|JOSEPH NEEF: A PESTALOZZIAN PIONEER.|
THE Hon. George S. Boutwell, in the November number of The Popular Science Monthly, referred to a recent article by Prof. W. on the Oswego State Normal School, in which is claimed for that school the credit of introducing into this country the Pestalozzian system of teaching. The Oswego School was founded in 1853, and Mr. Boutwell says that from about the year 1839 this "art of teaching was taught" in the Massachusetts State Normal Schools. Aber
While the first schools for teachers of the Pestalozzian system may have been in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania may yet claim the credit of having the first Pestalozzian school for children in America. It was established in 1809 by Joseph Neef, at a spot then called the Falls of the Schuylkill, some four miles from the old city of Philadelphia, now part of Fairmount Park.
Francis Joseph Nicholas Neef was born in Soultz, Alsace, December 6, 1770. He was educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but at the age of twenty-one, when about to take orders, he gave up the idea of entering the Church, as not being at all suited to his tastes. He entered the French army under Napoleon, attaining high rank therein, and in the battle of Areola was severely wounded in the head by a spent ounce ball, which he carried to the day of his death, a period of over fifty years. After leaving the army he became teacher of languages in Pestalozzi's celebrated school at Burgdorf, Switzerland, where he remained for some years, being then sent by Pestalozzi to Paris at the request of a philanthropic society whose attention and interest had been to the good work being done at Burgdorf.
During Neef's stay in Paris, Mr. William Maclure, an American patron of education, science, and philanthropy, visited Pestalozzi's school, which had by that time been moved to Yverdun. Mr. Maclure was so favorably impressed by the rational methods employed in this school that he conceived the generous idea of establishing a similar institution near Philadelphia, where he was then living. Pestalozzi recommended to him his former coadjutor, Joseph Neef, as a man thoroughly imbued with his principles and well fitted to introduce them into the Western world. Neef, when approached on the subject, hesitated, for, though master of eight languages, he was ignorant of the English. Persuaded, however, that he could soon overcome this difficulty, he came to America, and such was his success that within a year he published a work of one hundred and sixty-eight pages in the English language, with the following descriptive title: Sketch of a Plan and Method