Monday, May 03, 2021

development of form

While modern education seems to have fallen on the narrow shoulders of the alphabet, and so many children (even in pre-school and Kindergarten) bear the heavy burden of letters and have chosen to shrug off such a heavy load,  Pestalozzi had recommended an "alphabet of form". The idea was that there were things other than reading that offered value of study. Form for instance. All learning was to arise from the senses first, and from the child's direct experience. The illustration above is from How Gertrude Teaches Her Children, Pestalozzi's book that proposed a revolution in education. It was based on how an exceptional mother might take care of her children and influence her community.

If you think of progressive education as a relay race with the baton being passed from one to another, Comenius handed off to Rousseau, Rousseau to Pestalozzi, Pestalozzi to Froebel, Froebel to Cygnaeus and Salomon (running side by side) and then Salomon to Dewey (even though they never actually met.) As has always been the case, most runners think only of themselves and their part in the race, and may be inclined to ignore the contributions of those who handed off to them. Maria Montessori, for instance, was critical of the performance of Froebel, even though her method was not independent from the foundation Froebel laid in the invention of Kindergarten. Education as to form, was one of the important differences perceived by N. Christian Jacobsen between Danish Sloyd and Swedish Sloyd.

Swedish Sloyd, as taught by Salomon was deeply rooted in the progressive tradition launched by Comenius, in which children were to learn from experience, and adults responsible for their learning would take advantage of their greatest resource... the natural inclination of the child to follow their own interests in learning. To ignore those interests, in the view of Comenius would be to lay obstacles in the path of effective teaching.

The alphabet of letters (in the view of most progressive educators) could wait until after the child had been guided to make intellectual sense of their own perceptions. And so for Salomon, and as he tried to reinforce through his lectures in 5 languages, Educational Sloyd was about the development of the whole child, and was part of a philosophical lineage of progressive education. And it was extremely important to him that his students (teachers) understood their own positions in the development of education. He knew that at some point, time would march past him, just as time had eclipsed Pestalozzi, and that educational sloyd was but a "casting mold" from which an even more modern and progressive system of education would emerge. It may be of interest to readers that Salomon kept a stone from Pestalozzi's gravesite on his desk as a reminder of his role in an historic progression. It may seem egotistical to some that I have a stone from Salomon's gravesite on my own desk.

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

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