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Johann Pestalozzi

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Johann Pestalozzi


Throughout history, many individuals have contributed to early childhood education. Through these contributions, teachers today have been able to establish their own philosophies of teaching. In order for a person to become successful in the classroom, one must truly connect with one's students and be able to establish student-teacher relationships. One must also develop a positive attitude towards teaching. One individual who has had a remarkable impact on early childhood education is Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. His educational philosophy has been a stepping-stone in the philosophy of many teachers after his time. Pestalozzi was able to improve many of the school systems of his time and his ideas are still being used to this day.


Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was born in Zurich, Switzerland on January 12, 1746. He was the son of a surgeon and oculist of some standing in the community that he was living in. When Johann was five years old, his father passed away and his mother then raised him along with his other three brothers and sisters. Since his father had passed away, the family's economic stature was extremely meager. Though they were poor, Johann was raised with much love and affection. He was a very weak and delicate boy since the day he was born. Pestalozzi was also a very shy and awkward young boy. He showed difficulties in school for the fact that he had an emotional temperament, he was absent-minded and in attentive. Pestalozzi began in elementary school and moved on to grammar school. In 1754, he entered a seven-year preparatory school and he studied there until 1757. He then attended The Collegium Carolinum School (Downs, 1903, p.18-19). Pestalozzi studied theology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland but was forced to abandon his career because of his political activity on behalf of the Helvetic Society, a reformist Swiss political organization. From 1769 to 1798 he lived at his farm, Neuhof, near Zurich, where he conducted a school for poor and uneducated children. He was director of the experimental institute at Yverdon-les-Bains, which was established based on his educational principles. He then directed a school at Burgdorf from 1799Ð'-1804 and from 1805 until his retirement in Neuhof in the year 1825 ( Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi died on February 17, 1827.


Johann Pestalozzi based his educational theories on many different factors. He focused his theories on the teachings of French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau. He felt that, "for the oppressed poor, the road to fullness of life, and hence to happiness, lay through the promotion, through true education, of the natural development of the mental and physical powers of individuals, hitherto neglected or misdirected" (Anderson, 1970, p. 3). He focused on teaching the poor and helping them gain an education. Pestalozzi felt that the individuality of each child was extremely important. Individuality is something that has to grow through education. He opposed the system of memorization and strict discipline. His goal was to replace that system with a system of loving and understanding surrounding the children ( Pestalozzi also believed in that idea that the home was of great influence for children and it was a way for parents to communicate with their children as well.

Pestalozzi also emphasized the use of nature to teach children about the environment that they are living in. Anderson (1970) stated, "influenced in part by the naturalistic movement of his time, he recognized that the mind as well as the body which he wished to educate is a natural product, a part of nature, and that education, as he conceived it, is a process constantly taking place in nature" (p. 3). He believed that children learn at their own pace and once should not force them to learn things all at once. Learning is something that should be mastered at one's own learning capability. Another theory that ties in with nature is the idea that children learn through the senses. Children need to examine the things around them, rather than simply read about them. They should describe what they have examined through their own words, instead of reading about things in books. As mentioned before, Pestalozzi went against the idea of plainly memorizing facts. He wanted students to deeply understand what they were learning and how to apply what they have learned to different areas of their life.

The educational practices during the time of Pestalozzi went completely against his theories of education. He criticized the educational system because it was the total opposite of the ideal system that he wanted to create. He felt that the teaching methods of the time were not relevant to the needs of the society that he was living in. Pestalozzi felt that the system was bound by routine and plain tradition. It did not take into consideration the ability of children to learn new things or even the purpose of learning. "Pestalozzi's major attack on the verbalism and bookishness of the traditional school was that it: ignored and weakened sense impression, failed to teach essentials, stressed the isolated teaching of special things, produced letter men, artificially minded logicians and separated theory and action" (Downs, 1975, p.16-17). The children were basically memorizing facts from their textbooks without understanding the significance of what they were reading. Pestalozzi wanted to reform the entire educational system and soon enough his theories were being used in different parts of


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