Gabriel Compayré.

The history of pedagogy online

. (page 36 of 48)
Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 36 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

but without the blossoms of the lily, was for me like life
agitated and variegated, but without harmony and without

528. New Studies. — Froebel returned to Berlin in 1814,
and there obtained an assistant's place in the mineralogical


museum. He there studied at leisure the geometrical forms
of crystals, and reflected anew on their symbolical meaning.
Perhaps he derived from these studies the idea of the first
gifts which he afterwards introduced into his Kindergartens.
It was not till two years afterwards that he formed the defi-
nite resolution to devote himself to the education of youth
(1816). He first established himself at Griesheim, and then
at Keilhau (a league's distance from Rudolstadt), where,
with five pupils, all his nephews, he opened a school which
he called by a pompous title, and one hardly justifiable at
the beginuing, the General German Institute of Education.
He succeeded in associating with himself Langethal and
Middendorf. The establishment was administered at first on
a very modest scale, as the resources were slender ; but it
prospered little by little, and in 1826 it numbered more than
fifty pupils.

529. Institute at Keilhau. — The principles of Pestalozzi
were applied at Keilhau. Langethal and Middendorf
passed their apprenticeship in the Pestalozzian method under
the direction of Frcebel. The three professors met in the
common hall, and there were frequently heard as echoes
from their discussion the words : intuition, personal initia-
tive, proceeding from the known to the unknown. " They are
learning the system," said the children who heard them.

At Keilhau, physical, intellectual, and moral education
marched abreast. The master was to attempt to penetrate
the individuality of each child, to the end that he might thence
provoke the free development of that individuality. The
government was austere and the fare frugal. The system
of physical hardening was carried to an extreme. The
pupils, winter and summer, wore a blouse and cotton trou-
sers. A considerable time was devoted to religious exer-


cises. Froebel always remained attached to the Lutheran
Church, though his orthodoxy might have seemed open to
suspicion, and he always thought that education ought to be
essentially religious.

" All education that is not founded on religion is sterile."
And he adds, "All education that is not founded on the
Christian religion is defective and incomplete." 1

530. The Education of Man. — It was at Keilhau in
1826, that Froebel published his principal work, The Edu-
cation of Man. 2

At that date, the idea of Kindergartens had not yet taken
form in his mind ; and The Education of Man was not so
much the exposition of the practical applications of Frcebel's
method, as a nebulous and tumid development of his meta-
physical principles. It is a book little read, and, let it be
confessed, partly illegible! We have ventured to speak of
the nonsense written by Pestalozzi. What shall be said of
the mystical dreams of Froebel? The pedagogy of the Ger-
mans, like their philosophy, has for a century often lost its
way in strange theories which absolutely surpass the com-
prehension of the French mind. From a mass of vague and
pretentious speculations on universal nature, there are culled
with difficulty some ideas which are well founded. How-
ever, let us try to gather up the obscure idea of Froebel,
made still more obscure by the exterior form of the work.
In the first edition Froebel had omitted to introduce into the
text any division into chapters and paragraphs. The read-
ing of this uninterrupted text could not fail to be laborious ;
even with the somewhat artificial divisions which were subse-

1 See the Aphorisms published by Froebel in 1821.

2 See the French translation by Madame de Crombrugghe, Paris, 1881.
Also, the English translation by Josephine Jarvis, New York, 1885.


quently introduced, The Education of Man remains difficult
to read and to analyze.

531. Analysis of the Work. — The introduction is the
most interesting part of the work. We might reduce the
somewhat confused ideas which it contains to three essential
points, to three general ideas, of philosoph}', of psychology,
and of pedagogy.

The idea of general philosophy is this : " Everything comes
solely from God. In God is the unique principle of all

It is a vague pantheism which consists in believing that
all the objects of nature are the direct manifestations of the
divine activity.

" The end, the destiny of each thing, is to publish abroad
its being, the activity of God which operates in it, and the
manner in which this activity is combined with the thing."
From these premises Froebel is logically brought to this psy-
chological statement, that everything is good in man, for it
is God who acts in him. He pushes his optimism so far as
to say : —

"From his earliest age the child yields himself to justice
and right with a surprising tact, for we rarely see him avoid-
ing them voluntarily."

The pedagogical conclusion is easy to guess : Education
shall be essentially a work of liberty and of spontaneity. It
ought to be indulgent, flexible, supple, and restricted to pro-
tecting and overseeing.

" The vocation of man, considered as a reasonable intelli-
gence, is to let his nature act in manifesting the action of God,
who operates in him ; to publish God ontwardl} T , to acquire
the knowledge of his real destiny, and to accomplish it in all
liberty and spontaneity."


These last two words are repeated ad nauseam. Froebel
goes so far as to say that there can be no general form of
education to impose or even to recommend, because account
must be taken of the nature of each child, and the free
development of his individuality provoked by inviting him
to action and to personal exertion. The choice in the mani-
festation of the exterior form of education ought to be left
to the intelligence of the educator, and there ought to be
almost as many ways of educating men as there are individ-
uals, with their own natures aspiring to a personal develop-

532. Love for Children. — Froebel, and this is perhaps
his best quality, loves children tenderly. He speaks of
them with touching accents, but he does not fail to mingle
with his affection for them his habitual symbolism. The
child is not for him simply the little real being that he has
under his eyes. He sees him through mystic veils, so to
speak, and, as it were, crowned with an aureole : —

" Let the child always appear to us as a living pledge of
the presence, of the goodness, and of the love of God."

533. Unity of Education. — Froebel is always bitterly
complaining of the fragmentary and scrappy character of the
ordinary education. His dream was to introduce unity into
it. In this respect he separates himself squarely from Rous-
seau. The different stages of life form an uninterrupted
chain. " Let life be considered as being but one in all its
phases, as forming one complete whole."

534. Different Stages in the Development of Man.
— Froebel, in The Education of Man, considers in succes-
sion the different periods of life. The first three chapters
treat of the first stages of development in man, — the nurseling,
the child, the young boy. We here find pages full of charm,


upon the education of the child b} T the mother, and upon the
progress of the faculties ; but pretentious considerations
and whimsical interpretations too often come to spoil the
psychology of Froebel.

" The child," he says, " scarcely knows whether he loves
the flowers for themselves, for the delight which they give
him, ... or for the vague intuition which they give him of
the Creator."

Farther on he speaks of introducing the child to colors,
and from this exercise he at once draws moral conclusions :
the child loves colors because he comes by means of them
" to the knowledge of an interior unit} 7 ."

535. The Naturalism op Frcebel. — The elements of
education according to Froebel are, with religion, the artis-
tic studies, mathematics, language, and, above all, nature.
" Teachers should scarcely let a week pass without taking to
the country a part of their pupils. They shall not drive them
before them like a flock of sheep. . . . They shall walk with
them as a father among his children, or a brother among his
brothers, in making them observe and admire the varied
richness which nature displays to their eyes at each season
of the year."

536. New Experiments in Teaching. — The institute of
Keilhau did not long prosper. In 1829 it was necessary to
close it for lack of pupils. Froebel lacked the practical quali-
ties of an administrator. In 1831 he tried in vain to open a
new school at Wartensee in Switzerland. The attacks of the
clerical party obliged him to abandon his project. After
several other attempts he was elected director of an orphan
asjdum at Burgdorf ; and it was there that he resolved to
devote his pedagogical efforts to the education of early


The little village of Burgdorf had the honor, within a period
of thirty-five years, of offering an asylum to Pestalozzi and
to Froebel, and of being the scene of their experiments in

537. The Kindergartens. — The master conception of
Froebel, the creation of the Kindergarten, was only slowly
developed in his mind. It was only in 1840 that he invented
the term. Of course, given the imagination of Froebel, and
his tendenc}' to symbolism, children's garden ought to be
taken in its allegorical sense. The child is a plant, the school
a garden, and Froebel calls teachers " gardeners of chil-
dren." 1

But before giving a name to his school for early childhood,
Froebel had long cherished the idea of it. In 1835, at Bum'-
dorf, he attempted to realize it ; in 1837, at Blankenburg,
near Rudolstadt, he founded his first infant school.

538. Origin of the Kindergarten. — Without wishing to
belittle the originality of Froebel' s creation, it is right to say
that it was suggested to him in part by Comenius. The phil-
osopher Krause had pointed out to him the importance of the
writings of the Slavic educator. He studied them, and the
Kindergarten certainly has some relations of parenthood with
the schola materni gremii. There is, however, one essential
difference between the idea of Comenius and that of Froebel,
— the first confided to the mother the cares which the second
relegates to the teachers of the children's gardens.

It is said that it was from seeing a child playing at ball
that Froebel conceived the first idea of his system. We know

1 Consequently it is wrong to take Froebel 's expression in tbe sense that
he wished to establish by the side of each school a garden, a lawn planted
with trees and adorned with flower-beds. See Grcard, L' instruction pri-
maire a Paris, 1877, p. 73.


what importance he attached to the spherical form and to
play. The first principle of his Kindergarten was then that
the child ought to play, and to play at ball.

But Froebel enveloped the simplest ideas in prolix and
whimsical theories. If he recommends the ball, it is not for
positive reasons, nor because it is an inoffensive play, very
appropriate to the need of movement which characterizes the
child. It is because the ball is the symbol of unity. The
cube, which was to succeed the ball, represents diversity in
unity. It is also because the word ball is a symbolic word,
formed from letters borrowed from the German words Bild
von all, picture of the whole.

Froebel came to attribute an occult meaning to the differ-
ent letters of words. He thought he found in the figures of
the year 1836, the date of his first conception of the Kinder-
garten, the proof that that year was to open to humanity a
new era, and he expressed his views in an essay entitled :
The Year 1S36 requires a Renovation of Life. In this we
read such things as these : ' ' The word marriage (German
Ehe) represents by its two vowels e-e, life; these two vowels
are united by the consonant h, thus symbolizing a double
life which the spirit unites ; again, the two halves thus united
are similar and equal each to each : e-h-e." And farther on :
" AVhat does the word German (Deutsch) signify? It is de-
rived from the word deuten (signifying to manifest), which
designates the act by which self-conscious thought is clearly
manifested outwardly. ... To be a German is then to raise
one's self as an individual and as a whole, by a clear mani-
festation of one's self, to a clear consciousness of self."

539. The Gifts of Frcebel. — Under the graceful
name of gifts, Froebel presents to the child a certain number
of objects which are to serve as material for his exercises.


The five gifts are contained in a box from which they are
taken in succession, as the children are in a condition to re-
ceive them. In the original plan of Frcebel, these gifts
were: 1. the ball; 2. the sphere and the cube; 3. the cube
divided into eight equal parts ; 4. the cube divided into eight
rectangular parallelopipeds, in the form of building-bricks,
which the child will use as material for little constructions ;
5. the cube divided in each of its dimensions, that is, cut into
twenty-seven equal cubes ; three of them are subdivided into
two prisms, and three others into four prisms, by means of
an oblique section, single or double. 1 And to these gifts
Frcebel added other objects, such as thin strips of wood and
little sticks for constructing figures ; and bits of paper for
braiding, folding, dotting, etc.

The conception of Frcebel does not rest, as one might
think, on the adaptation of the objects which he chooses in
succession, to the faculties of the child. It is not this at all
which interests him. The order which he has adopted is
derived from another principle. According to him, the form
of bodies has an intimate relation with the general laws of
the universe. There is, consequently, a methodical grada-
tion to be observed, according to the intrinsic character of
the objects themselves, for the purpose of initiating the child
into the laws of the divine thought symbolized in the sphere,
in the cube, in the cylinder, etc. Frcebel was greatly irritated
at those of his scholars who misunderstood the philosophical
import of his " gifts," and who saw in them only plays.
" If my material for instruction possesses some utility," he
said, " it does not owe it to its exterior appearance, which
has nothing striking and offers no novelty. It owes it sim-

1 The disciples of Frcebel have'modified in differenl manners bis system
of gifts. See, for example, the Jardin <I\ nfants, by Goldammer, French
translation by Louis Fournier, 1877.


ply to the way in which I use it, that is, to my method
and to the philosophical law on which it is founded. The
justification of my system of education is entirely in this law;
according as this law is rejected or admitted, the system falls
or continues with it. All the rest is but material without any
value of its own."

It is this "material," however, which for Frcebel had no
value, that his admirers have above all preserved of his
method, without longer caring for the allegorical sense which
he attached to it.

540. Appeal to the Instincts of the Child. — That
which makes, notwithstanding so much that is whimsical, the
lasting merit of Frcebel's work, that which justifies iu part
the admiration which it has excited, is that he organized the
salle cl'asile, the infant school, and that he realized for it
that which Pestalozzi had attempted for the elementary
school. He knew how to make an appeal to the instincts of
the youngest child, to combine a system of exercises for the
training of the hand, for the education of the senses, to
satisfy the need of movement and activity which develops
itself from the first day of life, and, finally, to make of the
child a creator, a little artist alwa}'s at work.

For the old education, which he calls " a hot-house educa-
tion," and in which the instruction, premature through lan-
guage, smothers in their germs the native powers of the
child, in order to excite his memory and his judgment by
artificial means, — for this education he substitutes a free and
cheerful education which cultivates the faculties of the child
by love, and which makes a just estimate of his instincts.
Books are suppressed, and lessons also. The child freely
expands in play.

541. The Importance of Play. — With Froebel, play be-
came an essential element of education. This ingenious


teacher knew how to make of it an art, an instrument for the
development of the infant faculties.

"The plays of the child," he said, " are, as it were, the
germ of the whole life which is to follow, for the whole man
develops and manifests itself in it ; in it he reveals his
noblest aptitudes and the deepest elements of his being.
The whole life of man has its source in that epoch of exis-
tence, and whether that life is serene or sad, tranquil or
agitated, fruitful or sterile, whether it brings peace or war,
that depends on the care, more or less judicious, given to the
beginnings of existence."

542. Principal Needs of the Child. — Gr£ard, in a re-
markable study on the method of Frcebel, reduces the aspira-
tions of the child to three essential instincts : —

1 . The taste for observation : —

' ' All the senses of the child are on the alert ; all the ob-
jects which his sight or his hand encounters attract him,
interest him, delight him."

2. The need of activity, the taste for construction : —

" It is not enough that we show him objects ; it is neces-
sary that he touch them, that he handle them, that he appro-
priate them to himself. . . . He takes delight in construct-
ing ; he is naturally geometrician and artist."

3. Finally, the sentiment of personality : —

" He wishes to have his own place, his own occupation,
his own teacher."

Now Froebel's method has precisely for its object the
satisfaction of these different instincts.

" To place the child before a common table," says Greard,
" but with his own chair and a place that belongs to him, so
that he feels that he is the owner of his little domain ; to
excite at the very beginning his good will by the promise of


an interesting game ; to develop in succession under his
very eyes the marvels of the five gifts : to teach him in the
first place, from concrete objects exposed to his sight, balls
of colored worsted and geometrical solids, to distinguish
color, form, material, the different parts of a body, so as to
accustom him to see, that is, to seize the aspects, the figures,
the resemblances, the differences, the relations of things ;
then to place the objects in his hands, and to teach him to
make with the balls of colored worsted combinations of col-
ors agreeable to the eye, to arrange, with matches united
by balls of cork, squares, angles, triangles of all sorts, to
set up little"cubes in the form of crosses, pyramids, etc. ; —
then, either by means of strips of colored paper placed in
different directions, interlaced into one another, braided as a
weaver would make a fabric, or with the crayon, to drill him
in reproducing, in creating, designs representing all the
geometrical forms, so that to the habit of observation is
gradually joined that of invention ; finally, while his hand
is busy in concert with his intelligence, and while his need of
activity is satisfied, to take advantage of this awakened and
satisfied attention to fix in his mind by appropriate questions
some notions of the properties and uses of forms, by relating
them to some great principle of general order, simple and
fruitful, to mingle the practical lesson with moral observa-
tions, drawn in particular from the incidents of the school
— this, in its natural progress and its normal development, is
the method of Frcebel."

543. Defects in Frcebel's Method. — There is ground
for thinking, notwithstanding all, that Froebel's method is a
little complicated, a little artificial, and that it sometimes
pi'oceeds in opposition to the natural disposition of children.
Their soul, he said, cannot in the first period of its develop-


merit, recognize itself, apprehend itself, save in the percep-
tion of the simplest forms of the exterior world, presented in
a concrete manner. Now nature of herself does not offer
these elementary forms ; it is necessary to know how to ex-
tract them from the infinite diversity of things. And Frce-
bel found these simple forms in the sphere, the cube, and the

But these forms, we reply, are but abstractions ; it does
not suffice to say that the cube and the sphere are material
and palpable, — they are none the less the product of ab-
stract thought on this account ; nature does not present these
simple geometrical forms; everything in them is complex.
Now the nascent thought is emplo}-ed at first on real things,
on the living and irregular forms of animals and vegetables ;
then in this case, the mind proceeds naturally from the com-
plex to the simple, from the concrete to the abstract. It
seems, on the contrary, that Frcebel begins with the abstract
in order to arrive at the concrete.

In the school of Frcebel other defects have been developed.
An abuse has been made of the exercises in imitation and
invention. The child has been made to produce marvels of
construction which take too much of his time and demand of
him too much effort. It has been forgotten that these em-
ployments should be preparatory exercises, — means, and
not the end of education.

544. The Last Establishments of Frcebel. — Towards
1840, the ideas of Frcebel began to become popular. His
-methods attracted attention. Then he wished to transform
his school at Rlankenburg into a model establishment. He
addressed an appeal to the German nation in favor of his
work, but it was only slightly successful. Obliged in 1844
to close his institute, through lack of resources, he then


travelled through Germany in order to make known his
methods. He did not derive from his journey the profit that
he expected from it, and, discouraged, he returned once
more to Keilhau, where he opened a course in method, or a
normal course, for the use of young women who were pre-
paring themselves for the education of infants. This asso-
ciation with women, in which Froebel lived till his death,
exercised a profound influence on the development of his
system. A much greater share of attention was given to the
practical exercises, and the mathematics was put in the back-

In 1850 he obtained through the intervention of the Bar-
oness von Marenholtz, one of his most ardent admirers, the
lease of the Castle of Marienthal, and to this he transferred
his establishment. A long period of activity seemed open-
ing before him. He personally directed the games of the
children, and trained the teachers ; but he died suddenly
in 1852.

545. Froebel and Diesterweg. — However, before his
death, Froebel was able to witness the growing success of
his work. Each day he received eminent adhesions ; for ex-
ample, that of Diesterweg. 1 It was through the mediation
of the Baroness von Marenholtz that Froebel and Diesterweg,
the celebrated director of the normal school of Berlin, be-
came acquainted. Diesterweg was a strong and practical
spirit, who contributed much to the development of instruction
in Prussia. At first he had a contempt for Froebel, whom
he treated as a charlatan ; but on his first conversation with
him he changed his opinion. He was taken to the school-
room in which Froebel was teaching ; but wholly intent on

1 See on Diesterweg the article by Pe'caut, in the Dictionnaire de


his work, Froebel did not observe the presence of the visitor.
Diesterweg was impressed by seeing this old man devoting
himself entirely to his little pupils, and his prejudices disap-
peared. To a certain extent he became the propagator of
Froebel' s ideas. He agreed with him on his general concep-
tion of the needs of the child, and of the province of woman
as the earliest educator.

54G. Success of Frcebel's Work. — Froebel had other imi-

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 36 of 48)