Sunday, January 13, 2013

18th and 19th centuries...

A first grade teacher was recently fired for calling her children "future criminals" on Facebook. It seems the first amendment doesn't doesn't protect you from from the consequences of what you say in disdain toward others. And why should it? To accept responsibility for the care and teaching of children should be a sacred trust. One can only hope what she said was in jest.

I have been reading a free book from google play on my iPad, Pestalozzi by Henry Holman, and it is amazing how difficult the life of a great teacher can be. He went from one failed school experiment to the next, placing his family finances in a constant state of peril. He wore rags and often resembled the poor whose miseries he sought to alleviate through learning. And what finally seemed to have brought the world's attention to his message and methods was his intense sincerity and compassion for the poor in a time of great political and military turmoil in Switzerland and the surrounding nations.

After his first school closed in bankruptcy, he wrote a novel called Leonard and Gertrude about the life of poor folks and their troubles with government officials and the triumph of Gertrude's  strong character in shaping the destiny of the small village in which they lived. That book brought Pestalozzi, the author, a following throughout Europe. Later, as Switzerland faced tremendous unrest due to the displacement of communities and a huge number of orphans, Pestalozzi used his position as author of a popular novel to reassert his interest in education by starting new schools which then became famous throughout the world.

And so why my interest in the 17th and 18th centuries? It is amazing to me that teachers can arise to positions in schools without getting in touch with what education was about in the first place and without having some greater sense of responsibility to the children they are chosen to educate. Fortunately the teacher mentioned above is not the norm (and hopefully those were not her true feelings). But what is the norm these days is that teachers are not educated in the history of thought concerning what they do. Can you imagine being a doctor and unacquainted with the history of medicine? But ask a teacher about Comenius or Pestalozzi and see what comes up.

Ask any math teacher and you will learn that two points form a straight line. If you've worked with graphics programs you know that 3 points can make a curved line or form a plane. If you know the order in which those points were created, you'll have a vector. A vector has direction, and you'll have at least a general impression where the line's going next. If you look at the history of education, back to the 17-1800s, you get some clear impressions about what education was for in the first place. And in an examination of those important foundational folks*, you'll arrive at a greater sense of mission and of purpose. And sadly, the history of education is being brushed aside as though it doesn't matter. Most in education these days only have eyes and ears for the latest technologies and methods. What is forgotten in all the newest schemes is the purposeful engagement of hands. And you cannot read at the heart of *Comenius, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Salomon, Cygnaeus, Montesorri, or Dewey coming to a slightly better understanding of the hands.

When things come down to the level of touch, and being touched (Pestalozzi was thought crazed), there is greater opportunity for individualized engagement of each child. And so the history of manual arts in schools holds forth some very basic principles concerning general education. Can it offer a direction for the future? That is in your hands as much as mine.

Perhaps you wonder how important Pestalozzi was in the development of educational Sloyd. When Otto Salomon visited Pestalozzi's gravesite, he picked up a stone which occupied a position on his desk the rest of his life. I have a similar stone on my desk, one which I picked up at the gravesite of Otto Salomon and August Abrahamson at Nääs.

Make, fix and create...


5 comments:

jessica wilson said...

Thank you for this! I have been searching for more info on Pestalozzi and Froebel for a long while. I do not have an e-reader but I hope I can download this book either way. One thing I find that seems to be a constant is that the problems educators have had thorughout history seem to never change. One would think we might learn from all this history.

jessica wilson said...

Thank you for this! I have been searching for more info on Pestalozzi and Froebel for a long while. I do not have an e-reader but I hope I can download this book either way. One thing I find that seems to be a constant is that the problems educators have had thorughout history seem to never change. One would think we might learn from all this history.

Lucilyn labajo said...
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Mario Núñez said...

It seems perfectly "normal" that Pestalozzi was considered to be crazy. He was coming up with new ideas, and they always seem crazy.

Mario

Tonja said...

This is cool!