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I was almost at once made a member of the Commission charged with the direction of the public schools of the Commune. These schools were not yet influenced by Pestalozzian ideas, and still followed the old system of routine. There was one large elementary class, however, conducted on the Lancastrian method, the master who directed it having served his apprenticeship at Freiburg under Father Girard. I could not help comparing what I then saw with what I had seen in the French schools, and, before that, at the Yverdun institute. Thus the question of method was always in my mind, and soon became my favourite study.
Pestalozzi's method seemed to me to be undoubtedly the best and most natural, though I never got so far as to formulate it satisfactorily. The twelve fundamental principles discovered by Jullien did not satisfy me at all; I felt very strongly that the method was an organic whole, and that there must be some single central principle running through its various applications.
I therefore set to work to make a thorough study of Pestalozzi's views, supplementing my personal recollections from the master's own writings and the statements of those of his old assistants who had survived him.
In Yverdun itself there were still three establishments that had been founded by followers of Pestalozzi, in each of which an attempt was made to put his method into practice. These three establishments were the boys' school in the Castle, directed by Rank and Kreis; Naef's institute for deaf mutes; and the Niederers' school for girls, which at that time was in a highly flourishing condition and enjoyed a great reputation. In each of these schools I found the exercises of my childhood still in use, and followed by about the same amount of success.
But it was chiefly to Niederer that I looked for help in my researches, since it was he who had made the profoundest study of Pestalozzi's doctrine. I was well aware that the master had never entirely accepted his philosophical explanation, and this caused me to approach him with a certain mistrust; but I never grew tired of listening to him and making him repeat his explanations, which I found of the greatest service. Niederer spoke French with a strong German accent, and in ordinary conversation not
very fluently; but he knew the scientific language thoroughly, and on any subject connected with his philosophical studies expressed himself with perfect ease and clearness, finding the right word as unerringly as if he had been a French
His exposition of Pestalozzi's method generally reduced itself to three points: aim, starting-point, and connection The aim is the development of man as a whole, with all his moral, physical, and intellectual powers, the particular lines of the development depending upon his position in the world -in other words, upon the actual life that awaits him. The starting-point of the exercises is to be found in the notions the child has already acquired, in his present tastes, needs, and powers. The connection of the exercises is the order in which they follow each other, which order must be so carefully graduated that each exercise shall give the child the desire and the power to do the next.
But as I was also anxious for information from the other collaborators of my venerated master, I decided to visit the training-schools, orphanages, and other institutions directed by followers of his, and make inquiries of all who were known to have been specially connected with him and to have witnessed his earliest efforts. In the years 1837 and 1838, therefore, I travelled about Switzerland for this purpose.
It would take too long to give the names of all those who received me with kindness and furnished me with valuable information. Of the men who had actually worked with Pestalozzi I will only mention Buss, Krusi, Lehmann, Senn, Hagnauer and Goldi; and of the distinguished men who had been intimately acquainted with him, Fellenberg, Zschokke, Zellweger, Father Girard and Doctor Lippe.
In the course of my investigations I visited most of the training-schools, and especially those of cantons Appenzell and Thurgau.
The former, which was situated at Gais and directed by Krusi, with whom I spent a week, interested me exceedingly, presenting as it did a perfect example of a Pestalozzian school. It was while listening to Krusi's explanations that I began to see for the first time that the fundamental principle of Pestalozzi's doctrine was the law of organism.
The training-school of canton Thurgau was situated at
Kreuzlingen, on the borders of the Lake of Constance, and was under the direction of Wehrli, the former director of the poor-school founded by Fellenberg at Hofwyl. He was an intelligent, warm-hearted man, and kept those about him in a state of constant and healthy activity. But his task was not an easy one, for the director's duty was not only to see to the general instruction of the students, both Catholic and Protestant, but to give them some acquaintance with practical agriculture.
I also found another interesting though less faithful application of Pestalozzi's principles in the training-school directed by Scherr at Kusnacht, and in that directed by Keller at Lenzburg.
At that time there were already several establishments in Switzerland in which efforts were being made to carry out Pestalozzi's ideas for the education of neglected or orphan children. I visited a great many of these, particularly noticing the Schurtanne Asylum near Trogen, founded by Zellweger, and Zeller's institution at Beuggen near Rheinfelden.
At different times afterwards I also visited the various scenes of Pestalozzi's noble and indefatigable exertions. But by that time his fellow-workers and contemporaries had all passed away, and the only people I could question were old men, who at the time of Pestalozzi's first experiments had been little more than children.
At Yverdun itself I often had the pleasure of meeting some of my old masters and comrades. All those who had lived there before 1817, had retained such pleasant memories of the place that they seldom lost an opportunity of revisiting the spot where they had passed so many happy hours in their childhood, "their dear Yverdun," as they used to call it, and so I had many chances of reviving my old memories and gathering fresh information.
It was in this way that I had the pleasure of receiving, in my own house, my dear old French master, Alexander Boniface. On leaving Yverdun he had established a Pestalozzian school in Paris, which at first had met with considerable success; but as the plan of studies was in opposition to that of the University, the success was necessarily shortlived. I also twice received Mr. Blochmann of Dresden, who had taught me music and geography in the institute, and
had afterwards become the King of Saxony's chief educational councillor.
Since then many years have passed; none of my old masters are left; the very pupils of the institute, if still alive, are old men, and their loving visits to Yverdun have entirely ceased. And so, left almost alone, I have gathered together these memories, feeling that I had not a day to lose.
AT first sight, Pestalozzi's religion does not strike us very favourably; it was neither the mainspring of his life, nor even the motive that induced him to embark on the enterprises of his early years. Even as a child, he admired the activity of his grandfather, the pastor, rather from a temporal than from a spiritual point of view, and his subsequent study of theology did but serve to disgust him with a formal and dead orthodoxy. His faith, too, was severely shaken by his study of Rousseau; and in the various philanthropic plans he formed at the time of his marriage, he cared less for heaven than for earth.
At his son's birth, however, his religious sentiment revived, and, as we see from certain fervent passages in his diary, exercised no small influence over him, though even now his faith was not in Jesus the Saviour of men, the need of whom he did not feel till somewhat later, when working at the education of his son, and of the poor children he had taken into his home. When his first charitable effort had brought him to the verge of ruin, he wrote as follows:
"Christ, by His example and doctrine, teaches us to sacrifice ourselves and all we possess for our brother's good; He shows us that we have no absolute right to anything that we have received, but that it is merely entrusted to us by God to be administered in the service of charity."
Pestalozzi proved himself a Christian by his actions, his whole life, his ardent and universal charity; he never attacked any of the Christian dogmas, but neither did he ever make any clear and formal profession of them, dreading the influence of dogmatism on the development of the religious sentiment. Moreover, though a Protestant himself, he was anxious to have his work accepted by Catholics, and