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TOBLER'S EARLY EXPERIMENTS.
to afford. But when he undertook, as private tutor in one of the first families in Basel, the care of several children, it fell as scales from his eyes. His experiments, his failures, and the views to which they gave rise, are detailed by himself in the following account, which is inserted in his own words in the course of Pestalozzi's letters.
“After having been, for six years, practically engaged in education, I found the result of my labours by no means answering my expectations. The
energy of the children, their internal powers, did not increase according to the measure of my exertions, nor even in proportion to the extent of positive information which they had acquired : nor did the knowledge which I imparted to them appear to me to have a sufficiently strong hold upon their minds, or to be so well connected in its various parts, as I felt it ought to be.
“I made use of the best juvenile works that were to be had at that time. But these books contained words, of which the greater part were unintelligible to children, and ideas far beyond the sphere of their own experience; and consequently formed, altogether, so strong a contrast with the mode of thinking, feeling, and speaking, natural to their age, that it took endless time and trouble to explain all that they could not understand. But this process of explaining was in itself a tedious job, and, after all, it did no more towards advancing their true internal development, than is done towards dispelling darkness by introducing a few detached rays of light in a dark room, or in the obscurity of a dense, impenetrable mist. The reason of this was, that these books descended to the profoundest depths of human knowledge, or ascended above the clouds, nay, and to the uppermost heavens of eternal glory, before an opportunity was offered to the children of resting their feet on the solid ground of mother earth ; on which, nevertheless, it is absolutely necessary that men should be allowed to stand, if they are to learn walking before flying; and for the latter, moreover, if it is to be flying indeed, their wings must have time to grow.
“ An obscure foreboding of these truths in my mind, induced me, at an early period, to try to entertain my younger pupils with matters of immediate perception, and to clear up the ideas of the elder ones by Socratic conversations. The result of the former plan was, that the little ones acquired a variety of knowledge not generally to be met with at that age. I endeavoured to combine this mode of instruction with the methods I found in the most approved works; but whichever of those books I took in hand, they were all written in such a manner as to presuppose the very thing which the children were in a great measure to acquire by them, viz. the knowledge of language. The consequence was, that my Socratic conversations with the elder pupils led to no better result than all other explanations
HIS ATTENTION DRAWN TO PESTALOZZI.
of words by words, to which no real knowledge corresponds in the children's minds, and of which they have, consequently, no clear notion, as regards either each of them taken separately, or the connexion in which they are placed together. This was the case with my pupils, and, therefore, the explanation which they seemed to understand to-day, would a few days after be completely vanished from their minds, in a manner to me incomprehensible; and the more pains I took to make every thing plain to them, the less did they evince energy or desire to rescue things from that obscurity and confusion in which they naturally appear.
“With such experience daily before me, I felt myself invincibly impeded in my progress to the end which I had proposed to myself. I began to converse on the subject with as many schoolmasters, and others engaged or interested in education, as were accessible to me, in whatever direction : but I found, that although their libraries were well furnished with works on education, of which our age has been so productive, yet they saw themselves placed in the same difficulty with myself, and were no more successful with their pupils than I was with mine. Seeing this, I felt with what an increased weight these difficulties must oppress the masters of public schools, unless, indeed, they were rendered too callous for such a feeling by a professional spirit. I had a strong, but, unfortunately, not a clear impression of the defects of education in all its departments, and I exerted myself to the utmost to find a remedy. I made a determination to collect, partly from my own experience, and partly from works on the subject, all the means, methods, and contrivances, by which it seemed to me possible that the difficulties under which I laboured, might be removed at every stage of instruction. But I soon found that my life would not suffice for that purpose. Meanwhile I had already completed whole volumes of scraps and extracts, when Fisher, in several of his letters, drew my attention to the method of Pestalozzi. I soon began to suspect that he was about to reach the end I was aiming at, without my circuitous means; and that most of my difficulties arose out of the very nature of the plan which I followed, and which was far too scientific and systematic. I then began to see, that in the same manner the artificial methods, invented in our age, were the very sources of all the defects of modern education. On the contrary, I saw Pestalozzi equally free from my peculiar difficulties, and from the general failings, and I accounted for this by the fact, that he rejected all our ingenious contrivances, all our well-framed systems. Some of the means employed by him, that for instance of making children draw on slates, seemed to me so simple, that my only puzzle was, how I could have gone on so long without hitting upon them. I was struck with the idea that all his discoveries, seemed to be of the kind which might be termed “obvious;" they were none of them far-fetched. But what most attached me to his method, was his principle of re-educating mothers for that for which they are origi
FIRST IMPRESSIONS IN
nally destined by nature;* for this principle I had long cherished and kept in view, in the course of my experiments.
“I was confirmed in these views by Kruesi, who, at his visit in Basel, gave, in the girl's school, practical specimens of Pestalozzi's mode of teaching spelling, reading, and arithmetic. Pastor Faesch, and Mr. De Brunn, who had in part organized the instruction and management of that institution, according to the loose hints which had as yet reached us on the Pestalozzian method, perceived immediately what a powerful impression was produced upon the children by their spelling and reading together in a stated measure of time. Kruesi had also brought with him some school materials for the instruction in writing and arithmetic, and some leaves of a vocabulary, which Pestalozzi intended to draw up as a first reading-book for children; which enabled us to see the bearing which Pestalozzi's method had upon the development of the different faculties of human nature. All this contributed to mature in me, very rapidly, the determination to join Pestalozzi, according to his wish.
“I went to Burgdorf, and the first impression of the experiment, in the state in which it then was, fully answered my expectations. I was astonished to see what a striking degree of energy the children generally evinced, and how simple, and yet manifold, were the means of development by which that energy was elicited. Pestalozzi took no notice whatever of all the existing systems and methods; the ideas which he presented to the minds of his pupils were all extremely simple; his means of instruction were distinctly subdivided, each part being calculated for a precise period in the progress of development; whatever was complicated and confused, he rejected; by a few words he conveyed much, and with little apparent exertion produced a powerful effect; he kept always close to the point then under consideration ; some of his branches of instruction seemed like a new crea
Abstracting those fancisul creatures to whom fashion and amusement give their life, their value, and their reward, mothers may be divided into two classes, “the managers” and “ the blue stockings:” the former have no time for any thing that is foreign to the great purpose of carrying on the animal economy of their households ; the latter spoil whatever comes within their reach, by that extravagant blue tint for which they are celebrated, and with which, they can no more than the chimneysweeper with his black hands, help soiling every thing that comes under their fingers. Yet there remains between, or rather above the two extremes, a third class of mothers, who, with a heart concentrated in the fulfilment of their high calling, and animated by the impulse of heavenly love for what is or may become heavenly in their children, pursue that one object in singleness and in simplicity, with energy and with intelligence, with assiduity but without fidget, with dignity but without parade. This class of mothers, however, unfor. tunately for our species, is more ideal than real. We know, it is true, a few mothers that belong to it, or, at least, endeavour to reach it; but they are few, indeed!
EXPERIMENTAL CHARACTER OF THE PLAN.
tion, raised from the elements of art and nature : all this I saw, and . my attention was excited to the highest degree.
“ There were some parts of his experiment, it is true, which seemed to me rather unnatural; of this description was, for instance, the repetition of difficult and complicated sentences, which could not, at first, but make a very confused impression upon his pupils. But I saw, on the other hand, what a power he had of leading children into clear ideas; yet I mentioned my doubts to him. His answer was, that nature herself presented all sorts of perceptions to our senses in confusion and obscurity, and that she brings them to clearness afterwards. To this argument I had nothing to reply, * especially as I saw that he attached no value to the details of his experiment, but tried many of them with a view to throw them aside again, as soon as they should have answered their temporary purpose. With many of them he had no other object than to increase the internal power of the children, and to obtain for himself further information concerning the fundamental principles on which all his proceedings rested. I resolved, therefore, not to mind the apparent inadequacy of some of his means, so much the more as I had come to the conviction, that the further pursuit of the experiment necessarily involved the improvement of the details of the method. This was perfectly evident already in arithmetic, in drawing, and in the rudiments of language.
“ I perceived, likewise, that by the connexion which his different means of instruction had with each other, every one of them, individually, was instrumental in promoting the success of all the others, and, especially, in developing and strengthening the faculties generally. Long before he began
* The obvious reply was, that the perceptions which nature presents, however confused, or otherwise obscure, they may be, are realities, and therefore contain in themselves the very elements of clearness, and at the same time, a strong inducement to search for those elements. But confused impressions made upon us by words, are not realities but mere sbadows; they have in themselves the elements of confusion, and they offer neither an inducement, nor the means, for clearing them up. The former call out the mind, the latter crump it. The very power which Pestalozzi possessed over his pupils, what was it owing to, according to the statements both of himself and his friends, but to his making a rule of supplying the child with a clear and distinct notion of the reality, before he gave him the sign or shadow, the name? In the progress of his narrative he declares himself, that it was one of the characteristic features of his method of teaching language, that he reduced it to the utmost simplicity, “by excluding from it every combination of words which presupposes a knowledge of language.” He was not, however, at all times, equally clear on this point, although it lies at the very foundation of all his improvements in elementary instruction ; and the darkness, in which it occasionally presented itself to his mind, is, more than any thing we could say, calculated to vindicate him against the imputation of being a mere theorist; for his theory was throughout the fruit of practice, bis philosophy of the human mind essentially experimental.
PRACTICABILITY OF POPULAR IMPROVEMENT.
.to lay down his principles in stated terms, I saw, in the daily observation of their practical effect, the approaching maturity of the whole undertaking, and, as an infallible consequence of it, the gradual attainment of the object he had in view. In trying the details of his method, he never leaves any single exercise until he has so far investigated and simplified it, that it seems physically impossible to advance any farther. Seeing the indefatigable zeal with which he did this, I was more and more confirmed in a sentiment, of which I had before had some indistinct notion, that all the attempts at fostering the development of human nature, by means of a complicated and artificial language, must necessarily end in a failure; but that, on the contrary, a method intended to assist nature in the course of human development, must be characterised by the utmost simplicity in all the means of instruction, and more especially in language, which should be a faithful expression of the simplicity of both the child's own mind, and the objects and ideas which are employed for its cultivation. I now began to understand, by degrees, what he meant by introducing a variety of distinctions in the instruction of language; by aiming, in his arithmetical instruction, at nothing else but producing in the child's mind a clear and indelible conviction that all arithmetic was nothing else but an abridgment of the simple process of enumeration, and the numbers themselves nothing but an abridgment of the wearisome repetition, one, and one, and one, and one; and, lastly, by declaring an early development of the faculty of drawing lines, angles, curves, and figures, to be the groundwork of art, and even of the capacity, which so few men possess, of taking a distinct view of visible objects.
“I could not but feel every day more confirmed in the notions which I had formed of the manifold advantages of his method, by being a constant witness of the effects produced by a general development of the mental faculties in the arts of measuring, calculating, writing, and drawing. I grew more and more convinced that it was possible to accomplish what I have before stated to have been the leading object of my own pursuits at a previous period, viz. to re-educate mothers for the fulfilment of that sacred task assigned to them by nature, the result of which would be, that even the first instruction imparted in schools, would have previous maternal tuition for a foundation to rest on. I saw a practical method discovered, which, admitting of universal application, would enable parents, who have the welfare of their offspring at heart, to become themselves the teachers of their little ones. From that moment, popular improvement ceased to be dependent on the circuitous plan of training teachers in expensive seminaries, and with the aid of extensive libraries.
“ In short, the result of the first impression produced upon my mind by the whole of Pestalozzi's experiment, and of the observations I have since been able to make on the details of his method, has been, to re-establish in my
heart that faith which I held so dear at the onset of my career, but which I had almost lost under the pressure of systems sanctioned by the fashion of the day, faith in the practicability of popular improvement.