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The Life and Work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827)
A Founder Of Modern Educational Methods
From "The Development of Education"
Born At Changing Times In Social Thinking: Goethe, Rousseau, Voltaire ...
Johann Pestalozzi, was born into a world of increasing economic prosperity and intensifying social disunity and inequality. His native town of Zurich flourished like the other main Swiss towns, and its government was apparently liberal and enlightened. The sick were tended, the poor afforded aid and shelter, orphans were given institutional care, and minor miscreants were sent to "houses of correction"; there were fine libraries, museums, and high schools. Yet in spite of an appearance of benevolence in government, and freedom from persecution and strife, the Swiss States were controlled by autocracies based either on hereditary rights-the succession of son to father in a certain office ---or on the restriction of official appointments to freemen of a city.
In the sixteenth century it had been customary to consult the largest class of the population-the peasants-on major state issues, and now these poor members of the community were serfs to all intents and purposes although from the legal viewpoint more were freemen than bondmen.
There was, it is true, a system of popular schools but they appear to have been counterparts of the English "dame" schools, though often in even less skilled hands so that the education of all the poorer people was limited to that which could be given by uneducated teachers - nothing but the inculcation of passages from the Bible. The revolt had to come from those who had not been denied the opportunity to think and learn, and by the middle of the eighteenth century, the need for reform was being realised by some members of the many cultural, artistic, and scientific societies which existed in all the towns. Switzerland was a meeting place for the progressive intellectuals of the day-men of all nations, including Gibbon, Voltaire and Goethe, spent much time in that country, thus affording to intelligent middle-class Swiss the opportunity to keep well abreast of European thought and to arrive at a realisation of their country's needs. Through newspapers and pamphlets there was an increasing interchange in Western Europe of ideas concerning the liberty of man, ideas expressed in their most impressive form in Rousseau's Social Contract published in 1762.
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Pestalozzi From A Modest Family
Pestalozzi was born into a Protestant family of Italian origin, a middle-class family enjoying the modest comfort of a professional man's home. His father, a surgeon and oculist, died early in his son's childhood, leaving his wife and family by no means well provided for, so that Pestalozzi's early recollections were of the constant struggle to keep up appearances made by his mother and a devoted woman servant. In spite of tragedy and the ensuing straitened circumstances, the boy had a happy childhood, and there is little doubt that his mother was immortalised in his writings as the wise Gertrude who taught her children through play and through family activities - a loving teacher who trained childish fingers and eyes, and taught by example and precept both virtue and good manners.
This early upbringing failed only in so far as it lacked a father's influence. Pestalozzi confessed that it kept him rather too soft, too sheltered, so that his early schooldays were not entirely successful. He appears to have had no aptitude for spelling and arithmetic, and no doubt his genteel breeding had not prepared him for lively boyish games. His Latin school experience was happier, for now appeared that capacity for bubbling enthusiasm which was in the future to carry him through so many nerve-racking experiments, and to sustain him through periods of great disappointment and poverty. Later he was inclined to blame his schooling for failing to exact the thoroughness and practice requisite to all sound learning:
"The wish to be acquainted with some branches of knowledge that took hold of my heart and my imagination even though I neglected the means of acquiring them, was, nevertheless, enthusiastically alive within me, and, unfortunately, the tone of public instruction in my native town at this period was in a high degree calculated to foster this visionary fancy of taking an active interest in, and believing oneself capable of, the practice of things in which one had by no means had sufficient exercise".
At about fifteen the boy entered a college which prepared boys for the professions, and here he encountered some excellent and inspiring teachers capable of handing on something of their own love of Greek, of history, of politics. Yet again, Pestalozzi saw this training in retrospect as elevating and inspiring, but ineffective because it omitted the "solid and sufficient training of the practical ability" which was essential equipment in any struggle for independence and freedom. The students were imbued with ideals of beneficence, self-sacrifice, and patriotism which were impractical and unrealistic, so that it is hardly to be wondered at if the youths joined the newly formed Helvetic Society in which Catholics and Protestants worked together for the improvement of education, and for the reform of government. Needless to say, Rousseau's political ideas were discussed at meetings so that the young Pestalozzi's mind was ready for the impact of Emile when he encountered that work, and according to his own report, the idea of finding a right way of teaching as a "universal remedy" for the ills of society, grew steadily within him from that time.
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Pestalozzi - Young Adulthood and Establishment of Education Principles
An oil portrait of J. H. Pestalozzi with some of his adoring charges.
The oligarchs of Geneva did not like either the Helvetic Society or Rousseau's writings. The journal issued by the Society was eventually suppressed and Pestalozzi, after a brief imprisonment, found his health failing because he not only gave too much of his zeal and energy to his idealistic activities, but he also tried to prepare himself for future struggles by a too severely Spartan regime including vegetarianism and sleeping on the floor.
He had already given up the idea of entering the ministry, for which he had been intended - probably because he showed no great aptitude for that profession after his interests became centred elsewhere. He turned to law, but although some essays he wrote at the time testify as to his high intellectual capacity and unremitting thoroughness in investigating topics related to the principles of good government and similar abstractions, there is no evidence that he would have ever become a good practical lawyer. The new concepts of freedom obsessed him and his studies were focused on the enlightenment of those problems nearest to his heart. The function of education gained in importance and definiteness with every new essay he wrote.
A ideal for his place in society had evolved from his observation of the inefficiencies of public officials and the lack of technical skill of the labouring classes.
Medical opinion, combined with the influence of Rousseau's naturalism, caused the young man to give up his studies and engage in farming, first as an apprentice and then as a small farmer experimenting with new agricultural methods on some waste land near Zurich. In 1769, before the result of the venture became clear, he married a very fine young woman, built a house-"Neuhof"- and started a family. Although his lack of practical ability and the unsuitability of the land made financial failure inevitable, the ensuing period was fruitful in more important aspects of life, for Pestalozzi began to develop his fundamental educational concepts through his own experience in observing and training his small son. When the child was only three, the father wrote in his diary:
"I drew his attention to some water which ran swiftly down a slope . . . I walked a little lower down and he followed me, saying to the water: 'Wait a minute. I will come back soon'. Shortly afterwards I took him to the bank of the same stream again: and he exclaimed, 'Look, the water comes down too. It runs from there and goes down and down'. As we followed the course of the stream I repeated several times to him. 'Water flows from the top of the hill to the bottom"'.
Pestalozzi discovered for himself the principles of experimental method
in teaching science - snow was brought into the house to observe the
change into water, plants were collected in a garden, in fact, the essentials
of Comenian method appear to have been followed, although, there is no
clear evidence that Pestalozzi had read much on education except Emile
and Plato. He learnt how to study an individual child,
how to weigh up whether or not he was deliberately answering wrongly "for
fun" or to show independence of will. He learnt that words must be taught
through things, otherwise words are learnt merely by rote and are entirely
meaningless and uninteresting to the child. He asks:
"Why have I been so foolish as to allow him to pronounce these important words without taking care to connect them at the same time with a clear idea of their meaning?"
He learnt that the voice and attitude of the teacher affect the response of the pupils, and that a child learns by activity, by imitating, by drawing, by collecting, and above all, by observing nature:
"When he hears a bird sing or an insect hum on a leaf, then you should stop talking".
It was not long before he became critical of Rousseau's theoretical methods. He felt that the achievement of self-control entailed the application to tasks and the suppression of natural desires from the earliest years. Pestalozzi says:
"Liberty is a good thing and obedience is equally so. We should re-unite what Rousseau has separated. Impressed by the evils of an unwise constraint that only tends to degrade humanity, he has not remembered the limits of liberty. Nevertheless, life for the young child should be happy and free, and education in self-control should be gradual and careful. Punishment and restraint should rarely be necessary. Pressure to learn beyond the child's natural pace is harmful, and the denying of opportunities to learn by trial and error retards the development of character as well as of learning."
Thus Pestalozzi had already arrived at a belief in teaching words through things, in following and observing nature, and in learning through activity. He had realised that concentration, effort and perseverance are needed in thorough learning and that these and other qualities need to be developed in character training. He was beginning to evolve ideas on language and number teaching and was giving thought to the needs and order of child development.
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Pestalozzi Starts To Help Others Help Themselves
Although his financial position was little improved by the help given from time to time by friends and relatives, Pestalozzi and his wife conceived the idea of devoting their efforts to "the simplification of the instruction and the domestic education of the people" by taking in some waifs and strays and giving them education, training in a vocational skill and, above all, the advantages of family life in a good home. It was a practice of the times for such children to be put in the charge of farmers who usually used them as slave labour, but Pestalozzi aimed to use their labour not for profit but only as much as was necessary to make the venture self-supporting. They were to work in the fields in summer and to spin cotton in winter and in bad weather. But part of each day was to be given over to education, first, by the stimulation of speech, and then by the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic.
The group was twenty strong, and many more children would have come had
there been room. In all ways but financially the experiment was at first
successful. The children, enjoying the same care in every way as the founder's
son, were happy, skilful, and well-behaved, and it was so obviously a
genuine piece of social reform that Pestalozzi's Appeal to the
friends and benefactors of humanity, published in a journal
in 1776 won a satisfactory response so that with the help of bodies such
as the Bern Council of Commerce and the Bern Agricultural Society it became
possible to accept more children and to continue the work until 1780.
Pestalozzi succeeded in no small degree in his aim to teach not only reading,
writing, arithmetic and religion, but also new farming methods to the
boys and useful household skills to the girls.
It may have been this very success which laid the foundation of eventual failure, for during the last two years of the experiment the parents of many of the potential wage-earners proved a great hindrance and menace. Not only did they persuade the children to run away before the end of the agreed period - five or six years - but they also spread untrue reports and encouraged the children to persist in their old bad habits. Pestalozzi's lack of practical efficiency in business matters, together with a drop in subscriptions, brought the venture to an end at the cost of the health of both organisers and the loss of every penny they had. Only the generosity of friends saved the house for them and they lived in extreme poverty and debt, without income from the farm because the land had to be let to pay creditors.
Misfortune and Hardship Bear Down on Pestalozzi, But Ideas Survive The Ordeal
Then followed another extraordinary phase of Pestalozzi's long life. Harassed by creditors, treated with contempt by those who formerly praised his efforts, tortured by the thought that he had lost all his wife's money as well as his own, he was no longer able to serve society in an active capacity, yet the eighteen years he spent, almost as a hermit, thinking and writing, seem to have provided opportunity for the slow, full cross-fertilisation of the ideas gained as a student and as a young father. Through the good offices of a college friend his first small writings appeared in 1780 in a journal edited by this friend. He was reshaping and restating his basic principles as, for instance,
"The intellectual powers of children must not be urged on to remote distances before they have acquired strength by exercise in things near them"
"The circle of knowledge starts close round a man and stretches out concentrically".
The following year, with the encouragement of another friend, he tried his hand at story writing although he confessed later that he could "scarcely write a line without committing grammatical errors". His book Leonard and Gertrude achieved such a success that his old supporters came to appreciate his qualities again. The Agricultural Society of Bern gave him a gold medal, which he sold almost immediately.
The success of the book depended on factors which were much less evident in later works of the same kind - the interest and humanity of the story, the drama, the humour and the character drawing. The moralising and the propaganda on behalf of education were but incidental and subsidiary, though nevertheless extremely impressive and significant because the presentation was so skilful. Gertrude's efforts on behalf of her weak-willed husband, her influence in village life, her careful training of her children - all these threads of the story contributed towards the educative element in an entertaining novel. In addition, however, they offered to the discerning reader a complete picture of the writer's concept of the true function of education. The author was saying, in effect, that ordinary life can be used to educate - that a school should provide the same companionship and duties as a good working-class home. He was emphasising that the development of the individual and that of the group are bound up together - that the individual can grow in mind and spirit only within a social setting, that a child needs help and guidance in obtaining the fullest intellectual and spiritual benefits from experience.
He depicted Gertrude as the perfect working-class housewife, fulfilling her natural function as the first teacher of her children, training them through their senses, guiding their observations of nature and drawing them into work-activities contributing to the family's welfare. Through her example, the leader of the village came to realise that the proper education of the child was the only way of bringing about reform and improvement, and a village school was set up on lines in harmony with home education. Pestalozzi aimed to show how education should be an integral part of community life, and also how both Church and government should co-operate in the forwarding of this major social service.
Feeling that the general public had missed his major point that progress and reform depended on education, Pestalozzi published in 1782 Christopher and Elizabeth, which aimed, through discussion in dialogue form, to bring home to readers the main points in the first book. This was too didactic to have any wide appeal so he continued the adventures of Leonard and Gertrude in three more volumes in 1783, 1785, and 1787, never fully recapturing the narrative style of his earlier work.
Another result of his first literary success was a newspaper venture, which, although it lasted only a year, gave further proof of the strength and independence of his opinions. In rewriting his ideas in the form of allegories and fables he continued to develop his philosophy and to expand his concept of the ennobling force of education in human society.
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After a few years, although never really prosperous, Pestalozzi was able to take up farming again. Meanwhile, evidence of a growing reputation came in the form of correspondence with influential people in all parts of Europe who wrote for advice and opinions on educational and social matters. It is said that he influenced the course of educational development in Denmark and Austria as well as in his own country, and he was certainly invited to France, Austria, Italy and Germany. He visited the last country in 1792, meeting many celebrated Germans, including Goethe and Fichte. In the same year he was declared a "Citizen of the French Republic", a fact which reminds us that by this time much of Europe had accepted the political theories he had supported in his youth, while in his own country the reform party had prevailed, and was not unmindful of the services he had rendered through his pen.
His last effort to express his philosophy in print before engaging in active experiment was published in 1797. Written at the instigation of Fichte, the German philosopher, it was entitled Investigations into the Course of Nature in the Development of the Human Race, a clumsy title which, perhaps partially accounts for its small sales. He attempted to set out the basic principles of human life as he saw them in the light of his own experience and his own life. To him it was a work of major importance but he admitted:
"This book is to me only another proof of my lack of ability, it is simply a diversion of my imaginative faculty, a work relatively weak - no-one understands me'.
Although somewhat obscure and fanciful it is notable as one of the first sociological evaluations of education. He argues that the progress of civilisation towards human betterment depends on man's effort to raise himself to "the moral state", motivated by benevolence and love. It must be truly individual effort, for
"Morality is quite an individual matter - no man can feel for me that
I am moral ... A man must possess himself before he can really
possess anything else".
Pestalozzi Is Enabled To Establish A Working Prototype Using New Educational Approach - It Is A Success
When the new Swiss Government' came into power, Pestalozzi had the opportunity to edit a newspaper designed to enlighten the people and make known the new principles and policy, but he preferred to offer his services as a teacher to help in the "improvement of the education and schools of the people". His request for "three or four months' experience" found an immediate answer, although not in the way anticipated by either Pestalozzi or the Swiss leaders. The French army, in passing through Switzerland to attack Austria, destroyed the town of Stanz, and Pestalozzi was given the task of setting up and conducting - a home for the destitute and homeless children of the town, most of whom had passed several weeks in dire need and misery before the arrival of Pestalozzi. The decree of December 1798 confirming the establishment of the "poor-house" directed that all children should be over five and should work in the fields and house, but Pestalozzi was allowed complete freedom to plan the time-table - lessons from six to eight in the morning and from four to eight in the afternoon and evening. There was no building in the place fit for habitation but the outbuildings of a convent were to be repaired to accommodate eighty children. The whole of the winter, however, was spent in one room with only one woman to help with domestic arrangements. He related afterwards:
"For the first few weeks I was shut up in a very small room. The weather was bad and the alterations, which made a great dust and filled the corridors with rubbish, rendered the air very unhealthy. The want of beds compelled me at first to send some of the poor children home at night, and they came back next day covered with vermin".
The children included not only those brought up in poverty but also those who had known good homes, not only those of low intelligence but also those of considerable ability. In spite of filth, vermin, and sickness the spring saw the development of the children into happy, co-operative, disciplined pupils and in the achievement of this success Pestalozzi had gained the experience which confirmed most of his theories. He wrote:
"My children soon became more open more contented and more susceptible to every good and noble influence than anyone could possibly have foreseen . . . I had incomparably less trouble to develop those children whose minds were still blank than those who had already acquired inaccurate ideas . . . The children soon felt that there existed in them forces which they did not know . . . they acquired a general sentiment of order and beauty . . . the impression of weariness which habitually reigns in schools vanished like a shadow from my classroom. They willed, they had power, they persevered, they succeeded, and they were happy".
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The inhabitants of the locality were not favourably disposed towards the new venture, partly because Pestalozzi was a supporter of a government unpopular in the region and, moreover, he was a Protestant in a predominantly Catholic area. He wrote to a friend that the friars and nuns gave more help and sympathy than any others except perhaps the sub-prefect, who made urgent appeals to headquarters for the granting of a larger staff and better facilities. Of Pestalozzi he reported: "This excellent man has both firmness and gentleness, but unfortunately he often uses them at the wrong time".
It is difficult to estimate whether the establishment could ever have been organised on a permanent basis. In June the experiment was brought to an end by the retreat of the French troops and the taking over of the convent for a military hospital. Although after the evacuation some weeks later twenty-two children returned. Pestalozzi, whose old tubercular trouble had recurred under severe privation and exposure to disease, was in no condition to take up the work again. He spent some time in the mountains until his lung healed before taking up his first real teaching appointment at Burgdorf. Looking back, he said:
"I felt that my experiment proved the possibility of founding popular instruction on psychological grounds; of laying true knowledge gained by sense impression at the foundation of instruction".
He was convinced more firmly than ever of the child's power to learn through the known and the seen. for he had discovered how empty and useless their earlier learning - "one-sided letter-knowledge' - was to his pupils.
It is difficult to understand why those leaders who recognised the value of Pestalozzi's work then gave him only an assistantship in a school conducted by a shoemaker, or why they permitted him to be relegated from there to an infant school for children between four and eight. His own explanation was that rumours were spread that he could not write, work accounts or read, but as his reputation as a writer cannot have been unknown to everybody in Burgdorf, perhaps this may be regarded as another instance of his own habit of underestimating himself. He writes:
"Popular reports are not entirely destitute of truth . . . For thirty years I had read no book . . . I had no language left for abstract notions . . . in my mind there was nothing but living truths brought to my consciousness in an intuitive manner in the course of my experience".
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Whatever the cause of his transfer to the infant school he found there
the opportunity he needed. The old schoolmistress gave him a free hand,
and after eight months so remarkable was the change in the school that
the Burgdorf School Commission sent him a public letter of commendation.
"The surprising progress of your little scholars of various capacities
shows plainly that every one is good for something if the teacher knows
how to get at his abilities and develop them according to
the laws of psychology. By your method of teaching you have proved how
to lay the groundwork of instruction in such a way that it may afterwards
support what is built on it ... Between the ages of five and eight, a
period in which according to the system of torture enforced hitherto,
children have learnt to know their letters, to spell and read, your scholars
have not only accomplished all this with a success as yet unknown, but
the best of them have already distinguished themselves by their good writing,
drawing, and calculating. In them all you have been able so to arouse
and excite a liking for history, natural-history, mensuration, geography,
etc., that thus future teachers must find their task a far easier one
if they only know how to make good use of the preparatory stage the children
have gone through with you."
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Recognition of Pestalozzi's Pioneering Work Results In Funding To Establish His Own School
As a result of this success Pestalozzi gained the mastership of the second boys' school of the town, but his old complaint overtook him and caused his resignation. When he recovered his health he found that friends had been active in forming a "Society of the Friends of Education" which provided funds to equip a school. Towards 1799 Pestalozzi opened school with the help of a young village school master named Krilsi. The latter had been teaching a group of orphan war-victims in the castle, and he was to continue this work while Pestalozzi built up a boarding school for more fortunate children. The castle had already been allocated for use as a training college and only lack of funds had delayed its development. So Pestalozzi seized the opportunity to start the work of building up an educational institution which should be a centre for research, teacher-training, and school-book preparation. Krilsi's school - a day school - was to be enlarged and developed, a boarding school for children of prosperous families, was to exist alongside, a "normal school" or teachers' training college was to be set up, and an orphan asylum was to be established in the castle. The orphanage was to be financed by private subscription and by profits from the boarding school and the sale of books.
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Pestalozzi Publishes Educational Books
In 1801 Pestalozzi wrote and published How Gertrude Teaches her Children, an Attempt to give Directions to Mothers how to Instruct their own Children. This is not another story of Gertrude, but an account of his experiments and an exposition of his theories. In the same year he issued from the institution at Burgdorf Help for Teaching, Spelling, and Reading, and during the next two years the whole staff-the two principals, an assistant writing master, and an assistant drawing master-wrote a set of textbooks issued in 1803 as "Pestalozzi's Elementary Books". These were six little books, three on Intuitive-instruction in the Relations of Number, two on Intuitive-instruction in the Relations of Dimensions, and one called The Mother's Manual or Guide to Mothers in Teaching their Children how to Observe and Think.
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And His Results Receive Strong Praise
While not a little diffident about his own skills and capacities, Pestalozzi had not the slightest doubts as to the efficacy of the methods he was evolving and with the single-mindedness of the pioneer he never hesitated to advertise those methods or to admit visitors to see them in operation. There is ample independent testimony of his success. Those who entered the schools in a sceptical frame of mind emerged fully convinced. He would not allow them to go away thinking that the quality of the education provided was in any way due to his own personal capacities - it was, he asserted, due to the use of a method which could be used by all teachers. The Society of the Friends of Education reported: "Pestalozzi's pupils learn to spell, read, write and calculate quickly and well, achieving in six months results which an ordinary village schoolmaster's pupils would hardly attain in three years . . . It appears to us that this extraordinary progress' depends less upon the teacher than the method of teaching". An independent visitor wrote: "In six to ten months the children have learnt writing, reading, drawing and a little geography and French, and have also made astonishing progress in arithmetic. They do everything cheerfully and their health seems perfect ... The success the method has already obtained should suffice to convince any impartial thinker of its excellence". A Nuremberg merchant confessed himself amazed when he saw the children "treating the most complex calculations of fractions as the simplest matter in the world. Problems which I myself could not solve without careful work on paper they did easily in their heads . . . They seemed quite unconscious of having done anything extraordinary". A public commission reported after its inspection that Pestalozzi had discovered the real and universal laws of all elementary teaching, and it was also noted that the moral and religious life was praiseworthy and that the discipline was based on affection. A Berlin visitor of 1802 reported that there were at that time ten masters and several foreigners studying the method. He was particularly struck by the insistence on the greatest possible liberty for the children, who were to be checked only -- when they took advantage of that liberty. The experimenting with different methods, material and appliances was also an outstanding feature of the institute.
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Politics Change And Main Support Vanishes For Pestalozzi's Educational Mecca
At the time of greatest promise, the political tide turned and almost swept away the new educational edifice. Through his work at Burgdorf. Pestalozzi had won fame abroad and popularity and respect in his own country so that when a crisis arose through the French announcement that a new constitution was to be framed for Switzerland, he was sent to Paris as one of the deputies charged with the task of putting forward Swiss views. Napoleon would not see him and in the changes which followed, he lost his castle and his main support, for the former was requisitioned for the canton government offices, and the latter, which had been the central national authority - the "Executive Directory" - was abolished.
This was in 1804, and for the rest of that year the school was divided, the lower school being sent to an old monastery at Munchen Buchsee and the upper school to Yverdun castle. The former came under the control of Fellenberg, another well-known teacher, and a report of this experience by a pupil-teacher. serves to emphasise the difference between Pestalozzi's happy muddling and the cold efficiency of the typical "good school" of the time. The young man wrote, "We missed more than anything else the love and warmth which vivified everything at Burgdorf and made everybody so happy. With Pestalozzi himself it was the heart which dominated everything; with Fellenber, the mind . . . nevertheless, there was more order there and we learned more than at Burgdorf".
In 1805 the whole institute was reunited at Yverdun, the scene of Pestalozzi's unremitting efforts for twenty years. The original scheme for the institute was dropped, and the teaching of children - and research on method - engaged the whole attention of the staff. Pupils as well as visitors came from most European countries. The visitors included deputations commissioned to report on the work, teachers with their students - Froebel, Dr Mayo von Raumer and individuals of distinction - Herbart, Ritter. Maria Edgeworth, Brougham, Robert Owen, Andrew Bell and many others. Seven teen students were sent from Prussia for a three-year course of training as teachers. In 1814 the Czar of Russia sent a decoration in recognition of Pestalozzi's services to education. Thus Yverdun came to be regarded by the whole of Europe as the educational Mecca of the day - and this in spite of the cumulative problems and difficulties arising during the first ten years at the castle.
In 1809 at the request of Pestalozzi and his staff, the Swiss Diet agreed to arrange an examination comparable to the full inspection of an English school by Her Majesty's inspectors. Three commissioners spent five days at the school after which they gave a mildly favourable report on the standards attained but made no comment on the value of the aims and principles which influenced the methods.
It may have been partly the effect of this report which led to a greater concentration on the striving for results than had been characteristic of the earlier work. This "restless pushing and driving", described by a teacher who had been a pupil under the old system, was no doubt due to the ambition of individual members of staff even as many of the other disagreements appear to have been due to the impatience of colleagues who may have been more efficient than Pestalozzi but who nevertheless lacked his true understanding of the essential needs of childhood. The place had grown too big for Pestalozzi. As the benevolent head of a family he could keep his finger on its pulse and could smooth out minor difficulties before they had the opportunity to become major ones. But now the family atmosphere was lost; the leader could no longer have the same personal contact with each individual, while his deputies, although submitting to his system, of communal living - which would be considered extreme even today - were not resigned to the selfless, unrewarded service which Pestalozzi himself was prepared to give. It would serve no useful purpose, however, to describe at length the tribulations which finally led to the closing of Yverdun in 1825, when Pestalozzi was eighty years old. That the school existed for so long and earned such fame is an amazing enough record - a tribute not only to the great leader who found his vocation only in his old age, but also to the men who worked with him.
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It is true that Krilsi, his loyal admirer, and Niederer, his most skilled disciple, left the school in 1816 and 1817 respectively, and it is also true that the personal differences between members of staff gained undesirable publicity in Switzerland, but this did not prevent the fulfilment of the school's major task of fostering the extension and improvement of education. Not only did teachers prepare manuals on arithmetic, geometry, drawing, and singing, but even the students turned their hand to this work - thus Henning, one of the young Prussian students, wrote a manual of elementary geography, Joseph Schmid, mathematician and business manager, revised and improved the Elementary Books of the Burgdorf Institute. Schmid was a product of Pestalozzi's own training which was, perhaps by its very freedom and informality, the cause of some of the clashes of temperament which disturbed Yverdun. Although Pestalozzi, maintaining his friendliness towards all his old colleagues, later paid tribute to Schmid's invaluable work as business manager, the latter appears to have been tactless in his dealings with colleagues and visitors - for instance, the withdrawal of twenty four French student teachers by their master after only a year was said to have been due to Schmid's attitude.
The training of students and the receiving of visitors were even more important than the preparation of textbooks in the spreading of educational ideas in Europe. Yet it was the development of this work which brought about the partial failure of the true Pestalozzian teaching schemes. At Burgdorf the happy family atmosphere and the pleasant methods which gave adequate results, drew students willing to study how to achieve similar success. It would no doubt, have taken the most inspired and competent staff several years to have developed a reasonable teacher-training course based on the practising school. Neither competent staff nor period of years was given to Pestalozzi and Krilsi for this work. First, more teachers for the school itself had to be trained, but there were no skilled trainers of teachers to train them; moreover there were few good teachers in the whole of Europe from whom teaching standards might be sought. The students were likely to be either bewildered by lack of pedagogical teaching, or too confident in the supreme merit of their own ideas. In decent privacy and segregation from the world, even these faults might have been remedied by staff conferences and by the permeation of the fundamental humility and geniality of the Pestallozzian research attitude, but on early exposure to an adulatory world ruined any remaining hope that stability, unity and genuine pedagogical thoroughness would be achieved.
The tendency to aim at results has already been mentioned. This was partly due to the scholarly instinct which often finds it difficult to be satisfied with "the child's natural rate of progress but a further cause was undoubtedly the understandable desire to "put on a good face" before visitors. Rarely a day passed without the arrival of visitors expecting to see the school at work, and moreover, displaying such interest in the methods used, that the children's lesson times were very frequently wasted while the teachers explained and answered the strangers' questions. Dr Mayo during his stay at Yverdun with several pupils in 1819 reported that many English people came, including Lord and Lady Elgin and family and Lady Ellenborough and friends. It almost seems that a trip to Yverdun was not to be missed by the best people holidaying in Switzerland.
Pestalozzi realised all too well the difficulties and dangers of the period, but carried on by his own enthusiasms, he had no power perhaps no will to counteract them at the time. He later referred to:
"the great delusion ... that all those things in regard
to which we had strong intentions and some clear ideas, were really as
they ought to have been and as we should have liked to make them . . .
We announced publicly things which we had neither the strength nor the
means to accomplish".
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Of the disunity brought about by the interaction of these and other factors he speaks with even deeper regret:
"Led aside by worldly temptations and apparent good fortune from the purity, simplicity and innocence of our first endeavours, divided among ourselves in our inmost feelings, and from the first made incapable, by the heterogeneous nature of our peculiarities, of ever becoming of one mind and one heart in spirit and in truth for the attainment of our objects, we stood there outwardly united, even deceiving ourselves with respect to the real truth of our inclination to this union. And unfortunately, we advanced, each one in his own manner with firm, and at one time with rapid steps along a path which, without our being really conscious of it, separated us every day further from the possibility of our ever being united".
His humility in including himself as an offender is typical of his generous attitude.
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Pestalozzi's Final Years
At the age of seventy-two this remarkable man set up a Poor School at
Clindy, a neighbouring hamlet. Here twelve necessitous boys enjoyed the
same experience as the poor children at Yverdun, but within a few months
the success of the old man's work brought the frustration of its true
purpose, for his colleagues at Yverdun prevailed in bringing about the
conformation of the school to the Yverdun curriculum, the introduction
of other teachers and of feepayers, and finally the transfer of the school
to Yverdun. Yet in spite of his submission, Pestalozzi still dreamed of
a poor school, now at Neuhof, where he began. He worked to transfer the
Clindy poor boys to Neuhof but his colleagues had done their work all
too well, and not one boy remained in the school. Nevertheless, at the
closure of Yverdun through debt and internal dissension, he returned to
Neuhof where he spent the last two years of his life. He wrote Swan's
Song and My Fortunes as Superintendent of my Educational Establishments
at Burgdorf and Yverdun, two important works, but he was not content
with writing - he taught in a village school, ordered the building of
a Poor School, negotiated for the publication of his works in English
and French in order to get funds for the school, attended conferences
and visited schools and orphanages. Moreover, he was elected President
of the Helvetic Society for which he wrote an address On Fatherland
and Education. Less than three months before his death he presented
a paper, An Attempt at a Sketch on the Essence of the Idea of Elementary
Education, to an educational society, and was working at a fifth volume
of Leonard and Gertrude, a supplement to his Book for Mothers,
and an elementary Latin book. The last and unfinished writings of
his life were refutations of attacks made on him in newspaper revivals
of the Schmid-Niederer controversy revivals occasioned by the publication
of Pestalozzi's own story of Yverdun. His passionate zeal can only be
admired and wondered at.
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