The Story Of My Life From Childhood To Manhood by Georg Ebers
Chapter XII. Friedrich Froebel's Ideal of Education.
Dangerous enterprises were of course forbidden, but the teachers of the institute neglected no means of training our bodies to endure every exertion and peril; for Froebel was still alive, and the ideal of education, for whose realization he had established the Keilhau school, had become to his assistants and followers strong and healthy realities. But Froebel's purpose did not require the culture of physical strength. His most marked postulates were the preservation and development of the individuality of the boys entrusted to his care, and their training in German character and German nature; for he beheld the sum of all the traits of higher, purer manhood united in those of the true German.
Love for the heart, strength for the character, seemed to him the highest gifts with which he could endow his pupils for life.
He sought to rear the boy to unity with himself, with God, with Nature, and with mankind, and the way led to trust in God through religion, trust in himself by developing the strength of mind and body, and confidence in mankind--that is, in others, by active relations with life and a loving interest in the past and present destinies of our fellow-men. This required an eye and heart open to our surroundings, sociability, and a deeper insight into history. Here Nature seems to be forgotten. But Nature comes into the category of religion, for to him religion means: To know and feel at one with ourselves, with God, and with man; to be loyal to ourselves, to God, and to Nature: and to remain in continual active, living relations with God.
The teacher must lead the pupils to men as well as to God and Nature, and direct them from action to perception and thought. For action he takes special degrees, capacity, skill, trustworthiness; for perception, consciousness, insight, clearness. Only the practical and clear-sighted man can maintain himself as a thinker, opening out as a teacher new trains of thought, and comprehending the basis of what is already acquired and the laws which govern it.
Froebel wishes to have the child regarded as a bud on the great tree of life, and therefore each pupil needs to be considered individually, developed mentally and physically, fostered and trained as a bud on the huge tree of the human race. Even as a system of instruction, education ought not to be a rigid plan, incapable of modification, it should be adapted to the individuality of the child, the period in which it is growing to maturity, and its environment. The child should be led to feel, work, and act by its own experiences in the present and in its home, not by the opinions of others or by fixed, prescribed rules. From independent, carefully directed acts and knowledge, perceptions, and thoughts, the product of this education must come forth--a man, or, as it is elsewhere stated, a thorough German. At Keilhau he is to be perfected, converted into a finished production without a flaw. If the institute has fulfilled its duty to the individual, he will be:
To his native land, a brave son in the hour of peril, in the spirit of self-sacrifice and sturdy strength.
To the family, a faithful child and a father who will secure prosperity.
To the state, an upright, honest, industrious citizen.
To the army, a clear-sighted, strong, healthy, brave soldier and leader.
To the trades, arts, and sciences, a skilled helper, an active promoter, a worker accustomed to thorough investigation, who has grown to maturity in close intercourse with Nature.
To Jesus Christ, a faithful disciple and brother; a loving, obedient child of God.
To mankind, a human being according to the image of God, and not according to that of a fashion journal.
No one is reared for the drawing-room; but where there is a drawing-room in which mental gifts are fostered and truth finds an abode, a true graduate of Keilhau will be an ornament. "No instruction in bowing and tying cravats is necessary; people learn that only too quickly," said Froebel.
The right education must be a harmonious one, and must be thoroughly in unison with the necessary phenomena and demands of human life.
Thus the Keilhau system of education must claim the whole man, his inner as well as his outer existence. Its purpose is to watch the nature of each individual boy, his peculiarities, traits, talents, above all, his character, and afford to all the necessary development and culture. It follows step by step the development of the human being, from the almost instinctive impulse to feeling, consciousness, and will. At each one of these steps each child is permitted to have only what he can bear, understand, and assimilate, while at the same time it serves as a ladder to the next higher step of development and culture. In this way Froebel, whose own notes, collected from different sources, we are here following, hopes to guard against a defective or misdirected education; for what the pupil knows and can do has sprung, as it were, from his own brain. Nothing has been learned, but developed from within. Therefore the boy who is sent into the world will understand how to use it, and possess the means for his own further development and perfection from step to step.
Every human being has a talent for some calling or vocation, and strength for its development. It is the task of the institute to cultivate the powers which are especially requisite for the future fulfilment of the calling appointed by Nature herself. Here, too, the advance must be step by step. Where talent or inclination lead, every individual will be prepared to deal with even the greatest obstacles, and must possess even the capacity to represent externally what has been perceived and thought--that is, to speak and write clearly and accurately--for in this way the intellectual power of the individual will first be made active and visible to others. We perceive that Froebel strongly antagonizes the Roman postulate that knowledge should be imparted to boys according to a thoroughly tested method and succession approved by the mature human intellect, and which seem most useful to it for later life.
The systematic method which, up to the time of Pestalozzi, prevailed in Germany, and is again embodied in our present mode of education, seemed to him objectionable. The Swiss reformer pointed out that the mother's heart had instinctively found the only correct system of instruction, and set before the pedagogue the task of watching and cultivating the child's talents with maternal love and care. He utterly rejected the old system, and Froebel stationed himself as a fellow-combatant at his side, but went still further. This stand required a high degree of courage at the time of the founding of Keilhau, when Hegel's influence was omnipotent in educational circles, for Hegel set before the school the task of imparting culture, and forgot that it lacked the most essential conditions; for the school can give only knowledge, while true education demands a close relation between the person to be educated and the world from which the school, as Hegel conceived it, is widely sundered.
Froebel recognized that the extent of the knowledge imparted to each pupil was of less importance, and that the school could not be expected to bestow on each individual a thoroughly completed education, but an intellect so well trained that when the time came for him to enter into relations with the world and higher instructors he would have at his disposal the means to draw from both that form of culture which the school is unable to impart. He therefore turned his back abruptly on the old system, denied that the main object of education was to meet the needs of afterlife, and opposed having the interests of the child sacrificed to those of the man; for the child in his eyes is sacred, an independent blessing bestowed upon him by God, towards whom he has the one duty of restoring to those who confided it to him in a higher degree of perfection, with unfolded mind and soul, and a body and character steeled against every peril. "A child," he says, "who knows how to do right in his own childish sphere, will grow naturally into an upright manhood."
With regard to instruction, his view, briefly stated, is as follows: The boy whose special talents are carefully developed, to whom we give the power of absorbing and reproducing everything which is connected with his talent, will know how to assimilate, by his own work in the world and wider educational advantages, everything which will render him a perfect and thoroughly educated man. With half the amount of preliminary knowledge in the province of his specialty, the boy or youth dismissed by us as a harmoniously developed man, to whom we have given the methods requisite for the acquisition of all desirable branches of knowledge, will accomplish more than his intellectual twin who has been trained according to the ideas of the Romans (and, let us add, Hegel).
I think Froebel is right. If his educational principles were the common property of mankind, we might hope for a realization of Jean Paul's prediction that the world would end with a child's paradise. We enjoyed a foretaste of this paradise in Keilhau. But when I survey our modern gymnasia, I am forced to believe that if they should succeed in equipping their pupils with still greater numbers of rules for the future, the happiness of the child would be wholly sacrificed to the interests of the man, and the life of this world would close with the birth of overwise greybeards. I might well be tempted to devote still more time to the educational principles of the man who, from the depths of his full, warm heart, addressed to parents the appeal, "Come, let us live for our children," but it would lead me beyond the allotted limits.
Many of Froebel's pedagogical principles undoubtedly appear at first sight a pallid theorem, partly a matter of course, partly impracticable. During our stay in Keilhau we never heard of these claims, concerning which we pupils were the subject of experiment. Far less did we feel that we were being educated according to any fixed method. We perceived very little of any form of government. The relation between us and our teachers was so natural and affectionate that it seemed as if no other was possible.
Yet, when I compared our life at Keilhau with the principles previously mentioned, I found that Barop, Middendorf, and old Langethal, as well as the sub-teachers Bagge, Budstedt, and Schaffner, had followed them in our education, and succeeded in applying many of those which seemed the most difficult to carry into execution. This filled me with sincere admiration, though I soon perceived that it could have been done only by men in whom Froebel had transplanted his ideal, men who were no less enthusiastic concerning their profession than he, and whose personality predestined them to solve successfully tasks which presented difficulties almost unconquerable by others.
Every boy was to be educated according to his peculiar temperament, with special regard to his disposition, talents, and character. Although there were sixty of us, this was actually done in the case of each individual.
Thus the teachers perceived that the endowments of my brother, with whom I had hitherto shared everything, required a totally different system of education from mine. While I was set to studying Greek, he was released from it and assigned to modern languages and the arts and sciences. They considered me better suited for a life of study, him qualified for some practical calling or a military career.
Even in the tasks allotted to each, and the opinions passed upon our physical and mental achievements, there never was any fixed standard. These teachers always kept in view the whole individual, and especially his character. Thereby the parents of a Keilhau pupil were far better informed in many respects than those of our gymnasiasts, who so often yield to the temptation of estimating their sons' work by the greater or less number of errors in their Latin exercises.
It afforded me genuine pleasure to look through the Keilhau reports. Each contained a description of character, with a criticism of the work accomplished, partly with reference to the pupil's capacity, partly to the demands of the school. Some are little masterpieces of psychological penetration.
Many of those who have followed these statements will ask how the German nature and German character can be developed in the boys.
It was thoroughly done in Keilhau.
But the solution of the problem required men like Langethal and Middendorf, who, even in their personal appearance models of German strength and dignity, had fought for their native land, and who were surpassed in depth and warmth of feeling by no man.
I repeat that what Froebel termed German was really the higher traits of human character; but nothing was more deeply imprinted on our souls than love for our native land. Here the young voices not only extolled the warlike deeds of the brave Prussians, but recited with equal fervor all the songs with which true patriotism has inspired German poets. Perhaps this delight in Germanism went too far in many respects; it fostered hatred and scorn of everything "foreign," and was the cause of the long hair and cap, pike and broad shirt collar worn by many a pupil. Yet their number was not very large, and Ludo, our most intimate friends, and I never joined them.
Barop himself smiled at their "Teutonism" but indulged it, and it was stimulated by some of the teachers, especially the magnificent Zeller, so full of vigour and joy in existence. I can still see the gigantic young Swiss, as he made the pines tremble with his "Odin, Odin, death to the Romans!"
One of the pupils, Count zur Lippe, whose name was Hermann, was called "Arminius," in memory of the conqueror of Varus. But these were external things.
On the other hand, how vividly, during the history lesson, Langethal, the old warrior of 1813, described the course of the conflict for liberty!
Friedrich Froebel had also pronounced esteem for manual labour to be genuinely and originally German, and therefore each pupil was assigned a place where he could wield spades and pickaxes, roll stones, sow, and reap.
These occupations were intended to strengthen the body, according to Froebel's rules, and absorbed the greater part of the hours not devoted to instruction.
Midway up the Dissauberg was the spacious wrestling-ground with the shooting-stand, and in the court-yard of the institute the gymnasium for every spare moment of the winter. There fencing was practised with fleurets (thrusting swords), not rapiers, which Barop rightly believed had less effect upon developing the agility of youthful bodies. Even when boys of twelve, Ludo and I, like most of the other pupils, had our own excellent rifles, a Christmas gift from our mother, and how quickly our keen young eyes learned to hit the bull's-eye! There was good swimming in the pond of the institute, and skating was practised there on the frozen surface of the neighbouring meadow; then we had our coasting parties at the "Upper House" and down the long slope of the Dissau, the climbing and rambling, the wrestling and jumping over the backs of comrades, the ditches, hedges, and fences, the games of prisoner's base which no Keilhau pupil will ever forget, the ball-playing and the various games of running for which there was always time, although at the end of the year we had acquired a sufficient amount of knowledge. The stiffest boy who came to Keilhau grew nimble, the biceps of the veriest weakling enlarged, the most timid nature was roused to courage. Indeed, here, if anywhere, it required courage to be cowardly.
If Froebel and Langethal had seen in the principle of comradeship the best furtherance of discipline, it was proved here; for we formed one large family, and if any act really worthy of punishment, no mere ebullition of youthful spirits, was committed by any of the pupils, Barop summoned us all, formed us into a court of justice, and we examined into the affair and fixed the penalty ourselves. For dishonourable acts, expulsion from the institute; for grave offences, confinement to the room--a punishment which pledged even us, who imposed it, to avoid all intercourse with the culprit for a certain length of time. For lighter misdemeanours the offender was confined to the house or the court-yard. If trivial matters were to be censured this Areopagus was not convened.
And we, the judges, were rigid executors of the punishment. Barop afterwards told me that he was frequently compelled to urge us to be more gentle. Old Froebel regarded these meetings as means for coming into unity with life. The same purpose was served by the form of our intercourse with one another, the pedestrian excursions, and the many incidents related by our teachers of their own lives, especially the historical instruction which was connected with the history of civilization and so arranged as to seek to make us familiar not only with the deeds of nations and bloody battles, but with the life of the human race.
In spite of, or on account of, the court of justice I have just mentioned, there could be no informers among us, for Barop only half listened to the accuser, and often sent him harshly from the room without summoning the school-mate whom he accused. Besides, we ourselves knew how to punish the sycophant so that he took good care not to act as tale-bearer a second time.
MANNERS, AND FROEBEL'S KINDERGARTEN
The wives of the teachers had even more to do with our deportment than the dancing-master, especially Frau Barop and her husband's sister Frau von Born, who had settled in Keilhau on account of having her sons educated there.
The fact that the head-master's daughters and several girls, who were friends or relatives of his family, shared many of our lessons, also contributed essentially to soften the manners of the young German savages.
I mention our "manners" especially because, as I afterwards learned, they had been the subject of sharp differences of opinion between Friedrich Froebel and Langethal, and because the arguments of the former are so characteristic that I deem them worthy of record.
There could be no lack of delicacy of feeling on the part of the founder of the kindergarten system, who had said, "If you are talking with any one, and your child comes to ask you about anything which interests him, break off your conversation, no matter what may be the rank of the person who is speaking to you," and who also directed that the child should receive not only love but respect. The first postulate shows that he valued the demands of the soul far above social forms. Thus it happened that during the first years of the institute, which he then governed himself, he was reproached with paying too little attention to the outward forms, the "behaviour," the manners of the boys entrusted to his care. His characteristic answer was: "I place no value on these forms unless they depend upon and express the inner self. Where that is thoroughly trained for life and work, externals may be left to themselves, and will supplement the other." The opponent admits this, but declares that the Keilhau method, which made no account of outward form, may defer this "supplement" in a way disastrous to certain pupils. Froebel's answer is: "Certainly, a wax pear can be made much more quickly and is just as beautiful as those on the tree, which require a much longer time to ripen. But the wax pear is only to look at, can barely be touched, far less could it afford refreshment to the thirsty and the sick. It is empty--a mere nothing! The child's nature, it is said, resembles wax. Very well, we don't grudge wax fruits to any one who likes them. But nothing must be expected from them if we are ill and thirsty; and what is to become of them when temptations and trials come, and to whom do they not come? Our educational products must mature slowly, but thoroughly, to genuine human beings whose inner selves will be deficient in no respect. Let the tailor provide for the clothes."
Froebel himself was certainly very careless in the choice of his. The long cloth coat in which I always saw him was fashioned by the village tailor, and the old gentleman probably liked the garment because half a dozen children hung by the tails when he crossed the court-yard. It needed to be durable; but the well-fitting coats worn by Barop and Langethal were equally so, and both men believed that the good gardener should also care for the form of the fruit he cultivates, because, when ripe, it is more valuable if it looks well. They, too, cared nothing for wax fruits; nay, did not even consider them because they did not recognize them as fruit at all.
Froebel's conversion was delayed, but after his marriage it was all the more thorough. The choice of this intellectual and kindly natured man, who set no value on the external forms of life, was, I might say, "naturally" a very elegant woman, a native of Berlin, the widow of the Kriegsrath Hofmeister. She speedily opened Froebel's eyes to the aesthetic and artistic element in the lives of the boys entrusted to his care--the element to which Langethal, from the time of his entrance into the institution, had directed his attention.
So in Keilhau, too, woman was to pave the way to greater refinement.
This had occurred long before our entrance into the institution. Froebel did not allude to wax pears now when he saw the pupils well dressed and courteous in manner; nay, afterwards, in establishing the kindergarten, he praised and sought to utilize the comprehensive influence upon humanity of "woman," the guardian of lofty morality. Wives and mothers owe him as great a debt of gratitude as children, and should never forget the saying, "The mother's heart alone is the true source of the welfare of the child, and the salvation of humanity." The fundamental necessity of the hour is to prepare this soil for the noble human blossom, and render it fit for its mission.
To meet the need mentioned in this sentence the whole labour of the evening of his life was devoted. Amid many cares and in defiance of strong opposition he exerted his best powers for the realization of his ideal, finding courage to do so in the conviction uttered in the saying, "Only through the pure hands and full hearts of wives and mothers can the kingdom of God become a reality."
Unfortunately, I cannot enter more comprehensively here into the details of the kindergarten system--it is connected with Keilhau only in so far that both were founded by the same man. Old Froebel was often visited there by female kindergarten teachers and pedagogues who wished to learn something of this new institute. We called the former "Schakelinen"; the latter, according to a popular etymology, "Schakale." The odd name bestowed upon the female kindergarten teachers was derived, as I learned afterwards, from no beast of prey, but from a figure in Jean Paul's "Levana," endowed with beautiful gifts. Her name is Madame Jacqueline, and she was used by the author to give expression to his own opinions of female education. Froebel has adopted many suggestions of Jean Paul, but the idea of the kindergarten arose from his own unhappy childhood. He wished to make the first five years of life, which to him had been a chain of sorrows, happy and fruitful to children--especially to those who, like him, were motherless.
Sullen tempers, the rod, and the strictest, almost cruel, constraint had overshadowed his childhood, and now his effort was directed towards having the whole world of little people join joyously in his favourite cry, "Friede, Freude, Freiheit!" (Peace, Pleasure, Liberty), which corresponds with the motto of the Jahn gymnasium, "Frisch, fromm, frohlich, frei."
He also desired to utilize for public instruction the educational talents which woman undoubtedly possesses.
As in his youth, shoulder to shoulder with Pestalozzi, he had striven to rear growing boys in a motherly fashion to be worthy men, he now wished to turn to account, for the benefit of the whole wide circle of younger children, the trait of maternal solicitude which exists in every woman. Women were to be trained for teachers, and the places where children received their first instruction were to resemble nurseries as closely as possible. He also desired to see the maternal tone prevail in this instruction.
He, through whose whole life had run the echo of the Saviour's words, "Suffer little children to come unto me," understood the child's nature, and knew that its impulse to play must be used, in order to afford it suitable future nourishment for the mind and soul.
The instruction, the activity, and the movements of the child should be associated with the things which most interest him, and meanwhile it should be constantly employed in some creative occupation adapted to its intelligence.
If, for instance, butter was spoken of, by the help of suitable motions the cow was milked, the milk was poured into a pan and skimmed, the cream was churned, the butter was made into pats and finally sent to market. Then came the payment, which required little accounts. When the game was over, a different one followed, perhaps something which rendered the little hands skilful by preparing fine weaving from strips of paper; for Froebel had perceived that change brought rest.
Every kindergarten should have a small garden, to afford an opportunity to watch the development of the plants, though only one at a time--for instance, the bean. By watching the clouds in the sky he directed the childish intelligence to the rivers, seas, and circulation of moisture. In the autumn the observation of the chrysalis state of insects was connected with that of the various stages of their existence.
In this way the child can be guided in its play to a certain creative activity, rendered familiar with the life of Nature, the claims of the household, the toil of the peasants, mechanics, etc., and at the same time increase its dexterity in using its fingers and the suppleness of its body. It learns to play, to obey, and to submit to the rules of the school, and is protected from the contradictory orders of unreasonable mothers and nurses.
Women and girls, too, were benefitted by the kindergarten.
Mothers, whose time, inclination, or talents, forbade them to devote sufficient time to the child, were relieved by the kindergarten. Girls learned, as if in a preparatory school of future wife and motherhood, how to give the little one what it needed, and, as Froebel expresses it, to become the mediators between Nature and mind.
Yet even this enterprise, the outcome of pure love for the most innocent and harmless creatures, was prohibited and persecuted as perilous to the state under Frederick William IV, during the period of the reaction which followed the insurrection of 1848.