course which is almost the exact opposite of the course they have always pursued.
Accustomed for a long time to aim at superficial rather than solid knowledge, they still ask the same of the new method; but this the new method cannot give them. Sometimes even they go so far as to praise the method for results which it would be ashamed to own, and in general they admire nothing but its defects.
The second reason which prevents the new doctrine from being understood, is the way in which it has been formulated and put into practice by the founder and his helpers. It was not in accordance with Pestalozzi's tastes and habis, nor even in his power, to draw up a general and logical statement of his idea; and he has only done so in a way which was fragmentary and incomplete. As for the method of applying it to teaching, it is still in a very backward state, and demands much time and labour. Even the elementary books already published lack one of the essential conditions of success; for while they give certain series of exercises, they do not explain the principles that are to guide the teacher, or the position he is to occupy with regard to his scholars.
These are clearly enough Niederer's own opinions, and the criticism is a fair one. It is only surprising that Pestalozzi should have published the work in his own name.
It is to fill these gaps, to help the world to a clearer and more complete understanding of the new doctrine, that the author of the pamphlet thinks the publication of a journal to be indispensable. He ends with a few words as to the subjects to be treated in the journal, and asks all friends of educational progress to contribute to its pages.
A second publication of 1807 bears the title, A Glance at my Views and Essays in Education. This was first printed in the Journal of Education, and then, without any material alteration, in Cotta's edition. In character it is quite different from the first, and is obviously Pestalozzi's own work, Niederer's hand being scarcely perceived.
The work fulfils the promise of its title, being a shortened account, first of that idea of Pestalozzi's which, resulting originally from his commiseration for the poor, ended in his plans for educational reform, and then of the different attempts he had made to carry these plans out. Pestalozzi here shows clearly and forcibly that the chief cause of the evils and dangers of society is the moral and intellectual
poverty of the mass of men, and that the only means of safety for modern civilization is the realization of his idea of elementary education.
In speaking of the period of splendour of the Yverdun institute, Pestalozzi recognizes and deplores its utter insufficiency as a practical demonstration of the truth of his doctrine. His great desire is to have a school for quite young poor children, nor does he despair of being able to found one in connection with the institute.
There then follow some quotations from a work with which Pestalozzi was then (1807) occupied, but which was never published. It was intended to replace or supplement the books written at Burgdorf, especially How Gertrude Teaches her Children, with some account of their author's subsequent experiences and the progress of his practical work. The book was in the form of letters to a friend, and Pestalozzi gives extracts from several of the letters. Judging from these extracts, the manuscript was already in a very advanced stage and very interesting. We regret that we cannot here give a more complete account of it, but we would particularly recommend the extracts from the seventh and eighth letters to all who can read German.
The book which contains these extracts, and which consists of sixty-four pages, is not entirely free from tedious repetitions; and yet it is well worth reading, if only for the true and fairly complete idea it gives of the views and work of the author.
A third publication of the same period is entitled, Report to Parents and the Public on the State and Organization of Pestalozzi's Institute in the Year 1807, and contains, in forty-nine pages, an account of the establishment, which, though not fully detailed, is complete in all essential points. The main lines of the sketch are perfectly true, though in parts it is a little over-coloured; sometimes, too, it describes what has been attempted rather than what has been really done. The consequence was, that many of the statements it contained were refuted by the adversaries of the new method, who took a somewhat unfair advantage of the weapons with which it furnished them. This was the first cause of that long battle of words which proved so fatal to the institute.
It is well known that the man who always took the most favourable view of things at the institute, and always
endeavoured to reassure Pestalozzi when the old man was dissatisfied with his work, was Niederer; and the illusions which run through the Report to Parents are undoubtedly his. Pestalozzi himself recognized them as illusions afterwards, as we see in the notes he added to the second edition in 1823, two of which run thus:
On page 4: "What is said here is, speaking generally, merely the effect of the great illusions we entertained at that time, and which, kept up by favourable external circumstances, made us see things as we should have liked them to be, and as, considering our principles, our wishes, and our efforts, we thought they ought to be."
On page 24: "In this passage, as in many others, I am not so much giving expression to my own simple and primitive views on education as to certain philosophical ideas which were not my own, which had not ripened in my mind, and which I did not perfectly understand. In spite of all our good intentions, these ideas had disturbed not only myself but several of my colleagues; I may even go so far as to say that it was they that led me astray and were the secret cause of the misfortunes that finally overtook my establishment."
The three short works we have just described were published by Pestalozzi in the eleventh volume of Cotta's edition, under the general title of, Views and Experiences in Connection with the Idea of Elementary Education, togethed with Notices and Fragments concerning the Course and History of the Enterprises of my Life. The whole was preceded by a preface from which we quote the following passage, referring to the Principles and Plan of a Journal, published in 1807.
"This writing must not be looked upon as giving my own personal view, but rather as expressing the views of the friends I then had about me. The presumption and incomprehensible blindness that made us so miscalculate our strength and means at that time, should be the more interesting to the public that these fantastic dreams were the first and chief cause of all the misfortune, humiliation, and sorrow that have since fallen upon me and mine, and brought my work within an ace of destruction."
The discourse delivered by Pestalozzi at the meeting of the Society of Friends of Education at Lenzburg in 1809,