Johann Pestalozzi

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Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich (12 January 1746 - 17 February 1827)

Pestalozzi was a Swiss educational reformer. His theories laid the foundation of modern elementary education. After studying theology at the University of Zurich, he conducted a school for poor children, then directed the experimental institute at Yverdon, which was established on Pestalozzian principles.

His theory was based on the importance of a pedagogical method that corresponded to the natural order of individual development and of concrete experiences. He held that the individuality of each child is paramount and something that has to be cultivated actively through education. He opposed the prevailing system of memorization learning and strict discipline, replacing it with a system based on love and an understanding of the child’s world.

Running through much of Pestalozzi’s writing is the idea that education should be moral as well as intellectual. “No other Italian, and few Frenchmen, wrote French as well as he,” said Larousse. In 1871, at the triumph of the moderates, Pestalozzi was expelled from France and ceased to be a friend of that country.

A deist like Rousseau, Pestalozzi kept theological instruction out of his schools, despite the heavy pressure of the clergy. “We seek the foundations of dogma and of all religious opinions in human nature,” he wrote in a “Report to Parents.” E. Langner, in a detailed study of his views, concludes that Pestalozzi “rejects all sectarian claims.”