Sunday, October 11, 2015

connectedness part two

Making inlay continues
One thing in reading Froebel that comes through clear is his reliance on the concept of God to make clear and palatable his pedagogical thoughts. The following is from Froebel and Education through Self-Activity by H. Courthope Bowen describing a conversation between Adolph Diesterweg and Froebel:
The night was clear, bright, and starry, as they drove home from Inselsberg to Liebenstein, and the beauty of the heavens had set them talking. "No one of the heavenly bodies is isolated; every planet has its centre in the sun of its system. All the solar systems are in relation and continual interaction with one another. This is the condition of all life — everywhere mutual relation of parts. As there above, in great things, unbroken connection and harmony rule, so also here below, even in the smallest thing; everywhere there are the same order and harmony, because the same law rules everywhere, the one law of God, which expresses itself in thousand-fold many-sidedness, but in the last analysis is one, for God is himself the law." "That is what people call pantheism," remarked Diesterweg. "And very unjustly," rejoined Froebel; "I do not say, like the pantheists, that the world is God's body, that God dwells in it, as in a house, but that the spirit of God dwells and lives in nature, produces, fosters, and unfolds everything, as the common life principle. As the spirit of the artist is found again in his masterpieces, so must we find God's spirit (Geist) in his works."
Have you not yourself, walked with friends along a pathway in a starry night and wondered at the billions of stars and the interrelationship between all things? You need not be religious to do so.

These days the concept of God no longer plays much role in secular educational thought. In fact, Adolph Diesterweg was an early advocate of the separation between schooling and religion. So the conversation between Froebel and Diesterweg is relevant even today. The idea that learning must lead beyond ourselves into feelings of connectedness with human culture and with the world of nature and of all else should be a simple matter of material concern in education. It is not necessary that schooling be tied to and utilized as a means of indoctrination in particular religious faiths in order to lead students to a sense of their own connectedness. The child must learn to get along with others. The child must learn to be respectful of human rights and be led to shoulder the burdens of adult responsibilities. The child must learn to see self in others and discover his or her place in the wholeness of life. And so whether or not a school is secular or non-secular, the responsibilities are the same, and even without reliance on the concept "God," children can discover both morality and what Froebel identified as "connectedness."

Those learnings are not effectively conveyed to modern kids through idle lecturing on values or by preaching on gospels or other ancient texts. Children learn about their own connectedness through doing real things. Schooling must lead children to discover that they have important roles to play in larger things. The cartoon shown above, illustrates the stark contrast between what education has become and what it might be.

Take a walk on a starry night and see what comes to mind. Then...

Make, fix, create, and discover your own role in helping others to learn likewise.


  1. What a wonderful quote from Froebel, Doug. Brings to mind John Ruskin, who said, "The system of the world is entirely one. Small things and great are part of one mighty whole." For him, the great law of connectedness and harmony, the "first law of the universe," was "the Law of Help." All things are helpful to each other; and in, through and by our work we are helpful, a part of life, a vital member of our communities, civilization and the universe, and so obey this great law. As Wm Morris said (inspired by Ruskin), the arts of humanity are how we "help in the work of creation."

    Such profound understandings as expressed by Froebel, Ruskin and Morris really helps one see the importance of the work of teaching children woodworking, and manual arts generally.

  2. Tim, thanks for the Ruskin and Morris quotes. And for reading, and encouraging my further thoughts.