Page images

late husband, a true disciple and follower of Pestalozzi and Froebel, and one of the earliest pioneers of kindergarten methods in this country.

It was in 1872 that the kindergarten received its first public recognition in this country, and in 1873, at the meeting of the National Educational Association, the committee which had been appointed at the previous meeting to examine into the practicability of the principles advocated by Froebel reported in its favor. Professor John Kraus was a member of the committee, and I was invited, by choice of the large audience, to explain the principles, as may be seen from the report of that meeting.

Since 1873 the kindergarten has received due attention at the meetings of the National Educational Association, and several times it has been my privilege address the association on this subject, which is fundamental to all education.

My plea in behalf of the kindergarten has always been for growth according to Froebelian ideas and methods, keeping to the unity and completeness of the educational means outlined by Froebel, yet continually adjusting those means to the new demands of the newer times. Progress and growth I have advocated at all times; but according to life-principles given us by Froebel. There is the exalted aim before us of leading the child to really feel himself to be the child of nature, of humanity, and of God.

As the kindergarten influences directly the parents and the home, so also the influence of the father and mother will go out to the kindergarten. The disciples of Froebel and the promoters of the kindergarten will, however, fail to accomplish the design of the founder until provision is made for the training of the mothers to the intelligent administration of motherhood.

As the true kindergartner seeks to know what precedes and what follows her own work with the children, seeking also to know the inner life of the child, she will receive gladly any light that can help her to a better understanding of child nature; and this help is given by the able men and women who devote themselves specially to child study.

The most appealing feature of the kindergarten is the child, his faith in you, his love and trust.

When the soft little hand creeps into yours, when the innocent eyes are uplifted to yours, the heart seems to grow larger, and the feeling of responsibility resting on you would become almost overpowering were not love the tie, and "good common-sense" keeping guard.

Child nature, like a vine, must be pruned and trained, but the nature of the child must be understood by the educator as the nature of the vine is understood by the gardner, or else the pruning may do more harm than good. When the educator understands life, truth, and nature, she will proceed according to nature, and will study the divine in the child,

[ocr errors]

the nature of the child, assisting his development in a manner that will be in unison with the ways of nature and of God.

In the kindergarten the essential thing is the child, his nature, his growth, his development, his education; the effort of the child is considered of far greater importance than the result, which varies according to the ability already developed in the child.

The aim of the kindergarten method of training intended for young children up to the completion of the seventh year, when school-teaching proper should begin, is to prepare for all subsequent education. We are becoming aware how detrimental premature schooling is to the sound development of body and mind; how it destroys all freshness and all pleasure of learning.

Children allowed to develop during the first seven years by means of a gradual series of plays, exercises, occupations, instructive talks, and moral influences are led to see correctly, to listen intelligently, to acquire correct notions, to be interested in everything that surrounds them.

Much of the success of the kindergarten is negative, and consists in preventing harm. Its positive success is so simple that it cannot be expected to attract more notice than fresh air or pure water.

The first impressions of life are controlling for all subsequent periods. Harm may be prevented rather than cured; and character can be formed rather than re-formed, by keeping the thoughts on a high plane. The love for the beautiful, the love for truth, for nature, for our fellow-men, and for God are innate characteristics of the child, and, if not interfered with, will remain forever, and can be effectually strengthened by intelligent and thoughtful direction.

Nature creates in lawful freedom. The child's relation to nature, man, and God is yet instinctive, and will be to him as a dawning idea. These instinctive manifestations of natural impulses “serving for the development of all creatures" are assisted in the kindergarten by supplying, from the earliest period, external conditions favorable to healthy growth. The clear impressions received will later work into clear conceptions, by and by reproducing them in intelligent acts. The gifts and occupations of the kindergarten being based on this, the child learns that success of the whole, the result of his endeavors, always depends upon the exact arrangement or combination of the parts. It cannot be expected that the child should comprehend the abstract law of this; he is as unconscious of this as is the flower or plant growing by the law asserted in its kind. All the knowledge which the child thus acquires is experimental. Using this constantly, tho unconsciously, the fundamental law, by way of arrangement, classification, and combination, becomes a “life-element,” laying a broad foundation for liberal culture. The followers of Froebel who fully understand the master's idea will help to develop the same independently according to their individual

characteristics, understanding and following the spirit, the idea, and not the word.

Each effort of the will strengthens the individual, if directed in the right channels; thus laws, together with freedom of choice, work benefits to the individual who strives to live within the former by the aid of the latter. All good education should follow the plan of allowing freedom with certain limitations.

I send my greeting, good wishes, and congratulations to the devoted kindergartners assembled at this great meeting. Twenty-six years ago we stood, so to speak, alone. Today it is entirely different. I will close my message to the sisterhood of kindergartners by repeating what an old, white-haired educator said to me after the meeting of 1873: “God bless the kindergarten!”




[STENOGRAPHICALLY REPORTED] There are two well-known and easily distinguishable forms of educational criticism. There is, first of all, that of the censorious critic, who seeks for weaknesses in points of detail, who lacks equally a sense of proportion and a sense of humor, and who overlooks the fact that in the working out of great fundamental principles, not even the greatest of them flows to its full application without some slowing of the current or some eddy in the stream. Such is the criticism which tends to ridicule, to break down, to destroy, and it is wholly unworthy of attention in any form.

There is, on the other hand, a criticism which is sympathetic, which is appreciative, and which, with some insight into the aim and methods of an educational movement, points out ways and methods of strengthening and improving that movement with the declared purpose of building up a more enduring educational superstructure.

Having, as I have, so profound an admiration for the spirit, methods, and aim of the kindergarten, and being so absolutely convinced, not only of its excellence as an educational factor in its own place, but of its value as an inspiration to all education, it would be quite impossible for me to meet this department in any spirit but that of a kindly and constructive criticism.

You are, of course, familiar with the statement, often made, that the philosophies of Froebel and of Hegel, containing the deepest insights of the German philosophy of this century, are more popular in the United States than at home. The inference is drawn that Germany has

outgrown their inspiration and motive power; and the inference is equally suggested to us that we are trading here upon second-hand material. I do not believe that to be true. It is certainly true that the kindergarten is today upon a higher plane, is more efficient, more widespread, and more honored in America than in any other culture nation. I cannot interpret that fact to our discredit. It is equally true that the great seed-thought of Hegel — the evolution of the human spirit, reflecting the single principle, common alike to nature and to mind, which is rightly called divine - it is true that that seed-thought and that insight into life are more highly esteemed, more studied, and more fully applied today by American scholars than by those of any other nation. I cannot interpret that fact to our discredit. If Germany has seen fit to turn her face, in part at least, toward some gods which others can but consider false, and away from the wisest of her teachers, this will but fasten our hold the stronger on those truths of which we seem so sure.

One criticism which is made in a constructive spirit upon the work of the kindergarten is that it often exalts the letter above the spirit; that it tends to make static, definite, and permanent the forms of procedure, kinds of material, and methods of intellectual, moral, and social development, which are not ends in themselves, but rather rungs of a ladder by which the child-spirit climbs to a higher viewpoint from which outlook on life becomes broader and richer. There is basis for that criticism. One danger in which the kindergarten has stood lies in what may be called the worship of literal form as distinguished from exaltation of the spirit, which clothes itself in ever-varying forms. How has that come about when the real spirit of Froebel, like the real spirit of Hegel, is so clearly and surely a principle of development ? There is only one answer to that question. It is because in some parts of this country the kindergarten movement, appealing to the philanthropic instinct of men and women not highly trained to think, has furnished them with educational material which they have seemed to understand, and with which they have too often been satisfied. In other words, the sure method of escape from that particular lowering of tone of kindergarten thought and practice lies in the one thing which the kindergartner most needs today - wider scholarship. It is too often supposed that because the kindergarten teacher is dealing with the very young child, an emptiness of mind, coupled with amiability of disposition, will suffice to direct the child's spiritual development. A stupid person may perhaps direct education at that stage where some adequate consciousness of the subject. matter is had by the scholar himself; but no wisdom is too great to deal with the young child, who can approach his subject-matter thru symbols only.

What is needed most today in this work is a higher standard of excellence in the training of kindergartners. I mean a broader general preparation, a more widespread conviction as to the importance of thoro preparation. The resources of literature, science, art, and music must, so far as is consistent and practicable, be drawn upon to the largest possible extent. It is all well enough to learn, partly by instruction and partly by a period of apprenticeship, something of the mode of kindergarten procedure. But unless that procedure be inspired and illuminated by a grasp upon general culture and modern scientific information, nothing but a formal education will result.

Too many low-standard kindergarten training classes are at the bottom of some of our faults. They have low standards of admission, low ideals of training, and are too often satisfied with training in technique and form, trusting that time will repair the damage or experience remove it. That kindergarten teacher who is not constantly and continually a student, and a student along those great lines of human effort which I have named, will sooner or later dry up her inspiration at its source. First of all she must have scholarship, not only in entering upon the work, but afterward as well; a constant and broader study, which is truly philosophic, because comparative, and because it puts itself under the guidance of the best teachers; one which is also practical in the highest sense because it brings its resources to a focus every morning in the kindergarten room.

Another criticism which is sometimes made, and with which my observation leads me to find myself in sympathy, is that the kindergarten is often attached in an external manner to an organic scheme or school system, and is not conceived as an integral part of one process of child development. It was easy for such a condition to come about, because the kindergarten, in its conception, represented ideas which were wholly strange to the schoolmaster's mind. The kindergartners were, therefore, thrown back upon themselves, and incrusted themselves with a shell for protection. It is now necessary for us to make sure that the shell does not stiffen and harden, making growth impossible.

It is easy to mark off in large periods all development of the human mind. It is easy enough to mark off in large periods all growth of the human body. But who ever saw the body or mind grow? The subtle process goes on before our eyes, wholly unseen, unobserved. It does not obey any arithmetical law; it is not subject to precise measurement or to scientific observation. We gather up those things which we call marks of progress, but we are unable to put our hand on the point where one stage passes into the other. Therefore the educational scheme which tries to base itself upon hard-and-fast periods is false to the vital principle of growth.

It is impossible to say how many years are necessary, in every case, for kindergarten instruction. I am confident that in the cases of some children the symbolic period may be passed in one-half the time that

« PreviousContinue »