Monday, February 10, 2020

Gertrude

Johan Heinrich Pestalozzi was kind of an "absent-minded professor" of education. He had written a novel, Leonard and Gertrude about a poor mother and her stone mason husband in a small village dominated by a bailiff who used his tavern to keep the citizens drunk, indebted to him and subject to his control. Gertrude was a righteous woman, who despite her poverty, used her creative resources to keep her family fed, clean and clothed while her husband suffered from drunkenness under the malicious influence of the Bailiff. Gertrude managed to get her husband's attention, and thence commenced the story of how a whole community was restored to prosperity and righteousness.

In real life Pestalozzi had been brought up by his mother in relative poverty after the death of his father. So when he devised his method of schooling his intent was primarily to serve the poor. His books, Leonard and Gertrude and How Gertrude Teaches Her Children are both available from Google books for free, so with a bit of free reading you can become as much an expert on his life as I am. His schools were one failed attempt after another from a financial point of view. His book How Gertrude Teaches Her Children was his attempt in the form of letters to explain his educational method. Pestalozzi had a profound effect on the rise of progressive education through his books and through visits by important folks to the various schools he founded.

Much of modern educational policy is driven from the top down rather than from the bottom up. Pestalozzi recognized the power of the simple individual to take matters into his or her own hands and bring profound changes in their own lives and in their communities. How Gertrude conducted herself in relation to her children, husband and community offered a profound example that influenced Froebel in his development of Kindergarten, then Cygnaeus in the founding of the Finnish Folk Schools, and then Salomon in the development of educational Sloyd. Pestalozzi's approach was from a radically different angle from the current efforts at educational reform in the US. We all know that things are broken. Most expect others to fix things.

Both Pestalozzi and Froebel (who had visited Pestalozzi) recognized the value of young mothers as being their child's first teacher. One of the things that poverty tends to do is to extract young mothers and fathers from this important role. Fix the problems associated with poverty and you'll go a long way toward fixing American education by giving young mothers and fathers more time to fulfill their traditional roles.

Pestalozzi was known for his enormous compassion for the poor. So his books can be an inspiration, even today.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

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