Popular Science Monthly/Volume 44/November 1893/The Pestalozzian System



IN the May number of The Popular Science Monthly is an article by Prof. W. W. Aber, entitled The Oswego State Normal School, in which the writer claims for that institution the credit of introducing and promulgating over the country the system of teaching known as the Pestalozzian system.

Upon the statement made the Oswego School was founded in 1853, but upon ideas far away from the system of Pestalozzi, and it was not until 1859 that "lessons on form, color, size, weight, animals, plants, the human body, and moral instruction were prominent."

As to moral instruction it may be said that there was never a time when it was not prominent in the schools of Massachusetts, with object lessons drawn from passing events. In 1850 or even in 1853 nothing could have been gained in Massachusetts from the system of Pestalozzi as to the wisdom or the method of teaching morals in the public schools.

Physiology had been taught in the normal schools of the State and by the aid of the manikin for nearly two decades. It had been introduced and urged by Horace Mann, who disappeared from the Massachusetts schools about the year 1842.

In the year 1859 there were four State normal schools in Massachusetts, three of which had been in existence for about twenty years, and the junior was established in the year 1854.

In all these schools the art of teaching was taught according to the system of Pestalozzi and by well-informed teachers and professors, and with the knowledge that it was the system of Pestalozzi.

In the year 1856 Prof. Hermann Krüsi, who is credited in the article with aiding in the introduction of the system at Oswego, was employed by me in the Teachers' Institutes and Normal Schools, and he continued in that service for about three months in each year until 1860, inclusive. Of the other teachers and professors who were employed in the Teachers' Institutes and Normal Schools in the fifties I may mention President Felton, of Harvard College, Agassiz, Guyot, Alpheus R. Crosby, George B. Emerson, Lowell Mason, and William Russell, all of whom gave lectures and illustrated the art of teaching on the system of Pestalozzi.

I recall examples of the art of teaching grammar, through the aid of an object, given by Mr. Emerson, and I can not imagine that he has been surpassed to this day.

Previous to the year 1859 the art of teaching according to the system of Pestalozzi had been taught and the practice of the art had been illustrated to thousands of students in the Normal Schools and teachers in the Teachers' Institutes in the State of Massachusetts.

Of the system of Pestalozzi everything was then known that is now known, although the application of the system may have been improved in these thirty years.

Much credit is due to Dr. Sheldon, the founder of the Oswego School, but it is manifest that in 1859 he was ignorant of the educational condition of the country, and consequently he sent across the Atlantic for information which he could have obtained in New England.

As to the system of Pestalozzi there was nothing new but the system. The mode of teaching had been exhibited occasionally and unsystematically through many long years. In my boyhood, in the thirties, the scholars in a country village school were trained in the science of astronomy by outdoor lessons in clear evenings and with the aid of a celestial globe. In Morse's Geography, published in the last century and prepared by the father of the inventor of the telegraph, physical geography is made the primary fact of the study, thus anticipating Guyot, whose system was based on the teachings of Pestalozzi.

The opening questions of Colburn's Mental Arithmetic, "How many thumbs have you on your right hand? How many on your left hand? How many on both hands together?" contain and express the rudimental truths of the Pestalozzian system.

In one particular Pestalozzi stands with Bacon: Pestalozzi did not discover a new method of teaching. Bacon did not discover a new method of reasoning. Each systematized a desultory but long-existing practice.

Great hopes are entertained bj manufacturers from M. Chardonnet's method of making silk from wood-pulp, which has been set in operation at Besançon, France. The pulp, having been carefully dried, is treated for transformation into collodion, similar to that which is used in photography. This collodion, which is sticky and viscous, is inclosed in a stiff receptacle, furnished with a filter in the lower end. An air-pump sends compressed air into the receptacle, by the pressure of which the collodion is passed through the filter into a horizontal tube furnished with three hundred cocks, the spouts of which are made of glass and pierced with a small hole of the diameter of the thread of a cocoon as it is spun by the silkworm. The collodion issues through these holes, when the cocks are opened, in threads of extreme delicacy, of which it takes six to make one of the consistence required in weaving. This thread is hardened, previous to winding, by water, which takes up the ether and alcohol of the collodion, when it becomes as resisting and brilliant as ordinary silk. It is made slow of combustion by treating with ammonia.