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destiny, had been applied by other hands before having been
applied by his own.

The Helvetic government, whose sentiments were in har-
mony with the democratic sentiments of Pestalozzi, offered
him the direction of a normal school. But he declined, in
order that lie might remain a teacher. He was about to lake
charge of a school, the plan of which he had organized, when
events called him to direct an orphan asylum at Stanz.

495. Methods followed at Stanz. — From six to eight
o'clock in the morning, and from four to eight in the after-
noon, Pestalozzi heard the lessons of his pupils. The rest


of the time was devoted to manual labor. Even during the
lesson, the child at Stanz "drew, wrote, and worked." To
establish order in a school which contained eighty pupils,
Pestalozzi had the idea of resorting to rhythm ; ' ' and it was
found," he says, " that the rhythmical pronunciation increased
the impression produced by the lesson." Having to do with
pupils absolutely ignorant, he kept them for a long time on
the elements ; he practised them on the first elements till
they had mastered them. He simplified the methods, and
sought in each branch of instruction a point of departure
adapted to the nascent faculties of the child. The mode of
teaching was simultaneous. All the pupils repeated in a
high tone of voice the words of the teacher ; but the instruc-
tion was also mutual : —

"Children instructed children; they themselves tried the
experiment ; all I did was to suggest it. Here again I obeyed
necessity. Not having a single assistant, I had the idea of
putting one of the most advanced pupils between two others
who were less advanced."

Reading was combined with writing. Natural history and
geography were taught to children under the form of con-
versational lessons.

But what engrossed Pestalozzi above all else was to
develop the moral sentiments and the interior forces of the
conscience. He wished to make himself loved by his pupils,
to awaken among them, in their daily association, sentiments
of fraternal affection, to excite the conception of each virtue
before formulating its precept, and to give the children moral
lessons through the influence of nature which surrounded
them and through the activity which was imposed on them.

Pestalozzi's chimera, in the organization at Stanz, was to
transport into the school the conditions of domestic life, —
the desire to be a father to a hundred children.



" I was convinced that my heart would change the condi-
tion of my children just as promptly as the sun of spring-
would reanimate the earth benumbed by the winter."

" It was necessary that my children should observe, from
dawn to evening, at every moment of the day, upon my brow
and on my lips, that my affections were fixed on them, that
their happiness was my happiness, and that their pleasures
were my pleasures."

" I was everything to my children. I was alone with them
from morning till night. . . . Their hands were in my hands.
Their eyes were fixed on my eyes."

496. Results accomplished. — Without plan, without
apparent order ; merely by the action and incessant com-
munication of his ardent soul with children ignorant and
perverted by misery ; reduced to his own resources in a
house where he was himself " steward, accountant, footman,
and almost servant all in one," Pestalozzi obtained surpris-
ing results.

"I saw at Stauz," he says, "the power of the human
faculties. . . . My pupils developed rapidly ; it was another
race. . . . The children very soon felt that there existed in
them forces which they did not know, and in particular they
acquired a general sentiment of order and beauty. They
were self-conscious, and the impression of weariness which
habitually reigns in schools vanished like a shadow from my
class-room. They willed, they had power, they persevered,
they succeeded, and they were happy. They were not
scholars who were learning, but children who felt unknown
forces awakening within them, and who understood where
these forces could and would lead them, and this feeling
gave elevation to their mind and heart."

"It is out of the folly of Stanz," says Roger de Guimps,


" that has come the primary school of the nineteenth cen-

While the pupils prospered, the master fell sick of over-
work. When the events of the war closed the orphan
asylum, it was quite time for the health of Pestalozzi. He
raised blood and was at the limit of his strength.

497. The Schools of Bubgdorp (1799-1802). — As
soon as he had recovered his health, Pestalozzi resumed the
course of his experiments. Not without difficulty he suc-
ceeded in having entrusted to him a small class in a primary
school of Burgdorf. He passed for an ignoramus.

"It was whispered that I could neither write, nor compute,
nor even read decently." Pestalozzi does not defend him-
self against the charge, but acknowledges his incapacity, and
even asserts that it is to his advantage.

"My incapacity in these respects was certainly an indis-
pensable condition for my discovery of the simplest method
of teaching."

What troubled him most in the school at Burgdorf ' ' was
that it was subjected to rules." " Never in my life had I
borne such a burden. I was discouraged. I cringed under
the routine yoke of the school."

Nevertheless, Pestalozzi succeeded admirably in his little
school. Then more advanced pupils were given him, but
here his success was less. He always proceeded without a
plan, and he gave himself great trouble in obtaining results
that he might have attained much more easily with a little
more system. Blunders, irregularities, and whimsicalities
were ever compromising the action of his good will. To be
convinced of this, it suffices to read the books which he pub-
lished at this period, and in particular the most celebrated,
of which we shall proceed to give a brief analysis.


498. How Gertrude teaches her Children. — It is
under this title that in 1801 Pestalozzi published an exposi-
tion of his doctrine. 1 "It is the most important and the
most profound of all his pedagogical writings," says one of
his biographers. We shall not dispute this ; but this book
also proves how the mind of Pestalozzi was inferior to his
heart, how the writer was of less worth than the teacher.
Composed under the form of letters addressed to Gessner,
the work of Pestalozzi is too often a tissue of declamations,
of rambling thoughts, and of personal grievances. It is the
work of a brain that is in a state of ferment, and of a heart
that is overflowing. The thought is painfully disentangled
from oat a thousand repetitions. Why need we be aston-
ished at this literary incompetence of Pestalozzi when he
himself makes the following confession: " For thirty years
I had not read a single book ; I could not longer read them."

499. Pestalozzi's Style. — The style of Pestalozzi is the
very man himself : desultory, obscure, confused, but with
sudden flashes and brilliant illuminations in which the warmth
of his heart is exhibited. There are also too many compari-
sons ; the imagery overwhelms the idea. Within a few
pages In' will compare himself, in succession, "to a sailor,
who, having lost his harpoon, would try to catch a whale
with a hook," to depict the disproportion between his
resources and his purpose ; then to a straw, which even a
cat would not lay hold of, to tell how he was despised ;
to an owl, to express his isolation ; to a reed, to indicate
his feebleness ; to a mouse which fears a cat, to characterize
his timidity.

1 A second edition appeared in the lifetime of the author, in 1820, with
some important modifications. The French translation published in L882
by Dr. Darin was made from the first edition.


500. Analysis of the Gertrude. — It is not easy to
analyze one of Pestalozzi's books. To begin with, Hoio
Gertrude teaches her Children is a very bad title, for Gertrude
is not once mentioned in it. This proper name became for
Pestalozzi an allegorical term by which he personifies himself.

The first three letters are rather autobiographical memoirs
than an exposition of doctrine. Pestalozzi here relates his
first experiments, and makes us acquainted with his assist-
ants at Burgdorf, — Kriisi, Tobler, and Buss. In the letters
which follow, the author attempts to set forth the general
principles of his method. The seventh treats of language ;
the eighth, of the intuition of forms, of writing, and of
drawing ; the ninth, of the intuition of numbers and of com-
putation ; the tenth and twelfth, of intuition in general.
For Pestalozzi, intuition was, as we know, direct and ex-
perimental perception, either in the domain of sense, or in
the interior regions of the consciousness. Finally, the last
letters are devoted to moral and religious development.

Without designing to follow, in all its ramblings and in all
its digressions, the mobile thought of Pestalozzi, we shall
gather up some of the general ideas which abound in this
overcharged and badly composed work.

501. Methods Simplified. — The purpose of Pestalozzi
was indeed, in one sense, as he was told by one of his
friends, to mechanize instruction. He wished, in fact, to
simplify and determine methods to such a degree that they
might be employed by the most ordinary teacher, and by the
most ignorant father and mother. In a word, he hoped to
organize a pedagogical machine so well set up that it could
in a manner run alone.

" I believe," he says, " that we must not dream of making
progress in the instruction of the people as long as we have


not found the forms of instruction which make of the
teacher, at least so far as the completion of the elementary
studies is concerned, the simple mechanical instrument of a
method which owes its results to the nature of its processes,
and not to the ability of the one who uses it. I assert that
a school-book has no value, save as it can be employed by a
master without instruction as well as by one who has been

This was sheer exaggeration, and was putting too little
value' on the personal effort and merit of teachers. On this
score, it would be useless to found normal schools. Pesta-
lozzi, moreover, has given in his own person a striking
contradiction to this singular theory ; for he owed his success
in teaching much more to the influence of his living speech,
and to the ardent communication of the passion by which his
heart was animated, than to the methodical processes which
he never succeeded in combining in an efficient manner.

502. The Socratic Method. — Pestalozzi recommends
the Socratic method, and he indicates with exactness some of
the conditions necessary for the employment of that method.
He first observes that it requires on the part of the teacher
uncommon ability.

"A superficial and uncultivated intelligence," he says,
" does not sound the depths whence a Socrates made spring
up intelligence aud truth."

Besides, the Socratic method can be employed only with
pupils who already have some instruction. It is absolutely
impracticable with children who lack both the point of de-
parture, that is, preliminary notions, and the means of
expressing these notions, that is, a knowledge of language.
And as it is always necessary that Pestalozzi's thought
should wind up with a figure of speech, he adds : —


' ' In order that the goshawk and the eagle may plunder
eggs from other birds, it is first necessary that the latter
should deposit eggs in their nests."

503. Word, Form, and Number. — A favorite idea of
Pestalozzi, which remained at Yverdun, as at Burgdorf, the
principle of his exercises in teaching, is that all elemen-
tary knowledge can and should be related to three princi-
ples, — word, form, and number. To the word he attached
language, to form, writing and drawing, and to number,

"This was," he says, "like a ray of light in my re-
searches, like a Deus ex machinal" Nothing justifies such
enthusiasm. It would be very easy to show that Pestalozzi's
classification, besides that it offers no practical interest, is
not justifiable from the theoretical point of view, first be-
cause one of the elements of his trilogy, the word, or lan-
guage, comprises the other two ; and then because a large
part of knowledge, for example, all physical qualities, does not
permit the distinction of which he was superstitiously fond.

504. Intuitive Exercises. — What is of more value is
the importance which Pestalozzi ascribes to intuition. An
incident worthy of note is that it is not Pestalozzi himself,
but one of the children of his school, who first had the idea
of the direct observation of the objects which serve as the
text for the lesson. One day as, according to his custom, he
was giviug his pupils a loug description of what they
observed in a drawing where a window was represented, he
noticed that one of his little auditors, instead of looking at
the picture, was attentively studying the real window of the

From that moment Pestalozzi put aside all his drawings,
and took the objects themselves for subjects of observation.


"The child," he said, "wishes nothing to intervene be-
tween nature and himself."

Ramsauer, a pupil at Burgdorf, has described, not with-
out some inaccuracy perhaps, the intuitive exercises which
Pestalozzi offered to his pupils : —

"The exercises in language were the best we had, espe-
cially those which had reference to the wainscoting of the
school-room. He spent whole hours before that wainscot-
ing, very old and torn, busy in examining the holes and
rents, with respect to number, form, position, and color, and
in formulating our observations in sentences more or less de-
veloped. Then Pestalozzi would ask us, Boys, what do you
see? (He never mentioned the girls.)

Pupil : I see a hole in the wainscoting.

Pestalozzi: Very well ; repeat after me : —
I see a hole in the wainscoting.
I see a large hole in the wainscoting.
Through the hole I see the wall, etc., etc."

505. The Book for Mothers. — In 1803 Pestalozzi pub-
lished a work on elementary instruction, which remained un-
finished, entitled The Book for Mothers. This was another
Orbis Pictus without pictures. Pestalozzi's intention was to
introduce the child to a knowledge of the objects of nature
or of art which fall under his observation. In this he tar-
ried too long over the description of the organs of the body
and of their functions. A French critic, Dussault, said,
with reference to this : —

" Pestalozzi gives himself much trouble to teach children
that their nose is in the middle of their face." In his anxiety
to be simple and elementary, Pestalozzi often succeeds in
reality in making instruction puerile. On the other hand,
the Pere Girard complains that the exercises in language


which compose The Book for Mothers, ' ' really very well ar°
ranged, are also very dry and monotonous."

506. A Swiss Teacher in 1793. — To form a just esti-
mate of the efforts of Pestalozzi and his assistants, we must
take into account the wretched state of instruction at the
period when they attempted to reform the methods of teach-
ing. Kriisi, Pestalozzi's first assistant, one of those who
were perhaps the nearest his heart, has himself related how
he became a teacher. He was eighteen, and till then his
only employment had been that of a peddler for his father.
One clay, as he was going about his business with a heavy
load of merchandise on his shoulders, he meets on the road a
revenue officer of the State, and they enter into conversation.
" Do you know," said the officer, " that the teacher of Gais
is about to leave his school ? Would you not like to succeed
him ? — It is not a question of what I would like ; a school-
master should have knowledge, in which I am absolutely lack-
ing. — What a school-master can and should know with us,
you might easily learn at your age." — Kriisi reflected, went
to work, and copied more than a hundred times a specimen
of writing which he had procured ; and he declares that this
was his only preparation. He registered for examination.
The da}- for the trial arrived.

" There were but two competitors of us," he says. " The
principal test consisted in writing the Lord's Prayer, and to
this I gave my closest attention. I had observed that in
German, use was made of capital letters ; but I did not know
the rule for their use, and took them for ornaments. So I
distributed mine in a symmetrical manner, so that some were
found even in the middle of words. In fact, neither of us
knew anything.

Wk When the examination had been estimated, I was sum-


moned, and Captain Sehoepfer informed me that the exam-
iners had found us both deficient ; that my competitor read
the better, but that I excelled him in writing ; . . . that,
besides, my apartment, being larger than that of the other
candidate, was better fitted for holding a school, and, finally,
that I was elected to the vacant place."

Is it not well to be indulgent to teachers whom we meet on
the highway, who scarcely know how to write, and whom a
captain commissions ?

507. The Institute at Burgdorf (1802). — When Pes-
talozzi published the Gertrude and The Book for Mothers, he
was not simply a school-master at Burgdorf ; he had taken
charge of an institute, that is, of a boarding-school of higher
primary instruction. There also he applied the natural
method, " which makes the child proceed from his own intui-
tions, and leads him by degrees, and through his own efforts,
to abstract ideas." The institute succeeded. The pupils of
Burgdorf were distinguished especially by their skill in draw-
ing and in mental arithmetic. Visitors were struck with their
air of cheerfulness. Singing and gymnastics were held in
honor, and also exercises on natural history, learned in the
open field, and during walks. Mildness and liberty charac-
terized the internal management. "It is not a school that
you have here," said a visitor, " but a family ! "

508. Journey to Paris. — It was at this period that Pes-
talozzi made a journej* to Paris, as a member of the consulta
called by Bonaparte to decide the fate of Switzerland. He
hoped to take advantage of his stay in France to disseminate
his pedagogical ideas. But Bonaparte refused to see him,
saying that he had something else to do besides discussing
questions of a b c. Monge, the founder of the Polytechnic
School, was more cordial, and kindly listened to the explana-


tions of the Swiss pedagogue. But he concluded by saying,
" It is too much for us ! ' More disdainful still, Talleyrand
had said, " It is too much for the people ! "

On the other hand, at the same period, the philosopher
Maine de Biran, then sub-prefect at Bergerac, called a disciple
of Pestalozzi, Barraud, to found schools in the department of
Dordogne, and he encouraged with all his influence the appli-
cation of the Pestalozzian method.

509. The Institute at Yverdun (1805-1825).— In 1803
Pestalozzi was obliged to leave the castle of Burgdorf . The
Swiss government gave him in exchange the convent of
Miinchen-Buchsee. Pestalozzi transferred his institute to
this place, but only for a little time. In 1805 he established
himself at Yverdun, at the foot of Lake Neufchatel, in French
Switzerland ; and here, with the aid of several of his col-
leagues, he developed his methods anew, with brilliant success
at first, but afterwards through all sorts of vicissitudes, diffi-
culties, and miseries.

The institute at Yverdun was rather a school of secondary
instruction, devoted to the middle classes, than a primary
school proper. Pupils poured in from all sides. The char-
acter of the studies, however, was poorly defined, and Pesta-
lozzi found himself somewhat out of his element in his new
institution, since he excelled only in elementary methods and
in the education of little children.

510. Success of the Institute. — Numerous visitors be-
took themselves to Yverdun, some through simple love of
strolling. The institute of Yverdun made a part, so to speak,
of the curiosities of Switzerland. People visited Pestalozzi
as they went to see a lake or a glacier. As soon as notice
was given of the arrival of a distinguished personage, Pesta-
lozzi summoned one of his best masters, Ramsauer or


" Take your best pupils," he said, " and show the Prince
what we are doing. He has numerous serfs, and when he is
convinced, he will have them instructed."

These frequent exhibitions entailed a great loss of time.
Disorder reigned in the instruction. The young masters
whom Pestalozzi had attached to his fortunes were over-
whelmed with work, and could not give sufficient attention to
the preparation of their lessons. Pestalozzi was growing old,
and did not succeed in completing his methods.

511. The Tentatives of Pestalozzi. — The teaching of
Pestalozzi was in reality but a long groping, an experiment
ceaselessly renewed. Do not require of him articulate ideas,
and methods definitely established. Always on the alert, and
always in quest of something better, his admirable pedagogic
instinct never came to full satisfaction. His merit was that
he was always on the search for truth. His theories almost
always followed, rather than preceded, his experiments. A
man of intuition rather than of reasoning, he acknowledges
that he went forward without considering what he was doing.
He had the merit of making many innovations, but he was
wrong in taking counsel of no one but himself, and of his
personal feelings. "We ought to read nothing," he said;
" we ought to discover everything." Pestalozzi never knew
how to profit by the experience of others.

He never arrived at complete precision in the establish-
ment of his methods. He complained of not being under-
stood, and he was not in fact. One of his pupils at Yverdun,
Vulliemin, thus expresses himself : —

" That which was called, not without pretense, the method
of Pestalozzi was an enigma for us. It was for our teachers
themselves. Each of them interpreted the doctrine of the
master in his own way ; but we were still far from the time


when these divergencies engendered discord ; when our
principal teachers, after each had given out that he alone
had comprehended Pestalozzi, ended by asserting that Pes-
talozzi himself was not understood ; that he had not been
understood except by Schmicl, said Schmid, and by Niederer,
said Niederer."

512. Methods at Yverdun. — The writer whom we have
just quoted gives us valuable information on the methods
which were in use at Yverdun : —

' ' Instruction was addressed to the intelligence rather than
to the memory. Attempt, said Pestalozzi to his colleagues,
to develop the child, and not to train him as one trains a

' ' Language was taught us by the aid of intuition ; we
learned to see correctly, and through this very process to
form for ourselves a correct idea of the relations of things.
What we had conceived clearly we had no difficulty in
expressing clearly."

"The first elements of geography were taught us on the
spot. . . . Then we reproduced in relief with clay the valley
of which we had just made a study."

' ' We were made to invent geometry by having marked
out for us the end to reach, and by being put on the route.
The same course was followed in arithmetic ; our computa-
tions were made in the head and viva voce, without the aid
of paper."

513. Decadence of the Institute. — Yverdun enjoyed
an extraordinary notoriety for some years. But little by
little the faults of the method became apparent. Internal
discords and the misunderstanding of Pestalozzi's col-
leagues, of Niederer, " the philosopher of the method," and
of Schmid, the mathematician, hastened the decadence of


an establishment in which order and discipline had never
reigned. Pestalozzi was content with being the spur of the
institute. He became more and more unfit for practical
affairs. He allowed all liberty to his assistants, and also to
his pupils. At Yverdun the pupils addressed their teachers
in familiar style. The touching fiction of paternity trans-
ported into the school, which was successful with Pestalozzi
in his first experience in teaching, and with a small number
of pupils, was no longer practicable at Yverdun, with a mass

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 34 of 48)